Chestnut Hill AO - History

Chestnut Hill AO - History

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Chestnut Hill

A residential section in Philadelphia, Pa.

(AO: dp. 10,150; 1. 380'; b. 50'9"; dr. 24'6"; s. 11 k.;
cpl. 71; a. 1 6", 1 6-pdr.; cl. Chestnut Hill)

Chestnut Hill (No. 2526), a tanker, was launched 23
August 1917 by Pennsylvania Shipbuilding Co.,
Gloucester City, N.J.; acquired by the Navy 14 March
1918 commissioned the same day, Lieutenant Commanier J. D. Murray, USNRF, in command; and reported to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service.

Between 22 March and 15 June 1918 Chestnut Hill served as an escort and fuel ship for two convoys of submarine chasers as they sailed to the Azores. After repairs, the tanker made coastwise runs until 26 September, when she cleared to escort another group of submarine chasers to Bermuda and the Azores.

On 1 November 1918 she departed Bermuda and after loading oil at Texas ports, called at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before delivering her cargo to east coast ports. On 17 December, she sailed to escort submarine chasers from the Azores to San Domingo, Guantanamo, and Haiti. After repairing and loading oil at Gulf ports Chestnut Hill sailed 28 February 1919 for Gibraltar where she had an overhaul until June.

Chestnut Hill assmbled a group of submarine chasers for the homeward voyage from European ports, and on 28 July cleared Lisbon to escort the ships to New York. She was decommissioned at Philadelphia 3 September 1919, and returned to the Shipping Board the following day.


In 2005, Nashville Civic Design Center undertook a detailed study of Chestnut Hill which resulted in specific findings and recommendations for the future growth of the neighborhood. This study offers several pages of detailed history about the neighborhood. The full report can be viewed at this link , but we capture a few of the key milestones below:

  • 1860s - escaped slaves gravitate to south Nashville for Federal protection, reunion with family members, and support from the existing free black neighborhood
  • 1867 - Central Tennessee College opens on Maple Street (now First Avenue South & the site of Cameron School) in a gun factory confiscated by the Federal government
  • 1917 - Meharry Medical College (previously a department of Central Tennessee College and the first facility in the South for training black doctors) is granted a separate charter by the State of Tennessee and expands, also affecting the residential character of the neighborhood
  • 1928 - the Pearl School (opened in 1883 on Fifth Avenue South, then Summer Avenue) is renamed as Cameron School for Henry Alvin Cameron, a Nashville native who taught science at the Pearl School
  • 1931 - Meharry Medical College moves to North Nashville, with many professors and staff moving their homes, too
  • 1937 - The Housing Act of 1937 changes the face of subsidized housing nearby, J.C. Napier Homes was constructed in 1941, and later Tony Sudekum Homes in 1953, razing numerous blocks of single family homes deemed &ldquoblighted,&rdquo and replacing them with barrack style housing that concentrated poverty and crime
  • 1960s - Interstate 40 was constructed, creating a wall of isolation (physically and psychologically) between the neighborhood and downtown
  • 1997 - TAG is formed as the neighborhood association to grow the voice and community action of the neighborhood

Built: 1890
Address: 1219 Second Ave South
B.J. Hodge and M. Hodge, architects

A pyramidal spire topping a red brick octagonal tower highlights this late nineteenth century church, built to serve a growign Irish population in South Nashville. Its slate mansard roof, round-arched windows, and brick pilasters combine to make it Nashville's only extant ecclesiastical example of the Second Empire style. Fire damaged the building in 1998 but restoration efforts proved successful.
Since its opening, St. Patrick's has been a cultural and religious center for Nashville's Irish community, serving as host to a Catholic school, meetings of civic and social clubs, community picnics and events, and an annual St. Patrick's Day celebration. One of its most distinctive contributions came from 1892 to the 1960s when six itinerant Irish family clans would converge at the church every first Monday in May to hold an "Irish Wake" for their dead, before burial at Calvary Cemetery on Lebanon Pike, and occasionally members of these families return to Nashville to renew their association with St. Patrick's.

Saint Patrick Catholic Church Website Howell House

Built: 1870
Address: 1230 Second Ave South

Judge Morton B. Howell, who was Nashville mayor in 1874-1875, commissioned the building of this two-story brick Italianate-style dwelling about 1870. The arched window moldings, projecting bay window with bracketed cornice, recessed central entrance, and symmetrical composition make the Howell House a good representative of the Italianate style as interpreted in Nashville in the post-Civil Ware era. Hubbard House

Built: 1920
Address: 1109 First Ave South
Moses McKissak III, architect

The George W. Hubbard House in the Cameron-Trimble neighborhood is an excellent example of the early twentieth century blending of Colonial Revival and American Four-Square styles. The single-story, paired Doric column porch is typical of Colonial Revival style, as practiced in Nashville at that time. Also common are the Craftsman-style details found in the shed dormer and the brackets of the eaves.

The house was builtin 1920 as a gift to Dr. George W. Hubbard, upon his retirement as president of Meharry Medical College. It is the last remaining building of the original Meharry campus. Founded in 1876, Meharry was the first medical school in the country established for the education of African American physicians. Across the street is the historic Seay-Hubbard Methodist Church, a red brick building of restrained Gothic styling. The church was constructed with bricks and timbers from the old Meharry buildings and stands at the location of the administration building.

A cached copy of the Seay-Hubbard website gives the following info:

The Hubbard House is a historic building located at 1109 1st Ave. South, Nashville TN. The two-story structure was built in 1921 as the retirement home of Dr. George W. Hubbard, founder and head of Meharry Medical College for 44 years. During the time Dr. Hubbard occupied the house, it was the epicenter of Meharry. Included on the campus were administrative buildings, a medical school, dental school, pharmacy school, auditorium, and hospital. In 1931 Meharry Medical College relocated its entire institution to a North Nashville site. The only building left to mark the original location of Meharry is the Hubbard House. The building was officially purchased by Seay-Hubbard United Methodist Church in 1970. It was used as a parsonage. Because of its history and significance, the Hubbard House has two historical registrations with the U.S. Department of Interior. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Homes in 1974.

As of today, the Hubbard House is in poor condition. Significant work to the internal and external parts of the house must be done to restore this national treasure. Seay-Hubbard United Methodist Church has the special responsibility of preserving one of Nashville’s historic treasures: The Hubbard House. The historic home of Meharry Medical College’s first president, George W. Hubbard, the Hubbard House is proudly listed on the National Historic Registry. Built in 1921, the house sits at 1109 First Avenue South across from Seay-Hubbard United Methodist Church. This church was built from the bricks of the old Meharry auditorium that once served as a gathering place for students and the entire community. The Hubbard House is the only remaining building from Meharry’s original campus in South Nashville.

The church is currently [early 2016] embarking on a restoration project to raise $500,000 for the Hubbard House that will allow it to be a center for community service.

Hubbard House Website Nashville City Cemetary

Built: 1822
Address: Fourth Avenue South at Oak Street

The City Cemetery is Nashville's oldest extant public cemetery. It began with a four-acre tract, later expanded in 1836 and 1855 to its present twenty-seven acres. The city ceased selling lots in 1878, in an attempt to slow the outbreaks of cholera which periodically swept the city. In 1911, the Women's Federation of South Nashville donated the present stone entrance, walls, and iron gate. For the next four decades, the cemetery received little attention until a mid-1950s restoration cleared the grounds, repaired roads, installed lights, and restored damaged tombstones. In past decade, Metro officials have developed a conservation master plan and an interpretive plan for this vital Nashville landmark.

City Cemetery documents the early settlement patterns of Nashville, when this area was considered on the outskirts of town. It also contains an architecturally significant array of nineteenth century gravestone art, ranging from simple stones of folk design to gravemarkers designed by architect William Strickland. This final resting place for many significant Nashvillians includes Nashville founders James Robertson, Charlotte Reeves Robertson and Ann Robertson Cockrill, six-term Tennessee governor William Carroll, Confederate Generals Richard Ewell and Felix Zollicoffer, politician George Washington Campbell, sea captain William Driver, and original Fisk Jubilee singers Mabel Lewis Imes and Ella Sheppard Moore. The City Cemetery is unique in its diversity. Catholics and Protestants as well as whites and African Americans have been buried within its walls. Still an active cemetery, City Cemetery sees a few interments each year where family ownership of a plot can be proved.

Additional historical information about The City Cemetery is available on Page 13 of the Nashville Civic Design Center's 2005 report.

Nashville City Cemetary Website Cameron College Prep

Built: 1939-1940
Address: 1034 First Ave South
Henry Hibbs, architect

Cameron Junior High School was built in the late 1930s as part of a joint effort of the city and the New Deal's Public Works Administration to build new schools. It replaced an earlier historic African American school, on 5th Avenue South, Cameron School, named for Henry Alvin Cameron, a Nashville teacher killed in World War I.

Nashville architect Henry Hibbs gave the new three-story brick school with a restrained Gothic Revival design, especially notable in the projecting Gothic bay centered over the front entrance. The real improvements came on the inside since the new Cameron had a gymnasium, auditorium, and well-equipped classrooms. The location of school was chosen, in part, to serve children who lived in the nearby J. C. Napier Homes Public Housing Development. In 1954, the school expanded to include a new senior high school, leading to a generation of academic, music, and athletic excellence. An active alumni group maintains a heritage room at the school. In 1978, Cameron was designated Nashville's pilot middle school, and continues to serve grades 5-8.

Cameron College Prep Layman Drug Company

Built: Late 1800's
Address: 1128 Third Avenue South

This building was previously a drug store and was opened as a recording studio in 2017.
Located at 1128 3rd Avenue South, Layman Drug Company has been a fixture in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood for almost 130 years. The original structure was built in the late 1890s and for nearly a century served as a pharmacy until its closing in 1993. As a part of the fabric of Music City, the structure has had its brushes with the music industry. The building was featured on the cover of legendary Rock 'n Roll singer Dion’s Velvet and Steel album. Buzz Cason, songwriter of "Everlasting Love" among other classics, has a band photo in front of the building dating to the mid 1980's. The building can also be seen in Alan Jackson's music video for "www.Memory".

Balancing the building’s historic character with modern functionality has been a priority for the design. While much of the building’s exterior has remained the same, the façade was rebuilt to match its former glory and to allow the structure to remain recognizable to a neighborhood that lives in a city of continual change. To accommodate its new function as a recording studio, the interior of the building has undergone significant modernization. Design elements such as 3D ceramic tiles, acoustical panels, acoustically rated assemblies, and color temperature adjustable lighting have all been incorporated.

Information sourced from Nashville Architecture, A Guide to the City by Carroll Van West.


