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1775 farmhouse and land owned by Albert Barnes to be preserved

Natural Lands says it has struck a deal to conserve a house built in 1775 and its property of 137 acres in West Pikeland, Chester County owned by the Barnes Foundation.

The house at Ker-Feal, 2011. Photograph by Barbara Buckley. Photograph Collection, Barnes Foundation Archives, Philadelphia, PA. Reprinted with permission.
The house at Ker-Feal, 2011. Photograph by Barbara Buckley. Photograph Collection, Barnes Foundation Archives, Philadelphia, PA. Reprinted with permission.Read moreBarbara Buckley / Barnes Foundation Archives

In 1940, Albert C. Barnes and his wife, Laura, purchased an 18th-century farmhouse in Chester Springs as a country getaway where they also brought their favorite dog, Fidèle de Port Manech, a Brittany spaniel mix.

The prominent art collector named the farmhouse, built in 1775, Ker-Feal, meaning “Fidèle’s House” in Breton, a Celtic language.

On Friday, nonprofit Natural Lands announced it had struck a deal to place a conservation easement on Ker-Feal, now owned by the Barnes Foundation. A conservation easement permanently limits the use of land for conservation purposes.

Natural Lands said the deal also preserves 137 acres of the historic property in West Pikeland, Chester County.

The easement will also protect a mile-long portion of the Horse-Shoe Trail located on the eastern edge of the property. The 140-mile trail runs from Valley Forge National Historical Park to Harrisburg.

“This is a success story on many levels — for open space, for history, and for outdoor recreation,” Oliver Bass, president of Natural Lands, said in a statement.

Barnes, born in Philadelphia, went on to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school and study chemistry in Germany. He made a fortune by co-inventing an antiseptic with a German colleague. But he also had a passion for art and began buying paintings in Europe, beginning what became a legendary collection. Barnes, who died in 1951, established the Barnes Foundation in Merion. It officially opened on March 19, 1925.

In 2012, the collection was moved to its current location on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.

In exchange for signing the agreement, the Barnes Foundation will receive a $1.52 million grant — the appraised value of the easement — from West Pikeland and the county, according to Natural Lands.

“We are grateful to Natural Lands, Chester County, and West Pikeland Township for the opportunity to preserve the open space and rural character of Ker-Feal for future generations. The proceeds from the easement have been designated by our board to be added to the Barnes Foundation’s endowment to further our educational mission,” said Thom Collins, executive director and president of the Barnes Foundation.

Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline, Kathi Cozzone, and Terence Farrell also praised the deal. Ingrid Cantarella-Fox, president of the Horse-Shoe Trail Conservancy, said the easement will preserve a bucolic section of the trail laid out in 1935.

Natural Lands is the Philadelphia region’s largest land conservation organization, with more than 125,000 acres preserved.

According to County Lines Magazine, the fieldstone farmhouse has eight rooms and the landscape was designed by Laura Barnes.

The magazine reported that Barnes was driving the country roads from Ker-Feal back to Merion when he ran a stop sign and was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer. Fidèle, a passenger, had to be euthanized. Laura Barnes continued to use the country house until her death in 1966.