April Newsletter

Adaptive Reuse of Historic Properties 

In the dynamic landscape of urban development, adaptive reuse emerges as a pragmatic approach to preserving historic buildings while meeting the evolving needs of communities. Sensitively adapting historic buildings for new uses is one of the most successful approaches to urban growth, but it requires a delicate balance between historic preservation and modernization.

The preservation and potential adaptive reuse of two significant historic properties, nominated by the Chestnut Hill Conservancy for listing on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, will be decided by the Philadelphia Historical Commission at its public meeting on Friday, May 10.

Women’s Center – 8835 Germantown Avenue

The Chestnut Hill Hospital Women’s Center at 8835 Germantown Avenue was originally known as the Julia Hebard Marsden House. Following the discovery of plans to replace the building in 2021, the Conservancy nominated the property to encourage its reuse and sensitive expansion.

Since then, representatives from the hospital and the Conservancy have worked to secure a compromise that protects the most publicly visible parts of the building while allowing flexibility for future growth when the hospital determines its plans. A compromise solution recommended by the Hospital’s attorneys would protect the property but omit the rear el and carriage house from the designation. This means those elements could be removed to allow for expansion at the back of the building and the property.

The Conservancy believes this compromise strikes a balance between preservation goals and the Hospital’s operational needs, ensuring flexibility while preserving the property’s historic integrity. Read more about the history and significance of 8835 Germantown Avenue HERE and the public comments submitted to the Historical Commission about the designation HERE.

Germantown Trust Company – 8527 Germantown Avenue

Germantown Trust Company’s Chestnut Hill Branch relocated in 1928 to its newly constructed building at 8527 Germantown Ave. Designed by noted architect Arthur Brockie, this Colonial Revival-style building retains a remarkable number of well-maintained historic architectural features.

The bank was most recently used as the Chestnut Hill Branch for Wells Fargo Bank, and before that, it held the First Pennsylvania Banking and Trust Company. This building underwent alterations in 1959, 1972, and more recently when Wells Fargo installed a concrete entrance ramp one October evening in 2017. Approaching its 100th anniversary, the building was vacated in 2023 and sold last year. With its prominent presence at the corner of Evergreen and Germantown Avenues, this building is poised to be reimagined and adapted for another use.  Whether used for a bank, a restaurant, or something else, this historic building will likely remain a favorite treasure in our built environment.

Read more about the history and significance of 8527 Germantown Avenue HERE.

Hiram Lodge – 8425 Germantown Avenue

The Knights of Pythias fraternal order built its Perseverance Lodge at 8425 Germantown Avenue in 1889 as a Romanesque Revival building with a hipped roof, two front cross-gables, an arched entrance, and two storefronts.

In 1912, Hiram Lodge moves into the 23-year old 8425 Germantown Avenue, having traded buildings with the Knights of Pythias.

On August 15, 2022, the Lodge was severely damaged by fire, water, and smoke, devastating the roof and third floor, as well as much of the Lodge’s archives. Further damage was done following this fire with the removal on February 7, 2023 of the historic decorative roof trusses.

In mid-April 2024, it was listed for sale at $1.4 million, as a prime development opportunity. The Chestnut Hill Conservancy celebrates that the listing for this historic property wisely emphasizes the 9,310 SF building as a testament to enduring quality and timeless appeal, with expansive potential for mixed-use development. We hope the new owner finds inspiration in the original name given to the building when it was built in 1889 – Perseverance Lodge. The Conservancy is glad to offer what help we may to the new owners with the preservation and history of the building.

30 years of preserving Chestnut Hill’s archival history – Celebrating Liz Jarvis

Liz Jarvis, Curator/Archivist of the Chestnut Hill Conservancy, is preparing to retire on Friday, May 3 after 30 years of caring for and growing the Conservancy’s collection. The collection will continue to serve as a legacy and resource for our community for generations to come.

Liz’s lifelong interest in history, art, architecture, and nature has driven her to explore the evolution of Chestnut Hill and its neighboring communities. Perhaps her most visible accomplishments are her three photographic history books: Chestnut Hill (with co-author Thomas Keels), Chestnut Hill Revisited, and Mount Airy.

Liz and intern Nicole Hudson from Jefferson University looking at a series of deeds, indentures, plans, etc., the Conservancy received from Joe Van Sciver in 2017. Chestnut Hill Conservancy Archives. 

To gather material for these books, Liz not only visited repositories all over Philadelphia but also placed newspaper ads soliciting photographs and stories from area residents. This brought to light a trove of previously undocumented information that broadened our understanding of our community’s social history and extended the Conservancy’s reach to a new group of people.

