Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Woodward Family Finalizes Easement To Natural Lands Trust In Philadelphia

The Natural Lands Trust Tuesday announced on December 17 it completed the transaction granting a conservation easement on the St. Martin’s golf course property acquired by The Philadelphia Cricket Club.
Initially announced in November by Quita Woodward Horan, George Woodward III, and their family, the deal marks a historic transition for the Chestnut Hill area of Northwest Philadelphia whereby one of its founding families–the Woodward/Houston family–has granted to Natural Lands Trust a perpetual easement to protect as open space nearly 41 acres in the heart of the community.  
As part of the transaction, PCC completed its purchase of the St. Martin’s golf course from the Woodward family for $600,000 subject to the conservation easement in favor of Natural Lands Trust.
The land, which was owned by the Woodward/Houston family for nearly a century and a half, had been leased by them to PCC for its nine-hole golf course at the St. Martin’s campus since the 1880s.
As previously announced, the Woodward family will donate proceeds of the sale to several local charities.  
“We are pleased and honored to have finalized this agreement with Natural Lands Trust and The Philadelphia Cricket Club. In conserving this acreage we are securing and promoting an important legacy of open space in our community,” said Charles Woodward, a great-great-grandson of Henry Houston and spokesman for the family.  “At the same time we are extremely pleased to support three local charities we care deeply about:  Natural Lands Trust, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, and the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.”  
“The fact that our organization originated in Chestnut Hill with a small group of advocates who wanted to protect open space from development gives this easement extra-special significance for us,” said Natural Lands Trust President Molly Morrison.  “We are honored to have earned the confidence of the Woodward family to protect their legacy and excited to join The Philadelphia Cricket Club in preserving this iconic property for generations to come. This is the second largest conservation easement that we now hold in Philadelphia.”
The transaction empowers Natural Lands Trust to prevent any use of the property inconsistent with the conservation purposes of the easement, which is designed not only to protect this scenic and historical treasure for use as a golf course but also to serve as an open space buffer for Fairmount Park.   
“We are very pleased to have been a part of this historic transaction, for both our Chestnut Hill community and for The Cricket Club,” added PCC President, Michael J. Vergare. “We look forward to working with Natural Lands Trust to preserve this open space, which has served as a historical venue for golf for more than a century. We are exceedingly grateful to the Woodward family for their extraordinary generosity in making this possible.”
The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields was founded by Henry Howard Houston and dates from the first public service held in the church in 1889. Houston’s vision of community and a spirit of generosity live on through its parishioners and the Woodward family.
“On behalf of the Chestnut Hill Community Association and all of the residents of Chestnut Hill, I want to thank the Woodward family for this bold statement in conserving land that is important to landscape and open space in our community,” said Will Detweiler, President, Chestnut Hill Community Association.
The sale of the property to PCC culminates a long history of involvement and support by the Houston/Woodward family benefiting the Chestnut Hill community. In the 19th century, Henry Howard Houston gave The Club the property for its 18-hole course at the St. Martin’s campus.
The course was repurchased by the Houston estate in 1922 to provide funding for The Club to develop a new golf course in Flourtown while the St. Martin’s course remained available to PCC under a lease arrangement.
Later, during the depression years, the course was reduced to the nine holes in use today. When the land was about to be sold by the Houston estate in the 1950s, Houston’s grandson, Charles Henry Woodward, personally acquired the property and extended the lease to The Club. His descendants have maintained to the present the family’s long tradition of open space preservation for the community’s benefit.
For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the Natural Lands Trust website.  Visit Here to sign up for regular updates from the Trust.

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