The existing Chestnut Hill Hotel building was constructed in 1894 to replace an earlier Inn, which had been built in the same location in 1772. During Prohibition, the Hotel degenerated into a speakeasy and, according to some local residents, a bordello. In 1957-1958, the Hotel had its turrets and porches removed and the Hotel was remodeled in the colonial style. In the early 80’s, it was renovated again and became the core of the current retail complex, with the Hotel’s carriage house and stables transformed into stores and a farmers’ market. 2010 brings its latest incarnation, restoring the property to its original grandeur and elegance.

Chestnut Hill Hotel Circa 1872

The Chestnut Hill Hotel is located in the historic community of Chestnut Hill, approximately nine miles northwest from Center City Philadelphia. This area is well known for its many unique shops and restaurants, all of which are within walking distance of the hotel.


Enjoy the experience of shopping the way it used to be. Whether you’re looking for the perfect cut of meat, a floral arrangement, fresh fruits and vegetables or even a home cooked meal, you’ll find friendly service and a cheery atmosphere at Chestnut Hill’s original Farmers’ Market.

Chestnut Hill AO - History

Chestnut Hill is defined by its zip code and history. At one time considered remote to Boston, the settlement first formed around a train station, eventually establishing its identity as a community. Named by Francis Lee, who built the first country house in the area in the 1850's, Chestnut Hill is in three different towns (Brighton, Brookline, and Newton) and two different counties (Norfolk and Middlesex). Like other neighborhoods in Brookline, for instance Longwood and Cottage Farm, Chestnut Hill began as a neighborhood for friends and family of the original landowners. While it is now surrounded by continuous suburban development, with a little imagination we can picture it as a distant outpost from Boston, appealing to wealthy professionals and businessmen seeking a country retreat in a neighborhood of peers.

Chestnut Trees
Substantial change had already altered the lands of Chestnut Hill a century before wealthy Bostonians set their sights on a house in the country. By the mid 1700's, the original landscape of meadows and wetlands had been converted to large farms and woodlots in the ownership of a few prominent families. True to its name, a stand of chestnut trees stretched from Dunster Street to Reservoir Lane. A significant structure of the era, Richards Tavern, was built in 1760 on Heath Street near Hammond. An evangelical revival group, the "New Lights", helped construct the building and held their services there. The property included a tollgate for the Worcester Turnpike, thereby capturing income from travelers.

Development Spurred by Rail Access

Because large parcels of land were sold and subdivided all at once, the neighborhoods of Chestnut Hill have a pleasing uniformity to them. Large, gracious homes were designed and built in the styles popular at the turn of the century, such as Colonial Revival, Tudor, and Shingle Style. They were then carefully sited on large lots that were heavily wooded. There is a continuity of styles, scale, setting, and materials amongst the homes that lends aesthetic cohesion to the neighborhood. The result is a pleasing balance between nature and the man-made environment.

Architectural and Landscape Design
Several talented and prolific architects first built their own homes and then designed homes for clients in this country enclave. Herbert Jaques, a partner in the firm of Andrews, Jaques, and Rantoul, built his home on Dunster Street. He then went on to design many Chestnut Hill homes, including the Cox estate on Heath Street, which was called "Roughwood" when built, and is now home to Pine Manor College. Jaques' home was recently demolished to make way for the new Longyear Museum. Architect Horace Frazer, partner in the firm Chapman and Frazer, built his own home at Heath and Boylston Streets. His firm built more homes in Brookline than any other architect, including two dozen Chestnut Hill homes built between 1890 and 1916. In addition to the skillful utilization of the era's prominent design styles, such as Tudor and Shingle, the architects excelled at coming up with seemingly infinite variations that gave each home its own unique signature. While the homes are large and gracious, they are not ostentatious, and have a minimum of ornament, possessing a straightforward understatement that seems a response to their environment. Many feature natural materials such as stone and wood shingles, and subdued earth colors are frequently employed.

New Historic District
In acknowledgement of its historically distinctive homes and the increasing threat to their continued existence, Brookline's 2005 Town Meeting voted to approve the Chestnut Hill North Local Historic District. Already listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, the district is bordered by the MBTA greenline on the north and Boylston Street on the south. The north designation differentiates the unified residential neighborhood from the area south of Boylston Street, with its large institutional uses and more dispersed development. The 112 properties included in the district were built primarily between 1880 and 1920. The relatively late development of Chestnut Hill reflects the early perception that it was remote and inaccessible to Boston.

Hill history hunt illustrates community’s past with modern technology

Now there really is a good reason to walk and stare at your phone!

Enjoy a fun and educational jaunt down Germantown Avenue by linking your smartphone to a game that challenges users to spot architectural characteristics and points of interest in the Chestnut Hill History Hunt, a feature of the Night of Lights, sponsored by the Chestnut Hill Conservancy.

By linking to the mobile website via a smartphone or smart device, the participants spot clues to a series of questions involving buildings and points of interest along Germantown Avenue.

The History Hunt begins at the top of the Hill at the corner of Germantown Avenue and Bethlehem Pike with the first quiz involving the historic Baptist Church and ends with the last question involving a building on the corner of Willow Grove Avenue. A series of questions involving buildings and points of interest down Germantown Avenue are accessed via the History Hunt mobile website. Historic factoids pop up with each correct answer.

Chestnut Hill has served as the gateway between the city of Philadelphia and the countryside with Germantown Avenue acting as the neighborhood&rsquos artery since before the Revolutionary War. The Avenue became the area&rsquos main street after Francis Pastorius was one of the first investors to the area and an agent to early German investors of land in Cresheim and Sommerhausen, the original names for what is now Chestnut Hill. The Avenue continues today as a transportation and retail corridor and a link to our past. The History Hunt connects users to the past and allows them to get a closer look at features along the street.

Once you complete the History Hunt trek, you become a Certified Chestnut Hill History Hunter and can redeem a prize from local businesses, via a mobile link at the end of the quiz. Accessing the History Hunt is easy and can be done from any smartphone or device by texting 56512 and entering the keywords Chestnut Hunt.

&ldquoThe Chestnut Hill History Hunt is a lot of fun for anyone interested in local history and a great educational activity for students of any age,&rdquo says Dan Macey, a board member of the Chestnut Hill Conservancy who helped put the quiz together. &ldquoThe hunt allows us to explore our own neighborhood and learn about aspects of architecture and history that they may otherwise walk right by.&rdquo

The History Hunt can be accessed via the mobile website at any time from October 9 through October 25, during the Night of Lights celebration presented by the Chestnut Hill Conservancy. This is the fourth year that the Conservancy has organized the Night of Lights, which shines a light on the neighborhood&rsquos history in a host of windows along Germantown Avenue in the form of a public art installation. The storefront windows are illuminated with slideshows that tell stories culled from the Conservancy&rsquos extensive archives. Unique architectural features of historic buildings along Germantown Avenue will also be illuminated with colorful lights. Many businesses will also remain open to enhance the welcoming spirit of a neighborhood stroll.

As part of the Night of Lights, printed Pastports are available at participating retailers and projection locations that offer a map and guide to each of the eight projections. Visit each of the slideshows and win a prize provided by the following area businesses: Chestnut Hill Brewing Company, El Poquito, Bredenbeck&rsquos, Made by ME, Artisans on the Avenue, El Quetzal, Weavers Way Next Door and Zipf's Candies.

Magnificent Greylock Mansion in Chestnut Hill up for sheriff’s sale (update)

After sitting abandoned for years and slowly deteriorating, the magnificent Greylock Mansion in Chestnut Hill is facing a sheriff’s sale on October 18, with a starting bid of just $1,500.

The home, located at 209 W. Chestnut Hill Avenue, was originally scheduled for sheriff's sale in September 2016. Then, it was pushed back to November 1, 2016 for $90,000, Chestnut Hill Local reported.

Chestnut Hill Conservancy, which has two easements on the property, notes that this sheriff's sale is different in that it is a tax delinquent sale. The current owner owes $182,135.45 in taxes on the property.

If the mansion successfully sells, all mortgages and liens would be "extinguished," according to the city solicitor Courtney Richardson.

The 8-bedroom, 8-bath classic Chestnut Hill stone mansion was built by steel magnate Henry A. Laughlin in 1908. It’s an enormous 8,000-square-foot property that looks over the Wissahickon Valley and comes with a carriage house. It sits on nearly seven acres, making it one of the largest residences for sale in Philadelphia.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for the mansion, which first hit the market in 2009 to the tune of $2.35 million. That price tag got the ax a number of times over the years, eventually coming down to $1.2 million in March 2016.

The Chestnut Hill Conservancy has said in the past that it is willing to work with potential buyers regarding the easements, which are described below:

The conservation easement on Greylock preserves open green space, protects the property from land development, and helps to control surface water run-off within the Wissahickon Watershed. The façade easement on Greylock protects the exterior of the main building and the carriage house, both listed as "Significant" buildings within the Chestnut Hill National Register Historic District.

Chestnut Hill Historic District

The Chestnut Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]

Chestnut Hill was designated in the Neighborhoods category of the American Planning Association's "Great Places in America" for 2012.

Chestnut Hill comprises a geographically, politically, and socially distinct neighborhood in the northwest corner of Philadelphia. The Chestnut Hill Historic District's boundaries include not only the main portion of the present community but also the historically significant areas of the Cresheim and Wissahickon Creeks bordering Chestnut Hill which provided much of its economic vitality prior to 1880. The Chestnut Hill Historic District excludes Chestnut Hill Village, a 1960s and 1970s housing development, apartment complex, and shopping center located at the community's southeastern border.

The Cresheim and Wissahickon Valleys of Fairmount Park to the south and west, the steep slopes on its northern border, and general elevation above the rest of Philadelphia to this day give Chestnut Hill the sense of remoteness coveted by those who built summer villas there one hundred thirty years ago. Chestnut Hill's varied topography, much of it preserved in its natural state through park and institutional ownership, has set the tone of the community's development. Architectural and landscape design &mdash reinforced through the recurring choice of rough-cut schist stone as a building material &mdash seems an extension of these land preserves. Lush, naturalistic border and foundation plantings combine with tree-lined streets laid to follow the contours of the land, giving the impression of an English walking garden, carefully planned, yet appearing as an effortless outgrowth of its natural setting. In the most densely developed sections of Chestnut Hill, abundant street trees, countless small gardens, and the continued use of schist stone in even the most modest neighborhoods maintain the naturalistic setting.

The respect shown the natural character of the land is further underscored by the form and scale of most of Chestnut Hill's early suburban development. The retention of numerous dwellings and farm and commercial buildings dating to the community's early 18th century settlement preserve the village atmosphere. This sense of Chestnut Hill as a village was furthered in the new construction after 1850 and particularly in the numerous projects of the Houston and Woodward families between 1884 and 1935. With few exceptions the great houses of Chestnut Hill are impressive for much the same reasons as many of their more modest counterparts in that a sense of comfortable, human proportion, the quality of detailed design, and the choice of indigenous materials are more important than merely being large. The result is something quite unusual: a community tied architecturally to its natural surroundings, scaled to the human form, and exquisitely planned and detailed with an eye not simply toward grandeur but a rustic, comfortable elegance.