Liz has instilled at the Conservancy a deep sense of responsibility to the many people who have entrusted their precious family and organizational records to its Archives. With her education in art history and museum studies and prior professional museum experience, Liz implemented the digitization of the collection early in her tenure, transforming it into a valuable and easily accessible resource for in-person and online research. Over eighty volunteers and student interns have worked under Liz over the years to process our ever-expanding collection of photographs, maps, drawings, letters, records, and other documents that tell the story of our community.

Liz and her husband Andrew restored the 1854 Italianate house they bought in 1993 and placed a façade easement and open space easement on the property in 2000 to protect this Chestnut Hill landmark for the future.

Throughout her career at the Conservancy (formally known as the Chestnut Hill Historical Society), Liz is known for her honesty, openness, and genuine care for others. Her sense of humor and down-to-earth nature have endeared her to many, making her a respected leader and a trusted friend.

In retirement, Liz looks forward to staying connected to the Conservancy through volunteering and continuing to work on preservation projects for other organizations. Her devotion to making art, particularly painting and ceramics, will remain a central focus.

Liz is grateful for the support and thanks she has received over the years from so many people who share her appreciation for what makes Chestnut Hill a special place.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth article that we’ll be publishing shortly. In it, we’ll share more information about the future of the archives that Liz’s professionalism and dedication helped make possible.

Spring Gala – Honoring Charlie Dilks

Join us at our Spring Gala on Saturday, June 8, as we celebrate and honor Charlie Dilks for his exceptional dedication to conservation and preservation. With decades of active involvement in various environmental organizations, including Natural Lands, Friends of the Wissahickon, Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, and the PA Environmental Council, Charlie has demonstrated exemplary leadership in promoting the protection of our natural resources.

Throughout his tenure in leadership positions, Charlie has championed these organizations through periods of transition, fostering growth and financial stability. His commitment to preserving open space, evident in the conservation easements secured for his family home in Mt. Airy and their farm in Maryland, reflects his deep-rooted passion for sustaining our shared environment.

Charlie’s impact extends to the Chestnut Hill Conservancy, where his visionary contributions have advanced our conservation efforts.

We invite you to join us for an unforgettable evening amidst the breathtaking woodlands and landscape surrounding the historic Norman-style home designed by architect Robert Rodes McGoodwin.

Tickets for this extraordinary event are available now but will sell out quickly.

Spring Gala – June 8

If you’d like to contribute to a Tribute Ad in honor of Charlie, please reach out to Ashley at Ashley@CHConservancy.Org for more information. The deadline is Wednesday, May 1.

Honoring Charlie Dilks Tribute Ad

Our work to advance conservation and preservation

Conservation and preservation easements are powerful legal tools used to protect valuable natural resources and historic properties and enable private landowners to make lasting contributions to environmental stewardship and historic preservation.

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits certain uses of the land to protect its conservation values. The landowner retains ownership of the property but agrees to abide by the terms of the easement, which typically restricts development, logging, mining, and other activities that could harm the land’s conservation values.

Enforcing as written the conservation and preservation easements the Conservancy hold is always our first goal and priority. Amendments to easements are rare but as described by Pennsylvania’s statewide land trust organization, “the world changes and so do understandings of how best to meet conservation objectives.”

Land trusts recognize that it may be necessary or desirable on rare occasions to modify the terms of its easements, but the Conservancy will do so only in accordance with applicable laws and only for uses that have a beneficial effect on the conservation and preservation values they protect.

Are you interested in learning more conservation or preservation easements? Click HERE to read an overview of Conservation and Preservation Easements. If you still have questions contact us today to speak with a member of our knowledgeable staff.

Gardening with nature

By Rob Fleming

As we take time to recognize National Gardening Month, it’s worth noting a recent shift beyond (but not away from) gardening’s traditional alliance with ornamental horticulture towards a new paradigm of gardening with nature. Examples can be found in the works of authors like Doug Tallamy and Rick Darke (‘The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden), Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury (‘Planting: A New Perspective), and Thomas Rainer and Claudia West (Planting in a Post-Wild World). These books and the practical suggestions within are the revival of a naturalistic point-of-view that the Irish gardener and journalist William Robinson (The Wild Garden) first asserted in the 1870s.

Gardening with nature is profoundly local and takes as its palette the riches of native plant species, especially those matched to companion birds, mammals, insects, invertebrates, and microscopic denizens of the soil. In this way, the gardener expands his passion to include and nurture all of the living residents of the ecosystem in which he or she lives. Here, the toil and joy of gardening are as always, but with the added satisfaction of having rescued a patch of the endangered Earth. Those who garden with nature know that, in truth, all nature is a garden.

Erdenheim Farm: A Legacy of Preservation

Image of Sheep Barn, Country Life Magazine Volume 44, 1923.

“Erdenheim Farm: A Legacy of Preservation From 1862 to the Present Day” lecture with Dr. Kathleen Abplanalp
Date: Tuesday, May 7, from 7:00 to 8:30 PM
Location: Virtual, via Zoom
Registration: Click HERE
Admission: Conservancy Member Admission is $15.00, and NonMember Admission is $25.00.

