Located in northwestern Philadelphia, this recreation center and public park lies east of the Awbury Arboretum. In the mid-nineteenth century, the area was owned by the families of Henry Cope, John Haines, and John Nolan. Characterized by rolling hills and open fields with few structures or trees, Cope named the area “Awbury” for his ancestral village in England. In 1916, Cope’s descendants donated a segment of their property to the City Parks Association (chartered in 1888) to be used as an arboretum. In 1921, the adjacent 28-acre parcel was acquired by the Fairmount Park Commission, which was established in 1867 to preserve and manage public open space. Between 1934 and 1938, the Works Progress Administration lined neighborhood streets with stone walls. The three-foot-tall rock wall that extends the entire length of the park along its southern boundary is likely associated with these efforts. In the 1940s, the park comprised a grassy hillside, playfields, and a row of canopy trees buffering its southern edge. In the 1950s, it was temporarily used by the U.S. Army for barracks, which were removed by 1965.
In 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was established by Congress to ensure that access to outdoor recreation was available to all Americans. Awbury was identified as an area in need, and, in 1969, George Patton was commissioned to design Awbury Park. With support from the LWCF, an eleven-acre section was developed as the Awbury Recreation Center: Facilities include tennis courts, ball fields, a swimming pool, a grandstand, concessions, and showers. Today, the park’s undulating topography is shaded by mature honey locust and oak while dogwood and other shrubs provide year-round interest.