by Barbara Olson
It was hard to decide which was more beautiful at the Chestnut Hill Preservation Celebration, presented by East River Bank, Saturday night: the architecture of the classic Italianate Montgomery Avenue home or the classic and sophisticated couture of the glamorous event co-chairs, Anne Bolno and Barbara Anne Davey.
Anne resembled a brunette version of Catherine Deneuve – hair pulled back chicly and dressed in a demure and handsomely tailored black and white gown falling mid-calf and adding to the sharp elegant lines of the dress. Barbara Anne chose a long black gown with gathered layers of netted ribbon flowing from the waist to the floor. Her short hair was bouffed and tucked behind her ears, photo ready.
Preservation Celebration is the 2011 re-branding of Preservation Potpourri, the long lauded black-tie fundraiser for the Historical Society. The society’s mission is to preserve the historical, architectural, and cultural resources and the open spaces that define the character of Chestnut Hill and its environs.
But I digress . . . back to beauty and sophistication.
Arriving at the home of Molly Murphy and Greg Rigdon who so graciously opened their home to the event, guests were welcomed at the door with a St. Germaine champagne cocktail. Benefactors of the event met at 6 p.m. for an architectural preview tour conducted by Patricia Marian Cove, the Historical Society’s Vice President of Preservation, who graciously researched and guided a house tour. During the tour, Patricia had the help of the home owner, Molly Murphy. Molly has lovingly and painstakingly researched the architectural and residential history of the home that her family has owned for two and a half years. All three stories of the home were opened to guests, complete with architectural elevations exhibit and a Power Point presentation, the fruits of Molly’s research.
The Heath Allen jazz trio played as guests arrived and set the mood for festive fun. Men were handsomely groomed in their tuxes, including Randy Williams, CHHS president, who addressed the crowd, thanking people for support and thanking the co-chairs for their devotion and effort in making the event successful. Randy also recognized contributing sponsor Bowman Properties as well as presenting sponsor Chris McGill from East River Bank.
Joining the presenting and contributing sponsors were Associate sponsors: Bank of america, Chestnut Hill Hospital, Dennis F. Meyer, Inc., The Hirshorn Company, Krieger & Associates Architects, Inc., Locust Capital Management, Mercedes-Benz of Fort Washington and West Chester, Nolan Painting and Russell Roofing.
Food for the evening was prepared by the incomparable Tracey Wolfson of Bacchus Catering and was butlered by their skilled staff. Bite size lamb chops on skewers, Caesar salad on laced crackers and mushroom quiche were just a few of the sumptuous array. There were three separate bars and exotic drinks were mixed and served as quickly as they were ordered. By 9 p.m. the house was steaming with a crush of over 250 people in their finest, many with martini glasses, that led Ms. Davey to be reminded that Jay Gatsby just might be found somewhere in the crowd.
The centerpiece of the event was the auction, co-chaired by Jennifer Fiss, Krista Gebbia and Laura Thayer. Instead of standard silent auction items, guests had the opportunity to bid on unique local items such as a Chestnut Hill Walnut bench and historic prints and signs. Further, in a more clever way of “buying parties”, guests were able to buy single or several tickets to such events as the Lily Party by the Pool or Chinese New Years Party.
The live auction was conducted by Harris Grubin who uses his fees to fund the Katz Family Foundation. The lively professional auctioneer and comic cajoled the crowd into happy participation as they bid and re-bid to win such items as houses in Stowe and Idaho, and to create your own dish at Campbell’s.
Funds raised grossed more than $90,000 to support the community based activities of the Historic Society: historical archives, land use preservation, education, responsible town construction and signage are just some of their programs which significantly benefit the entire community.
Certainly creating such a beautiful and fun-filled evening such as Preservation Celebration makes charitable giving an enjoyable task.
Barbara Olson is a past Preservation Celebration co-chair and a member of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society Board of Directors.