30 W. Chestnut Hill Avenue
New development is vital to the community but should not come at the expense of invaluable architecture and landscape
This 1887 Queen Anne-style house is one of few remaining buildings by celebrated Philadelphia architect T. P. Chandler. Lush Wissahickon-style plantings surrounded the house.
Literally overnight in January 2016, the property’s new owner, a developer, destroyed the mature trees and plants and filed a demolition permit for this intact historic house. The Chestnut Hill Conservancy responded with gusto, halting demolition, but the fate of the house remains pending.
“In the face of a tsunami of possible new development on the horizon,” Executive Director Lori Salganicoff has said, “we need to band together and understand what are the most significant, special places that we need to protect here, and then protect them.”
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The groundswell of opposition to this threatened demolition from community members and the Chestnut Hill Conservancy resulted in its nomination to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, which could give it protection against demolition. This nomination, drafted by Dr. Emily Cooperman, explains its architectural and historical significance; look at these current and historical photos, too. The nomination remains under consideration by the Commission as a mutually agreeable resolution is pursued by the parties involved. As of early 2017, we continue to work with the developer and neighbors to move forward a preservation-and-development project that is historically and contextually sensitive.
Another, hugely positive outcome of this case was the formation of a community taskforce to promote a balanced approach to sustainable new development, historic architecture preservation, and open space conservation throughout Chestnut Hill.
“30 W. Chestnut Hill Avenue was a wake-up call for a lot of people to recognize that [demolition of intact historic resources] could happen in a second,” Executive Director Lori Salganicoff said. “The demolition permit for that building was pulled the same day the developer took possession of the property. For a number of reasons we were able to turn that around, but we need to have a better understanding of situations like this.”
“Better understanding” is beginning to happen with the Chestnut Hill Residential Conservation and Development Study, taking place from January through May of 2017.