Evolving from and building on the environmental traditions of the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women, the scenic 187-acre campus in eastern Montgomery County traces its historical roots back to the early 20th Century.
In 1910 with the financial support of friends, Jane Bowne Haines, a Bryn Mawr College graduate, purchased a 71-acre tract of rolling farmland in Ambler and founded the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women on the site. The school was the first of its kind in the state. Bowne Haines had visited several colleges of gardening in England in 1905, and recognized that horticulture should also occupy a place in American education.
Under director Louise Carter Bush-Brown, who arrived in 1924, the school truly began to flourish. Along with boosting enrollment and establishing degree-bearing programs, she also broadened the cultural diversity of the school by attracting women from Japan, Australia, and West Germany to attend. A dormitory was built on campus in 1929, followed by a library in 1951. James Bush-Brown, the director's husband and a member of the school's faculty during the 1920s and 1930s, designed the nationally acclaimed Formal Gardens, still the centerpiece of the campus today.
In 1958, the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women accepted an offer from Temple University to merge with the already established Ambler Junior College . On June 16, 1958, the merger was formally approved and Ambler Junior College of Temple University was formed and immediately made available to men. In 1961, to emphasize the close relationship of the campus to Temple University, the Board of Trustees changed the name to The Ambler Campus of Temple University.
In 1963, fire destroyed the campus dormitory. In 1965, however, the doors were opened to two new dormitories, East and West Halls. While West Hall today primarily houses faculty and staff offices, East Hall remains exclusively a residence hall. The Dining Center also opened its doors in 1965. In the following year, the campus stable closed and the last horse was sold.
In 1968, performances by Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, and Van Cliburn marked the debut season of the Temple Music Festival and Institute, ushering in a time of expansion and growth on campus. New director Dr. Sidney Halpern started his 11-year tenure in 1971 and began the transformation of Ambler to a four-year campus. In 1972, junior- and senior-level courses were offered at Ambler for the first time in areas including: humanities, business administration, teacher education, the social sciences, and journalism. The current Library Building opened as a "general use" building in 1973.
Additions to the campus infrastructure, programs, and services continued through the 1970s, 1980s, and into the present day. Widener Hall opened in 1978 to accommodate rising enrollment, and Dixon Hall opened with new science labs and classrooms in 1983 on the site of the original dormitory.
In 1987, Temple approved the formation of bachelor's degree programs in Landscape Architecture and Horticulture - Ambler is the official home to both programs. Two years later, the Landscape Architecture program received accreditation from the American Society of Landscape Architects and will be reaccredited in the coming year.
In 1990, the Landscape Architecture and Horticulture programs took home a "Best of Show" award from the Philadelphia Flower Show, an achievement repeated in 1991, 1993, 1997, 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2007 in the Academic Educational category. Temple's 2005 exhibit, "Progressive Women in Horticulture: A Driving Force in Philadelphia - 1904 to 1924," earned a perfect score of 100 from the judges.
Today students attend classes at Temple University Ambler and at the Fort Washington Graduate and Professional Center, which opened in 1997 as a result of burgeoning enrollment. Students can begin over 100 Temple undergraduate programs and complete well over a dozen bachelor's and numerous master's degrees at Ambler and Fort Washington.
Temple University Ambler is a respected innovator in research and education in social, economic, and environmental studies, delivers high-quality undergraduate, graduate, and non-credit programs that meet the needs of the region and provides rewarding life experiences for students of all ages. Ambler campus faculty and administration promote responsible citizenry through curricular and extracurricular activities and applied research that demonstrate and promote concepts central to the creation of strong, sustainable communities.
Under the direction of then Dean Dr. Sophia T. Wisniewska, who arrived in 1999, Ambler College, the 17th college of Temple University, was established in spring 2000. Ambler College was home to the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture and the Department of Community and Regional Planning, and the Center for Sustainable Communities.
In March 2000, the campus was officially designated an arboretum by the University Board of Trustees. The Ambler Arboretum of Temple University is open to the general public under the direction of Jenny Rose Carey. Students, gardeners, plant enthusiasts, and the general public can enjoy the added educational and scientific value of the campus.
The Center for Sustainable Communities, established shortly thereafter in July 2000, builds upon the unique history of the campus. The Center serves as a local and regional resource that facilitates the development of collaborative solutions in land-use planning and management, environmental protection, ecological restoration, and community revitalization through education and consulting initiatives. In January 2001, the Center was awarded a $1.5 million federal grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. A new greenhouse was dedicated in October of that year.
