by Sue Ann Rybak
The Chestnut Hill Community Association’s 23rd Annual Christmas Holiday House Tour held on Dec. 3 was a huge success. About 600 people traveled to Chestnut Hill to experience its magnificent architecture and get a rare glimpse inside five beautifully decorated and historically relevant homes.
Ryan Rosenbaum, executive director of the CHCA, said this year’s house tour was a success and “very well received.”
While he couldn’t comment on the exact amount of funds raised, he said he thinks the CHCA has met its goal of raising $30,000 for the organization.
“The feedback we have gotten back this year has been tremendous,” he said. “People were very impressed with the punctuality of the trolleys, but they were equally impressed with the beautifully decorated houses and the diversity of the houses. One house in particular, the home of the Head of School of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, was a big hit.”
He said thanks to the generosity of the headmaster of SCH and the partnership that exists between the community association and the school, the community enjoyed a rare opportunity to tour the Jennings House, which is a Norman farmhouse design built in 1921.
Other houses on this year’s tour included the Leamy House, a stunning example of early 20th Century Georgian Revival architecture; the Westleigh House, which was built in 1865 by developer Charles Taylor, one of the last Classic Revival Homes in Chestnut Hill; the Disston House, which was built in the popular Gothic Revival Style in 1889 for William Disston, heir to the Disston Saw Company, and the Hecksher House, which was built in 1975 and harkens back to the Arts and Crafts influence of the Prairie Style.
Rosenbaum said this year’s tour included a couple stops on the Avenue. He said many people took advantage of the additional stops on the Avenue to do holiday shopping and dine at one of the many restaurants that were offering discounts to those who attended the Christmas Holiday House Tour.
“One of the positive consequences of this event, besides raising money for the Chestnut Hill Community Association, is that it brings more [public] awareness to Chestnut Hill and the businesses in the area,” he said.
He added that this event would not be possible without the generosity and hospitality of the homeowners.
“I want to thank all the volunteers who donated time as house docents or assisted in helping participants with registration, directions, or information regarding trolley stops,” he said. “We could not have done this event without the help of so many volunteers.
“Helen Philips, who is the event chair of the Christmas Holiday House Tour, put this event together with the help of Laura Lucas, the president of Chestnut Hill Community Association, and together they built upon the success of the past. They treated this event, as if it was their child, by committing countless volunteer hours, overseeing the committee, ensuring the houses were properly prepared and overall seeing that the attendees of this event were having a magnificent time here in Chestnut Hill.”
Rosenbaum added that this year’s event had roughly 20 sponsors, many of whom “not only helped promote the event, but also donated their time and service by helping to design and decorate the homes.”
“This was a community-wide effort that really illustrated how a community comes together and joyously celebrates the holiday in a spirited and fun way,” he said.
He added that while he has only been at the Chestnut Hill Community Association a year, this is the second time he has experienced the holiday house tour. Last year, he attended the house tour as a newly hired employee and participant.
“By going through this process twice, it really allowed me to see what things were important that we could improve upon,” Rosenbaum said. “I believe this event is the keystone to what makes Chestnut Hill special in so many ways. I am constantly reminded of how tight-knit this community is and how the volunteers and staff members can make a very complex event come to life in a very simplified manner. We are the longest- running Holiday House Tour in the City of Philadelphia and we are super excited to see what next year has in store.”
The Christmas Holiday House Tour is just one of the many holiday events sponsored by the CHCA. Rosenbaum invited residents and their friends to get in “the holiday spirit” by coming to watch the fourth annual Chestnut Hill Holiday parade at 9 a.m. on Dec. 10. Participants will begin marching at Chestnut Hill Avenue and continue down to the Market at the Fareway at 8229 Germantown Ave., where children can get their picture taken with Santa Claus.
For more information about the CHCA or to volunteer for next year’s Christmas Holiday House Tour or other CHCA sponsored event email email@example.com.
Sue Ann Rybak can be reached at 215-248-8804 or firstname.lastname@example.org.