On April 20, 2016, the children of the late John and Chara Haas donated the family’s 42-acre Stoneleigh estate in Villanova to Natural Lands Trust—the region’s oldest and largest land conservation organization. Stephan Pahides and David Dratch of McCausland Ken + Buckman represented the Natural Lands Trust in the acquisition. The organization, which owns 42 nature preserves across eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, plans to open the Haas family estate as a public garden that showcases and educates visitors about the joys and benefits of gardens that emphasize the use of native plants.
History of Stoneleigh
Stoneleigh’s history dates back to 1877 when Edmund Smith, a rising executive with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, purchased 65 acres of land in Villanova and constructed a residence there. In 1900, Samuel Bodine, head of United Gas Improvement Company, acquired the property. Following Samuel Bodine’s death in 1932, Stoneleigh was subdivided and sold. Otto Haas, entrepreneur and co-founder of Rohm and Haas Company, purchased the southwestern portion of the estate, launching a more than 80-year tenure of careful stewardship by the Haas family. Otto and Phoebe’s son, John, and his wife, Chara, acquired Stoneleigh in 1964 and lived there for the next five decades. The property includes stately trees, winding pathways, and lush gardens that the Haas family has carefully stewarded over the decades. The gardens were designed by a number of notable landscape architects over the past century – including Olmsted Brothers, sons of the famed Frederick Law Olmsted.
Transition to Public Garden
After a period of transition, Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden, will be open—free-of-charge—to visitors. Natural Lands Trust will also offer a variety of public programs with a primary focus on natural gardening and landscaping techniques. They also anticipate hosting family and child-oriented programs as well as volunteer opportunities. It is expected to take approximately 18-months to make the improvements needed to transition the property from a family home to a public garden.