Traditionally one of the area’s most popular social events, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society’s Preservation Celebration drew over 340 guests to the Philadelphia Cricket Club on Saturday, Feb. 7, for a festive black-tie evening that raised funds to support the work of the society.
“Preservation Celebration is the largest source of income for the Historical Society,” said Randy Williams, CHHS president. “It encourages us with the sense that our work is significant, reaffirms that the programs we give to the community are appreciated, and multiplies our ability to contribute to Chestnut Hill’s future.”
Chaired by a team of six women, Martha Agate, Anne Bolno, Barbara Anne Davey, Meg Durkin, Jennifer Fiss and Barbara Olson, this year’s event looked back at 30 years of past Preservation Celebrations with a pictorial view of many of the homes that served as sites for the event, along with photos of guests who attended over the years.
According to Shirley Hanson, a founder of the CHHS, the first celebration in 1984 got off to a somewhat “wobbly” start at the Disston House, at 8840 Norwood Ave., which had been “purchased” by the CHHS from the owner of the property, Chestnut Hill Hospital, for $1 a year for 10 years in a plan to save the building from demolition and retain the residential quality of the street. The society’s role was to find tenants who would pay a nominal rent in exchange for making the house habitable.
However, progress on the restoration of the house had hit some snags by the time the first Preservation Celebration (then known as the Preservation Potpourri) took place, and guests did not find themselves in the beautiful settings that have enhanced Preservations Celebrations since that time. Instead, as Hanson noted, “they saw little more than the bones of a fine building,” and experienced a no-frills evening.
Still, the idea that had been put forth by CHHS board member Richard Snowden to hold an annual event to raise funds that the organization could rely on year after year prevailed. This year’s event celebrated the energy and ingenuity given by the chairs of the 30 years of Preservation Celebrations to raise funds toward caring for the past, present, and future of our remarkable community.