Since 1974, Great Valley Nature Center (formerly the Nature Center of Charlestown) has provided Chester County communities and the additional four counties of the Greater Philadelphia region with environmental education opportunities.
Arnold Bartschi (owner of Swiss Pines, an adjacent botanical garden) provided the land and start-up operating support to establish a nature center. The French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust, Dr. & Mrs. Clarkson Wentz and the initial executive director, John Christie, were instrumental in developing the gift into a functioning environmental education organization.
A colonial-era fieldstone bank barn serves as the education building, having undergone renovations in 1986 and 2001. A converted farmhouse provides administrative, teaching and meeting space, and houses the executive director and his family. A nearby two-story springhouse probably predates the barn. The Nature Center's 10-1/2 acre site includes stream, pond, wetland, field, and woodland habitats. Also featured is a Bird of Prey Center, a replica Native American Lenape village, a Pennsylvania wildflower garden, a maple sugar house, and a please-touch exhibit area.