The Chestnut Hill police and fire station at West Highland Avenue. The police station portion as raised many years ago leaving what is currently Engine Company 37 (right side of the building). Photos like this will be part of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society's 300-year exhibit.

The Chestnut Hill police and fire station at West Highland Avenue. The police station portion as raised many years ago leaving what is currently Engine Company 37 (right side of the building). Photos like this will be part of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society’s 300-year exhibit.

The Chestnut Hill Historical Society is proud to announce the opening on May 28 of the Society’s first comprehensive exhibit on 300 years of Chestnut Hill history.

Drawing on the Society’s collection of over 21,000 items, this project will showcase how this area went from a wilderness inhabited by Native Americans to a farming and milling community to a railroad suburb, and to the urban village it is today.

This exhibit was undertaken as part of the society’s education mission for people who live in the area, and visitors from out of town, who want to get a concise orientation to the community. CHHS also hopes this exhibit will help area visitors and student groups in the future to learn about the dynamic past of Chestnut Hill.

It is a tall order to present Chestnut Hill’s history in a single room, but Liz Jarvis, Curator/Archivist and Archivist Alex Bartlett have done just that, using images, maps and narratives. With a large collection to draw upon (CHHS houses over 21,000 photographs, records, prints, artifacts, historical documents, and more), this is a time-consuming, but very interesting process, explained Jarvis, whose past experiences include creating exhibits for the Atwater Kent Museum and Historical Society of Pennsylvania. When asked what was the hardest challenge? she answered, “Keeping the narrative as brief as possible and making every word count. You don’t want a book on walls.”

Constant revisions and tireless fact checking were undertaken, some done by Bartlett, a Mt. Airy nativewhose familiarity with the area helped immensely.

The exhibit was primarily driven by what the CHHS has in its own collection, alleviating some challenges and creating others. As Jarvis further explained, one of the main tasks is trying to match physical evidence with the desired information for the exhibition. Designer Jas Szygiel composed the seven exhibit panels.

Of course none of this would have been possible without the Chestnut Hill Community Fund grant of $1,000, which kick-started our fundraising effort. Generous donations from 47 individuals, businesses, and foundations helped us meet our fundraising goal.

The Chestnut Hill Historical Society is thrilled to showcase a collection that helps illustrate the unique history of Chestnut Hill. The creation of Discovering Chestnut Hill allows the society to show the public that there is a fabulous resource at their disposal. The staff is pleased to assure Chestnut Hillers that their precious past is being saved and there is a place that cares, maintains, and treasures our shared history.

As Alex Bartlett states, “We believe Discovering Chestnut Hill will serve as an excellent introduction to Chestnut Hill’s history, as well as strengthen existing knowledge. Ultimately, we hope to foster a sense of special character of Chestnut Hill and the importance of its preservation for years to come.”

The exhibit opens on Thursday, May 28, with a special public opening on Saturday, June 6th from 12:00 pm-3:00 pm. The exhibit will be free to the public and open Monday through Friday, 9:00 to 5:00 and Saturday, 11:00 to 4:00.