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David Nelson Wren is Breathing New Life into the Ardrossan Estate


That a book about Ardrossan should meet with a warm reception around here shouldn’t come as a surprise. As Main Line institutions go, it really is a magical place. David Nelson Wren’s Ardrossan: The Last Great Estate on the Philadelphia Main Line (Bauer and Dean Publishers, 368 pages) is a book befitting its subject—a beautiful, exhaustive celebration of the iconic Montgomery family and their cherished Villanova home.

It’s been a 20-year labor of love for Wren, a longtime Ardrossan insider who’s been doing his part to see that the new book gets the attention it deserves. “At the Union League, we were told our lecture and signing drew the second largest crowd for such an event since the series was begun some 40 years ago,” says Wren. “There were 370 people gathered in Lincoln Hall, its largest room.” 

For J.F. Pirro, who wrote this month’s cover feature, “The Ardrossan Story”, the recent book-launch parties and tours hosted by the family and the Radnor Historical Society at the estate “created a warm, nostalgic feeling that captured the exact milieu that would’ve existed a century earlier. It was palpable.” 

Wren graciously throws a bit of credit in our direction. “I couldn’t be more beholden to Main Line Today for your encouragement and interest,” he says. “Perhaps your editorial letter in the front of the issue when the house was last on the cover did the trick in finding a publisher. And, of course, as you know, J.F. Pirro has been an absolute champion.”

Our senior writer has been following the Ardrossan story since at least 2012, when he began work on our first cover feature about the estate. Over the past five years, he’s gotten to know Wren and Joan Mackie, a Montgomery descendant who still lives on the estate. He notes that the property, land and houses are held in two family trusts, one of which terminates in March. So the future of Ardrossan is anything but set in stone. The estate once encompassed almost 800 acres. That has since dwindled to 350, with residential development closing in.

So there couldn’t be a better time to lavish attention on this local treasure—and so far, so good. The first 2,500 copies of the book sold out almost instantly, prompting a second printing of 3,000. “We hope to keep the ball rolling,” says Bauer and Dean publisher/editor Beth Daugherty.

No doubt many of us will be cheering them on.