Phoenixville, PA— December 21, 2015 — A Revolutionary War-era farm, once eyed for development into 80 building lots, will instead become a nature preserve under a huge conservation win by French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust, the Open Space Institute (OSI), and other partners.
Located in Warwick and East Nantmeal townships, the preservation of the historic 553-acre Warwick Furnace Farm, on the south branch of the French Creek, an important tributary to the Delaware River Watershed, will also play a critical role in protecting regional drinking water. OSI’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund, made possible by the William Penn Foundation, seeks to ensure abundant, clean water within the 13,000 square mile drainage of the Delaware River.
“In a region where increasing development threatens to impair water quality, this project makes a bold statement about the importance of land protection for watershed health,” said Peter Howell, Open Space Institute’s Executive Vice President. “Reforestation of the Preserve will contribute to ensuring clean water for the residents of Chester County. French & Pickering is to be applauded for this exemplary project, which builds on land protection along the French Creek and the nearby Hopewell Big Woods.”
Through its Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund, OSI has awarded a total of $4.4 million to conserve over 14,000 acres of land.
French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust worked for one year with, existing landowners, a private foundation, two townships, Chester County, national organizations, and conservation-minded residents to protect this historic and environmentally sensitive property from development.
“It’s hard to overstate the value of this property and its preservation,” said Cary Leptuck, French & Pickering board president.
The agreement creates a 108-acre nature preserve owned by French & Pickering, which will be open for public use in 2016 with trails highlighting the historic and natural features of the land. It is within walking distance from another 675-acre preserve recently conveyed to French & Pickering by The Nature Conservancy.
Executive Director Andy Pitz said, “This is French & Pickering’s largest conservation project in our 48-year history.”
The Chester County Commissioners, through the Department of Open Space Preservation; Warwick Township; Open Space Institute using funds from the William Penn Foundation under the Delaware River Watershed Initiative; and East Nantmeal Township helped fund the project, along with a loan from The Conservation Fund in Washington, D.C.
Ole Amundsen, Program Manager for The Conservation Fund said, "In this one project you have a site of historic significance going all the way back to the Revolutionary War, the striking architecture of the buildings, the impact of restoring the forest to help improve the water quality of French creek and the truly amazing and stunning scenic value of this landscape nestled in the narrow valley."
The valley property, which includes the ironmaster’s manor house built in 1733, remains of an iron workers’ village and furnace, woods, pastures and farmland, has remained virtually unchanged since the early 1700s.
A conservation-minded buyer purchased an additional 381 acres of the Warwick Furnace Farm. That land will be placed under conservation easement with French & Pickering.
French & Pickering will sell the remaining 63 acres in two parcels with easements that preclude development. One parcel includes the ironmaster’s manor home and outbuildings on 50 acres; the other includes the ironworkers’ village, a caretaker’s house and other outbuildings on 13 acres.
Jim Jenkins, chair of the East Nantmeal Board of Supervisors said, "This project accomplishes our goal of protecting open space by conserving two large parcels on either side of Valley Way Road."
About Warwick Furnace Farm
Warwick Furnace, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1737 by Anna Nutt and Co. Warwick Furnace made the first Franklin stoves in 1842, and supplied shot and cannon for the Revolutionary War. George Washington brought his army to Warwick Furnace to repair his guns and refresh his troops following the Battle of Brandywine and a heavy storm in September 1777.
The ironmaster’s manor, built of native stone in 1733, was unusually large for its time, measured 36 ft. by 76 ft., according to records in 1798. Joseph N. Pew, Jr. bought the farm in 1927 and commissioned the architect R. Brognard Okie, known for his restorations of historic buildings, to restore and expand the iron master’s manor.
Charles Jacob, Chair of the Warwick Township Board of Supervisors said, “Three hundred years ago, the iron and steel industry started in Pennsylvania right here. The protection of this property is important to the township for both its historic and environmental significance.”