Named for Francis Pastorius, a German-born Quaker who founded Germantown in 1690, Pastorius Park was first conceived in 1910 by George Woodward (1863-1952), a prominent physician, developer, and progressive politician. Working with architects Louis Duhring, Jr., Robert Rodes Goodwin, and Edmund B. Gilchrist, Woodward and his team transformed Chestnut Hill into a ‘New Garden’ suburb of Philadelphia.
Pastorius Park was conceived by Woodward after he visited Hyde Park in London around 1914. The land that comprises the present-day park was donated by Woodward, but languished for over 20 years as the City of Philadelphia debated on whether to extend Lincoln Drive to a rotary intersection that would be built where the Park now stands. The City abandoned the idea in 1934 due mostly to the Depression.
The Fairmount Park Commission then hired local landscape architect Frederick W. G. Peck to develop a design for the Park, albeit with no commitment to implement the design. George Woodward was pleased with the design and once again stepped in and funded materials with the actual construction of the Park and its improvements being executed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1937. Peck’s design was heavily influenced by Frederick Law Olmstead and reflected the Community’s desire and Woodward’s vision as a passive, reflective space. Major components of the Park included a constructed pond for reflection and ice skating (replacing an existing swamp), a stone warming hut, and an amphitheater for Community events.
As City budgets decreased and funds were re-directed to inner-city facilities over the following 50 years, the Park fell once again into disrepair and became a candidate for restoration including potential re-design in the 1980’s. The Community, including the Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA) and Friends of Pastorius Park (FoPP), voiced strong opposition to changing the character and purpose of the Park and Pastorius Park maintained Woodward’s vision as a passive, reflective space as the Park underwent renovation in the late ‘80s funded by CHCA, Pew Memorial Trust, citizen donations, and the Woodward Family.
The Park underwent a second restoration in the mid-to-late ‘90s when the Pond was drained, cleaned, lined, and various circulation improvements made. This work was funded entirely by FoPP through a generous donation by the family of Quita Woodward Horan, then President of FoPP.
Today, the Park remains true to its original design and the original vision of George Woodward and Frederick Peck. It also still faces many of the same challenges resulting from diminishing City funding and resources. FoPP operates in a stewardship role to both help fund and oversee maintenance and improvements at the Park. As an example, the 2017 pond restoration was spearheaded by FoPP under the direction of President Tracy Gardner with support from CHCA, CHBD, CHHS, and local citizens and businesses and funded through the Office of City Councilwoman Cindy Bass and FoPP.
Sources: 1987 restoration report by Frederick Richards, along with various articles from the Chestnut Hill Local.