Location: Tredyffrin • Acreage: 75+ acres • Trail distance: 3.25 miles
Airdrie east - main entrance at the foot of fennerton road
Airdrie WEST - main entrance at the foot of HOLLOW ROAD
NOTE: THE SCOUT CABIN IS UNSTABLE AND SCHEDULED FOR DEMOLITION. PRESERVE VISITORS MUST KEEP CLEAR.
75+ acres of a mature forest, with 100 foot tulip poplars, red and chestnut oaks, groves of beech
Many bird species including the pileated woodpecker and great horned owl
Three small streams
Trail system east of North Valley Road is a neighborhood favorite, especially when wildflowers abound in the spring
AIRDRIE FOREST PRESERVE - EAST - Take East Central Avenue and go north on Fennerton Road to the end
(Click on red marker to open Google Maps for directions from your location)
AIRDRIE FOREST PRESERVE - WEST - Take West Central Avenue and go north on Hollow Road to the end
The Airdrie Forest Preserve is the oldest of the Conservancy’s preserves, established in 1940 with a gift of 63 acres from Miss Lydia Robinson to the Chester County Horticultural Society (now OLC). As described in the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club Quarterly (Vol. 3, No. 3, July 1940), “this gift fulfils one of the Society's main objects, that of the ‘acquisition of land suitable for wild flower and forest preserve’, the development of which will require energy and enthusiasm. We see in the future sparkling fern-bordered pools in the three branches of the Valley Creek, the steep sides of the wooded ravines glowing with shade-loving native flowers, and easy paths throughout the mile-long park.” – a statement that mimics the mission of OLC today.
Originally owned by Welsh Quaker farmers, the property transferred in the 1800s to Clement Biddle (1810-1879), a prominent Philadelphia lawyer. Upon his death, the property was conveyed to railroad magnate Moncure Robinson, Jr. and Lydia MacFunn Biddle (niece of Clement Biddle) in 1880. Mr. and Mrs. Robinson had only one child, their daughter Miss Lydia M. Robinson. During the Robinsons’ tenure, the wooded acres destined to become the preserve served as a woodlot, a common practice in the area, where the stony soil of the North and South Valley Hills, being less suitable for agriculture, served to provide timber for building, fencing, and fuel.
Miss Robinson co-founded a local organization called the Great Bear Tract, Inc. The curious name “Great Bear” was derived from nearby Bear Hill Road, so named because it led from the valley to an inn named the Black Bear on what is now Route 252 in Paoli. This small group of local landowners banded together in 1913, to protect the rural quality and natural woodlands along the approach to Paoli after surveyors were discovered staking out lots on the hill along North Valley Road adjacent to Miss Robinson’s farm. The Great Bear Tract, Inc. purchased this “at risk” tract of land and later acquired additional land on the east side of the road. The 9.3 acres of land owned by the Great Bear Tract, Inc. (acquired by OLC in 1972) combined with the 63 acre donation from Miss Robinson forms the bulk of the Airdrie Forest Preserve. Between 1965 and 2006, small parcels of additional land were donated to OLC (1965: 1.3 acres donated by Miss Robinson; 2004: 1.2 acres donated by Emily Hipps; 2006: 0.1 acres donated by Benson Companies and 0.5 acres donated by Mr. T. Bennett Dickerson) to reach the total preserve size of 75.4 acres.
In the present day, we can still enjoy the ferns, the three branches of Valley Creek, the wooded ravines, and the trails. A mature canopy of oak, tulip poplar, beech, and other native tree species remains in place throughout the preserve and provides habitat for pileated woodpeckers, great horned owls, ovenbirds, wood thrush, and other notable wildlife. Airdrie remains largely as it was when Miss Robinson made her initial gift over 70 years ago.