Nestled in the foliage of the Wissahickon Park is the inviting, fairy-tale-like Cedars House Café, a way-station drawing Forbidden Drive walkers, horseback riders, joggers, hikers and travelers of all ages. It has become a charming rustic spot for loyal visitors to rest and chat, refresh and reflect in the comfy charm of the little house that time has preserved to the pleasure of all who venture by.
The Cedars House Café was originally used as an office for the Andorra Nursery, now known as the Andorra Natural Area. Read more about this on the Trails to the Past section on the Andorra Natural Area.
As best as can be determined via local archival atlases and catalogs, the Andorra Nursery’s Office—presently The Cedars House Café—was built between 1899 and 1902, though it could have existed since 1886 when the Nursery began. Over the years this main sales/business office has been referred to in print as Harper’s Office, Harper’s Meadow Office, and simply The Cedars House. Although Andorra Nursery abandoned this original office on Wissahickon Drive (now Forbidden Drive) in the early 1940s the building continued to be intermittently used as a residence for various park caretakers and for park storage.
From latter 1955 to early 1977 the Kerper Family resided in the former Andorra Nursery Office building. Lawrence Kerper was a plumber employee of the Fairmount Park Commission (predecessor of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation) and, therefore, resided in the bungalow free of a rental charge, but was obligated to maintain the house and yard—a then-common practice with many of the park’s holdings. His children live not far away today. In 1982-91, caretakers Beth Parke and Ed Schultz resided there.
The building (at least partly) became a station for the Wissahickon Ranger Corps from 1991-1992, funded by the William Penn Foundation. After the park ranger experiment ended, the building was variously rented or had caretakers living therein, was used for storage, sat idle, and became dilapidated with large holes in the first floor.
In 2010, a courageous and enterprising young entrepreneur, Ricki Eisenstein, saw this building and discovered it was up for lease from Fairmount Park Historic Trust (now part of Fairmount Park Conservancy). She obtained a lease, restored the historical exterior, remodeled the interior to suit an eatery, and changed the name from The Cedars House (once closely surrounded by cedar trees) to The Cedars House Café.
In 2016 the Café passed to another visionary, Jenny Tustin, who continued to offer unique dishes and a welcoming atmosphere—all the while dealing with the physical necessities of a 120-plus-year-old diamond in the rough. In 2020, the wand passed to Jenny’s older sister, Mary Ellen, who has demonstrated additional creativity. Check out The Cedars House Café website here.
A pictorial history of the building is on display inside.
Written by James T. Charnock, FOW Trail Ambassador
- 1903 and other Andorra Nursery catalogs
- Interview with Alex Bartlett, archivist, Chestnut Hill Conservancy/Historical Society, Philadelphia, PA
- Andorra: From Private Estate to Public Preserve: An Informal History by Thomas Keels, former Board of Directors of Chestnut Hill Historical Society/Conservancy (2000)
- Interviews with Kerper siblings, Charles and Barbara, in 2018
- Records from Fairmount Park Conservancy via archivist Theresa Stuhlman, Dec. 7, 2018
- Conservancy archival records
- David Contosta and Carol Franklin, Metropolitan Paradise, St Joseph’s University Press 2010
- 2018 Interview w/Patricia Fries, Director of Wissahickon Environmental Center/Tree House
- 2018 interview with Ricki Eisenstein, remodeler-creator of Cedars House Café.
Check out this Google Map to explore this and other unique historical points of interest, and become acquainted with the many trailheads in Wissahickon Valley Park!
Explore more Wissahickon-related historic points of interest, stories, art, videos, games, and much more on our Virtual Valley!
You probably don’t need us to tell you how special Wissahickon Valley Park is. It’s 1800 acres provides habitat to wildlife, refuge & recreation to over a million visitors per year, and protects the drinking water for one third of Philadelphians. The park can’t take care of itself, however. It needs responsible park users and stewards to keep this special place clean and sustainable for generations to come.