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La Salle Local History



"The Wister Family owned four homes on the Belfield estate. Two buildings survive: ‘Belfield'-- or 'Peale House'--itself, and the 'Mary and Frances Wister Fine Arts Studio(built by the William Rotch Wisters in 1868). The William Rotch Wisters' stunning second house, 'Wister,' was built in 1876 on the side of Clarkson Avenue opposite from the Arts Studio; 'Wister' was donated to Fairmount Park in 1949 and demolished in 1956." (Butler, "Home Where 'The Mansion' Was, 1994).

John Caspar Wister

John Caspar Wister (1887-1982), only son of William Rotch and Mary Eustis Wister, was raised at "Wister." His sister Ella's account of his boyhood in her Reminiscences of a Victorian Child, note his early interest in gardening. He would become one of America's most prominent horticulturists; serving as Director of the Arthur H. Scott Horticultural Foundation at Swarthmore College, and Director of the John J. Tyler Arboretum. 

The Connelly Library's Department of Special Collections maintains the John Caspar Wister Papers, 1900-1982. This collection is especially rich in material related to his service in World War I. 

Many photographs, drawings, an essays from the collection at La Salle are available to view online through the Library's Digital Collections platform. 

The Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College houses the records of the Scott Arboretum, which contain material related to John Caspar Wister's professional career. 

Read an essay on John Caspar Wister in La Salle's Digital Commons

Works about John Caspar Wister in La Salle's Connelly Library

Find more resources via WorldCat

Ella Eustis Wister Haines

Ella Eustis Wister Haines (1879-1969), third daughter of William Rotch and Mary Eustis Wister, was born in Massachusetts and raised in Philadelphia at the "Wister" house. She married Diedrich Jansen Wistar Haines at "Wister" in 1904. They spent 25 of their married years living in Iowa, but the family returned to the Wister home in Philadelphia in 1928. The life of her and her family is finely detailed in her Reminiscences of a Victorian Child, written in 1953. In this work she describes herself as "a business woman beginning at age forty-nine," during which time she was the Director of the Educational Film Service of the Philadelphia Electric Company. Throughout her life she was also a writer, and published, among other works, a series of detective thrillers. 

Read an essay on Ella Eustis Wister Haines in La Salle's Digital Commons

Works in La Salle's Connelly Library