Chestnut Hill consists of over 2,600 buildings, the majority of these single-family residences, either detached, semi-detached, in rows, or in court arrangements. Few exceed a two- or three-story height reinforcing the village atmosphere and the sense of human scale. Several apartment buildings stand along West Evergreen Avenue and West Highland Avenue, but with the exception of the Hill House (201 W. Evergreen Avenue), these all are within the scale of the residential areas in which they appear.

No one architectural style characterizes the Chestnut Hill Historic District today as the architects working in Chestnut Hill during the 19th and early 20th centuries and their clients had many personal preferences, producing a wonderful menagerie of buildings, each unique but bonded by their scale and use of similar building materials. Spacious grounds, judiciously designed and planted, provide a setting in which varying architectural styles coexist easily. An Italianate, a Queen Anne, a Colonial Revival, and a Cotswold situated near or next to one another meld as a unified whole. The common use of stone accounts for much of this homogeneity. Chestnut Hill stone, an architectural term for Wissahickon schist, became a favorite building material, not only because of its availability (often excavation of the basement provided enough stone to begin construction) but also because it allowed many of the architectural ideas of Downing, Sloan and others to find a clear expression. Few blocks of Chestnut Hill do not contain at least one Wissahickon schist or fieldstone structure. Stone was also used for many landscaping details including retaining, boundary, and ornamental walls, gate posts, and fountains. Only in the middle and later stages of the 20th century, owing to the absence of skilled masons and available stone quarries, have buildings constructed of materials other than stone appeared within the Chestnut Hill Historic District. Most of the existing frame buildings in Chestnut Hill date to the post-Civil War period when the demolition of the John McArthur-designed Mower Hospital, the largest Civil War hospital in the Philadelphia area, resulted in an excess of used lumber which community residents put to good use.

Chestnut Hill has been known as an upper-class suburb, with spacious houses situated on large properties. However, upon closer examination of the community's history, as well as its current composition, a different picture emerges. Of the 2,600+ buildings within the Chestnut Hill Historic District, the large detached housing, giving the Hill much of its fame and character, accounts for only a minority of the total, while comparatively modest single-family detached and semi-detached houses often of unique architectural distinction predominate throughout the district.

Although the upper classes socially and the large houses architecturally have dominated the popular perception of Chestnut Hill since 1850, historically Chestnut Hill's merchants and laborers have held equal claim in the development of the Hill. Evidence of its colonial and early-19th century heritage may be found in virtually every block of Germantown Avenue from Moreland Avenue to Norman Lane. The oldest house in Chestnut Hill, a rude two-and-a-half story stone dwelling known as the Detwiler House (HABS), was built in 1744 at 8220 Germantown Avenue. Other plain stone structures such as the Artman-Miller House (ca. 1759) at 8609 Germantown Avenue, the Abraham Rex store (1762) at 8031 Germantown Avenue, and the Sign of the Swan (ca. 1750) at 8433 Germantown Avenue are witnesses of Chestnut Hill's beginnings.

During the 1840s and 1850s residential development began on many of the side roads off Germantown Avenue that were originally opened to service the mills along the Wissahickon and Cresheim Creeks as well as outlying farms. John Stallman constructed a number of houses along Highland Avenue (known variously as Spruce or Thomas Mill Road and Cottage Lane) in vernacular styles, parroting many of the upper-class styles recently in vogue including the Italianate and Gothic Revival. Examples of this mid-19th century vernacular architecture exist also on Gravers Lane, Southampton Avenue, Springfield Avenue, Mermaid Lane, and lower Germantown Avenue.

The earliest examples of the substantial, architecturally important housing exist along Summit Street, Prospect Avenue, Bethlehem Pike, Chestnut Hill Avenue, and Norwood Avenue surrounding the depot of the Reading Railroad Line, which opened in 1854. Houses of the Italianate, Italian Villa, Gothic Revival, and other styles espoused by Andrew Jackson Downing, Samuel Sloan, and James C. Sidney dominate the landscape along these streets. Indeed, known residential works of Sloan, Sidney, and Thomas U. Walter and the ecclesiastical projects of John Notman and John Carver appear within Chestnut Hill. Three streets opened between 1860 and 1880 also contain numerous examples of vernacular architecture of this period: Willow Grove Avenue, Devon Street (3100 block), and East Evergreen Avenue. Samuel Austin, who opened Summit Street and Chestnut Hill Avenue for the affluent, also opened the 8100 block of Devon Street for modest housing.

The arrival of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1884 spurred the development of Hill bordering this line. Largely commissioned by Henry Howard Houston, substantial Queen Anne style single houses, exemplified by 8205, 8525, and 8635 Seminole Avenue, began rising along Seminole Avenue and St. Martins Lane. Houston, who exclusively used the architectural firm of G. W. & W. D. Hewitt throughout the 1880s, built his own house, Druim Moir, west of the railroad at the foot of Willow Grove Avenue in 1885 and gave Brinkwood, a Shingle style residence, to his son, Samuel F. Houston, in 1887 as a wedding present (Druim Moir National Register District). Between Druim Moir and the railroad, along a relatively flat stretch of Willow Grove Avenue, Houston added the Wissahickon Inn (now Chestnut Hill Academy, a National Register listing), the Philadelphia Cricket Club, and St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church. Such institutional uses in western Chestnut Hill provide the open land that gives the area its 19th century flavor. Houston also built a large number of Second Empire and Queen Anne twin or double houses along Springfield Avenue, Shawnee Street, Highland Avenue, and Meade Street.

The late 19th century also saw a growing need for smaller houses on the Hill to accommodate the workmen engaged in building the dwellings of the affluent described above. The Germantown Independent of the 1880s repeatedly reported on the scarcity of such housing and encouraged budding developers to cater to this market. Such development took place along East Willow Grove Avenue, Benezet Street, Ardleigh Street, East Gravers Lane, West Abington Avenue, Roanoke Street, and Shawnee Street. Mostly detached or semi-detached, these vernacular houses measured only 2-2 1/2 stories. With building materials and designs similar to those used on the larger houses west of Germantown Avenue, these modest houses meshed into the architectural fabric of Chestnut Hill providing both visual and social cohesion. Occasionally, a developer would add embellishments to his houses, such as the diamond-shaped windows and the fanciful columns on the John McCrea houses (1895) along the 7700 and 7800 blocks of Ardleigh Street.

Dr. George Woodward, Houston's son-in-law, continued development of western Chestnut Hill during the early-20th century, using his favorite architects H. Louis Duhring, Jr., Robert B. McGoodwin, and Edmund B. Gilchrist. Woodward began lining the streets in the same manner as the Houston developments with single-family detached and semi-detached houses (113-123 West Springfield Avenue, 7800-7818 Lincoln Drive), but by the 1910s he developed motifs for each group of houses, using landscaping, court patterns, and different styles of architecture to contribute to Chestnut Hill's eclectic appearance. (See the houses along Lincoln Drive, 42-52 West Willow Grove Avenue, 103-112 West Willow Grove Avenue, 131-135 West Willow Grove Avenue, the 8000 blocks of Navajo and Crefeld Streets, and Roanoke Court.)

While the Houston and Woodward families had a major impact on western Chestnut Hill's development, both families sold land to others. The different, yet equally prominent architects employed by these residents helped create the showcase of great late-19th and early-20th century residential architecture the neighborhood is today. In addition to the aforementioned architects, works by George T. Pearson (501 West Moreland Avenue, 7709 Cherokee Street, 7703 Navajo Street), Amos Boyden (8306 Crittenden Street, 402 and 408 West Moreland Avenue), Cope & Stewardson (41 East Chestnut Hill Avenue, 455 West Chestnut Hill Avenue), Horace Trumbauer (7811 Huron Street, 109 West Mermaid Lane, 8301 St. Martins Lane), Lawrence V. Boyd (103 West Mermaid Lane, 8515 Seminole Avenue), Wilson Eyre (401 East Evergreen Avenue, 444 West Chestnut Hill Avenue, 100 and 102 West Mermaid Lane), Mantle Fielding (3703 Seminole Avenue), Charles Barton Keen (8811 Germantown Avenue, 415 W. Moreland Avenue), Savery, Scheetz & Savery (111 and 115 W. Mermaid Lane, 7703 Lincoln Drive, 8031 and 8033 Seminole Avenue), Zantzinger, Borie & Medary (8500 Seminole Avenue, 310 West Chestnut Hill venue), and many others line St. Martins Lane, Seminole Avenue, Chestnut Hill Avenue, Springfield Avenue, Moreland Avenue, and Mermaid Lane. Chestnut Hill also served as a setting for work's by the Boston firm of Peabody & Sterns (Krisheim, 7600 McCallum Street, 500 W. Moreland Avenue), the New York firm of McKim, Mead & White (Stonehurst at McCallum Street and Springfield Avenue, burned 1941), and the Pittsburgh firm of Carpenter & Crocker (Greylock, 209 West Chestnut Hill Avenue).

Continuing development in the early 20th century created a need for housing on the Hill among both laborers and an emerging merchant middle class. Examples of this housing, often handsomely designed, are located in the eastern part of Chestnut Hill. Architectural works by noted architects, including H. Louis Duhring and Horace Trumbauer, are found along Ardleigh Street and in the Woodward developments of Benezet Street and Winston Court. However, local builder/developers including the four Schock Brothers, John McCrea, James McCrea, John B. Joslin, Felix & Roman, George S. Roth & Sons, John Conti, the Marcolina Brothers, and the Lorenzon Brothers account for the vast majority of the houses in this section. This portion of Chestnut Hill contains the community's only industrial area, along Winston Road and East Moreland Avenue, where a number of handsome early-20th century warehouse buildings are home to several of the Hill's artisans including Willets Stained Glass (1923), Filipi Brothers Iron Workers (1925) and Marcolina Tile and Marble Company. These companies were among those responsible for many of the architectural embellishments as well as for the maintenance of the Hill's finest housing.

Along Bells Mill Road, Hillcrest Avenue, Meadowbrook Lane, and Hampton Road on the northern slopes of Chestnut Hill stand notable examples of single-family, detached residential architecture of the Colonial Revival and Norman farmhouse styles, highlighted by George Howe's own home, High Hollow, at 101 West Hampton Road. The advent of the automobile encouraged a number of dwellings in this section of the community by McGoodwin Duhring John Graham Willing, Sims & Talbutt Samuel Marshall and Karcher & Smith.

