At the turn of the 20th century, Philadelphia’s elite built summer homes along the Main Line of the Philadelphia Railroad to escape the city heat. While many of these homes still stand in public and private use, the Chanticleer Estate has a unique second-life as a horticultural hotspot for the region.
The original owners of the Chanticleer estate were Adolph Rosengarten Sr. and his wife, Christine Penrose. Rosengarten owned a prosperous pharmaceutical company that would later merge with Merck & Co. They hired local architect and friend Charles L. Borie to design the Colonial-Revival home, situated on multiple acres in the desirable town of Wayne. The home was completed in 1913 as a summer home, and with an addition in 1924, it became the family’s full-time residence. The first landscape architect of the property was Thomas Sears. On adjoining parcels of property, the Rosengarten’s built homes for their children. Their son Adolph Jr.’s home was built in 1933, but is no longer standing, and their daughter Emily’s home was built in 1935 and is currently used as offices and classrooms located at the visitor’s entrance.
After his sister’s death. Adolph Jr. purchased her half of the estate and maintained it in the same condition as when the family lived there. He established the Chanticleer Foundation to establish the estate as a public garden and educational space after his death. He also hired British landscape architect Christopher Woods to develop the garden space, and Woods became head of the foundation after Adolph’s death in 1990.
The property was added to the National Register of Historic places in 1984, and it opened to the public in 1993.