Ardrossan: The Last Great Symbol of Main Line Opulence

Editor Hobart Rowland reflects on the history of Helen Hope Montgomery Scott’s Villanova estate.




Hobart Rowland, Editor

It’s one of the last great symbols of Main Line opulence—and, slowly but inevitably, it appears to be losing the war of attrition. This past May, the heirs to fabled socialite Helen Hope Montgomery Scott’s Ardrossan estate carved out another chunk of its pristine acreage for residential development. Think 16 large—as in, mansion-like—homes, each on a 1.25-acre lot, selling for a cool $1.5 million, with the stunning views to justify the hefty price point.

Edgar Scott III, a family spokesman and a real estate broker, has described said views as a 112-acre “sea of green”—one that includes the estate’s crop field and cattle herd. Though he’s in no hurry, Scott is planning another four phases of development for the property, including 30 lots with prime views on 170 acres. Fifteen smaller parcels along Newtown Road would comprise an area he’s calling “the Village.”

Almost 300 of the estate’s original 650 acres were handed over to developers back in the 1990s. Radnor Township ensured the preservation of another 72 in 2013, snatching up the land for $11.6 million. As for the 50-room Georgia mansion that was the inspiration for The Philadelphia Story, it’s not going anywhere—at least for the time being. Eddie Scott’s sister is still living there, and he’s admitted that maintenance has been a bit lax of late.

Alix Jacobs at the
Ardrossan event

That didn’t stop the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia from holding its first Architectural Dinner at Ardrossan on Oct. 18. The evening featured cocktails, dinner, live music and an auction in the ballroom, plus a tour of the home’s first floor led by Ardrossan insider Joan Mackie. Arriving guests were greeted by a bagpiper, huntsman Francis Jacobs, and the Ardrossan beagles. 

Later, renowned Philadelphia auctioneer Sam Freeman held court over bidding for such lavish offerings as a five-day African safari, a week in the Scottish Highlands, and a private hunt with said beagles. “Ardrossan was chosen as the site for the event because it’s perhaps the only large, important old home in the Philadelphia area that remains a living museum,” says Alix Jacobs, former managing director of the Philadelphia Charity Ball, who organized the event for PAGP. “It is as it was.”

Final numbers weren’t available at press time, but the dinner was expected to raise more than $50,000 for the alliance, helping it continue its work as the main historic preservation advocacy organization for the Philadelphia region. “It was a rare opportunity to personally share a family’s multigenerational experience in a significant home built by one of Philadelphia’s eminent architects, Horace Trumbauer,” Jacobs says.

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