Springside Chestnut Hill Academy recently received a grant from the William B. Dietrich Foundation, which is primarily dedicated to funding architectural and historic preservation in the Philadelphia area.
The school has used the grant — one of the largest foundation gifts given to the school in support of facilities — to renovate and restore the Henry Library, the school’s main library located in the historic Wissahickon Inn. Restoration work began in June and was completed before the school year began last week. Hyman Myers, the nationally recognized architect who specializes in historic renovation and preservation, oversaw the project. Renovations were designed to enhance the space by addressing many areas in need of restoration — including painting and plaster repair, refinishing of woodwork, stonework and flooring, extensive leaded window repair and restoration, lighting and electrical work — while keeping the historic and original details.
“I am thrilled that we have had the opportunity to restore such a significant part of our school’s past,” said Dr. Priscilla Sands, president of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. “It is important for us, as an institution that is always improving and looking towards the future, to also honor our rich history.”
Since 1906, the Henry Library has been the main library for CHA and now SCH students. Many of its original features are still in place, including the large library tables, a Violet Oakley mural, oak woodwork, leaded windows, and stone fireplace with surround. The library will house the Middle School and Upper School fiction and nonfiction collections as well as provide ample space for students to work and collaborate.
“We are very pleased to be a part of the restoration and preservation of such an important historic space in Philadelphia,”said John J. Soroko, co-director of The William B. Dietrich Foundation. “The Wissahickon Inn, both originally as a grand hotel and now over the last century an educational facility, is the perfect venue for our work.”
The Wissahickon Inn was built in 1884 by Henry Houston as a grand resort on the highest point of land overlooking the Wissahickon Valley. Chestnut Hill Academy, which merged with Springside School in 2010, started holding classes there in 1898 during the hotel’s off-season and became the sole occupant in 1900.
The Inn was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The library, which was the original dining room for the hotel, was renovated in 1906 by the firm Duhring, Okie & Ziegler, who also performed several other restorations at Chestnut Hill Academy, including exterior entranceways and the Epiphany Chapel, which remain important architectural and historic features of the Inn today.
Other projects that the William B. Dietrich Foundation has recently supported include renovation of the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery at Drexel University, the creation of the William B. Dietrich Gallery at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the restoration of both the Rodin Museum of Philadelphia’s Parkway and Cedar Grove, an historic house in Fairmount Park.