The home and twenty acres on which the Arboretum was first planned were formerly the property of H. Lawrence and Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins, given to them in 1928 as a wedding gift by Mrs. Jenkins’ father, B. Pemberton Phillippe.
The groundwork for Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens was laid in 1965 when H. Lawrence Jenkins established the Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins Foundation forever preserving his property as a living memorial to his wife, an avid gardener and wildlife enthusiast.
In his will, Mr. Jenkins directed that the property become a “public park, arboretum, and wildlife sanctuary for the study of arboriculture, horticulture, and wildlife for educational and scientific purposes.”
In 1972, Mrs. Louisa P. Browning, owner of the adjoining property, donated her 26 acres, expanding the size of the Arboretum to 46 acres. The Browning property, including a house designed by the renowned Main Line architect R. Brognard Okie, is currently in a private area of the Arboretum. The private areas will continue to be developed and may one day be open for public visitation.
In the early 1970’s, several steps were taken to create a botanical garden. Trails were created, a pond was installed, a visitor’s center was constructed, native trees, shrubs and wildflowers were planted and of course, a plan was developed
to feature rhododendrons and azaleas. It wasn’t until 1976, however, that Mr. Jenkins’ vision was realized when his 20-acre property officially opened to the public and became known as Jenkins Arboretum.
Over the next several decades, major changes involved the construction of a modern, energy efficient greenhouse and the establishment of the Hamilton Educational Fellowship. The implementation of the Fellowship along with the addition of full-time horticulture staff, internships and a volunteer program have allowed the Arboretum expand the botanical collections.
More recently, in 2009 the Arboretum completed construction of the John J. Willaman Education Center. The Education Center is a LEED gold certified “green” building that will serve as an activity hub for many years to come. In 2010, the rhododendron and mountain laurel collections became nationally recognized as the Arboretum joined the American Public Gardens Association’s Plant Collections Network – a group of botanical institutions dedicated to preserving plant germplasm.