Morris Arboretum

Morris Arboretum

Collections: Private Estate - 1887-1932
John T. Morris and Lydia T. Morris Estate Papers

When the Arboretum was a private estate known as Compton, John Morris and Lydia Morris lived with their cook, maid, waitress and driver in Philadelphia on Pine Street. In the spring, the household would visit Compton and then move there for the late spring, commuting into the city for business or charity board meetings.

A team of gardeners and seasonal workers kept the Compton estate operational from March till Lydia's annual Christmas party in December. In season extra help was enlisted to keep the garden at its peak. Flowers were raised in the five greenhouses, fruits and vegetables in the lower gardens. Butter, eggs, chickens and meat were also produced site. In 1924 Compton was winterized and Lydia began to empty the house on Pine Street.

Biographical Sketches of John Morris and Lydia Morris

The ode is an excerpt from the Kellner Diaries. Aboard S.S. Lahn, in November 1889 Miss Kellner, a nurse and companion writes that Miss Morris received a poem in blank verse from fellow passenger Rev. Dr. Aberigh Mackay, a Scotsman. " And pleasant memories will gather around this poem, as in after years the occasion and all incidents will be recalled". 2012.7.2

Floor Plans of Compton Mansion and Coach House

The first fllor plans of the major buildings were captured by the engineernig firm of Pugh and Hubbard which prepared an Atlas of Compton in 1909.

Updated in 1914 this Atlas of Compton detailed the layout of every building, every plant and rock in each garden feature. Click HERE to go to Arboretum Maps and explore.

Employees and Worker Diaries at Compton - Information Lookup

People of Compton. The gardens, buildings and farm fields flourished with the many hands that cared for it. Find your ancestor or a neighbor then search the year of the transcribed work diaries below for details.

  • Find the name of an employee at Compton or all employees between the years of 1894 and 1932


  • Payroll records were kept by the head gardemers. These volumes provide a rich insight into the seasonal gardening tasks, horticultural and agricultural practices, and the seasonal and full-time grounds staff. These diaries were transcribed by Archives & History volunteers: Susan Marshall, Elizabeth Gavula, and others.

    John Tonkin's family donated the eleven diaries that he kept as Head Gardener

    Click to open a diary, then search for key words or names using CTL + F.

    Expenses at Compton - Information Lookup

    Invoices in the 1920's - A sampling of invoices over a decade at Compton are here, revealing clues to garden and horticulture vendors and life on a Chestnut Hill estate during the 1920's. The full set of invoices can be found in the Archives 2011.10.

    1919 A - D E - N O - Z
    1923 A - B C - E F - H O - S T - Z
    1924 A - B C - D E - K L - M O - Q R - S T - Z
    1925 A - B C - D E - K L - M O - Q R - S T - V W - Y
    1926 A - B C - E F - L M N - Q R - S T - Z
    1927 A - B C - F G - K L - M N - Q R S - T U - Z
    1928 B - C D - I H - L M - P Q - Z

    Recipe Book 1883 - Lydia Morris

    Lydia Morris' Recipe Book 2012.2.1 included recipes from 1883-1930, Several are transcribed below.

    John Morris Catalog of Articles, an Inventory of Ownership

    John Morris Memberships

    “From the Archives” Articles about the Estate Era

    Each month, the Morris Arboretum Volunteer Newsletter features a column titled “From the Archives,” about people and events of the estate era. The column is authored by archives volunteer, Joyce Munro. Click on the links below to read a compilation of these articles.

    From the Archives 2018 includes “A Book from Lydia’s Library,” “The Teahouse from Japan,” “The Lure of a Log Cabin,” “Landscaping Compton,” “The Bloomfield Chicks” and others.

    From the Archives 2019 includes “The Mercury Loggia,” “The Japanese Gardens of Compton,” “The Fernery,” “Plants & Seeds from Around the World,” “Seven Arches” and others.

    From the Archives 2020 includes “744 Spring-Blooming Bulbs,” “The Year of the Pandemic,” “A School at Bloomfield Farm,” “The Right Stones for Pringle Borthwick,” “Preserving Wissahickon Creek” and others.

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