Great Valley Nature Center History
Great Valley Nature Center offers a unique view into our area’s history, and into the myriad of natural habitats that make up a large part of this area.
A colonial-era fieldstone bank barn, renovated in 1986 and again in 2001, serves as our education building. The building houses a variety of wildlife and domestic animals, as well as office, education and event space.
A nearby two-storied springhouse predates the original barn structure. The Nature Center's 10.5 acres provide several natural areas for field study that include a stream, pond, wetland, field and woodland habitats.
Also featured is our Bird of Prey Center established in 1988, a replica Native American Lenape village, a Pennsylvania wildflower garden, and a colonial-era maple sugar house.
Our Beginnings Arnold Bartschi (owner of Swiss Pines, an adjacent botanical garden) provided the land and start-up operating support to establish the Nature Center. The French and Pickering Creek Conservation Trust, Dr. & Mrs. Clarkson Wentz and the initial executive director, John Christie, were instrumental in developing the gift into a functioning environmental education organization.
The Great Valley Nature Center was formerly known as the Nature Center of Charlestown.
The early years The original property was once a prosperous dairy farm. The fieldstone bank barn was built sometime between 1790 and 1815. Upstairs in the barn, one can still see the hand hews roof rafters, mortise and tenon jointing, and the Roman numerals carved into the beams to assure their proper placement.
The large two storied springhouse on the property was built around the same time as the barn, and may even predate it. The upper story was used as the milkhouse. When the property was up for sale in 1817, one of the features advertised was “a good spring near the door with the milkhouse over same.” The larger than usual size of the springhouse was probably because it was such a successful dairy farm. The spring, which still runs through the springhouse to feed the pond, is probably the primary reason the farm was built on this location.
Our Replica Lenape Village takes our visitors back to the year 1500, and demonstrates how the Lenape Indians lived on the property prior to European settlement.
A number of replica Lenape dwellings are featured on the property including a longhouse.