Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

2019 Marks a Milestone Anniversary for Tyler Arboretum

2019 Marks a Milestone Anniversary for Tyler Arboretum

Dr. John Caspar Wister amidst Tyler’s peony beds.  Photo courtesy of Tyler Arboretum.

Dr. John Caspar Wister amidst Tyler’s peony beds. Photo courtesy of Tyler Arboretum.

2019 marks the 75th anniversary of Tyler Arboretum and the transformation of one of the oldest Quaker farms in Pennsylvania into a public garden. Nature lovers of all ages are invited to explore the arboretum’s 650 acres of horticultural collections and natural lands, located just west of Media, in Middletown Township. Special events throughout the year will be imbued with a celebratory vibe.

The history of the Minshall/Painter/Tyler family farm dates back to 1681 and one of the first purchases of land from William Penn. The Arboretum got its start in the mid-19th century, when brothers Minshall and Jacob Painter, keen students of the natural world, amassed a collection of over 1,000 trees and shrubs from around the country and around the world.

When the family farm passed into a public trust in 1944, open space in Delaware County was rapidly disappearing. At the time, the new John J. Tyler Arboretum was more than twice the size of all the county’s public parks combined. Its first director, John C. Wister, referred to “an island in a vast area of destruction of the native forest,” noting that “it offers opportunities not found elsewhere for hiking and quiet recreation, uninterrupted by motor traffic.”

Today, visitors to Tyler Arboretum enjoy elements of every era of its history: 18th- and 19th-century farm buildings, magnificent 19th-century trees, and 20th-century landscapes, horticultural collections, and hiking trails. And now, there are new attractions, too:

  • As the growing season gets underway, a new Edible Garden is coming to life to educate and excite visitors with the beauty and flavor of healthy food.

  • In time for Mother’s Day, Tyler’s annual Plant Sale will feature a carefully curated selection of rhododendrons and companion plants, with experts on hand to advise. (Members only on May 3, open to the general public May 4 and 5.)

  • As part of Tyler’s 75th anniversary year, the Gateways to Nature exhibit will showcase the Arboretum’s landscapes with a range of original works by local and regional artists and makers. (Opening May 11.)

  • On June 13th, a special birthday edition of Tyler at Twilight will bring nature-lovers together for an evening of fine food and drink and a lively auction — featuring a well-known Swarthmore auctioneer. (Tickets at

For Tyler Board member and Swarthmore resident Eric Chapman, the anniversary celebration is ongoing: “The seasonal highlights and the ever-changing landscapes bring me back again and again. This month it’s the magnolias and the spring ephemerals. Soon it’ll be the world-class rhododendron collection. And I love a walk in the woods any time of the year.” Mother Nature throws the best party of all.

At the time of his appointment as director of Tyler Arboretum in 1946, Dr. John Caspar Wister was already the director of Swarthmore’s Scott Arboretum and well established as a leader in the world of horticulture. At Tyler, he identified the remnants of the Painter Brothers’ collection and cleared overgrown farmland to create garden landscapes and establish new collections. Recognizing the recreational value of Tyler’s “unimproved portion,” Wister laid the foundation for the Arboretum’s 20-mile network of hiking trails. Visitors to both Scott and Tyler will find a common Wister legacy in the collections of lilacs, rhododendrons, magnolias, and ornamental cherries. 


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