by Barbara Sherf
Two couples who opened their homes as part of the first Chestnut Hill Architectural Hall of Fame awards both had a desire to create kitchen space that would blend in with their historical homes, and they put those kitchens to good use Saturday night for a gala to announce the five winners of the new awards program created by the Chestnut Hill Historical Society (CHHS).
Attendees were able to view an1850s Italian Villa during a Benefactor’s Champagne Reception at the home of CHHS Head Curator Liz Jarvis and her architect husband Andrew Jarvis. The entourage then moved across the street where winners were announced in the 1883 Queen Anne home of Victoria and George Coates, Jr. Andrew Jarvis worked to create working kitchens in both homes both homes located near the Chestnut Hill East train station.
According to CHHS Executive Director Lori Salganicoff, more than 30 nominations were submitted, and members of the Preservation Committee were tasked with winnowing those nominees down to 14 that were then put to a vote by the public. Of those 14, the top five were selected by nearly 1,200 individual votes.
“This event marks the close of my first year with the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, and I am so deeply proud to be leading a nonprofit dedicated to protecting and celebrating the area’s treasured historical architecture, open space and social history,” Salganicoff said.
Members of the public were asked to look at three criteria in casting their votes: those that represented groundbreaking approaches to planning and design, those that were significant for their design, materials, craftsmanship, or as an exceptional example of their style, and, finally, those of historic significance because of an association with an event, a person, or by virtue of age. The honorary chairs for this event were the world-renowned architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.
While five winners were inducted into the Architectural Hall of Fame this year, others will be added in future years. The winners were:
Thomas Mill Covered Bridge, Forbidden Drive, Originally built 1731 (Award accepted by Theresa Stuhlman and Rob Armstrong, Philadelphia Department of Parks and Rec)
Gravers Lane Train Station, 300 E. Gravers Lane, Frank Furness, architect, 1872 (Award accepted by Brian Fey, SEPTA)
The Wissahickon Inn, 500 W. Willow Grove Avenue, GW and WD Hewitt, architects, 1883-1884 (Award accepted by Jenny McHugh, SCHA)
Margaret Esherick House, 200 block of Sunrise Lane, Louis Kahn, architect, 1960-1961, 1963 (Award accepted by Paul Savidge and Dan Macey, current owners)
Vanna Venturi House, 8300 block of Millman Street, Robert Venturi, architect, 1963 (Award accepted by Dan McCoubrey, VSBA and Fred Baumert, Keast and Hood – principals of the firms that originally built the Venturi house.
Salganicoff noted that nearly every notable architect practicing in Philadelphia over the past 150 years is represented in Chestnut Hill – from the early Italianate Victorian designs of Samuel Sloan, to the exuberant Queen Anne buildings of the G.W. and W.D. Hewitt firm; from the groundbreaking, European influenced work of Wilson Eyre to the exquisitely designed country houses of Mellor Meigs and Howe; and from the ornate classical design of Horace Trumbauer to the early modern works of Louis I. Kahn and Robert Venturi.
Chestnut Hill residents Bob Kennedy and Richard Maloumian were delighted with the concept behind the fund-raiser.
“It’s important to recognize the homeowners and organizations that have maintained the architectural integrity of this area,” Kennedy said. “I have traveled around, and when you come back you realize the beautiful architectural wonders we have right here,”
Maloumian nodded, adding his own thoughts: “I think it was a great idea to put this to a vote by the community at large and not just a vote by those involved in the historical society, I look forward to seeing more and more winners added and recognized each year.”
Peter Lapham, past president of CHHS was on hand and talked of the diversity of nominees.
“You really had quite a span from the more modern (Margaret) Esherick and (Vanna) Venturi houses to the (Chestnut Hill) Baptist Church, to these two spectacular homes we have seen firsthand this evening,” Lapham said.
Randy Williams, CHHS president for the past three years, was extremely pleased with the fundraiser.
“It was a huge success in terms of raising money but also awareness about the architectural heritage we have right here and recognizing the current stewards for their labors in preserving the treasures they have inherited,” Williams said.
Following the event, Victoria and George Coates, Jr., who opened their home for the main part of the gala, talked about the planning of their major kitchen addition that started in 1987 with the help of neighbor Andrew Jarvis.
“We recycled as many original stones and materials as possible, and really wanted it to fit in with the existing structure,” said George Coates as Bacchus Market and Catering owner Tracey Wolfson cleaned up the serving area with her staff.
“The kitchen is really the heart of the home and clearly it needed to be updated without destroying the integrity of the home. I’m proud of what we were able to do,” said Victoria as Wolfson chimed in with her thoughts.
“It’s a great modern kitchen to work in, and yet it still has that rustic feel. I love this kitchen,” said Wolfson.
Across the street, the Jarvis’ moved into their historic home in 1993 and the kitchen had been in the basement, and the only working bath area was on the first floor of their 1850s Italian Villa.
“Our three kids grew up here thinking it was normal to have to go downstairs to bathe and down to the basement to eat,” Andrew Jarvis said while laughing.
Salganicoff noted that CHHS is now also seeking to celebrate more recent preservation work through its annual Preservation Awards with nominations due by Dec. 15 in the following three categories:
Preserving / protecting historic resources (in the built or natural environment),
Historic building restoration, rehabilitation or adaptive reuse, or
Good stewardship of an important building.
The Chestnut Hill Historical Society is headquartered in an 1850s Victorian house at 8708 Germantown Ave. For additional information, visit www.chhist.org, email LSalganicoff@CHHist.org or call 215-247-0417, X201.