Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer

Touring the historic buildings


At the officesToday, I continued my Natural Studies at Tyler Arboretum by attending a free Historic Building Tour, starting at Lachford Hall (that’s me in front of Lachford Hall, to the left).  I have walked by these buildings many times on my way to the trails and the pond, but it was the description in my summer issue of Tyler Topics piqued my interest:

Tyler’s historic Lachford Hall and Painter Library are open to the public for tours. Learn about the daily lives of the eight generations of the Quaker family who owned what is now Tyler Arboretum. Begun in 1738, Lachford represents over two centuries of residence by the Minshall-Painter-Tyler family. See the fascinating collection of 19th century scientific equipment and books assembled by the Painter brothers, and tour the beautiful library they built in 1863.

Tyler Arboretum - Summer 2013The tour lasted a little over a half hour, but it was saturated with information and fascinating sites I had never seen at Tyler before.  Fortunately, Tyler’s website has a nice, detailed history of Tyler Arboretum, going back to 1681 when English Quaker Thomas Minshall purchased the property from William Penn (and not to jump too far ahead in the story, but a chair that Thomas Minshall brought over from England is on display in Lachford Hall! (pictured to the right)).  I was impressed with the furniture from the Minshall/Painter family that was housed in Lachford and on display, items ranging from a locked spice cabinet to a school chest, to children’s shoes to a rolling pin!  I can’t post all of the photos I took inside, but you can see some of these items at my flickr page and by visiting Lachford yourself.

Tyler Arboretum - Summer 2013But the tour did not end there!  One building I had never stepped foot in prior to today is the Library.  Walking in to that building was like taking a walk back in time.  As a geologist, I was fascinated to see that science was a hobby for brothers Minshall Painter and Jacob Painter.  I was able to see some of their collections that included minerals, bird specimens, a camera, printing press, and lots and lots of books!  It brought a smile to my face to see that Painters valued their book collection so much that they built a book vault on each floor, with double metal doors, to fireproof their collection (I had an even bigger smile on my face to see that their book collection included books on geology!).  I left the Library and ended the tour with a sense of wonder – what else is hiding in these closets and rooms of Tyler’s historic structures?

Ron was the tour guide for myself and another Tyler visitor, Pepper.  Pepper is also a Tyler member and told me she tries to visit Tyler once a month and see something different each time she visits.  It was so much fun to meet Pepper and share with her the excitement of learning about Tyler’s history and seeing the fascinating collection of historic artifacts.  We joked that we may meet again investigating Roundtop Farm in Ridley Creek State Park, which we learned was the original Minshall family farmstead (until I make it there, I’ll have to enjoy exploring the images in flickr)!  I also found a 1993 Masters Thesis from the University of Pennsylvania titled “Preservation in Ridley Creek State Park : documentation of the historic farmsteads.”  The thesis is available online as a free download and has more information on the Roundtop Farm home of the Minshalls, especially the case study section that starts on page 89 of the thesis (p. 193 of the PDF file).

So much history – so much more to learn!


Author: Dr. G

Dr. Laura Guertin, Professor of Earth Science, Penn State Brandywine. Learn more at

4 thoughts on “Touring the historic buildings

  1. Dr. G you if you are impressed by these old collections, you need to visit the Delaware County Institute of Science;

  2. I have visited the Delaware County Institute of Science – many a time! I’ve also been a speaker as part of the Science Lecture Series (I’ve spoken about Centraila, dinosaurs and the Philadelphia connection, and what we can learn from tombstones in Cumberland Cemetery in Lima). It is one of my favorite places to give a talk, upstairs surrounded by the collections. DCIS is certainly another gem in the region.

  3. Pingback: Roundtop Farm – the Minshall Family Farmstead | Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

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