PRESERVING ART AND THE ENVIRONMENT
In 1902, N.C. Wyeth arrived in the area to study with Howard Pyle. Wyeth soon married and moved to Chadds Ford. In 1911 he purchased 18 acres of land, built a house and raised his talented children there. His son Andrew and grandson Jamie, along with other members of the Wyeth family, have made the area internationally famous.
The area is rich in history. The Battle of Brandywine, one of the largest and most important of the Revolutionary War, was fought here. Due to the Brandywine River's dramatic drop in elevation, numerous mills flourished along its banks during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The area retained its rural character well into the 20th century.
In the mid-1960s, Chadds Ford and the surrounding area began to face a wave of industrial and residential development. The impact, especially in floodplain and watershed areas, would have been devastating to the landscapes, water supplies, and ultimately the people living in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware.
Appreciating the need for action, a group of local residents purchased land threatened with development and founded the Brandywine Conservancy in 1967. The first conservation easements, protecting more than five and one-half miles along the Brandywine, were granted in 1969. Today, the Conservancy holds more than 440 conservation easements and has protected more than 45,000 acres in Chester and Delaware counties, Pennsylvania, and in New Castle County, Delaware. These protected lands include much of the land on which the Battle of Brandywine was fought.
In 1971, the Conservancy opened the Brandywine River Museum in a former gristmill that was built in 1864 and was part of the Conservancy's first preservation efforts. Today, the museum has an international reputation for its unparalleled collection and its dedication to American art with primary emphasis on the art of the Brandywine region, American illustration, still life and landscape painting, and the work of the Wyeth family. Among the hundreds of artists represented are Howard Pyle, and many students of Pyle who affected the course of American illustration, N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and Jamie Wyeth. Landscape, still life, portrait and genre painting includes work by Benjamin West, Gilbert Stuart, William T. Richards, Asher Durand, William Harnett, John Haberle, J.D. Chalfant, Horace Pippin, and many others, while the major still life collection includes paintings by William Harnett, John Peto, George Cope, John Haberle and many more artists. Outdoors, wildflower gardens-featuring plants native to the Brandywine Valley-surround the museum in glorious color from spring through autumn.
The Conservancy is dedicated to preserving the natural and cultural resources of the Brandywine Watershed, including water quality and quantity. The Conservancy's Environmental Management Center (EMC) has helped individual landowners and municipalities find solutions to the delicate balance between development and preservation of the water.
The Municipal Assistance staff works to provide practical solutions to manage growth and conserve resources. They have worked with more than 100 government agencies from the local to the federal level. The Land Stewardship staff work with individual landowners to permanently protect their lands for future generations to enjoy, most often through a conservation easement. This is a written, legal agreement between a property owner and the Conservancy (or another conservation group) that stipulates that all or part of a property must remain open space in perpetuity. Crafted to preserve a property's natural, historic, scenic and agricultural resources, conservation easements are tremendously effective in conserving water quantity and quality.
In 2008, the Brandywine Conservancy was one of the first conservation organizations awarded accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. The award is an affirmation of careful management and effective environmental programs. In the same year, the Brandywine River Museum received re-accreditation from the American Association of Museums for the fourth time. The Brandywine Conservancy has always maintained the highest professional standards, a commitment to excellence, public accountability, sound financial management, innovation, and growth of public services.