The Fox Chase Farm is an agriculture education facility hosting more than 30,000 visitors each year. The farm is a campus of the Philadelphia School District, serving all of Philadelphia school students and surrounding counties. The Agriculture Education Department at the Fox Chase Farm serves as the hub of agriculture education for the school district, engaging Pre-K through 12th grade in agriculture experiences. The farm is owned by the city of Philadelphia, and managed by the Philadelphia School District. The purpose of the farm is to educate the school children and families of Philadelphia about agriculture through hands-on experiences, on the farm and through the classroom. In the course of a year school children visit the farm as a field trip opportunity, school engagement events and through the Agriculture Empowerment Program. The Philadelphia School brings the experience of agriculture into the hands of the public first hand.
History of Fox Chase Farm
This is intended as a brief narrative and time line to convey some facts concerning the land that is now known as Fox Chase Farm. Most of the information has been gleaned from newspaper articles and from record of the Fairmount Park Commission. Researching the history of this farm would be a worthwhile project for someone with the time and interest.
The land that is now Fox Chase Farm has been actively farmed for over 200 years. The present farm of about 112 acres had many previous owners and the size has changed slightly over the years. It is known that this area was settled very early. The land was originally deeded to William Stanly in 1682 by William Penn. The farm was called Mt. Stanley and is referred to as Mt. Stanley on a 1705 map pf the area. Gwinn’s Mill at Verree Road and Pennypack Creek was supposed to be the first grist mill in the area, established in 1687. Pine Road was opened in 1705 and Shady Lane connected Pine Road to Gwinn’s Mill in 1716.
At one time the property belonged to the Friends Society and was operated as a dairy farm. Cows were milked and vegetables were grown for the table.The Lorimer family purchased the land from the Friends Society, and Horace Lorimer’s son lived in the Manor House in 1928.
In 1939, Harold Butler purchased the estate from the Lorimers and hired Irwin Glancy as a caretaker that same year. Butler kept Herefords and Black Angus cattle on the farm, plus sheep, pigs and horses. He was the son of a Presbyterian minister from the Midwest, and as far as we know, remained a bachelor all his life. Butler, however, never lived at the farm but resided at the Union League in Philadelphia. The Manor House most likely dates back to the early 1800’s. Its architectural style resembles that of the stone structure to its left which has a date timed marked 1832.
Mr. Glancy worked on the farm as a caretaker from 1939 to 1982, planting fields and raising livestock. A tall, lean, and weathered farmer, lived with his wife in the small white farmhouse. The structure is most likely the oldest building on the farm. The horsehair mortar and architectural style indicates this to be an 18th century building. The house is located between Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties. Glancy’s wife, Hazel, commented of the house’s location, “We can eat in Montgomery County and relax in front of the fireplace in the living room which is situated in Philadelphia.” One of Glancy’s first projects was to build the barn above the pigs in 1940, constructing the beautiful arched rafters. Glancy claimed that some of the pine planks used in the animal stalls came from the 1940 Republican Convention in Philadelphia. The planks were originally used to construct the platform trod by Wendell Wilkie.
The hay barn also appears to be quite old with walls constructed of large and small stone. However, due to a fire in September 1997, the inside of the barn was gutted, modernized, and reconstructed in 200/2001. The stone walls still stand.
Butler passed away in 1968 at the age of 78 and the land was sold by his estate to Tri-Pac Development Corporation of New York. Plans to build 884 garden type apartments on the farm were stalled in 1972 by zoning restrictions.
By 1980, though funds from federal government, the City of Philadelphia, Abington township, and Montgomery County, the entire 112 acre tract had been purchased for park purposes. Acquisition of the land afforded protection of the flood plan and steep slop areas along the Pennypack Creek from damaging encroachment of urban development. It represented a vital link in the establishment of a continuous greenbelt of approximately 2500 acres of publicly owned or controlled land which would run from the Delaware River to the Upper Pennypack Watershed.
A homestead is Established: 1683-1692
The Wistar Yeats: 1821-1863
Multiple Owners, but development is averted: 1876-1901
The Manor House is transformed: 1901-1917
The Butler years: 1939-1969
Opportunities to visit and learn: 1981-1994
From private hands to public lands: 1972-1980
The destruction and rebuilding: 1997-2001
The Farm Today
This 112 acre farm is part of Fairmount Park and is the only publicly owned farm in Philadelphia. A resident farmer cares for the farm and its livestock. Teachers from all Philadelphia district schools utilize the farm to provide hands-on opportunities for their students. In addition the farm is open to the public once a month for special events. Events include Maple Sugaring, Sheep Shearing, Farm to Table Day, Applefest, Conservation Field Day and much more.