John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove

Mill Grove House
Michael Toccino
Location:
1201 Pawlings Road
Audubon, PA 19403
Telephone: (610) 666-5593

Directions

Museum Hours: Tuesday thru Saturday 10am - 4pm, Sunday 1 - 4pm
Sanctuary Grounds: Tuesday thru Sunday 7am - Dusk
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Some educational programs at the JJA Center are conducted jointly with the Valley Forge Audubon Society.  Check out their calendar of events:  http://www.valleyforgeaudubon.org/events.html

The JJA Center at Mill Grove is an outstanding place for weddings and other special events.  For photos, testimonials and more information click here

Quick Facts

  • John James Audubon Center offer a unique combination of art and nature
  • The museum located in the historic home features all of John James Audubon's major works, including the magnificent Birds of America (view Audubon online version)
  • Over 175 species of birds and over 400 species of plants have been identified on the grounds at Mill Grove, which feature five mile of walking trails
  • John James Audubon arrived in America and Mill Grove in 1803 at the age of 18
  • Mill Grove was sold to Montgomery County Commissioners in 1951 and reopened as the Mill Grove Museum and Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary
  • In February 2004, the National Audubon Society, through a public-private partnership with Montgomery County, assumed management of the site and renamed it the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove

Audubon's First Home in America

Mill Grove drawing
Mill Grove is the first home of John James Audubon in America and the only true Audubon home still standing in this country. The lovely estate, located in Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania was owned for 17 years by Audubon's father, Jean, a French sea captain. In 1803, Captain Audubon sent his youthful son John James to Mill Grove to supervise the estate that included a working lead mine.

The home, now a museum, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It contains the complete editions of every major work published by Audubon including the extraordinary and world famous Birds of America, printed and hand colored from copper plate engravings produced in London between 1827 and 1839.

John James Audubon, eighteen years old at the time of his arrival, spent a majority of his time roaming the wooded hills along the Perkiomen Creek and the Schuylkill River hunting, observing, collecting and sketching. It was during this period that he experienced early stirrings of a fascination for wildlife that was to become his all-absorbing life interest. Inspired and captivated by his new surroundings, Audubon became a pioneer in portraying birds and other wildlife in natural settings. During his time at Mill Grove he built a substantial base of interest in ornithological art, and his experimentation resulted in rapid development of his skill as an artist.

While at Mill Grove he made many drawings and performed the first recorded experiment of bird banding in America. Also, he developed his “wire armature,” a device that gave life to his freshly shot specimens and his drawings of the birds. This unique method of holding his specimens put him years ahead of his contemporaries. Many believe that in spite of the advantages of photography and state-of-the-art technology, no modern bird painter has equaled his achievements.

Making Nature Come Alive
Audubon's place in history was assured by his changing forever the way in which birds are illustrated. While replicating physical features with uncanny veracity, he incorporated narrative elements and aesthetic touches that made birds come alive in their natural environments and lifted the images to the status of fine art.

His famous Birds of America stands out. These 453 life-sized paintings of north American birds were remarkable for their accuracy of color and realism. After publication of the Birds of America, Audubon issued a highly successful, smaller 7-volume octavo edition. He also compiled an important work documenting mammals, The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, comprising 150 hand-colored lithographs in 3 volumes.

In addition to his artistic talents, Audubon was a prolific writer. His journals and Bird Biographies documented his observations of the land and people of the emerging American nation that he traveled during the first half of the 19th century.

The Home and Family
At the age of twenty, Audubon gained his father's approval to marry Lucy Bakewell, daughter of William Bakewell, an Englishman who owned Fatland Ford, an estate adjoining Mill Grove. After their marriage in 1808, the Audubons moved to Kentucky. Lucy Bakewell was a tower of strength to her husband as he struggled to find his calling. While Audubon traveled about as portrait painter, music and fencing instructor and, eventually, painter of the Birds of America, Lucy remained at home to raise their two sons, Victor Gifford and John Woodhouse, and to work intermittently as a teacher.

After the Audubon's left Mill Grove, Samuel Wetherill of Philadelphia purchased the property in 1813. It remained in the family until Herbert J. Wetherill sold it in 1951 to Montgomery County. In April 2003 the National Audubon Society and Montgomery County signed an agreement creating the Mill Grove Audubon Center. The Center is managed by Audubon Pennsylvania, the state office of the National Audubon Society.

Understanding Conservation Through the Art
Certainly no other American artist has devoted such energy and resources to the portrayal of American birds. It is for this reason Mill Grove was designated a historic place on the National Register and serves as a true living memorial to the achievements of an American legend. Mill Grove Audubon Center is maintained as a museum and bird sanctuary, with 5 miles of marked trails, and welcomes 20,000 visitors a year including scouting groups and local schools. The Center hosts four major public events during the year.

Today, the National Audubon Society strives to connect people with nature within the special context of a national historic site and through the appreciation of John James Audubon's life and art. In the future the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove will tell the story of the stirring of the American conservation movement and the protection of birds, wildlife and habitat through the compelling art of John James Audubon.

Copyright  2013 National Audubon Society, Inc