John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove
The place that inspired America’s first great naturalist
The grounds and nature trails that wind through this 175-acre Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary are all part of the first American home and estate of artist and naturalist John James Audubon. Mill Grove, a treasured place for bird watchers and nature photographers, is perhaps the only thing on most birder’s “life lists” that doesn’t fly.
The historic three-story stone farmhouse — a grand example of mid-18th-century American rural manor house architecture — serves as a museum and displays one of the country’s most impressive collections of original Audubon prints, oil paintings and Audubon memorabilia.
Mill Grove is the first American home of Haitian-born author, artist and naturalist John James Audubon. Today, 175 acres of the original estate remains largely as Audubon found it — a haven for birds and wildlife.
Originally built in 1762 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Mill Grove is situated three miles from Valley Forge National Historical Park.
Audubon’s father bought the home in 1789 and 14 years later sent his son to supervise his investment in a lead mine nearby. The lead mine on the site failed but Audubon loved the surrounding woods, which inspired his first paintings of birds and wildlife.
It was here, between 1803 and 1806, that a young Audubon first fell in love with the American landscape and spent his time sketching native wildlife. Audubon did the first bird-banding experiments in America at Mill Grove. In 1827, he began publishing his artwork in The Birds of America, a groundbreaking study of North American birds depicted in never-before-seen detail and realism.
Guided tours of the museum and staff-led nature walks are available with reservations.
Dogs are not permitted on the walking/hiking trails, but leashed dogs may walk along the Audubon Loop bike path.
Bring the kids and gather around the campfire for the fun family evening in June. An annual Maple Sugar Festival is held in February, the Apple Festival in October; and in December, the museum is decked with natural holiday decorations for Holiday TREEditions.
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The center has a collection of owls and red-tail hawks that are used in their education program.