The Vanna Venturi House

The Vanna Venturi House

The Vanna Venturi House, a celebrated but previously unprotected icon of a house by architect Robert Venturi, was added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places last week. For half a century, the one-and a half-story building in Chestnut Hill has exerted outsized influence on architectural design and theory, both in the U.S. and around the world.

The Chestnut Hill Historical Society submitted a nomination for the house, built in 1962 to 1964, to receive formal preservation protection by the City of Philadelphia through listing on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. The nomination was produced by architectural historians Emily T. Cooperman and Kathleen Abplanalp for the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, with funding from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. The nomination was approved on Nov. 10. As a result of the preservation designation, the Philadelphia Historical Commission will review all proposed changes to the exterior and alterations that require a building permit.

Vincent Scully, a renowned American architectural historian, famously called the house the “biggest small building of the second half of the 20th century,” a building widely proclaimed as having changed the trajectory of modernism. It was designed by Venturi early in his career for his mother. Until now, the house had no formal preservation protection, aside from the excellent stewardship of its owners over more than 50 years.

“I hope to be able to provide the same long-term tender loving care to this remarkable house as the Hughes family provided to it,” said David Lockard, who purchased the home in early 2016. He is the third owner after the Hughes and Venturi families.

“This designation ensures that no matter the hands through which it passes over time, ‘Mother’s House’ will retain the essential features that make it an icon worldwide, inspire legions, and protect its singular place in architectural history,” said Lori Salganicoff, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society. The Chestnut Hill Historical Society added the Venturi House to its honorary Architectural Hall of Fame in 2015.