Louis Kahn’s Esherick House.

Louis Kahn’s Esherick House.

by Andrea Niepold for the Chestnut Hill Historical Society

On Sunday, April 17, members of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society will lead a bicycle tour of the neighborhood focused on 20th-century residential architecture.

The tour will make brief stops at outstanding examples of mid-century architecture, including Louis Kahn’s Esherick House, Robert Venturi’s Vanna Venturi House (also known as Mother’s House), and buildings designed by Romaldo Giurgola, Oscar Stonorov, and the firm of Montgomery & Bishop. One remarkable example of 21st-century modernism will also be featured. At each stop, your guides will present information on the architectural and social context of the building.

From its beginnings as a “suburb in the city,” Chestnut Hill has been known for the quality of its residential architecture. The tradition of hiring prominent architects, established by Henry H. Houston and maintained by his son-in-law, George Woodward, has been adopted by members of Chestnut Hill’s growing community from the 19th century into the 21st.

The mid-twentieth-century architecture of Chestnut Hill reflects Philadelphia’s particular approach to modernism: a combination of traditionalism and progressivism, rather than an opposition between these two forces. This approach is embodied in the work of the “Philadelphia School” of modernists, exemplified by Kahn and Venturi, and was part of broader ways of thinking about modernism in Philadelphia from the 1930s to the present day.

The tour will take about 90 minutes and should be suitable for cyclists at beginner to advanced levels—bring your own bike and helmet. The tour will depart at 12:15 p.m. from the Chestnut Hill West SEPTA Station.

The cost is $10 per person, and preregistration is required: go to www.chhist.org/bike-the-hill. (No rain date has been scheduled but please check the website for up-to-date information.)

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