No, this isn’t a Chester County specific post. But it is one I am posting because it is a wonderful land preservation story.
When I was growing up on the Main Line, we knew it as just “The Haas’ house”. It wasn’t Stoneleigh. Going to Shipley and living just a few minutes away, that is what it was. As a matter of fact, my Junior Prom after party in 1980 was held there. On Spring Mill Road in Villanova
It was a quietly beautiful property. It has a carved tree trunk/stump County Line Road side of carved rabbits. It used to get dressed according to holiday or season when Mrs. Haas was alive. Christmas, Easter/Spring, the opening of the Phillies’ baseball season, and so on. That carving was one of the first commissions of Chester County tree carver Marty Long as a matter of fact. If you talk to Marty about it he will tell you how much he liked Mr. Haas. They used to talk Subarus (Marty likes them as vehicles, so did Mr. Haas apparently)
The name Haas means rabbit or hare in Dutch I think it is. (Middle Dutch?)
Anyway with big beautiful properties like this you hope they will remain intact. Most don’t thanks to the zeal of developers in Pennsylvania who will offer people buckets of money for development purposes.
Thankfully, that did not happen here. Thanks to the generosity of the Haas Family and Natural Lands Trust, this is being preserved. This property is located in Lower Merion Township, so seriously, this is quite remarkable as that local government truly caters to developers, and has for years. (I remember someone saying to me recently it was a shame Villanova University didn’t get the land because they are right there. I say thank god and shudder to think what they would have done given what they are going to do on Lancaster Avenue!)
Anyway, on Friday, June 10th, 2016—with an ever-amazing Saturn and a brightly shining Jupiter in the night sky—nearly 500 guests gathered for Stardust!, Natural Lands Trust’s annual summer fundraiser. Proceeds from the event, which doubled those of previous Stardust! events, will advance Natural Lands Trust efforts to save land, steward natural resources, and connect people to nature throughout the region.
Stardust!, which has rotated to a different Natural Lands Trust-protected property in each of the last four years, was held this year at the 42-acre Stoneleigh estate in Villanova. The family of the late John and Chara Haas donated the property to Natural Lands Trust earlier this year.
“Tonight we celebrate the Haas family, whose act of generosity marks a turning point for both Stoneleigh and for our organization,” said Molly Morrison, Natural Lands Trust’s president. “We are deeply honored to be entrusted to carry on the Haas family’s legacy of stewardship for this magical place, and excited beyond measure to add Stoneleigh as a unique, shining star in our constellation of 43 preserves.”
“We believe that Natural Lands Trust shares our family’s vision and will work to honor the legacy of our parents by making the property a unique natural resource for the community and region,” said David Haas, John and Chara’s son.
The event featured a roving dinner by Jeffrey Miller Catering, wine provided by Moore Brothers Delaware, beer from Victory Brewing Company, spirits from New Liberty Distillery, and floral creations by Love ‘n Fresh Flowers.
Guests had the last sneak peek of Stoneleigh until the Fall of 2017.
Natural Lands Trust is taking 18 months to transition the property from a family home to a public garden, during which time it will not be open to visitors. When Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden does open to the public, it will be free-of-charge and open seven days a week during daylight hours. Natural Lands Trust will offer a variety of public programs with a primary focus on natural gardening and landscaping techniques. The organization also anticipates hosting family and child-oriented programs as well as volunteer opportunities.
Anyway, I just thought I would sprinkle a little “Stardust” on your Monday morning. Preservation is possible….we just need more of it to happen.
Thanks for stopping by.