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Lenapehoking: The Land of the Lenape
The Wissahickon Environmental Center (Tree House) stands and works in the unceded, ancestral Indigenous territory of the Lenape people, called Lenapehoking.
Links to the Past
History of Andorra Nurseries
The Tree House at the Andorra Natural Area
Catalogue of Andorra Nurseries
The Wissahickon Environmental Center (Tree House)
& The Andorra Natural Area
In 1857, Richard Wistar purchased land with the intention of building an estate. Although he never built a house, he did plant many of the trees still growing in the area.
In 1882, Henry H. Houston, the wealthy railroad tycoon, purchased 100 acres (including the former Wistar Estate land).
By 1886 Houston had an established nursery, appointing William W. Harper as business manager of Andorra Nursery.
In 1890 nursery propagator, Adolph Steinle, added a porch to his house, building it around a nearby sycamore tree, letting the tree grow through the porch’s roof.
From 1893 to 1940 (near the start of WWII), nursery catalogues were printed.
By 1934 (after almost 50 years in business and under Harper’s direction), Andorra Nursery grew to become one of the largest commercial tree and shrub nurseries on the East Coast.
Early in WWII, the nursery and landscape business was reduced to a small garden center due to its employees being drafted for the war, and local land regulations.
In 1961, the Nursery business had dissolved.
In 1977, the original 100 acres of the nursery land was sold to Fairmount Park by the Houston Estate.
Read more in the Friend's of the Wissahickon's Virtual Valley, Trails to the Past Andorra Natural Area and Wissahickon Environmental Center by James T. Charnock.
Situated in what is now called, Andorra Natural Area, the Tree House has been providing education to families throughout the Philadelphia region, offering public and group programming, for over 40 years. We invite new generations of Wissahickon lovers to explore our trails and visit the Education Center to learn about the park and check out the large native fish aquarium and life-like floor-to-ceiling mural depicting wildlife in the area.
How the Tree House Got its Name
The Andorra Nursery propagator, Adolph Steinle, had constructed a small house on the nursery grounds. He built its enclosed porch around the trunk of a large Sycamore tree that grew through a whole in the roof. The Steinle family named their home the Tree House. In 1981, the 200+ year-old Sycamore had to be cut down, but a slice of the huge trunk remains inside for visitors to see.
The Restored Porch
The porch restoration was completed in 2015, thanks to Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust, the Fairmount Park Conservancy, and the Friends of the Wissahickon. The Skylight was installed by Kurtz Construction Company.
The skylight is representative of the hole in the original porch that was built to accommodate the large sycamore tree that the porch encompassed. Under the skylight, is a "tree cookie" or a horizontal slice of a sycamore tree.
The Green Roof was installed by Roofmeadow of Mount Airy. Over time, the roof will grow and help reduce energy costs by using plants to absorb solar heat and collect and filter rainwater. Green roofs also help to improve air quality and provide habitat for wildlife, in particular insects that benefit from flowering plants. There are also rain barrels to further slow and collect storm water. Read more about the Tree House porch here- IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO BUILD A PORCH
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