Homeowners must protect Chestnut Hill
I am both a neighbor of the fine original house at 415 West Moreland which was unnecessarily, even wantonly, demolished this week, and owner of a circa 1890 Houston/Hewitt house. I believe there are a few important lessons we should all take away from this unfortunate situation:
• First, there simply aren’t any institutional or legal impediments to prevent the gradual erosion of the Chestnut Hill we all love – except when conservation and/or preservation easements are donated by property owners to an accredited land trust (the Chestnut Hill Historical Society holds easements on roughly 80 acres). Part of the open space on West Moreland Avenue has, in fact, been permanently protected from development by means of conservation easements – but not all of it.
• Second, we must recognize that commercial developers have incentives which are often at odds with historic preservation.
• Therefore, the long term preservation of our beautiful town ultimately depends on the individual and collective efforts of Chestnut Hill homeowners. As long as homeowners feel a responsibility to preserve their property for future generation, we’ll be alright. However, when that sense of responsibility is lacking, the whole community stands to lose a piece of our shared heritage.
A significant loss
With the demolition of 415 West Moreland Avenue what have we lost?
• A building listed as “significant” in the inventory for the Chestnut Hill National Historic District.
• The opportunity to rehabilitate a structurally sound building, as determined by two credentialed architects, generally the greener choice versus destruction and new construction,
• A piece of Chestnut Hill’s legacy of buildings designed by virtually every Philadelphia architect and architectural firm,
• A fine example of Colonial Revival design, built in 1910 by noted Philadelphia architect Charles Barton Keen,
• A residence known not only for exceptional design but also for careful craftwork both on the interior and exterior,
• Quality materials that have endured,
• A residence in scale with its neighbors,
• A building with carefully thought out details,
• A residence that allows space for breathing room for landscaping to surround it, and
• A building that contributes breathing room to its neighboring environment through surrounding open space.
It was further disturbing that the developer did not respond to any inquiries or offers of solutions or to the more than 950 signers and commenters on the Community Association’s petition.
Now that 415 West Moreland Avenue is gone, we can hope that the two replacement buildings will offer similar positive qualities to Chestnut Hill.
Why are we losing another Hill shop?
Farewell to Randolph’s Fine Jewelry! My favorite store on the Avenue! I shop there regularly. My family shops there regularly.
We love the friendly, knowledgeable, helpful and trustworthy service. We love the beautiful merchandise. And we are so upset to learn that Randy must vacate his store by the end of the month.
Why do we have to lose another vibrant business in Chestnut Hill? Bye, bye, Randy. Please do not go too far. I hope to be a customer for another 18 years.
White Main Line suburbs? Really?
I am writing in response to the letter submitted by Susan Karol Martel and published by the Local on Sept. 18.
Sorry to inform you but the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia have had a black population for many years.
If Ms. Martel were sincere about her statement that her black partner might have been shot while chasing after her lost dog that night, then she is doing nothing more than perpetuating the divisive race-baiting that people like Al Sharpton have made into a career.
Safety in Philadelphia, as in other big cities, is a matter of statistics. Read the weekly crime report in the Local, and don’t be surprised if someone smashes your or your partner’s car windows to take a laptop or backpack left in plain view. Such crimes are color-blind from the victim’s perspective.
Moreover, statistics on violent crimes such as homicide in United States cities reveal that more Americans are killed annually in such crimes than are soldiers fighting in the recent Middle East wars.
And do not ignore the inconvenient truth that there are also neighborhoods where white people do not feel safe. It works both ways.
Time to stop thinking like a victim.
Thank you for ‘slice of heaven’
I read your article about author Sam Young, who used to live in Chestnut Hill, and his recent book, “Chef Fritz and His City” (Aug. 28 issue), and I am so excited to read the book! I, too, was one of those folks who sat in awe in Chef Fritz Blank’s kitchen for his incomparable cooking classes through Penn.
I was thrilled to see that Sam Young has captured those magical years (three years for me) in a book, and I just ordered it. I cannot wait to read it, and I thank you for putting this slice of heaven in print.
(Ed. Note: By a tragic coincidence, Chef Fritz Blank died on Sept. 9, just 12 days after the article about Sam Young’s new biography of him ran in the Local. Blank, who left a career as a microbiologist to become a professional chef, died at 74 of Alzheimer’s Disease in Thailand, where he had gone to retire.)
Historians recognize that events do not develop out of a vacuum. In today’s Middle East, for example, they are the birth children of the West’s narrow-minded foreign policy, which has manipulated that region for its own “national interests” for a long, long time.
What has the West ever done for the people of that region except support a long line of ruthless rulers who suppressed the legitimate aspirations of the average person.
The latest example of this is the current U.S. military aid to the Egyptian military junta, which overthrew a democratically elected government. Shades of Chile in 1973. And to keep us in line, we are bombarded with repeated news of the recent beheadings, as revolting, shocking and regrettable as they were.
We don’t do things like that. We are more civilized with our use of napalm (Vietnam) and the increasing use of drones, albeit with “regrettable collateral” (innocents) damage.
Our imperious sense of a morally ordered world is that everything will be fine once the rest of the world comes to its senses and thinks like us (which, annoyingly, it never quite does).
Well, we know how to deal with those infidels, don’t we?