Stoneleigh, the Main Line’s New Public Garden, Opens to Uncertainty
Visitors can roam this 42-acre property for free.
After years of work, Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden is finally open to the public and admission is free.
Nestled on the edge of the Villanova Law School campus, hidden from view by a flowering property line, Stoneleigh once belonged to the Haas Family. The 42-acre property is now under the care of Natural Lands — a nonprofit founded in the 1950s and dedicated to preserving open spaces in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.
Stoneleigh recently celebrated its opening weekend with a “Stroll About” — the first of many organized events on their calendar for the season. But a new fight over the property is brewing: the Lower Merion School District is considering taking 6.9 acres of Stoneleigh for construction.
Natural Lands has indicated it will fight any effort to build on the land, and has started a “Save Stoneleigh” campaign to rally public support.
In the meantime, the property — given to Natural Lands in 2016 by the estate of John Haas — is open to all. Visitors can explore the sprawling estate, including tour the Tudor Revival mansion, complete with a pipe organ and an elaborate birdcage-like elevator.
Guests can wander under the enormous trees and peek into the depths of flowering bushes. The Stoneleigh grounds are covered with easily accessible, stroller-friendly, gravel paths. These paths lead to spectacular tree specimens, native plant gardens and a unique stone pergola covered in vines and blooms.
This newest public garden offers a wide range of special events including “Birding In The Garden, Through The Garden Lens” (a smartphone-friendly photography class), and members-only events like “Summer-sational Nights,” when the garden has extended evening hours.
The cost to attend ranges from free to $20. Memberships cost as little as $30 and the money goes towards supporting the garden.
Visitors are welcome to bring picnic meals to the pavilion facilities, or bring a blanket and spread out on the great lawn.
A trip to Stoneleigh is not complete without seeing the hare sculpture. This whimsical statue lives on the County Line Road side of the property and is a tribute to, and symbol of, the Haas Family (Haas is “hare” in Dutch). The garden staff continues to dress the hare in themed and seasonal attire to the delight of all their visitors.
Stoneleigh is located at 1829 East County Line Road, Villanova. The garden is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 am — 5 pm, and admission is free.
To become a member, or for details about events, visit Stoneleigh’s website.
Photographs by Sarah L. Bender