by Patricia Marion Cove
The Chestnut Hill Historical Society continues to be concerned regarding the planned demolition and subdivision of 415 West Moreland Ave. The unique, inherent qualities within this community include its open space and historic architecture, which were two of the most important elements that qualified Chestnut Hill in becoming a National Historic District in 1985, and continue to be major reasons why people choose to live here.
When the historical society learned of the developer’s plans, we reached out to him, and were offered the opportunity to tour the grounds and the home. Jennifer Hawk, executive director of the historical society, Patricia Cove, vice president for Preservation, and Matthew Millan, AIA, LEED AP®, and a member of the historical society’s board of directors, visited the property and were able to assess the grounds and buildings.
We came away from that visit heartened in that, although the grounds and home had not been maintained, the building was structurally sound, and upheld its designation as being historically and architecturally “Significant” within our National Historic Register. View a slide show of photos taken at www.chhist.org.
As word of this demolition and sub-division spread, an online petition was formed. To this date, the petition has gained over 800 signatures and comments, which reinforce the strong sentiments of not only people who live in this community, but people who reside in other communities, and have experienced the loss of older, historic homes that have been replaced by new development, with far less open space.
Among the comments of those who signed the petition were these:
“It is important that communities continue to grow and change, but this demolition would cause the irreparable loss of an important part of Chestnut Hill’s high quality built environment, which is the reason this community is such a great place to live.”
“Chestnut Hill has an irreplaceable collection of historic properties. The demolition of this significant building unravels the fabric of our community. Our historic buildings are what make us special – not new houses that can be found anywhere.”
“Historic buildings characterize and enhance Chestnut Hill. They add financial, aesthetic and cultural value. Their preservation is very important to maintaining and preserving for the future the special qualities of the Chestnut Hill National Historic District.”
“This is replacing a stately home on a large lot with two homes – this is not why I bought a home in Chestnut Hill. If I wanted large homes wedged on half acre lots I could have stayed in the suburbs.”
The Chestnut Hill Historical Society cannot ignore this concern. We will continue to reach out to the developer for the purpose of exploring alternatives to the current plan, to consider the possibility of a potential third party purchase, and to explore the benefits of a conservation easement, when and if combined, could not only salvage the developer’s initial investment, but would create an important precedent in the rehabilitation of the historic homes within our community and the preservation of the environment that makes Chestnut Hill a most desirable and sought after community in which to live.
* To sign the petition and read the comments, go to www.chhist.org.
Patricia Marion Cove is president of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society.