The Vanna Venturi House in Chestnut Hill.

The Vanna Venturi House in Chestnut Hill.

by Mandi Rush

The Chestnut Hill Historical Society will be taking to the streets once again to update the Chestnut Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

For the upcoming months, the public can expect to see surveyors from the historical society documenting and photographing the buildings included on the register, noting any significant changes in the properties and including houses that were not originally on the nomination. This project will coincide with the Building Documentation Project that kicked off this past March in an effort to complete the CHHS Archive’s photographic records of all properties in Chestnut Hill.

Chestnut Hill was designated as a Historic District in 1985 after an application was successfully completed by Jefferson M. Moak, current archivist with the National Archives in Philadelphia. The work on the nomination was extensive, requiring the examination of over 2,600 properties as well as researching close to 300 years of architectural and landscape development in Chestnut Hill.

The end result led to one of the largest historic districts in the nation, with Chestnut Hill being nationally recognized as an example of development complimenting environment, and emphasizing the intertwined nature of our man-made structures with the inherent beauty of the Wissahickon Valley.

It has been 30 years since the initial nomination. The historical society recognizes the need to embark on another re-surveying project, this time to include vital modern-era constructions, like Venturi’s internationally significant “Mother’s House.” The architecturally innovative construction of Robert Venturi was excluded originally because of its age. Built in 1962, the structure was just 23 years old when the application was being completed, then too young to be considered for status on the National Register. With this update, this building, and almost 90 of its contemporaries, would finally be recognized as contributing resources in the Historic District.

The project is funded by a generous grant from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and through the support of our members and donors. It will be led by noted architectural historian (and Chestnut Hill Historical Society board member) Emily Cooperman.

The National Register is an invaluable resource that succinctly describes all significant architecture in Chestnut Hill. It is the primary reference guide that our trained archivists use when beginning a related research request and now, coinciding with the survey project, the historical society is working to make the National Register files available digitally, thus aiding our effort to make our resources accessible to the community.

Contact or call 215-247-0417 to discover how you can be involved with this project and explore other opportunities to participate in the active preservation of our distinct historic structures and landscapes. And when you see our team, feel free to come out and chat about your home, your historic photo collection, or this project.

Mandi Rush is Development and Education Coordinator at the Chestnut Hill Historical Society.

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