Both northern and western Chestnut Hill have seen the mid- and late-20th century development of some of their large estates, notably those of Sunset Hill, Wolverton, and Stonehurst. Fortunately, these developments uphold the community's rich architectural tradition. Mitchell/Giurgola's house for Mrs. Thomas R. White at 717 Glengarry Road, Louis I. Kahn's Margaret Esherick House at 204 Sunrise Lane, and Robert Venturi's design for his mother at 8336 Millman Street are among the numerous significant mid-20th century architect-designed houses represented. For the most part, the individual houses within these developments, by employing many of the same materials traditionally used for residential construction in Chestnut Hill and by their size, scale, and the use and retention of earlier estate features, harmonize with the remainder of the Chestnut Hill Historic District. The Stonehurst site, for example, now contains garden apartments as well as individual houses designed by Oskar Stonorov for members of the Dodge branch of the Houston family. This development is artfully punctuated by the preserved garden walls and established plantings of the original Stonehurst grounds.

Today, northern Chestnut Hill, like the area surrounding the Philadelphia Cricket Club, contains much open space owing to the numerous institutional uses found there. The Chestnut Hill Hospital, Temple University's Eleanor W. Dixon and Sugarloaf conference centers, the Woodmere Art Museum, Chestnut Hill College, the Morris Arboretum, the Norwood-Fontbonne Academy, Fairview Nursing Home, St. Michael's Hall, the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Our Mother of Consolation Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church of Chestnut Hill, the Home of Divine Providence, the Cascade Aphasia Center, and Fairmount Park, which forms Chestnut Hill's western boundary, maintain enough open space to retain much of the area's mid-19th century rural character.

Germantown Avenue is characterized by a mixture of commercial, institutional, and residential uses. It also serves as a common meeting ground for all social and economic levels. Five churches border the avenue as well as numerous shops, Chestnut Hill College, the Chestnut Hill Community Center, and Town Hall, housing the community association and the merchants' development group. The oldest dwelling as well as very recent structures coexist along Germantown Avenue, from 8220 Germantown Avenue (constructed 1744) to 7945 Germantown Avenue (1982-1983). More than thirty years ago merchants and residents began working together to accomplish the renewal of the shopping area. This thriving, engaging heart of the community acknowledges the efforts of the individuals who have shaped one of our nation's most successful urban revitalizations.

Chestnut Hill is a distinct residential neighborhood that has evolved over more than two-and-a-half centuries. As early as 1711 the name "Chestnut Hill" was applied to this area in recorded land transfers. The tiny settlement grew around two roads, Germantown Pike (opened 1687) and Bethlehem Pike (opened 1703) linking Chestnut Hill with Philadelphia and with farms in the back country. The arrival of the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad in 1854 transformed the village into a beguiling summer retreat. Developers such as Charles Taylor and Samuel H. Austin and the summer residents they attracted hired noted Philadelphia architects for their ample dwellings. At the same time Samuel Austin accommodated workers within the community by building homes for them on Devon Street, and Germantown Avenue. In the early 1880s the astute planning of Henry Howard Houston capitalized on the extension of the Pennsylvania Railroad to Chestnut Hill and created in the community's western portions a planned residential and social community of extraordinary quality. Concurrently, this building activity drew-stone masons and other workers to Chestnut Hill, where they and their families remained, forming their own bonds to the community. Houston's son-in-law, Dr. George Woodward, enhanced Houston's work by designing innovative modest housing and attractive landscaping and courtyards, creating Pastorius Park, and constructing substantial mansions. Because of Houston and Woodward, and developers like Taylor and Austin before them, the architects these men chose, and the fine dwellings added to the community by other residents, Chestnut Hill is an uncommon assemblage of most residential styles found in the Philadelphia region. Within this rich display are excellent representations of the work of nearly every major Philadelphia architect or architectural firm from Thomas Ustick Walter to George Howe. For the most part architects, developers, and residents did not superimpose their roads and structures on the remarkable natural setting of Chestnut Hill's portion of the Wissahickon Valley, but allowed its features to shape the community's form.

Chestnut Hill's development, until the mid-19th century, was tied to the growth of Germantown Township although its topography, early land divisions, and its name created for the community a separate identity. The area's economic livelihood depended upon the mills on the Wissahickon and Cresheim Creeks, the community's farms, and trade with outlying communities and the city as Chestnut Hill expanded around the important fork of Germantown Avenue and Bethlehem Pike, connecting the city with towns north and east. Two important trading centers, or country stores, served farmers and acted as a wholesale market for Philadelphia merchants until improved roads to Philadelphia in the early 1800s caused their decline. The best-known of these country stores was owned by Abraham Rex (8031 Germantown Avenue).

Travellers and teamsters spurred Chestnut Hill's growth. By 1763 regular stage runs operated through the community connecting Philadelphia and Bethlehem in 1820 six stage lines ran through the community. A leading Philadelphia stage-company owner, Jacob Peters, initiated hourly commuter service between Chestnut Hill and Philadelphia in the 1850s. He also operated the Eagle Hotel (8501 Germantown Avenue).

Although Chestnut Hill's physical development concentrated around its two major roads, small and medium-sized houses began lining the mill and farm roads leading away from Germantown Avenue. Growth was by no means rapid, however, for an 1854 city directory lists only 255 residents in the community. The majority of them were farmers, millers, laborers, merchants, craftsmen, and artisans, occupations reflecting commerce in the village and the needs of the villagers.

The year 1854 was notable for Chestnut Hill. Then the Act of Consolidation incorporated all of Philadelphia County, including Chestnut Hill, into the city, tightening the links between the community and the city. In the same year the extension of the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad (later the Reading Railroad, now the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's &mdash SEPTA'S &mdash Chestnut Hill East commuter line) from Germantown to Chestnut Hill dramatically changed the social and physical character of the community. Convenient transportation and brisk land promotion stimulated development around the line, largely for summer homes.

Thirty years later a second commuter line from Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Railroad (now SEPTA'S Chestnut Hill West) induced growth in Chestnut Hill's western portions. By 1390 Henry Howard Houston, a member of the railroad's Board of Directors, had constructed an extensive social and residential community in that area. Between 1904 and 1935 his son-in-law, Dr. George Woodward, added houses and the nationally recognized Pastorius Park &mdash Lincoln Drive development (by 1925) and introduced many imaginative architectural and landscaping concepts. Little changed today, the Houston-Woodward creations testify to the triumph of the vision of their planners. In recent years residents through community organizations have renewed the shopping area and are acting as planners for and caretakers of Chestnut Hill.

Chestnut Hill retains most of its original buildings, exhibiting a diversity of structures designed by virtually every major Philadelphia architect or architectural firm. Many of these works are masterpieces of design and textbook examples of the leading styles of their day. They coalesce to form a single harmonious entity &mdash joined by their human scale, similar heights and proportions, the rhythm of their setbacks, the fine quality of their designs and craftsmanship, and especially by the pervasive use of Chestnut Hill stone in buildings as well as in retaining and ornamental walls, gate posts, and fountains. They are united, too, by carefully conceived landscaping interwoven with the rocks, forest, and streams of the Wissahickon Valley.

No log cabins survive, but simple stone dwellings such as the Detwiler House at 8220 Germantown Avenue, the Artman-Miller House at 8609 Germantown Avenue, the Hinkle House at 7801 Cresheim Road, and the Streeper and Huston Houses at the corners of Bells Mill Road and Stenton Avenue attest to the colonial heritage of the community. Chestnut Hill's commercial architecture followed closely the forms of the residential buildings, and such structures as the Sign of the Swan at 8433 Germantown Avenue (ca.1750) the Abraham Rex Store at 8031 Germantown Avenue (1762), and the Cress, or Eagle Hotel at 8501-8507 Germantown Avenue (late 18th century) have the same simplicity of form and plan as the early dwellings.

After the Revolution a few residents constructed houses exhibiting an awareness of the latest architectural styles and tastes. The Wigard Jacoby House at 8327 Germantown Avenue (HABS) stands as an excellent example of the Federal style. Philadelphia townhouse patterns appear throughout the community, executed in stone, rather than the brick used inside the city. The Melchior Newman House at 7921 Germantown Avenue is a townhouse of this type.

Thomas Ustick Walter's Gothic Revival cottage for Cephas G. Childs in 1850 at 150 Bethlehem Pike initiated a new era of architect-designed residences. The extension of the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad in 1854 opened Chestnut Hill for development. Within ten years houses of the Italian Villa, Italianate, Gothic Revival, and other mid-Victorian styles lined not only the existing roads in the community but also newly opened residential streets such as Norwood Avenue, Chestnut Hill Avenue, and Summit Street. Charles Taylor, Samuel H. Austin, and other developers along with the new summer residents employed the talents of such influential Philadelphia architects as Walter, Samuel Sloan, James C. Sidney, John Riddell, and others.

During these years of expansion the architectural development was not limited solely to architect-designed houses for the affluent. Builders and carpenters erected modest housing for the laborers, craftsmen, and house servants moving into Chestnut Hill. Assuming the vernacular forms of accepted styles from the Federal to the Italianate, these dwellings exhibited bracketed eaves, bargeboards, Gothic Revival rooflines, and other embellishments. In their construction builders employed stone, wood, and stucco.

The new residents of the Hill joined with older families to found four churches between 1852 and 1860. The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill called upon John Notman, a noted architect who designed St. Mark's Episcopal Church (National Register) and the Church of the Holy Trinity (National Register) in the Rittenhouse Square area of the city, to supply plans for its church building at 8700 Germantown Avenue in 1852. Joseph Middleton, a gentleman, designed and built the church buildings of Our Mother of Consolation Roman Catholic Church on Chestnut Hill Avenue in 1855. Founded in 1856, St. Paul's Episcopal Church built its chapel across from the Catholic church from plans by John E. Carver, architect of St. James the Less Episcopal Church (National Register). The community's Lutherans organized Christ Lutheran Church in 1860 but did not erect the present building at 8300 Germantown Avenue until 1869-70. The congregation commissioned Charles M. Burns, Jr., for the designs of its simple Gothic Revival building. Burns later became famous for the Church of the Advocate and the Church of the Savior (both listed on the National Register).

The opening of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the upgrading of the Reading Railroad in the early 1880s renewed Chestnut Hill's growth. The Reading Railroad employed Frank Furness to design its various stations: The Gravers Lane Station (National Register) remains as the only Chestnut Hill station on the Reading line from this period. As its architect, the Pennsylvania Railroad hired W. Bleddyn Powell, who later became the third and last architect of Philadelphia's City Hall. A new wave of developers and a number of Philadelphia's leading citizens hired architects such as Wilson Eyre, George W. and William D. Hewitt, Theophilus Parsons Chandler. George T. Pearson, Hazlehurst & Huckel, and Amos J. Boyden to design homes in the Shingle, Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, Second Empire, and other late-Victorian styles. Significant examples of these styles include The Anglecot at 401 East Evergreen Avenue (National Register), both Druim Moir and Brinkwood (National Register), The Berkins at 142 Bethlehem Pike, Menwaaden at 493 East Gravers Lane, and the numerous Houston-commissioned houses in western Chestnut Hill, especially the Houston-Sauveur House at 8205 Seminole Avenue (HABS).

