On CHCE closing

Since 1978 the Senior Center / Chestnut Hill Center for Enrichment has served active older adults in Northwest Philadelphia. With a two-person staff and an engaged board, the center has brought people together for games, trips, lectures, dancing, exercise, crafts, learning and fun. Our mission to “Enrich, Connect, Renew” was the light by which we planned.

The world has changed since our inception in 1978 when there were no services for active older adults. There are now more opportunities for active older adults to be served, and we celebrate that expansion of services to their needs. With that in mind, it is with sadness that we announce the closing of the center on June 30.

We are particularly to, thankful Richard Snowden for all of his many forms of support. We are grateful as well to our wonderful and loyal members and also want to recognize the generous grants from the Bray Family Foundation, the Chestnut Hill Community Fund, the Chestnut Hill Community Association, the Green Tree Community Health Foundation, the Patricia Kind Foundation, the Barra Foundation, and the Henrietta Tower Wurts Memorial.

Although this brings an end to the Center for Enrichment, the community that made it is still here and active. The center has been an important part of making that happen.

The archives of the center will be donated to the Chestnut Hill Conservancy in recognition of the center’s impact on the community.

Mary Zell has been the executive director for many years. She deserves and has our gratitude for being the heart and soul of the center. Sandra Cartelli is a more recent addition but we commend her hard work and commitment.

Finally we shall miss an organization that has brought us experiences and left us with memories and friends that we value.

The Board of the Chestnut Hill Center for Enrichment


Kudos to CH Conservancy for Visionaries event

Congratulations to the CH Conservancy on a beautifully planned event at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy on Friday evening, celebrating the architectural values of the community and its tradition of innovative urban planning. The symposium theme was clear in its many iterations – we must honor and preserve the past while moving forward creatively.

If anything was lacking it was a sense of how important the Germantown Avenue commercial area is to Chestnut Hill. Richard Snowden may have been the only speaker to address this issue, and he did so chiefly in terms of his own company’s presence on the Avenue. Still, his point about building residential and commercial properties side by side, or rather, top and bottom, is a crucial one. Without a vital main street, Chestnut Hill would be a museum of architecture and not a living community. (I am admittedly obsessed with this subject, as the author of “The Death and Life of Main Street: Small Towns in American Memory, Space, and Community,” where I talk about Chestnut Hill as an exemplary, if imperfect, community.)

It’s always a bit risky to call something a “Visionaries Roundtable.” One expects so much from such a promise, and there are so few true visionaries around. The other night “vision” was mostly about space, and not a lot about people. I was thinking about this walking home, when we passed the SCH banners portraying a student body that symbolizes the diversity that is promoted as a strong value in a school that in many ways represents the community. That ideal of a diverse community didn’t come up in the visionaries discussion – at least not that I heard. (We had to leave before the Q & A.)

The new name “Chestnut Hill Conservancy” does cover a lot of ground – earth, trees, water, buildings – but let’s remember that it’s still also the Historical Society, and that name embraces the history of the people who have made this community and not just the architects and developers. Houston and Woodward, the founding geniuses of Chestnut Hill, were implementing a utopian vision of a community of like-thinking, like-seeming people. These two were often invoked during Friday’s event, without any acknowledgment of their exclusionary practices.

Even so, great thanks to the organizers for a thoughtful effort to engage the community in thinking about its future.

Miles Orvell
Chestnut Hill


Visionaries Roundtable

I attended the Visionaries Roundtable a program that is part of the 50th Anniverary of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society (now the Chestnut Hill Conservancy) and came out optimistic.

Optimistic that the Conservancy is celebrating 50 years of preservation in this community and that they saw the value of changing the name to one that feels more progressive and inclusive. I assume this came after much brainstorming about how they can contribute to an even better Chestnut Hill.

With some discussion of the future of retail, which is of national concern, I felt optimistic because I know we have a Business Association that works constantly to be progressive and inclusive of all the businesses and to keep our most public space attractive and vigorous.

My sense is that our Community Association is working assiduously on projects that bring us together and is being watchful of issues that may impact us as well as benefit us all.

I was reminded by comments from Richard Snowden, who by owning many properties and by doing a first rate job of rehabbing and upgrading them, that we have a special community public school in Jenks and that many volunteers including the Chestnut Hill Rotary and Bowman Properties work with students and staff to contribute to its success.

Richard mentioned two other important points. So much of what we have here is dependent on volunteers but also donations. Basically many of us put our money where our mouths are and it’s important to support all our contributing organizations and especially the Community Association because it is our voice and safeguard in City Hall.

I really got a sense at the Roundtable that our institutions and organizations are working together. With all of our support Chestnut Hill will grow and change while keeping its exceptional sense of community.

Marie Lachat
Chestnut Hill


One more dangerous intersection

I just read Brendan Sample’s column in the April 19 Local about the 150 most dangerous intersections in Philadelphia. (“No dangerous intersections in the Hill, 2 in Mt. Airy”)

I would like to add to this list the stretch of Cresheim Valley Drive between Allens Lane and Lincoln Drive.

Not a week goes by without one or more accidents occurring on this busy street, especially whenever it rains. It is routine for tow trucks to park in the pull-over over on Cresheim Valley Drive near the intersection with Lincoln Drive and to just wait for the inevitable crash.

These events leave behind in their wake a multitude of car parts that will remain there indefinitely unless I report it to philly311.org. Even then, more than one report is usually required before the unsightly and dangerous debris will be cleared.

Thankfully, in response to several of my reports to philly311, all of the mangled guard rails on Cresheim Valley Road were recently repaired. How long they remain intact remains to be seen.

Sharon Reiss
Mt. Airy


New construction ruining neighborhood

[In response to letter to the editor in last week’s issue by Cheryl Donahue regarding new townhome construction on West Gravers Lane]

I am horrified at the monstrous new construction in the 100 block of Gravers Lane. This lovely street has been ruined by these houses.

I’d also like to include the gigantic townhouse recently built on Ardleigh Street where Cafette had been and the atrocious construction on East Abington Ave.

I’ll also mention the unoccupied building above Fresh Market right smack in the middle of Chestnut Hill. Ms Donahue is on target requesting editorial and perhaps the Chestnut Hill Conservancy’s support to prevent our unique neighborhood’s destruction by greedy developers.

Helen Atkinson
Chestnut Hill


Where have all the equestrians gone?

Inspired by, the Local’s front-page article, 94th Annual Wissahickon Day Sunday,” I took some visiting friends to see the parade, of which I have many fond memories. I was surprised by the lack of a crowd, but still pumped about prospect of a spectacle.

When I hooted and clapped at the first pony cart rolling by the Valley Green Inn, a number of shocked fellow diners on the porch laughed out loud, which I realize was both pathetic andfunny. What followed was a mere handful of equestrians without any welcome or hoopla whatsoever.

What happened to this once fine parade, this special day? Where are the Riders of the Wissahickon? Have the mountain bikers driven all of the equestrians out of the Valley? Sad.

Jim Harris