The deep roots of the Morris Arboretum
In 1932, Lydia Thompson Morris died at her mansion in Chestnut Hill. In her will, she bequeathed the mansion, called Compton, and the nearby country estate, Bloomfield, to the University of Pennsylvania. Thus was established Morris Arboretum. The bulk of Morris' fortune went to create an endowment to maintain the arboretum and continue botanical research and teaching.
Morris and her brother, John T., begun purchasing land for the arboretum in 1887. They were the children of Isaac P. Morris, who owned an iron foundry at 16th and Chestnut Streets. Through its production of steam engines, presses, and pumps, the company made considerable money for the family. Compton, designed by Theophilus Parsons Chandler Jr., was the Morris family's summer home.
Lydia and John Morris shared an interest in art and agriculture, and spent about 40 years developing the grounds and gathering trees and shrubs from all over the world.
Today there are about 2,500 types of plants at the arboretum, including the only remaining freestanding Victorian fernery in North America. It serves as the official arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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