This increase in building attracted many workers to Chestnut Hill. William C. Mackie, a Chestnut Hill contractor who constructed many of the Houston houses, employed over 200 individuals in the late 1880s. Between 1890 and 1905 the population of 2200 in one village in northern Italy, Poffabria, dropped to 1000 when stone workers emigrated to Chestnut Hill. The large number of laborers in Chestnut Hill created a housing shortage of small and medium-sized dwellings. Consequently, modest stone and brick houses began to arise on newly opened streets bordering Germantown Avenue and in the eastern valley around the present Winston Road. Like their earlier counterparts these houses represented the simple vernacular forms of styles just falling out of favor, including the Italianate, Gothic Revival, and Second Empire.

Myriad forms of the Colonial and Georgian Revivals found acceptance in Chestnut Hill. George T. Pearson discovered a ready market when he designed Keewayden at 7709 Cherokee Street in 1889 in a Dutch Colonial style. He later contributed Homecroft at 501 West Moreland Avenue in 1894, the Kingston House at 8011 St. Martins Lane in 1904, and the present Philadelphia Cricket Club building in 1909, all in the Georgian Revival style. Architects such as Mantle Fielding, Hazlehurst & Huckel, and Horace Trumbauer quickly followed Pearson's lead.

In 1904 Dr. George Woodward and his wife, Gertrude Houston Woodward, began thirty years of Chestnut Hill development. First calling upon the noted architects Wilson Eyre and Frank Miles Day & Brother, Dr. Woodward soon relied upon three architects, H. Louis Duhring, Robert R. McGoodwin, and Edmund B. Gilchrist, to carry out his ideas. Following generally the precepts of the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Garden City Movement, but carefully modified to Chestnut Hill's Wissahickon environment, the four men developed a large valley west of Germantown Avenue, designing houses in the Georgian, Colonial Revival, and Cotswold motifs, among others, and integrating court arrangements and landscape architecture into their designs. In association with Duhring, Woodward developed the concept of the "quadruple house," two twin houses placed back to back, to eliminate the backyard and provide ample space on the remaining two sides (24-26, 30-32 Benezet Street and 25-27, 31-33 East Springfield Avenue). Woodward's actions stimulated the construction of high quality residences by others. Architectural journals of the early 20th century teem with references to Chestnut Hill works by Cope & Stewardson Duhring, Okie & Ziegler George Howe Charles Barton Keen Savery, Scheetz & Savery Horace Trumbauer Zantzinger, Borie & Medary and many others.

Even northern Chestnut Hill, where the steep slopes often prohibited intense development, began growing during the 1910s and 1920s. The rugged terrain above Chestnut Hill Avenue provided a perfect setting for some of the architectural styles of the early 20th century, especially those derived from Norman France. George Howe's High Hollow at 101 West Hampton Road (1913-1914) set a trend for country houses that would last for 20 years. Other excellent examples of the combined use of architecture and landscape architecture appear along Hampton Road, Crefeld Street, Bells Mill Road, and Hillcrest Avenue by architectural firms including Mellor, Meigs & Howe Willing, Sims & Talbutt Carl A. Ziegler Karcher & Smith H. Louis Durhing and Robert R. McGoodwin. Two small builder-developer areas of exceptional quality exist in norther Chestnut Hill: Judson M. Zane's groups of houses along Green Tree Road and East Hampton Road and George A. Carson's development of Whitemarsh and Wheelpump Streets. Much of the present open space in northern Chestnut Hill was created during the beginning of the century by the actions of John T. and Lydia Morris, whose estate became the Morris Arboretum (Compton National Register District), Charles K. Smith, founder of the Woodmere Art Museum, and the Sisters of St. Joseph, who received a character for Chestnut Hill Collage.

Builder-developers, such as the Roths, Schocks, Lorenzons, Marcolinas, McCres, Romans, Felixes, and Borthwicks, filled in much of the open space in the eastern valley of Chestnut Hill with vernacular rowhouses and semi-detached housing, primarily for the workers and artisans imported from Europe to build the Woodward developments and the large architecture designed houses throughout Chest Hill. This modest housing, however, was often occupied by the community's impecuniously genteel.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries new structures were added to the commercial area of Germantown Avenue. The Richardsonian Romanesque Knights of Pythias Hall at 8424 Germantown Avenue (1889), the Second Empire Jacob Fisher Funeral Parlor at 8413 Germantown Avenue (1884), and the Colonial Revival banks at 8340 Germantown Avenue and 8527 Germantown Avenue (1921 and 1927 respectively) stand as significant examples of stylish commercial buildings.

Changes occurring to the physical environment beginning in the Depression until the present have been, on balance, beneficent. Both the Depression of the 1930s and World War II forced owners of a few estates either to demolish the large houses or donate the properties to non-profit organizations, the latter course causing the great institutional uses of land throughout Chestnut Hill. New housing on vacant land continued the tradition begun by Thomas Ustick Walter's Gothic Revival cottage for Cephas G. Childs: Oscar Stonorov, Mitchell/Giurgola, Louis I. Kahn, Venturi & Rauch, and others designed exceptional residences throughout Chestnut Hill. Residents also converted carriage houses, stables, pool pavilions, gate houses, and gardeners' cottages into single-family houses demonstrating their appreciation of the quality of what had been built. The adaptive reuse of Druim Moir and The Anglecot reveals their developers' recognition that Chestnut Hill's natural and architectural legacy is a key to its future.

Unlike such planned communities as Mariemont, Ohio, Tuxedo Park, New York, and Overbrook Farms, Wayne-St. Davids, and the Queen Lane-Midvale Avenue development in the Philadelphia area, Chestnut Hill did not arise from a master plan for a large parcel of land. Rather, many developers, good luck, and the advantage of what Edgar Allen Poe called the "remarkable loveliness" of the natural setting shaped the community. Chestnut Hill's first planners were the men who responded to the extension of the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad from Germantown in 1854. Samuel H. Austin, Charles Taylor, and others opened large tracts of land bordering the railroad for development, laid out streets that often followed the natural contours of the land, and hired prominent architects to design ample residences in the latest villa styles. These developers met more than the desires of affluent Philadelphians for stylish summer retreats, for they participated in the founding of churches and community organizations and provided utilities. In addition, they welcomed artisans, laborers, and servants into the community by opening a few areas for lower-cost dwellings.

The victory by the group of Philadelphians who in 1868 persuaded the Pennsylvania legislature to make the Wissahickon Valley a park had a significant impact on the way Chestnut Hill grew. The Fairmount Park Commission halted industry and building within the park and attempted to restore its serene natural beauty. This preservation of the Wissahickon Valley assured its influence on the community's future. Fortunately, the conservation of natural resources was a compelling concern of Henry Howard Houston and his heirs. They donated most of the Cresheim Valley to the park allowing this corridor of the Wissahickon Valley to flow into the community and be accessible to its residents. The natural landscape shaped the pattern of Chestnut Hill's streets, the density of its development, and even the way each house sits on its lot. Today the community's density patterns still reflect the natural landscape with the highest density on the plateau and the least densely used land nearest the Wissahickon Valley. The community and the park have become one.

Henry Howard Houston is the individual closest to being Chestnut Hill's master planner. His designs for the western reaches of the community encompassed a shrewdly conceived residential area within a fashionable social framework, always recognizing the magnetism of the Wissahickon Valley. As a member of the Pennsylvania Railroad's Board of Directors, he persuaded the railroad to open a line to Chestnut Hill through land that he had acquired. He constructed the Wissahickon Inn in 1883-1884 (National Register) on Willow Grove Avenue to entice Philadelphians and other prospective residents to experience picturesque Chestnut Hill and persuaded the Philadelphia Cricket Club, the oldest cricket club in America, to relocate in Chestnut Hill by donating land across Willow Grove Avenue from the inn and assisting the club in the erection of a clubhouse. He established the Philadelphia Horse Show next to the cricket club and constructed some 100 houses around the railroad, including his residence, Druim Moir (National Register), and houses for two of his children, Brinkwood (National Register) and Stonehurst (demolished). To complete the social setting he founded St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church. One architectural firm, G. W. and W. D. Hewitt, with two exceptions, became the exclusive designer of his venture. By renting rather than selling most of his holdings and upgrading and renovating older buildings such as Temperance Hall on Highland Avenue, Houston and then his heirs continually oversaw and refined his work.

The planning of Houston's son-in-law, Dr. George Woodward, by his experimental housing for middle and upper-income families, his appreciation of sensitively landscaped areas within his development, and his respect for structures surviving from the past enhanced the St. Martins area. His special contributions were the appealing landscaped courtyard configurations for architect-designed detached and semi-detached dwellings. Woodward's "Another Aspect of the Quadruple House" for The Architectural Record (July, 1913) describes a particular housing form he devised. Affording privacy by their designs and surrounding plantings, Woodward's attached housing developments gained favor across income and class lines in the community. With the architectural talents of H. Louis Duhring and later of John Lane Evans, Woodward saved and reused several aging dwellings, barns, icehouses, and other structures &mdash many of which appear in the Lincoln Drive &mdash Pastorius Park area. The Icehouse at 7900-7906 Lincoln Drive is the most prominent example of his adaptive reuse projects. Three early buildings along Germantown Avenue survive because of Woodward's acceptance of the tenets of adaptive reuse: the Melchior Newman House at 7921, the Abraham Rex store at 8031, and the Chestnut Hill Community Center at 8419.

Houston's and Woodward's descendants are present participants in Chestnut Hill's evolution through their land holdings and their public spiritedness. In the early 1950s, however, it was a newcomer, Lloyd P. Wells, who created for the community a detailed plan for the renewal of the shopping area which by this time displayed a 30 percent vacancy rate in its stores and omnipresent neon signs. Wells's accomplishments have become a model across the country for the regeneration of older Main Streets and commercial areas, predating the National Trust's Main Street program by thirty years. Even more essential to the community's vitality is the organizational structure as well as the weekly local newspaper Wells created to channel countless volunteers to protect Chestnut Hill's architectural legacy and to meet the needs of their neighbors.

Diverse social, ethnic, and economic groups comprise Chestnut Hill. In the years between 1850 and 1875 residents of the community, both the summer residents and laborers and artisans worked together to found four churches of various faiths, incorporate both the Congress Fire Company and the Chestnut Hill Waterworks, build Temperance Hall, Masonic Hall, and a new fire station, lobby for a larger public school building, and support the founding of a community library. Joseph Middleton can be singled out for his philanthropy. Deciding that a Catholic Church should exist for the Irish immigrants entering the community to work as house servants and gardeners, he designed and built for them Our Mother of Consolation Roman Catholic Church on Chestnut Hill Avenue in 1855, giving the properties to the Augustinian Order. Later he donated Monticello, his estate, to the Sisters of St. Joseph, who first established upon it St. Joseph's Academy and later Chestnut Hill College.

