by Mary Sue Welsh

Jennifer Hawk, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, will leave her position on Oct. 17 to return to her home state of Indiana.

“I cannot think of a better executive director than Jennifer has been,” CHHS president J. Randolph Williams said in announcing her resignation to his board of directors. “Not only was she on top of organizational procedures, but she was well integrated in the larger Chestnut Hill community and well respected for her leadership and concern for the welfare of other nonprofit organizations.”

After serving six months as a development consultant for CHHS, Hawk became its executive director in 2009. In that position, she worked with the board of directors to attain national accreditation for the CHHS as a conservation trust from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

During her tenure, the amount of open space in Chestnut Hill and its environs that will be safeguarded from development and preserved for the future in the form of easements that grew to 76 acres. The number of façade easements designed to maintain the historic character of a building’s façade also rose.

With members of the CHHS board of directors, Hawk worked to strengthen relationships with local and state government agencies. She was instrumental in the CHHS being designated as a Registered Community Organization with standing before the City Planning Commission.

Together with the CHHS Historic District Advisory Committee she advocated for the replacement of the Wyndmoor Train Station roof by SEPTA and collaborated with the CHCA in approaching Councilwoman Cindy Bass’s office, the Properties Division of the City of Philadelphia, and fire officials to find a way to preserve the historic fire station on Highland Avenue.

She also worked with PennDot on the restoration of Belgian blocks on Germantown Avenue and on the design of a new bridge over the St. Martin’s rail station crossing. Responding to the recent news that a home listed as “significant” on Chestnut Hill’s National Historic Register is in danger of being demolished, Hawk worked with CHHS board members and the CHCA to alert the community to the situation and search for ways to save the building.

She has played an important behind-the-scenes role in supporting and coordinating numerous CHHS activities such as its historic walking tours throughout Chestnut Hill, special events like the 20th Century Chestnut Hill Tour, social events like Preservation Celebrations and Derby Day Parties, and other fundraising and board of director activities.

“Jennifer was exceptional in gaining an understanding of the many aspects of our work and of the community of Chestnut Hill,” said Shirley Hanson, a founder of the CHHS. “She made a lasting contribution to Chestnut Hill’s future.”

CHHS president Williams has formed a search committee to find a new executive director for the organization.