In 2002, the Temple University Board of Trustees approved bachelor's and master's degrees in Department of Community and Regional Planning. Twenty-five students in the master's degree program have graduated to date.
In September 2002, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission dedicated an historical marker commemorating the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women at Ambler. The marker is located near the campus entrance on Meetinghouse Road .
On April 22, 2003, Temple University Ambler held its first "EarthFest" event, an outdoor educational celebration of Earth Day hosted by the Center for Sustainable Communities. Temple, in cooperation with partner the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, provides a full day of interactive events and exhibits promoting environmental awareness and the use of sustainable concepts, methods, and practices to protect and preserve our environment. At EarthFest, organizations, businesses, colleges, high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, and individuals demonstrate sustainable concepts and technologies, and provide interactive educational displays, activities, and more.
In Spring 2004, NCAA sports came to campus for the first time. New fields, part of a $4.5 million project, were opened to serve as the full-time home for the Temple University men's soccer, women's soccer, baseball, and softball teams. In September 2004, Ambler broke ground on a new Intercollegiate Athletics Field House, which was officially opened in October 2005. The building includes coaches' offices, equipment rooms, a weight-training facility, locker rooms and storage areas and is comprised of a central hub with two off-shooting "wings" giving it a distinctive owl design.
In November 2004, Temple University Ambler broke ground on a new Learning Center. The Ambler Learning Center is the focal point for state-of-the-art teaching technology and provides new instructional space for use by many academic departments.
The Learning Center, funded predominantly by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and designed by BLM Architects of King of Prussia, includes "smart" classrooms, fully integrated technology including wireless access throughout the building, five computer lab/classrooms, a math, science, and writing center, a video editing lab, art studios, a café, and a 300-seat auditorium.
Construction on the 72,000-square-foot Learning Center, located between the Dining Center and the Library Building, began in May 2005.
In September 2005, Dr. James W. Hilty, a nationally recognized professor of history and member of the Temple University faculty since 1970, was appointed acting dean at Temple University Ambler. Coordinator of History at Ambler for many years and first chair of the Ambler Collegial Assembly, Dr. Hilty is overseeing the innovative changes and additions coming to campus with the opening of the Learning Center and the establishment of the School of Environmental Design.
In October 2005, with the help of a $50,000 grant from PECO Energy, Temple University Ambler dedicated and important addition to the Ambler Arboretum, the PECO Green Roof Garden, atop the Intercollegiate Athletics Field House. A green roof is a living biological community of plants and microorganisms that provides an environmentally sound alternative to a traditional roof system.
Continued research involving the green roof garden includes the acquisition, study, and cultivation of new plant material; continued study of the green roof's impact on energy efficiency, water quality, water retention, and roof temperature; development of a green roof course and additional independent study programs; and increased educational outreach programs to promote green roof technology.
In 2008, the Ambler Arboretum formally decided the Philip and Barbara Albright Winter Garden following be the Arboretum's most recent addition, the Ernesta Ballard Healing Garden in 2009. In the near future, the Arboretum will also add the Colibraro Conifer Garden to its rich diversity of garden experiences.
In March 2009, the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture's Philadelphia Flower Exhibit - “Green Renaissance — The Revival of Sustainable Living” - garnered an unprecented five award. Green Renaissance was awarded the American Horticultural Society Award "for an exhibit of horticultural excellence which best demonstrates the bond between horticulture and the environment, and inspires the viewer to beautify home and community through skillful design and appropriate plant material." The exhibit also received a Special Achievement Award from the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania, the Men's Garden Club of Delaware Valley Award, the "Green Ribbon Award" from the Herb Society of America, and a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Award of Distinction in the Academic Education category.
In April 2008 and April 2009, EarthFest, in its sixth and seventh years, welcomed a combined total of more than 26,000 visitors to campus. The most successful years to date, EarthFest included more than 90 exhibitors, with important Philadelphia region institutions such as the Philadelphia Zoo, the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences, Adventure Aquarium, Sesame Place, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Elmwood Park Zoo providing interactive exhibitors for students from a five county region.
In June 2009, the Temple University Board of Trustees formally approved the School of Environmental Design in the College of Liberal Arts. The School of Environmental Design builds upong the important work of the former Ambler College, incorporating Temple University Ambler's well regarded "green" programs and institutions - the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, the Department of Community and Regional Planning (CRP), and the Center for Sustainable Communities.
In Fall 2010, Temple University Ambler will offer a Master of Landscape Architecture degree for the first time.