by Pete Mazzaccaro
The 37-acre Philadelphia Cricket Club Golf Course is one of the largest parcels of open space in Chestnut Hill. A donation by the Woodward family, which has owned the land for more than 100 years, will make sure it stays that way.
This week, the family announced that it has entered into an easement agreement with Natural Lands Trust to preserve the property, which it has leased to the Cricket Club. The family said it will sell the land to the Cricket Club and donate the proceeds of the sale to both the Natural Lands Trust and the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, among other charities.
“For over a century, my family has cared deeply for the preservation of both land and architecture in our Philadelphia neighborhood,” said Charles Woodward. “By conserving this land we are thrilled to ensure that a valuable natural asset adjacent to the Wissahickon Valley is unharmed for generations to come.”
The golf course was originally given to the Cricket Club by Woodward Family forbear, Henry Houston in the late 1800s. Houston, a Pennsylvania Railroad executive, owned a large portion of Chestnut Hill and Upper Roxborough. He built the Wissahickon Inn, home of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s Upper School, and built many homes in Chestnut Hill, a good number of which are still owned, maintained and rented by the George Woodward Company.
In 1922, when the club wanted to expand with the purchase of a golf course in Flourtown, the Houston estate bought back the land to help fund the Flourtown purchase. It leased the land to the club.
The Philadelphia Cricket Club president, Michael J Vergare, said he was excited to acquire the land and that it will be preserved.
“The St. Martins Golf Course has been an integral part of the Philadelphia Cricket Club and the history of golf in the United States,” he said. “The original course was the site of the 1907 and 1910 United States Open. In recent years, the present 9-hole course hosted the National and the World Hickory Match Play Championship. The Houston/Woodward family have once again kindly partnered with our Club to insure that this treasured tract of land will remain preserved open space forever.”
The easement agreement gives the Natural Lands Trust the rights to block any development on the land that it finds inconsistent with the terms of the easement. In other words, it prevents the cricket club, or any there owner, from developing the land, including building new homes on it.
The easement agreement was met with a great deal of appreciation from the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, not only for the open space preservation, but for the subsequent gift the Woodwards have promised to make to the organization.
“We are deeply grateful to the Woodward family for making this gift to Chestnut Hill’s future,” Lori Salganicoff, executive director, said. “Our community is fortunate that Henry Howard Houston cherished Chestnut Hill’s setting and its open space, and that his daughter Gertrude, her husband, Dr. George Woodward, and their heirs continue to carry forward this remarkable legacy. CHHS is proud to have been a part of making this happen.”