Highlands Mansion & Gardens in Ft. Washington purchases 51 acres of protected open space, bonfire on Jan. 19

The historic Highlands Mansion and Gardens at 7001 Sheaff Lane in Fort Washington recently purchased an adjacent 51 acres for preservation as open space with limited development.

The Highlands Historical Society, Whitemarsh Township, Montgomery County and several private supporters contributed to the transaction, The Times Herald reported.

“We are so grateful for all the support we received and to see so many community members join us in our mission to preserve and protect land in Whitemarsh Township for everyone to enjoy in perpetuity,” said Highlands Executive Director Dana Dorsey.

The property’s former owner initially filed an application with the township for a 46-lot residential development. Whitemarsh officials explained the details in a recent township newsletter:

The Highlands Historical Society, after extensive negotiations with the developer, purchased the entire tract (in December) for $13.3 million. The 51 acres has been subdivided into four separate lots, consisting of three 10-plus acre lots (totaling 32 acres) and one 19-acre lot. The three 10-acre lots have been resold by The Highlands Historical Society to conservation buyers subject to easements held by the township, limiting development to one residence per lot.

The remaining 19-acre lot will be retained by The Highlands and added to its 40-acre estate…subject to an easement held by the township preventing any development and providing for unrestricted public access.

From The Herald’s article:

Wealthy Philadelphia politician and merchant Anthony Morris bought the 200 acres that became The Highlands in 1794, according to the site’s records, “to provide his family with a refuge from the yellow fever epidemics sweeping Philadelphia,” and its initial stonework was laid on June 8, 1795. Morris sold the property to Daniel Hitner in 1808, and subsequent owners included the George Sheaff family, Caroline Sinkler and niece Emily Sinkler Roosevelt and husband Nicholas, who gifted it to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1957. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission conveyed ownership to HHS three years ago as part of PA Senate Bill 1214.

In related news, The Highlands will host a Winter Warm-Up bonfire on Friday, January 19 (rain date January 20) from 6:00pm to 9:00pm.

The event will feature food trucks and s’mores stations. Proceeds will benefit The Highlands education committee. Admission is $20 per car.

For more on The Highlands, you can visit their Facebook page and website.

Photos: The Highlands