Chestnut Hill Station Trolley Canopy during restoration.

By Shirley Hanson

How did these standout projects succeed? For answers, we look at two of the four awards the Chestnut Hill Conservancy presented at its Annual Meeting on January 5.

First is the award for the restoration of the trolley canopy at 8606 Germantown Ave. You may know it as the newsstand.

Railroads injected a vital force into Chestnut Hill’s development and growth. Today, the trolley canopy is a symbol of the power of the railroads. Erected by the old Pennsylvania Railroad Company more than a century ago, it provided shelter to travelers along Germantown Avenue. Now it is a Chestnut Hill landmark.

Over those 100-plus years, the elements attacked the trolley canopy mercilessly. Enter Philip Dawson, Executive Director of the Chestnut Hill Business District. He met with Jeffrey Knueppel, then General Manager of SEPTA (the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) to halt the decline. The outcome: Knueppel prioritized work to begin the restoration.

Next on the scene was Jerry McGovern, SEPTA’s Director of Railroad Maintenance and Construction. Here’s a bit of McGovern’s story: He started his career in 1983, “the first person hired off the street for the Bridges and Buildings Department after SEPTA took control.” In 2015, he became the director of the department.

The project grew way beyond shoring up the structure. Under McGovern, the crew ultimately comprised four carpenters, four painters, three masons, and two electricians. Here’s one example of their care. The painters computer-matched paint samples to ensure that the restored woodwork would match its original heritage colors. We invite you to check out the details and the skill that re-created them.

Our sixth year of awards became our first one to reach beyond Chestnut Hill to surrounding communities.

Restored carriage house doors at Fairelawn Manor in W. Mt. Airy

Now we travel to Westview Street in West Mt. Airy to Joe Sullivan, owner and initiator of the restoration of the Fairelawn Manor Carriage House Doors and Porch. At his side were Chris Meyer of Dennis F. Meyer, Inc. & Meyer Woodworks along with designer Susan Hadden of a.Resolution LLC.

The project encompassed the restoration of five carriage doors and two large arched window panels in the carriage house built in 1903. It’s not as simple as you might imagine! After their original use, the stable doors had been relocated to enclose the space. This meant they were pinned in place by 4 inches of concrete on the outside and finished floors on the inside.

All panels were transported to the Meyer shop to be restored, and the door details were kept as they were originally. The center operable door was beyond repair and required rebuilding. Thanks to Joe Sullivan and his team of experts, we now see a magnificent rescue of the original doors, their surroundings, and the interior porch.

Our next article will travel to Foxlea in Wyndmoor to tell the story of Emilie and Peter Lapham’s 20-year hands-on commitment to their “English Village.”

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