Dr. George Woodward and his wife, Gertrude, are noted for their charitable concerns within and outside Chestnut Hill, including working for the Octavia Hill Association, Philadelphia's version of Chicago's Hull House. Their actions touched the lives of affluent residents as well as those who provided the needed support services. Gertrude Woodward joined other area women to form the National League for Women's Service during World War I, a group that evolved into the present Chestnut Hill Community center. Gertrude Woodward purchased this group's building (8419 Germantown Avenue) as a "center of all those betterments of living and opportunities for interchange of service that Chestnut Hill stands for." Besides gifts of land to Fairmount Park and the creation of Pastorius Park, the Woodwards have contributed another landmark to Chestnut Hill, the Water Tower Recreation Center, built in 1919.

The community's humanitarian tradition lives today. The Chestnut Hill Community Association, the community center, and numerous other organizations support activities like the community orchestra, summer concerts in Pastorius Park, crime prevention, youth activities at the Water Tower Recreation Center, youth employment and services for senior citizens.

During the past ninety years, a distinct method of landscape design has developed in Chestnut Hill that is significant both as a feature that visually unifies the community and as a design form that is emulated nationwide. Referred to today as "The Wissahickon Style" paying homage to the valley land preserve that interweaves Chestnut Hill, giving context to virtually all of its gardens &mdash this genre of landscape architecture stresses less formalistic planning and the strong use of native plants and materials. Not attributable to one individual or school, the Wissahickon style developed as an amalgam of natural circumstance, the effect of various designers acting as custodians of the Wissahickon environment rather than contriving fashionably incompatible gardens and perhaps most importantly the thoughtful nurturing of the landscape by a community that's consciousness was raised in favor of horticulture.

Chestnut Hill's native forests and rural atmosphere, partially under Fairmount Park protection as early as 1868, was vitally important in luring summer and eventually suburban residents to the area. However, this natural landscape vocabulary was largely ignored on the immediate grounds of most stylish mid-to late-19th century Chestnut Hill residences in favor of formal garden arrangements often filled with specimen plantings imported from the Far East. By the turn of the century, however, the maturity of these gardens had softened their rigid formality just as a variation of the comparatively naturalistic English walking garden &mdash in combination with a growing appreciation of the native flora of the Wissahickon Valley &mdash became the vogue in Chestnut Hill. By 1910, with the John and Lydia Morris Estate (Compton National Register District) almost fully developed as an English walking garden, vogue was clearly becoming tradition and the Wissahickon Style became &mdash and has remained &mdash accepted landscape practice in Chestnut Hill. The result is neither a typical English garden &mdash which is more formal having greater emphasis upon exotic specimens &mdash nor is it a wilderness tangle with its sense of Darwinism allowing the proliferation of hearty yet often displeasing specimens. Instead, Chestnut Hill's gardens, parks, even its streets, median strips and traffic islands exhibit a unified sense of nature tamed that is definitely landscape by selection and careful design but not at the expense of the area's natural identity. This native context in Chestnut Hill's landscape is principally related to the establishment of the Wissahickon as a public land preserve. Rhododendrons, laurels and hemlock reach out of the Wissahickon, appearing as the border and foundation plantings of countless residences. Mature specimens &mdash such as Japanese Maples &mdash from the earlier exotic Victorian gardens often remain as accents or focal points among a profusion of native shrubs and wildflowers. Boundary lines between park and village are in a sense blurred and the Wissahickon seems to appear everywhere.

The unusual relationship between Chestnut Hill and the Wissahickon is echoed in much of the country house architecture constructed there during the Edwardian period through 1930. The boundaries between house and landscape become as blurred as that between park and town bonding topography, landscape and architecture in a manner unique in this country. This is best exemplified in the numerous Chestnut Hill residences designed by Robert Rodes McGoodwin and Mellor, Meigs and Howe. These firms developed a concept of "outdoor rooms" created from the wings of the houses, schist stone walls of varying heights, and barriers of native plants. Gardens are created for each room to flow into and in turn the gardens are brought into the houses allowing the final vital link between the resident, landscape, park, and village. This unity is underlined because so often in Chestnut Hill &mdash particularly in the eastern sector of the community (Winston Road and Benezet Street) &mdash these garden spaces are shared events: the wall of one house partially defines a courtyard on a neighbors property and a single belvedere can be seen from several gardens. The result is a happy marriage of architecture and the park-inspired landscape with each enhancing the other.

The reason for the duration and acceptance of the Wissahickon Style beyond Chestnut Hill is generally attributable to the nurturing of the community's landscape by numerous residents unusually sensitive toward horticulture and the Wissahickon environment. The founding of the Garden Club of Philadelphia &mdash the oldest organization of its type in the nation &mdash at 142 Bethlehem Pike, Chestnut Hill in 1903 and the subsequent founding there of the Garden Club of America in 1913 exemplifies this heightened awareness. Founders Mrs. J. Willis Martin, Mrs. Stuart Patterson, Miss Ernestine Goodman and Mrs. Arthur Meigs (wife of the noted architect) spread throughout the eastern seaboard in meetings, pamphlets and books the elements of what has come to be known as the Wissahickon Style. One element of the style became a stated objective of the club: ". to aid in the preservation of native plants . " Thus, the preservation of localized flora and ecologies was begun in Chestnut Hill nearly sixty years before the environmental movement became a national cause.

No American communities to which the Wissahickon Style has been exported are as exquisitely executed or maintained with such consistent integrity with respect to original design and horticultural quality as is Chestnut Hill. Similarly, in no other American community is a marriage between architecture, landscape and a natural land preserve quite as elegantly consummated or so carefully repeated in subsequent development. Noted preservationist, Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr., in a 1975 report to the Chestnut Hill Historical Society points to Chestnut Hill's unique quality and historical importance as a repository of some of America's finest landscape designs:

". without question Chestnut Hill remains one of the most beautiful residential areas in the United States. When one considers some of its counterparts, one realizes how precious it is. And it is important to save not only the buildings but the landscaping. Rarely does one see such a fine collection of great trees and shrubs. Any preservation effort should be for its total landscape . (as) Chestnut Hill is an endangered species. "

As it has evolved, Chestnut Hill has maintained a distinct identity beginning with its formation from two of the four land divisions of Germantown Township &mdash Sommerhausen and Crefeld. Today its definition arises from many sources not the least of which is the perception by its residents of sharing an uncommon environment that has been over the years nurtured rather than exploited. Its special character emerges from its enduring village atmosphere found in its colonial structures, the small scale of its buildings, the extraordinary longevity of its center of commerce along Germantown Avenue, the generations of the same families residing in Chestnut Hill, and neighbors meeting neighbors' needs through thriving community organizations. Its definition rests in its legacy of uncommonly fine architect-designed buildings extending throughout the community. In general the manmade contributions have harmonized with what Edgar Allen Poe saw as the "remarkable loveliness" of its site, the Wissahickon Valley. The rock outcroppings above the Wissahickon Creek have their counterparts in the omnipresent Chestnut Hill stone of the buildings and their gateposts, walkways, and garden walls. The varied plants and the forest in the valley have their echoes in the street trees and lush landscaped lots. Little blight occurs in Chestnut Hill because planners, builders, and architects have designed well, and, in turn, the community's residents have respected and attended to their heritage. Chestnut Hill is rare in this country as an old neighborhood experiencing constant evolution and continued vigor, arising from the singular beauty of its site, its significant architecture, the tradition of imaginative, sensitive community planning, and neighbors' concerns for each other and for their environment --both natural and manmade.

Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Biographical Dictionary of Philadelphia Architecture, 1700-19301 New York: G.K. Hall (scheduled for publication 1984).

Baist, George William, Baist's Property Atlas of the City and County of Philadelphia, Penna. Philadelphia: G.W. Baist. 1895.

Battles, Marjorie Gibbon and Dickzey, Catherine Colt, Fifty Blooming Years, The Garden Club of America. 1963.

Boyd's Philadelphia Blue Book Elite Directory. Philadelphia: C.E. Hove, various years.

Bromley, George Washington, and Bromley, Walter Scott, Atlas of the City of Philadelphia. 22nd Ward. Philadelphia: G.W. Bromley & Company. 1899.

________, Atlas of the City of Philadelphia. 22nd Ward. Philadelphia: G.W. Bromley & Company. 1911.

________, Atlas of the City of Philadelphia. 22nd Ward. Philadelphia: G.W. Bromley & Company. 1923, Corrected to December 1, 1928 by Frank H.M. Klinge.

________, Atlas of the City of Philadelphia. Volume 7. Twenty-Second Ward. Philadelphia: G.W. Bromley & Company. 1889.

Centennial History of St. Paul's Church, 1856-1956. Philadelphia: St. Paul's Church. 1956.

Chestnut Hill Historical Society files.

Chestnut Hill local. 1958-1984

de la Cruz, Pacita T., "Adaptive Reuse: An Early Twentieth Century Approach Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, by Dr. George Woodward, Developer, and Herman Louis Duhring, Jr., architect." Masters Thesis, University of Pennsylvania. May, 1984

Detwiler, Willard S. Jr., Inc., Chestnut Hill, An Architectural History. Philadelphia: Willard S. Detwiler, Jr., Inc. 1969.

Eberlein, Harold D., "An Anglo-American Country House by a Philadelphia Architect: A Recent House by Edmund B. Gilchrist." The Architectural Record, October, 1913.

________, "The Cotswold Influence in America." Country Life in America. Vol. 53, 1921.

________, "Mermaid Lane Cottage.'' The Architectural Record XXX: 382-386.

________, "Pastorious Park and Its Residential Development." The Architectural Record. January, 1916.

Ellet, Charles, Jr., "A Map of the County of Philadelphia." Philadelphia: Charles Ellet, Jr. 1843.

Evangelical Lutheran Christ Church of Chestnut Hill. One Hundredth Anniversary 1860-1960. Philadelphia: 1960.

Evangelical Lutheran Christ Church of Chestnut Hill. Records.

Franklin Survey Company, Atlas of Twenty-Second Ward, Philadelphia, Penna. Volume 11. Philadelphia: Franklin Survey Company. 1955.

Garden Club of Philadelphia, 1904-1964 1964-1979. Philadelphia, 1979.

Germantown Independent. 1882-1887.

Group for Environmental Education, Inc., Philadelphia Architecture: A Guide to the City. Cambridge: MIT Press. 1984.

Hexamer, Ernest, & Son, Insurance Maps of the City of Philadelphia. Volume XXX. Philadelphia: E. Hexamer & Son. 1896, Corrected to 1919, 1922 & 1925.

