Skip to main content

History of Dundale

Picotte Hall Sign

Picotte Hall at Dundale, with its mix of nineteenth century elegance and modern technological infrastructure, serves as one of Villanova University’s most important resources for creating and nurturing lasting partnerships with all of its constituencies.

The estate was established during a period in Philadelphia history when the city’s elite built vast country homes as a respite from urban life for their families. Industrialist Israel Morris II bought the property in 1874 and named it Dundale, meaning brown valley, after observing its rolling fields and woods. To this day, a tall stone marker with “Dundale” etched across the top exists along County Line Road, indicating the original entrance to the estate.

In the early years, the Morris family lived in Philadelphia, but during the summer, they would use one of the farmhouses that existed on the estate as their summer cottage. As the family grew, Israel Morris II decided to build additional houses for his sons. In 1890 the largest of the houses was built. This 35-room mansion, which would become Picotte Hall at Dundale, was constructed by the famous architect Addison Hutton. It had 14 bedrooms, four bathrooms, a parlor, a music room, a library, and a dining room. The eclectic design of the house reflects a broad range of inspirations, from the Queen Anne style windows, to the mix of Country French and Pennsylvania Dutch styles that mark the exterior, to the hint of Colonial influences on both the exterior and interior.

Even after the construction of Picotte Hall at Dundale, the estate continued to grow. By 1920, there were eight houses on the property, each home added by a new generation who wanted to live year round in the country. The final member of the family to live in Picotte Hall at Dundale was Charles Christopher Morris, who passed away in 1971. Most of the land was then divided and sold, but the mansion and surrounding property stayed in the Morris family’s possession. Through their generosity it was used to house Villanova students and priests until the University purchased Picotte Hall at Dundale and 38 acres of the remaining estate in 1978.

Dundale Hall

Since its acquisition by the University, Picotte Hall at Dundale has been the home to many special people and events, including being selected as the Vassar Club Designer’s Show House in 1979. Through significant renovations in 1993-94, Villanova transformed Picotte Hall at Dundale into an elegant venue for special occasions and the home of the Office of University Development, while preserving the historic craftsmanship of the original design. Throughout the years, Picotte Hall at Dundale also has been profiled in several local newspaper articles, which have illustrated its unique architectural characteristics and highlighted its continued importance to the University and to preserving the historic character of the region.