By Pete Mazzaccaro
Neighbors of 30 W. Chestnut Hill Ave. realized something was amiss when the leafy property was cleared of trees and bushes last Friday morning, leaving the once nearly hidden Victorian home on the property naked, a lone structure on a suddenly barren yard.
It didn’t take long for the basic pieces to come together. A developer, Main Street Development Company of Blue Bell, had acquired the property, filed a permit to demolish it on Jan. 7, and was planning to build new homes on the lot.
Main Street Development Company most recently built the Philadelphia Magazine Design Home on Gravers Lane in Wyndmoor in 2014. That home still is for sale.
Main Street president Glenn Falso, Jr. returned an email on Monday to confirm that his company did indeed own the property and said that he planned to meet with the Chestnut Hill Historical Society. He added that he was willing to consider alternatives.
Lori Salganicoff, executive director of the historical society, told the Local she was optimistic that the home could be saved.
“I’m hopeful that we can convince Mr. Falso that there is a better solution for the property than demolishing it,” she said. “We’re offering assistance in finding a way he can preserve the house and make money.”
Salganicoff said the home at 30 W. Chestnut Hill Ave. was built in 1887 and was designed by renowned Philadelphia Architect Theophilus P. Chandler, founder of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Architecture. The home is part of Chestnut Hill’s list of historically significant homes, but is not protected by a historic designation.
Salganicoff said that the real challenge for Chestnut Hill moving forward was to convince developers that the reason the neighborhood is so desirable is that it is so well preserved.
“Chestnut Hill is the largest historical district in the nation,” she said. “The nature of how intact it is is very unusual. With each demolition, we lose part of the streetscape, the context and continuity. It is a prized community and the challenge for developers is to respect that they are getting top dollar in Chestnut Hill because it is preserved.”