Hopkins, Griffith Morgan, Atlas of the City of Philadelphia. 22nd Ward. Properties Near Philadelphia, Germantown and Chestnut Hill Railroad. Philadelphia: G.M. Hopkins. 1885.

________, City Atlas of Philadelphia by Wards, Complete in 7 Volumes. Volume 1 Comprising the 22nd Ward. Philadelphia: G.W. Hopkins. 1876.

Hotchkin, Samuel F., Ancient and Modern Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. Philadelphia: P.W. Ziegler. 1889.

Houston, Henry Howard, papers (on file at University Archives, University of Pennsylvania).

Hunsicker, Robert Melville, The Chestnut Hill Baptist Church: Glimpses of Sixty-three Years. Philadelphia: 1898.

Lake, D.J., and Beers, Silas N., "Map of the Vicinity of Philadelphia." Philadelphia: J.E. Gillette & Company. 1861 (With Philadelphia County insets).

Lippincott, Horace Mather, A History of the Philadelphia Cricket Club 1854 to 1954. Philadelphia: 1954.

________, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia with Some Account of Springfield Whitemarsh and Cheltenham Townships in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Jenkintown: Old York Road Publishing Co. 1948.

McElroy, A., McElroy's Philadelphia Directory for 1855. Philadelphia: Edward C. & John Biddle. 18th edition. 1855.

MacFarlane, John H., History of Early Chestnut Hill. Philadelphia History. Volume III. Philadelphia: City History Society of Philadelphia. 1927.

McInerney, Rita, The Parish of Our Mother of Consolation, 1855-1955. Philadelphia: 1955.

MacLeod, Cynthia Ann, "Arts and Crafts Architecture in Suburban Philadelphia Sponsored by Dr. George Woodward." Master's Thesis, University of Virginia. May, 1979.

Moak, Helen R., "The First Seventy-Five Years: A Parish History." Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Parish News. Special Issue, 2 February, 1965.

Moak, Helen R., and Moak, Jefferson M., "O.M.C.'s History Intertwined with Hill's." Chestnut Hill Local. 4 December 1980.

Moak, Jefferson J., Atlases of Pennsylvania. A Preliminary Checklist of County, City and Subject Atlases of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: 1976.

________, "Chestnut Hill's Architectural Heritage: The Benezet Street Development." Chestnut Hill Historical Society Newsletter. Spring/Summer 1982.

________, "Chestnut Hill's Architectural Heritage: James C. Sidney, Architect." Chestnut Hill Historical Society Newsletter. Spring/Summer 1983.

Nolan, Thomas, "Recent Suburban Architecture in Philadelphia and Vicinity." The Architectural Record. March, 1906.

________, "The Suburban Dwelling and Country Villa." The Architectural Record, XXIX: 236-264, 1911.

One Hundredth Anniversary, Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 1852-1952. Philadelphia: 1952.

121st Anniversary, Chestnut Hill Methodist Church, 1845-1966. Philadelphia: 1966.

Philadelphia. Department of Licenses & Inspections. Construction Unit. Building Permit Records 1889-1984.

Philadelphia. Department of Records. Archives. Deed and Photograph Collections.

Philadelphia. Department of Records. Deed Registry Unit. Deeds.

Philadelphia Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide. 1886-1906.

Price, C. Matlack, "Architecture and the Housing Problem." The Architectural Record. July 1913.

"A Practical Housing Development -Evolution of the Quadruple House Idea." The Architectural Record. July 1913.

Roach, Hannah Benner, "The Back Park of Germantown." The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine. XXII.

Sanborn Map Company, Insurance Maps of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Including Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy. Volume 21. New York: Sanborn Map Company. 1925, Corrected to 1939, 1947, 1950 and 1984.

Sidney, James Charles, "Map of the Township of Germantown With the Names of the Property Holders." Philadelphia: Robert Pearsall Smith. ca.1848.

Sloan, Samuel, Sloan's Victorian Buildings: Illustrations and Floor Plans for 56 Residences and other Structures. Philadelphia: Dover Publications, Inc. 1980.

Smedley, Samuel Lightfoot, Smedley's Atlas of the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: J.L. Smith. 1906.

Social Register, Philadelphia. New York: Social Register Association. Various years.

Stern, Robert A.M., George Howe, Toward A Modern American Architecture. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. 1975.

Tatum, George B., Penn's Great Town. 250 Years of Philadelphia Architecture Illustrated in Prints and Drawings. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1961.

Teitelman, Edward, and Longstreth, Richard W., Architecture in Philadelphia: A Guide. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 1974 (Revised edition, 1981).

Tinkcom, Harry M., Tinkcom, Margaret, and Simon, Grant Miles, Historic Germantown. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society. 1955.

Webster, Richard J., Philadelphia Preserved. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 1976 (Revised & enlarged 1981)

Woodward, George, "Another Aspect of the Quadruple House." The Architectural Record. July 1913.

________, Memoirs of a Mediocre Man. Philadelphia: Harris & Partridge

________, The Pennsylvania Legislator. Philadelphia: Harris & Partridge.

Woodward, George, Inc. Office files.

The Yearbook of the Annual Architectural Exhibition of the Philadelphia T-Square Club and the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Philadelphia: Annual issues 1894-1931.

Things You Never Knew About Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia

Since our Chestnut Hill Food Tours opened in 2015, we’ve been showing off not only the best foods in Philadelphia’s garden district, but also the stunning architecture and surprising history of the area. Now in our 3rd year of Chestnut Hill Food Tours, we’ve had time to not only perfect our one-of-a-kind food tastings, but to truly become experts in Chestnut Hill, PA’s vast history. Read on to learn fascinating facts you never knew about Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia.

The American Revolutionary War was fought in Chestnut Hill. On December 5th, just after 3AM, soldiers fighting in the Battle of White Marsh arrived in Chestnut Hill. The location of Chestnut Hill was an important aspect of the battle, as it’s ridge concealed the British army’s movements.

Henry Houston’s Will is Famous. Many know about Henry Houston’s great impact on the development of Chestnut Hill, but fewer know the tale of his will. Although the famous businessman passed in 1895, his will was contested until 1964. Why was his will contested for nearly 70 years after his death? It’s a complicated answer, but essentially deals with the interpretation of future interests created in favor of Houston’s grandchildren. The case went all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and had such complexity that the case is often taught in law school in property and probate law courses. By the time his property was divided, it was valued to the tune of $145 million dollars.

Pastorius Park was named after Francis Daniel Pastorius. A leader of early German immigrants to the area and the agent to the first German investors in the neighborhood, he became close with William Penn during the purchase of Cresheim and Sommerhausen, the original names for what is now Chestnut Hill. Today, the serene green space is host to many community events, including the popular Pastorius Park Summer Concerts.

Chestnut Hill was the site of iron mining. J.C. Sidney’s 1848 map of the area indicates iron ore, (the rock from which iron is extracted), was located in the present-day Morris Arboretum site, and it’s said that iron for the famous ironworks of New Orleans was mined in Chestnut Hill.

Chestnut Hill was a booming mill town. While many think of Manayunk when it comes to historic mills, Chestnut Hill has quite a history itself. Paper Mill Lane refers to the mill that was in operation as early as 1710 and was the second paper mill in America. The first paper mill in America was formed in 1690 along the Wissahickon Creek, by Wilhelm Rittenhouse of the prominent Philadelphia family. (Fun Fact: a section of Germantown was once called Rittenhousetown, and still hosts visitors to its 7 remaining 18th-century buildings.)

Chestnut Hill Academy was the site of The Wissahickon Inn. This was a summer resort built by Henry Houston, one of the many structures and homes that Houston built throughout Chestnut Hill. Houston also funded the construction of the McCallum Street Bridge over Cresheim Creek in 1890, and then gifted the bridge to the city.

Water Tower Recreation Center has a historic past. It was the site of the old engine house and boiler house that comprised the original Chestnut Hill Water Company, built in 1859. During the Civil War, Mower Military Hospital was constructed in Chestnut Hill near the waterworks, relying heavily on its water supply, and designed in part by John McArthur, Jr. who would later design Philadelphia’s City Hall. The hospital opened on January 3, 1863 at the height of the Civil War, and during that year alone served 6,034 patients, treating a whopping 20,000 throughout its operation.

Temple University almost had a home in Chestnut Hill, PA. In the 1950s, the Temple University administration was frustrated with the lack of parking and space for new buildings, and felt that the space in Chestnut Hill would allow more growth. Philadelphia Mayor Joe Clark was concerned for the future of North Philadelphia if Temple were to relocate, and assured Temple President Robert Johnson that he would secure the University with the federal funding necessary to stay in their original location, where they remain today.

The Woodward Family still owns land in Chestnut Hill, PA. Many know that while Henry Houston was the first major developer in Chestnut Hill, his daughter Gertrude and her husband George Woodward were instrumental in fulfilling his vision after his death, adding 180 new homes to the Chestnut Hill neighborhood. But many don’t realize that even today, the Woodwards own 100+ homes in Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy, and are remain a vital thread in the neighborhood’s identity.

Want to immerse further into Chestnut Hill, PA’s culture? Visit our Chestnut Hill Culinary Experience page, or check our our blog on some of the best bakeries and sweet shops in the garden district.

SCH teacher's compelling Wissahickon Inn history

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy recently published a 120-page history of the school&rsquos iconic building, the Wissahickon Inn. &ldquoThe Lure of the Wissahickon Inn&rdquo details the inn&rsquos transformation from a popular 19th century summer resort for urban-weary Philadelphians to its current role as the home of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy&rsquos (SCH) Upper School.

The book&rsquos author, Paul Hines, explained in a recent interview what was involved in assembling and writing his history, which is an entertaining mix of historical fact and personal stories culled from generations of students, alumni, faculty and administrators who have called the inn home.

Hines, a former Middle School history teacher at SCH, and before that CHA, has long been a fan of local history. When he came to teach at CHA in the 1980s, he started studying about this area, even taking a course on Chestnut Hill history from Chestnut Hill College professor David Contosta. For many years, as part of Hines&rsquo 5 t th grade American History course, he would take his students on excursions around Chestnut Hill and through the Wissahickon to teach them about the area.

He also gave them behind-the-scenes tours of the inn, with stops at the site of the inn&rsquos old swimming pool, still hidden beneath the floorboards of the school cafeteria, and the beautiful Epiphany Chapel, today a school assembly space, but at other times the inn&rsquos ballroom, a school gym and a parking garage for the headmaster&rsquos Oldsmobile in the late 1800s.

Over the years, Hines has expanded his knowledge of the inn with facts pulled from school yearbooks, newsletters and other publications. In the 1980s, he undertook an extensive oral interview with CHA alumnus Charles Landreth, Class of 1929. This interview yielded a rich trove of stories as well as the suggestion that Hines reach out to any still-living alumni who were once boarders at the school. From this outreach, Hines collected some of the book&rsquos more interesting and amusing anecdotes that provide a wonderful glimpse into teen hijinks of the period.

