by Lori Salganicoff, Executive Director, Chestnut Hill Conservancy

The Chestnut Hill Conservancy is speaking for the community with behind-the scenes advocacy, preserving our history and enlightening the community with unique public programming every day of the year!

In 2018, the Conservancy has been speaking on behalf of the Chestnut Hill community locally, city-wide and nationally. We have participated in Mayor Kenney’s Historic Preservation Task Force and early in the year we electronically surveyed all of our supporters to identify the preservation issues that concern our community the most. This information, along with information from the Upper Northwest District Plan, was presented to the Task Force so that our community voice could be integrated into the city-wide effort to incorporate historic preservation into its planning for the future. On the national level, the Conservancy was interviewed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in its effort to identify the best practices for local community organizations.

Although we are honored to work with the City of Philadelphia and the National Trust, we are most proud of the impact that our effective advocacy has had right here in the Chestnut Hill area! You have recently read of our work to preserve and manage new construction at the historic property at 2 East Chestnut Hill Ave. In early July we alerted the community, and our colleagues in Springfield Township, to a demolition threat to the beloved and highly significant Medinger House at 8600 Montgomery Ave. Unfortunately, Springfield Township had no legal means to halt the demolition and the house was gone by August. Since this irrevocable loss, I have been working with Springfield Township leaders to help craft a Preservation Ordinance to protect the Township’s most significant historic and architectural treasures. Eighty-five percent of Chestnut Hill’s and 100 percent of Springfield Township’s historic structures remain unprotected from demolition, but the Conservancy helps better protect our heritage because of your support.

Our work to conserve the natural and cultural landscape in the Wissahickon watershed got a boost from a handful of catalytic donors this year. One hundred and forty acres of privately owned, environmentally-sensitive open space is now protected by conservation easement, but 350 acres remain vulnerable to development in Chestnut Hill alone. The Conservancy now has a full-time conservation and easements staff person to grow our conservation efforts in the watershed. Many more neighborhood catalysts are needed to sustain this work.

Our advocacy is only half of the story – the Conservancy is also an archive and an education center. We are honored to hold over 21,000 historic documents and images, and were inspired to have held more sold-out public and member-exclusive programs in 2018 that ever before! Hundreds attended “The Italian Artisans Who Built Chestnut Hill” tours and lecture, the Great Houses Tour, “Public Spaces, Special Places – Pocket Parks” tour, “Water Tower Recreation Center” lecture and “An Illustrated History of Fairmount Park” lecture. October’s “Night of Lights” was enjoyed by thousands. With the help of an army of volunteers we transformed our beloved Avenue with light, images and film, color and sound and brought life to hundreds items from the Conservancy Archive. Lastly, voting in October and November for this year’s Chestnut Hill Architectural Hall of Fame Inductees exceeded a record-breaking 6,000 individual votes.

If you enjoy attending our public programs and look forward to learning even more about the history of our urban village; if you believe we must continue to balance growth and development with historic preservation and land conservation, please consider contributing to our 2018 Year End Appeal at chconservancy.org. We can only continue to support the community with community support.

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