415 W. Moreland Ave.

415 W. Moreland Ave.

Shirley Hanson, Founding Director, Chestnut Hill Historical Society.*

The Chestnut Hill Historical Society has been trying for the past several months to work towards a solution that would save 415 W. Moreland Ave. We are not alone. At this time more than 925 individuals have signed a petition to oppose the demolition of this property. We thank them for their support.

The developer plans to demolish this building, subdivide the property, and construct two homes. We appreciate his taking time to show the building to Patricia Cove, Matt Millan, and Jennifer Hawk from the Historical Society. At that time he suggested further dialogue. Since then, the developer has not responded to repeated requests from the historical society to meet with him to continue this dialogue toward a solution acceptable to him and to the community.

Why do we care? We care because of the home’s contribution to Chestnut Hill’s architectural legacy of structures designed by virtually every major Philadelphia architect or architectural firm.

The home at 415 W. Moreland Ave, built in 1910 and designed by the prominent Philadelphia architect Charles Barton Keen, is listed as a significant resource in the Chestnut Hill National Historic District. This house is an excellent example of the work for which Keen is especially known.

We care because the structure stands out for the fine quality not only of its design but also its materials. Also significant is the craftsmanship evident in this building.

We care because Chestnut Hill’s special character emerges from its remarkable natural setting in the Wissahickon Valley. The open space around Keen’s design allows breathing room for landscaping that enhances our built environment and our lives.

In my work in preservation in Chestnut Hill since 1966 I’ve never heard anyone state better what the historical society is about than noted preservationist Arthur P. Ziegler. This is from his report to the Historical Society in 1975, when we brought him to Chestnut Hill as a consultant.

“Without question Chestnut Hill remains one of the most beautiful residential areas in the United States. When one considers some of its counterparts, one realizes how precious it is. And it is important to save not only the buildings but the landscaping.

“Any preservation effort should be for its total landscape as Chestnut hill is an endangered species.”

We are making that “effort” once again by asking for a dialogue with the developer.

* An earlier published version of this piece erroneously credited it to CHHS Director Jennifer Hawk.

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  • Mike

    Where was the historical society for the past 20 years as that house literally wasted away to the deplorable condition it is now? Was it wrong to mettle with someone’s private property before Blake bought it, but not now? I’m all for saving the house if it can be done in an economically feasible way (trust me, if I had the money, I’d love to live there after it was fully-restored)…if not, then unfortunately that’s none of the historical society’s business if the historic district/zoning laws cannot be leveraged to force Blake’s hand. If the inevitable happens and it gets torn down, don’t hang its demise on Blake, but rather the former owners and the historical society for not mobilizing sooner.

  • June Goodwin

    Plus the Historical Society thinks it owns the house that Blake wants to demolish to build two new houses – one has already been contracted for. World does not work that way as you cannot infringe upon someone’s property to get your way. What is Blake waiting for? I am sure the demolition permit and if it were me, the house would be already torn down. I wouldn’t wait for anybody. Or the city councilperson is holding up the demolition permit per request of the Historical Society by telling L & I not to issue it without her concurrence.

  • Dave

    Ms. Hawk asserts that “the developer has not responded to repeated requests from the historical society to meet with him to continue this dialogue.” Why should he? Over the past couple of months, officers of the CHHS have repeatedly used the opinion pages of the Local to try to bully and shame Mr. Blake. The CHHS isn’t interested in dialogue; it’s interested in getting its way with someone else’s money and someone else’s property.

    For the CHHS to play the aggrieved party is disingenuous and pathetic.

    • Dave

      In light of the Local’s correction, let me amend my post: “Ms. Hanson asserts…” The rest stands.