Horticulture at Peirce's Park, 1789-1905

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University of Delaware
The development of horticulture on the Peirce property is significant both in its historical aspects and in its relation to the subsequent development of Longwood Gardens. The original land grant to George Pearce in 1700 marked the beginning of a horticultural history which developed in varying degrees under numerous owners until its final purchase in 1906 by Pierre S. duPont. ☐ The original grant from William Penn to George Pearce on December 14, 1700, conveyed 402 acres and 54 perches in East Marlborough Township. This land was developed for agricultural purposes -- first by his son Joshua and later by his grandson Caleb. ☐ Samuel and Joshua Peirce, great-grandsons of George Pearce, received approximately 189 acres of the original Penn grant. In the year 1798 they began to plant a portion of this property as an arboretum and thereby began the development of Peirce's Park. By the year 1830 they had one of the finest collections of woody plant materials of any park or arboretum in the country. They associated with several important botanists during the early years of the nineteenth century, including Josiah Hoopes, Humphrey Marshall, and Dr. William Darlington. Plant materials found on the property were mentioned in several publications such as Flora Cestrica by William Darlington in 1837, the American Handbook of Ornamental Trees by Thomas Meehan in 1853, and the Book of Evergreens by Josiah Hoopes in 1868. ☐ After the death of Joshua Peirce in 1851, the Park passed into the hands of his son George W. Peirce. During the time of his ownership there was more emphasis on the Park as a place for social gatherings than for scientific effort, and it became known and appreciated as a place for picnicking and other outdoor activities. ☐ After the death of George W. Peirce in 1880, the ownership of the property was held by the nine children of his sister Mary Ann Peirce Stebbins. This division marked the beginning of a decline which continued through subsequent transfers of Park ownership to various individuals. Finally in 1906, the ultimate and complete destruction of the Park seemed inevitable with the signing of an agreement between the then-owner, Lydia v. Bevan, and a Lancaster lumber company. This agreement granted permission for trees on the property to be cut and used for lumber production. In an effort to save the trees from destruction, Pierre S. du.Pont bought the property in 1906. This purchase marked the beginning of a new horticultural and social era on the Peirce property with the development of Longwood Gardens. The heritage of the Peirce family and their development of the Park provided the impetus for this new growth and is now an integral part of modern-day Longwood.