The former farm fields at Hildacy have been converted to meadows dominated by native grasses such as big and little bluestem, Indian-grass, and switchgrass. Native grass meadows provide valuable habitat for many bird species that are in decline across their ranges. Eastern Bluebirds, American Kestrels, Indigo Buntings, and Red-shouldered Hawks have all nested at Hildacy in recent years.
Crum Creek, a tributary to the Delaware River, meanders through the preserve. The creek is the leading drinking water source for Delaware County residents and was designated a “Special Protection Stream” by the PA Department of Environmental Protection. With help from volunteers and Pennsylvania’s TreeVitalize program, we have planted hundreds of trees along the edge of Crum Creek to improve water quality. Trees and other plants in this area filter the nutrients and sediments transported by surface and groundwater flowing into the creek. Native trees also provide shade and food that benefit fish and other aquatic species.
In 2001, we completed a renovation to our headquarters, including a large addition to the original farmhouse. Throughout the design and construction process, we were careful to minimize environmental impacts. A geothermal system takes advantage of the earth’s constant temperature to heat and cool the building, while the extensive use of glass and exterior shades allow us to reduce heating costs in the winter and lighting costs year-round.
Hildacy Preserve is virtually all that remains of a 300-acre land grant from William Penn to a local tanner and his family. Once prized for its mature oak trees, the land was slowly cleared for timber and agriculture. By the late 1800s, only one small grove of trees remained.
The original stone farmhouse dates to 1806, with wings built in 1850 and 1943. The farmhouse and a 2001 addition serve as Natural Lands’ regional headquarters. A smaller building, circa 1870, was once a domestic springhouse and is now the preserve manager’s residence. The frame bank barn was constructed around 1900.
In 1936, Hilda and Cyril Fox (hence the name “Hildacy”) bought the property. They lived here for nearly 40 years, and used the farm to raise race horses and German shepherds. As the surrounding area was developed, the Foxes were determined to keep their land open for wildlife. In 1981, Mrs. Fox donated Hildacy to Natural Lands, with instructions to continue the Foxes’ conservation work. Since that time, we have worked to restore the woodlands, meadows, and wetlands to a more natural state.
The wetlands this preserve were once a man-made pond. The pond’s water was over-heated by sunlight and contaminated with goose droppings, which, in turn, adversely impacted the water quality of the creek downstream. Converting the pond to a shallow wetland has improved the water quality and created valuable wildlife habitat.