Inside the Famed Ardrossan Estate

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Photo by Jared CastaldiSometimes, it’s simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Like so many others before him, David Nelson Wren first came to know Ardrossan as a guest at one of the iconic Villanova estate’s many parties. Wren had moved to Philadelphia from Dallas in 1988. A year later, he was sharing cocktails with Ardrossan’s esteemed hostess, Helen Hope Montgomery Scott.

At the 2005 funeral of Ardrossan’s last full-time resident, Robert Montgomery Scott, Wren found a family champion in Joan Mackie, who saved a room full of family archives from a dumpster. She trusted Wren with unlimited access to it all.

“It sounds corny, but the more I read, the more I began to love these people,”

David Nelson Wren with Joan Mackie.Wren told senior writer J.F. Pirro during interviews for our cover story, “Mansion Mythology.” “They were all deceased, but it all painted so vivid a picture. It was like a chain of emails today, and it took me on an amazing journey.” Wren’s relationship with the Montgomery-Scott-Wheeler family has led to a manuscript for a monograph on the place he’s come to love. Initially, it was to be “a picture book” done in collaboration with Bryn Mawr photographer Tom Crane, whose shots are featured in this issue. It has since become a social history, as well—one that, alas, is still in search of a publisher. “It had to be a social history,” Wren confided to Pirro. “I couldn’t just write about the staircase, but rather who went up and down it, too.”

Consider our cover story a preview of the great book to come.

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