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Tyler Arboretum photographs


Held at: Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The Tyler Arboretum, located on the high ground on the eastern side of the Chester-Ridley Creek Watershed, was established by early English Quaker Thomas Minshall (1652-ca 1728) using a portion of the land he purchased from William Penn. Its seventy acres of gently rolling hills are occupied by open fields and woodlands where the Painter brother's and later botanical collections are carefully maintained.

In the mid-19th century, brothers Minshall and Jacob Painter established a plant collection that at once contained over 1,000 trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants; this collection was known locally as Painter Arboretum. In 1834, Enos Painter built a massive stone addition onto the western end of the existing barn to house livestock. In 1863, Minshall and Jacob Painter built the Painter Library for their growing natural science collections and equipment. Following their death, the property was inherited by John J. Tyler who made Victorian Alterations to portions of the property and added a wing to the property.

Following his death, his wife Laura Hoope arranged for the property to be left in trust as the John J. Tyler Arboretum. When Laura died in 1944, the homestead became a non-for-profit public garden. In 1946, the renowned horticulturist Dr. John C. Wister became Tyler Arboretum's first director. Dr. Wister planted the collections magnolias, cherries, crabapples, lilacs, conifers, and rhododendrons we see today He also laid out the routes of the hiking trails.

In 2002, after a nomination process initiated by Leslie B. Potter and Joseph W. Healey in 1996, Tyler Arboretum was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The designation of Tyler Arboretum as a historic site was motivated by the its "role in preserving and maintaining natural and historic resources", "its association with the lives of Minshall and Jacob Painter, who played an important role in the local scientific community during the nineteenth century", and "the degree to which the buildings and structures at the arboretum reflect the patterns in architecture that were current during the time that they were erected."

Source: National Register of Historic Places registration for John J. Tyler Arboretum, 2002,

The collection consists of black and white photographs of Tyler Arboretum (also known as Painter Arboretum), primarily those submitted with its National Register of Historic Places nomination in 1996. Included are photographs of locations on the Tyler Arboretum such as: Painter Residence, Tyler barn, Tyler springhouse, Painter Library, Tyler fruit vault, Tyler grapery, Tyler white cottage, Tyler stone cottage, Tyler Hay Wagon shed, Tyler outhouse, Tyler lawn, and the Gertrude Smith Wister Maintenance Building; as well as Bowater House and Cistern at Ranger Run. Some of the photographed buildings have been demolished or subject to neglect from the 1940s to 1996.

Additionally, the collection contains a historic structure investigation conducted on May 12, 1995 of "Roundtop" ("Roundtop" is the Minshall/Painter/Tyler house, located in Ridley Creek State Park in MIddletown, Pennsylvania), along with photographs of the property.

Photographs relating to the National Register of Historic Places nomination are sorted in the original order that they were submitted; see the associated photograph list for captions and the order of the photographs. The remaining assorted photographs are sorted by size.

Gift of Leslie B. Potter. Accession FHL-2016-062 and FHL-2017-016

Leslie B. Potter was raised ½ mile from Tyler Arboretum and knew the property and local context. She prepared the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

The book "Quakertown History" by Robert Griffen and Charlton Werner, donated as part of FHL-2016-062, was removed from the collection and cataloged.

A copy of the full National Register of Historic Places nomination was donated with the collection; it can be found cataloged in the Friends Historical Library's book collection.

Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
Finding Aid Author
Andres Villalba and Celia Caust-Ellenbogen
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

This collection is available for research use.

Use Restrictions

Permission to reuse, publish, or reproduce items in this collection beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to copyright law must be obtained from the copyright holder or their heirs/assigns. See

Per the deed of gift, Leslie B. Potter retains copyright to the photographs taken by her.

Collection Inventory

List of photographs in National Register of Historic Places nomination, 1995.
Photographs used in National Register of Historic Places nomination (#1-#49), 1995.
Photographs used in National Register of Historic Places nomination (#50-#85), 1995.
Assorted photographs of Tyler Arboretum and associated sites, 1995.
Ranger Rick digging around the cistern with Pam Harper, 1995.
"Roundtop" historic structure investigation, 1995.
Negatives, 1995.

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