YouTube Video Announcement Link: Aerial Footage of the Historic Warwick Furnace Farm (Video footage provided by LightHawk)
Phoenixville, Pa., December 21 —The historic 553-acre Warwick Furnace Farm along the South Branch of French Creek in Warwick and East Nantmeal townships in Chester County will be preserved forever. 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. “Furthermore, it might have been broken into as many as 80 building lots.”
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 its 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 Arlington, VA.
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.”
French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust’s Warwick Furnace project was supported (in part) through the Open Space Institute’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund, which is made possible with funding from the William Penn Foundation. The Delaware River Watershed Protection Program 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. “The Warwick Furnace Preserve represents a key portion of the history in the region and the conservation of one of the largest remaining tracts on the South Branch of the French Creek. Reforestation of the Preserve will also 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.”
Photo caption: In an agreement reached by French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust, Warwick Furnace Farm, a 553-acre historically and environmentally significant property in Warwick and East Nantmeal townships in Chester County, will be preserved forever.
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.”
About French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust
Since its establishment in 1967, French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust has protected more than 12,000 acres in northern Chester County through purchases, conservation easements and public/private partnerships. The non-profit organization works with landowners, townships, foundations and the state and county to purchase and monitor conservation easements, create parkland and preserve environmentally sensitive land.
Trails provide public access to preserved land, recreational opportunities and beautiful views along northern Chester County’s Exceptional Value waterways. With funding from the state, county and the George and Miriam Martin Foundation, the Trust is engaged in the acquisition and development of the 10-mile French Creek Trail from Warwick County Park to the Kennedy Covered Bridge in East Vincent Township, and creating local connections to the regional trail network. It has completed the 6-mile Pickering Trail, following the creek in West Pikeland Township from the Mill at Anselma to the township border at Clover Mill Road.
About the Conservation Fund:
“At the Fund, we are making conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states to protect more than 7.5 million acres of land since 1985.”