The Chestnut Hill Historical Society, together with East River Bank, will present “A Preservation Celebration,” to be held from 7 to11 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23. This year’s annual gala will be held at a beautiful Italianate-style house at 8635 Montgomery Ave. in Wyndmoor.
A Preservation Celebration is traditionally one of the area’s most popular events – and the historical society’s biggest fund-raiser, bringing in one-fourth of the organization’s operating funds. In a festive and elegant black-tie setting, guests will enjoy cocktails, dinner and a terrific silent and live auction entitled “Treasure Our Community.”
The multi-faceted auction features handmade local artifacts and items of interest, vacation destinations, unique experiences and themed parties. This year, the auction features a new concept: “Party with the Hosts”! Each party is generously hosted by friends in our community in their homes. Gala attendees can buy tickets for one party or many – but all will support the historical society.
Chairs for this year’s gala are Anne Bolno and Barbara Anne Davey, both of Chestnut Hill.
“We are thrilled to be chairing the Preservation Celebration this year,” said Davey, who helped run the popular auction portion of the gala last year. “This event is a near 30-year tradition for our community. The proceeds will help protect and preserve the physical, historical and cultural resources of Chestnut Hill.”
Funds raised at the gala also will help support the historical society in keeping the archives open five days a week, offering public access to more than 20,000 items documenting the community’s history. In addition, the society also provides a resource to homeowners and maintains an easement program that permanently protects 68 acres and 12 historical facades.
Bowman Properties is serving as a Contributing Sponsor and Associate Sponsors include: Bank of America, Chestnut Hill Hospital, Dennis F. Meyer Inc., Krieger & Associates, Locust Capital Management LLC, Mercedes-Benz of Fort Washington, Park Avenue Motor Cars, Mercedes-Benz of West Chester, Nolan Painting Inc., Russell Roofing, and the Hirshorn Company.
Historically known as “The Gardens,” the estate at 8635 Montgomery Ave. was built in the early 1850s by developer Clayton T. Platt, who was responsible for many of the homes along Montgomery, Birch and Evergreen avenues, developing the area as the “country seat of Chestnut Hill.” Some believe that The Gardens was the first home built on Montgomery Avenue.
The home features a three-story grand staircase, original millwork, herringbone floors, nine working fireplaces and three stone terraces. Flanking the house is a once-elaborate sunken garden designed at the turn of the century by Oglesby Paul, who was the designated landscape gardener for Fairmount Park. The gardens were later enhanced by Robert Wheelwright, who went on to establish the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.
The early families who lived at 8635 Montgomery – the Trotters and the Welshes – used the home as a summer escape from Spruce Street, where both families resided downtown during the year. A renovation was completed in 1915 by then-owner F. Corlies Morgan. Today, the house is nearly unchanged, aside from the kitchen, which was moved upstairs from the basement.
In the mid-1920’s, large parcels of the estate were given to children in the family, one of whom built what is now known as the McNeil estate, in back of the property. The other child built the home at the corner of Montgomery and Evergreen avenues. In the mid-1950’s, the remaining estate was divided into two properties, with the carriage house developed into a sizable home of its own with terraced gardens. In 2001, Sam Blake performed an extensive restoration of the property.
Tickets to the Preservation Celebration are $150 a person and include access to all three floors of the historic home. Those interested in a private tour and an early champagne reception (starting at 6 p.m.) can become a benefactor for $300. For information on sponsorship or to purchase tickets, please contact Audrey Simpson at the Chestnut Hill Historical Society at 215-247-0417, ext. 103, or by email at email@example.com.