For example, boarders shared their stories about stashing forbidden radios under the floorboards, finding a sleeping raccoon in their bed, sneaking off to dances and parties and even hanging a roasted chicken outside the window to keep it cool for a late-night snack. The most ambitious boarder tale involved two enterprising students who took a train to New York City, where they spent the evening on Broadway and returned the next morning in time to eat breakfast and take exams.

Some stories came easy, others not. Like most historians, Hines ran into conflicting facts and missing information. One concerned the size of Henry Houston&rsquos original land purchase for his Chestnut Hill development another concerned the fate of the Philadelphia Horse Show that was hosted on the inn&rsquos grounds for many years. Some histories put the amount of land purchased by Houston at 5,000 acres others at 2,000 or 3,000. The original holding extended from West Allens Lane in Mt. Airy to Ridge Pike and Butler Avenue. Hines mentioned that at one time the Andorra section was identified as a possible location for United Nations housing when that organization was considering the Belmont Plateau for its official site.

The Philadelphia Horse Show, which drew up to 10,000 visitors a year to the inn&rsquos grounds, presented another factual challenge. The apocryphal story that has long been handed down at school is that the Philadelphia Horse Show moved to the Main Line and became the Devon Horse Show. However, further digging by Hines revealed that the two events existed simultaneously and operated separately. He has found no record that indicates they ever merged. He now believes the horse show in Chestnut Hill may simply have closed down in 1908, leaving the field open for Devon to prosper and grow into what it is today.

Hines encountered some surprises when completing his research. For example, he learned that the inn once had a blacksmith shop to service the many equine, vehicle and other hardware needs of the inn and its guests. He also learned that the inn had a bridal suite on the southeast corner of the second floor, which included two bedrooms, a sitting room and a bathroom.

The Wissahickon Inn has played an important role in the history of Chestnut Hill, and Hines' book makes a significant contribution to our appreciation of this local architectural gem. The inn was the first building Henry Houston built and was the centerpiece of his vision for his planned community. And since 1898, it has served as the heart of the area&rsquos second largest educational institution after Chestnut Hill College.

Chestnut Hill AO - History

[1] Fairfax Harrison, &ldquo Landmarks of Old Prince William Volumes I and II,&rdquo Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore , MD , 1987, pp. 97-100.

[2] Northern Neck Grant (NN) B, p. 166, Awbrey, Francis grant of 745 acres, 18 December 1728, Land Office Patents & Grants/Northern Neck Grants & Surveys, Library of Virginia.

[3] NN D:50, Cocke, Catesby grant of 597 acres, 8 September 1731.

[4] NN A:119, Albin, Thacker, and King grant of 460 acres, 20 January 1724.

[5] NN F:82, Sinclair, Amos grant of 586 acres, undated and unsigned in 1742.

[6] NN A:118, Hawlin, William grant of 535 acres, 20 January 1724.

[7] NN B:215, Hallin, Margaret grant of 416 acres, 12 March 1728/1729.

[8] Peter Jefferson and Robert Brooks,&rdquo1737 Map of the Northern Neck in Virginia in 4 parts and the 1747 Map of the Northern Neck in Virginia in 6 parts&rdquo, Relic Room, Prince William County Public Library.

[9] NN I:277, Sinclair, John grant of 346 acres, 1 March 1776.

[10] NN F:45, Richardson , David grant of 425 acres, 8 December 1742.

[11] Robert Baylor Semple, &ldquo History of the Baptists in Virginia,&rdquo, Revised and Extended by G.W. Beale, Church History Research and Archives, Lafayette, TN, 1976, p.396.

[12] Loudoun County Will Book (LN WB) C:206, 8 May 1786.

[13] Loudoun Cemetery Database, Thomas Balch Library web site,

[15] Loudoun County Deed Book (LN DB) G:250, deed from &ldquo William Jones and Mary his wife&rdquo to Thomas George, 6 April 1770.

[16] LN WB A:310, will of William Jones, 13 May 1771.

[18] LN DB F:11, deed conveying 55 acres from James Steere, cooper, and Abigail, his wife to William Jones, 17 March 1767.

[19] Margaret Lail Hopkins, &ldquo Index to The Tithables of Loudoun County, Virginia and to Slaveholders and Slaves, 1758-1786,&rdquo Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore , MD , 1991, p.42.

[20] LN DB I:102, deed from Joshua Jones, tanner to David Beaty and John Elliott, farmers, 22 November 1772.

[21] LN DB A:212, 11 September 1758.

[22] LN DB B:206, 10 August 1761, C:132 20 January 1762, F:11 17 March 1767, G:246 9 April 1770.

[23] LN WB A:310, will of William Jones, 13 May 1771.

[25] LN DB M:36, deed from William Jones to Leonard Ansell.

[26] Loudoun Cemetery Database, Thomas Balch Library web site,, Margaret Fry died 10/12/1851 also posting by Harold F. Hahn whose gggggrandmother is Margaret Fry transcribed gravestone &ldquo SACRED To the memory of Margaret Fry, wife of John N. Fry, Daughter of Leonard Ansil.&rdquo

[27] LN DB G:250, Deed conveying 519 acres from William Jones to Thomas George, 6 April 1770.

[28] Ibid., Deed states &ldquo whereupon Thomas George now lives.&rdquo evidencing that George may have built the house prior to purchasing the property. ALSO Loudoun County , Virginia Tithables , 1758-1786, Volume I, p. 170. Note: Phil Noland&rsquos list of tithables for 1766 includes Thomas George in possession of 500 acres. His grown son, William, is listed as living with his father. They are listed amongst known neighbors in the Chestnut Hill vicinity.

[29] Personal Interview with Don Swofford, Historical Architect, DASA Architects, Charlottesville , VA , 9 October 2003, post site visit.

[30] LN WB F:198, probate inventory of Thomas George, 5 November 1798.

[31] LN WB F:52, will of Thomas George, 8 October 1798.

[32] LN Chancery case M1567, Chatham Fire Insurance Co. v. Samuel Clapham, survey in oversize file, Loudoun County Court Archives, 14 April 1836.

[33] LN DB N:13, deed conveying 200 acres from Thomas George to Josias Clapham, 10 October 1779.

[34] NN E:142, Clapham, Josias grant of 522 acres, 18 March 1739.

[35] LN DB M:129, lease and release deeds conveying 150 acres from Anthony Haynes and Susannah, his wife to Josias Clapham, 12 May 1772.

[36] LN DB T:257, deed conveyed furnace mountain tract from Henry Lee to Josias Clapham,, 14 January 1792.

[37] See Building Evolution section of this report for more detailed information.

[38] LN Chancery case M1567, Chatham Fire Insurance Co. v. Samuel Clapham, Survey of Samuel Clapham&rsquos Land filed with & handed in with Com&rsquos of Sale Report, 7 September 1834.

[39] LN WB G:92, will of Josias Clapham, 12 September 1803.

[40] LN Chancery case M1567, Chatham Fire Insurance Co. v. Samuel Clapham, deposition of George Chichester, 9 March 1833.

[41] LN Chancery case M1567, Chatham Fire Insurance Co. v. Samuel Clapham, deposition of Joseph C. Hart, 22 April 1833.

[42] LN Chancery case M1567, Chatham Fire Insurance Co. v. Samuel Clapham, deposition of George Chichester, 9 March 1833.

[43] LN Chancery case M205, John Barrett v. Samuel Clapham, answer of Samuel Clapham, 4 April 1825.

[44] LN Chancery case M1567, Chatham Fire Insurance Co. v. Samuel Clapham&rsquos administrators, deposition of George Chichester, 9 March 1833.

[45] LN DB 3M:1, Samuel Clapham and Elizabeth, his wife placed &ldquo The Mansion House and farm on that the said Samuel Now resides called Chestnut Hill containing Eight hundred Acres more of less&rdquo as loan collateral with Thomson F. Mason and Richard Henderson, 28 March 1826.

[46] LN DB 3M:1, Samuel and Elizabeth Clapham convey trust to Richard C. Henderson and Thomson F. Mason, 28 March 1826.

[47] CD510 Colonial Virginia Source Records, 1600s-1700s, Index to Richmond Enquirer & Whig Obituaries, Surnames C-D,

[48] Eugene M. Scheel, &ldquo Loudoun Discovered Communities, Corners & Crossroads Volume Two, Leesburg and the Old Carolina Road,&rdquo originally published in The Loudoun Times-Mirror, Leesburg, Virginia, Updated and Expanded with Maps & Photographs by The Friends of the Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, Virginia, 2002, p. 41.

[49] LN Chancery case M1567, Chatham Fire Insurance Co. v. Samuel Clapham&rsquos administrators, 1833.

[50] John Vogt and T. William Kethley, Jr, &ldquo Loudoun County Marriages 1760-1850,&rdquo Iberian Publishing Company, Athens, GA.

[51] LN DB 4O:71, referenced deed from George Price to Richard H. Henderson, unrecorded, 23 November 1833

[52] LN DB 4O:71, deed from George Price to Betsey Clapham Price Mason, 16 October 1839.

[53] Alexandria WB T1:1, will of Thomson F. Mason, proved 4 February 1839.

[54] See Oral History Interview with Alton Echols in full report, a copy of which is at the Thomas Balch Library.

[55] Alexandria WB 1:74, will of Elizabeth Clapham Price Mason, 9 June 1873.

[56] FX WB 3N:355, will of J. Francis Mason, 13 September 1897.

[57] LN DB 7W:108, 6 October 1902 LN DB 8A:22, 6 February 1905 LN DB 8B:274, 16 December 1905 among others.

[58] LN DB 10G:413, deed conveying Chestnut Hill by Wilber C. Hall, special commissioner to Lucy J. Gore due to Hall vs. T. F. Mason suit and subsequent foreclosure, 5 November 1930. See also Oral History Interview with Alton Echols in full report, a copy of which is at the Thomas Balch Library.

[59] John G. Lewis, &ldquo Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Survey Form Chestnut Hill,&rdquo file number 53-69, Hamilton , Virginia , 2 August 1973, copy from Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Richmond , Virginia .

[60] Linda DeButts, Loudoun Times-Mirror, article on auction of Chestnut Hill, June 25, 1987, p. 4.

[61] LN DB 570:535, deed conveyed from executor of Lucy J. Gore to Alton C. Echols, 28 March 1973.

[63] Personal Interview with Don Swofford, Historical Architect, DASA Architects, Charlottesville , VA , 9 October 2003, during site visit.

[65] Personal Interview with Michael Rierson , Fairfax County Park Authority, Resource Stewardship Manager, 9 October 2003, during site visit.

Watch the video: 8909 Crefeld St, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA 19118