Waste Firm Gives $500,000 To Pennsbury Manor

Posted: June 11, 1989

One of Bucks County's most important historic sites has gotten a major boost from an unlikely source - a neighboring landfill.

Pennsbury Manor, the reconstructed estate of William Penn on the Delaware River, has received a $500,000 endowment from Waste Management Inc., which operates GROWS landfill in Falls Township.

The endowment and planned steps to increase the buffer between the two properties were the result of state Department of Environmental Resource requirements that the landfill protect its nearest neighbor.

As the state-operated landmark prepares to enhance its public education programs, thanks to interest from the endowment, the landfill is planning its own expansion.

Although Falls Township so far has approved only part of the intended 80- acre westward expansion, the department has granted permits for 80 additional acres of landfill south of Bordentown Road and just east of Pennsbury Road, the 1 1/2-mile access route to the state park.

Additional berms and plantings are being installed to screen the park's access road from the future 80-acre landfill. Waste Management also will improve and maintain that road and eventually will move the third of the road furthest from the manor house to the west to prevent the enlarged landfill

from encroaching on the historic site's entrance.

Those provisions were hammered out in negotiations among Waste Management, the Pennsbury Society and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which operates Pennsbury Manor.

The resulting agreement "balances the very important need for responsible waste management with the very important need for this valuable historic site," Pennsbury Society director Alice L.P. Hemenway said.

Steven A. David, general manager of Waste Management of Pennsylvania, which owns 300 acres of land and lakes north and west of Penn's former estate, said, ''We're willing to do whatever it will take to satisfy our neighbors."

The state park, which encompasses the reconstructed mansion, picnic pavilions, a modern visitors' center and 22 historic outbuildings - including a bake house, joiner's shop, ice and smoke houses, outhouses, and various animal shelters - was begun in the 1932 when the state first acquired 10 acres of the former estate.

Penn, the founder and first governor of the colony he named for himself, designed the small plantation as an English gentleman's country estate. Building began in 1683, but he was called back to England in 1684 and did not return to Pennsylvania until 1699. After living two years at the estate, which he described in many letters as "the place on Earth that I love the most," he returned to England, where he died in 1718.

After the Revolutionary War, his descendants - all Loyalists - returned to England and abandoned the property, which fell into disrepair. According to Hemenway, the buildings had collapsed by the time the state decided to reconstruct the entire estate in the mid-1930s.

More land was donated in that decade by the Warner Co., a mining concern bought by Waste Management in 1981, and by Waste Management six years ago, increasing the park to its current 43 acres.

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