Fox Chase Farm is a fortunate survivor of the many farms that existed in Philadelphia and Eastern Montgomery County in the 18th and 19th centuries. It survived because it adapted to the prevailing cultural of the times. In 2005 the farm was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Beginnings — The history of Fox Chase Farm (formerly known as “Stanley”) dates back to a land grant from William Penn to William Stanley. It passed to the McVeigh (McVeagh) family who retained ownership of the property for over 100 years and established a homestead. The farm has been continuously farmed since a least 1762.
A Working Farm — In 1821, the Wistar family, a prominent Quaker family purchased the property. The Wistars were the most important owners of the farm. They built most of the main structures and maintained it as a working farm for many years. Thomas Wistar II was appointed an Indian Agent by President Grant. He traveled extensively to try to get fair treatment for the Indians after the Civil War. His son Thomas Wistar III maintained the farm.
An Institutional Dairy Farm — Between 1888 and 1901 a group who appear to be land developers owned the property possibly for subdividing it into building lots. The farm was then purchased by the Friends Asylum for the Insane (Friends Hospital). They developed it into a model dairy farm and summer residence for some of their clients. Every year, 10 to 15 patients were accommodated from April to December.
A Gentlemen’s Farm — George H. Lorimer, Chairman of the Board of Curtis Publishing Company purchased the farm in 1917. He used it to grow fodder for the livestock at his estate at Kings Oak. Howard Butler purchased the farm in 1939 and developed the farm for beef stock. These “Gentlemen Farmers” enabled the farm to survive as the city and suburbs grew up around it. With the death of Butler the property was sold to developers.
An Educational Farm — Responding to public concern for the loss of the farm, the City of Philadelphia, together with a grant from the Federal Government and funds from local governments, purchased the property for public land. Today, Fox Chase Farm is operated by the Philadelphia School District on a long term lease administered by the Fairmount Park Conservancy. The School District employs a resident farmer, and an on-site administrator to schedule school visits. The Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation sponsors seasonal festivals and other public events coordinated by the Pennypack Environmental Center. These programs provide educational opportunities for children and adults to visit the farm and learn about various aspects of a working, educational farm.
View Visual Chronology (through 2001)