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Highland Farm History

Highland Farm History
The Past


Starting life as simple Chester County farmhouse prior to the Civil War, Highland Farm was originally built by Joseph Cope, the father of Gilbert Cope, the famous West Chester photographer.

Upon the death of Joseph Cope, John Hannum purchased the property in 1871.   Unfortunately John occupied the residence, known then as Highland Home, for approximately four months until his untimely death, at which point his widow Ann (Hoopes) Hannum continued to reside at Highland Home until 1891. 

Constructed of local fieldstone, the earliest known picture of the home is an etching in Futhey & Cope depicting Highland Farm as it looked in 1871 under John Hannum.   That depiction shows a much smaller Highland Farm with only two and one-half floors, no wing and two small porches.

A later photography taken by Gilbert Cope in 1889 confirms the rendering seen in the etching, but also shows a single floor storage shed extending out on the western side of the structure.

The Highland Farm visitors see today was the brainchild of Herman Hoopes who purchased the property in 1895. Mr. Hoopes was a wealthy Philadelphia financier who purchased the property to be his summer residence.  To help effectuate his vision, Mr. Hoopes enlisted the services of Horace W. Sellers.  In 1895, Mr. Sellers, who would later rise to prominence as a noted Philadelphia architect, was just launching his own firm having previously worked for various engineering and railway enterprises.  Together these two men created a stunning rendition of American Georgian architecture and a gentlemen’s summer estate in a league with the estates of other leading industrialists and businessmen of the era.

Breathtaking Views

Set on over 4+ professionally landscaped and maintained acres in idyllic Chester County, Highland Farm as its name suggests commands the high ground affording  panoramic vistas of the surrounding countryside.

In keeping with the period, Highland Farms owners also collected specimen trees and plants.  Especially in vogue was anything oriental.  Consequently Highland Farms gardens contain many varieties of antique Japanese maples.

As measured by Longwood Gardens, Highland Farms also has the largest weeping beech on the East Coast, the third largest red oak, and one of the largest American lindens.  Other specimens of note include two Ponderosa pine trees native to the West Coast, but thriving here in Chester County, Japanese larches, and a Japanese snowbell tree estimated to be over 100 years old.

In keeping with the period, Highland Farms owners also collected specimen trees and plants.  Especially in vogue was anything oriental.  Consequently Highland Farms gardens contain many varieties of antique Japanese maples.

As measured by Longwood Gardens, Highland Farms also has the largest weeping beech on the East Coast, the third largest red oak, and one of the largest American lindens.  Other specimens of note include two Ponderosa pine trees native to the West Coast, but thriving here in Chester County, Japanese larches, and a Japanese snowbell tree estimated to be over 100 years old.

In addition to the magnificent trees, Kate Whitelaw (current owner) has spent the last 15 years adding thousands of bulbs, plants and unique garden sculptures to create gardens with specific themes, such as the Children’s Garden whose centerpiece is a Adirondack-style tree house crafted from various cedar trees that had died on the property. 

The western side of the property boasts the pond and waterfall feature.  Three interconnected ponds and ten waterfalls make up the feature, which was designed and installed by Richard N. Gardner of Distinctive Gardens.  The ponds feature separate water lily and koi ponds, landscaped with several hundred plants.


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