205 Llanfair Road & Singing Woods Preserve

Over the last two years, we have often written about 205 Llanfair Road, the 1912 Horace Wells Sellers house on the large wooded lot along Llanfair and St. George’s Roads.  A year ago, it seemed likely that the house would be demolished, fifty trees would be chopped down, and two large new houses would be built on the site.  Now the picture looks very different.

A group of determined and public-spirited neighbors joined in an effort to preserve the wooded acre at the corner of St. Georges and Llanfair Roads, negotiating a 10 year lease of the woods with owner/developer Ben Gross.  During the 10 year lease, the woods will remain and no building may take place.  A non-profit entity has been formed to serve as lessee.  The founding participants of “Friends of Singing Woods Preserve” are Bob Borghese, Richard Douglass, Val Hiscock, Raymond Lesser, Bonnie Perry, Hugh Reynolds, Joe Sensenbrenner, Jenette Wheeler, and Alex Wood.  Other neighbors have also contributed to the project.  Everyone is welcome (and soon to be invited!) to participate in preserving the woods.  

The area with the Sellers house has been subdivided off as a separate lot, and the house is being marketed, in cooperation with the Lower Merion Conservancy, with the hope that it will be preserved.  To help spread the word about this unique historic home in our neighborhood, NACA held our 57th Annual Garden Party at the house on Saturday, June 2.  Over 150 people got to tour the historic house while mingling with neighbors, talking about the possibilities for this beautiful historic gem.  If you know of someone who might be interested in buying and restoring the property, please let us know.  If, after reasonable efforts, no preservation buyer is found, Mr. Gross may proceed to build a new house on the site.  We all hope the existing house can be saved.

The 10-year lease of Singing Woods Preserve gives our neighborhood the opportunity to work toward a permanent conservation solution for this important streetscape of suburban forest. Historically named “Singing Wood” as shown on the historic map above, the 205 Llanfair property is bordered by a tributary stream to Mill Creek and provides an extraordinary viewshed for North Ardmore.  It serves as a home to wildlife and a visual oasis for passers-by.  We leave the noise and chaos of Montgomery Avenue and Suburban Square behind and breathe a sigh of relief when we reach these tranquil woods.

Friends of Singing Woods Preserve will have the opportunity to purchase the property during the lease and will have the right of first refusal when the ten-year lease is up.  If the property is purchased, the hope is to put a conservation easement on it so that it remains a woodland forever.  Everyone’s ideas are welcome about how to achieve this goal. 

During the ten-year lease, neighbors will work to remove invasive plants, fallen trees and debris, and to add native plantings and trees in an effort to restore this beautiful woodland to its original glory.  Clean-up activities will begin soon.  The Friends of Singing Woods Preserve will be in touch soon with more information about the plans and how you can join in.  In the meantime, we invite your input and support.

Hugh Gordon