Join the Chestnut Hill Conservancy for a virtual Discovering Chestnut Hill lecture where Dr. Kathleen Abplanalp, a seasoned historian responsible for the National Register nomination, will guide us through preserving Erdenheim Farm’s buildings and conserving its open spaces.

Nestled across 450 acres of preserved rolling hills and picturesque pastureland, Erdenheim Farm stands as a remarkable historic gem. Despite its name, Erdenheim Farm encompasses more than just agricultural land; it is a collection of properties steeped in history and diverse uses. For over 150 years, this expansive estate has served as a quintessential country retreat.

Kathleen Abplanalp is a historic preservation professional with over 15 years of experience in the Philadelphia area and a Ph.D. in American history with a concentration in material culture. Her work experience includes drafting historic district nominations, historical and architectural surveys, and Historic Structures Reports. Her current passion project is restoring historic wood windows.

Join us and discover the fascinating story behind this cherished property and gain insight into the profound dedication that has ensured its preservation in perpetuity.

Learn more

Join us for this captivating event and uncover the rich history, preservation initiatives, and commitment to conservation in Chestnut Hill. Don’t miss out, register today! If you have any questions, please email Chrissy Clawson.

Our programs are made possible through the generous support of our local businesses and membersThe Discovering Chestnut Hill Tour and Lecture Series are proudly sponsored by John B. Ward & Co. Arborists, with additional support from Cawley Masonry.

Celebrate Arbor Day at Pastorius Park

Local tree professionals will be on-site for the Park’s 3rd annual Arbor Day tree care operations. Photo credit: Paul Meyer.

Pastorius Park has been awarded a  Level 1 Arboretum Accreditation by The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program. This achievement was made possible by the efforts of Friends of Pastorius Park (FOPP), marking a significant milestone in its commitment to environmental stewardship and preservation at Pastorius Park. FOPP is a volunteer non-profit 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to preserve and care for the historic integrity of the plantings, waterways, and structures of Pastorius Park.

The Park is also now recognized as an accredited arboretum in the Morton Register of Arboreta, a database of the world’s arboreta and gardens dedicated to woody plants.

In celebration of this important milestone, a formal dedication will occur on Friday, April 26, as part of FOPP’s annual Arbor Day activities, followed by a guided park tour with Rob Fleming on Saturday, April 27.

Friday, April 26, 2024

• Arboretum Dedication (9:00 AM)
• Professional Tree Care Operations (9:15 AM – 12:15 PM)

Saturday, April 27, 2024

• FOPP’s Guided Park Tour with Rob Fleming in partnership with the Chestnut Hill Conservancy (10:00 AM). Advanced registration is required.
• This tour is SOLD OUT, click HERE to learn more about other upcoming events and sign up for their newsletters.

Chestnut Hill Library

Photo courtesy of Chestnut Hill Library. 

National Library Week 2024 may have ended on April 13, but the celebration continues at Chestnut Hill Library, located at 8711 Germantown Avenue, right across from the Conservancy.

In addition to their outstanding collection of print and e-resources, the Chestnut Hill Library offers ongoing arts and culture programs sponsored by their Friends Group.

Check out what’s happening:

      • Artist in Residency: Weekly workshops with professional artist Ayiana Viviana every Tuesday from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. Perfect for grades 4-8.
      • Earth Day Celebration: Join us on Monday, April 22, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for an Author Event with local writer Billy Brown, the Celebration and dedication of our new Little Free Library, a Garden Storywalk, and Earth Day Activities.
      • Live Performance: Don’t miss the Minas Quartet on Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at 5:15 p.m. Led by Orlando and Patricia Haddad, Minas has been at the forefront of World Music and Brazilian Jazz for over 40 years.

For the latest updates on programs and events, click HERE.

From the Archives

Grover Washington, Jr. (center) at the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation’s 40th anniversary party, 1993. Chestnut Hill Conservancy Archives.

As April is Jazz Appreciation Month did you know that Saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., the American jazz-funk and soul-jazz saxophonist and Grammy Award winner, and notable figure in the jazz world had a studio in Chestnut Hill?

During the 1980s and ’90s, Washington operated his studio out of what was once an outbuilding adjacent to the current Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation’s yellow lot on the north side of East Evergreen. In a 1993 photo from the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation’s 40th anniversary party, Washington (center) is seen alongside entertainers Tom Bregatta (left) and Andy Maher. Notably, the brick building in the background serves as Washington’s studio.

In honor of Dog Appreciation Month, HERE are excerpts of dogs being shown off by their owners, as well as in-home movies of the Crolius family from the Conservancy’s Archives collection.

The Crolius-Potter family lived at various times in Chestnut Hill, Germantown, and Plymouth Meeting, with some of the family surviving the sinking of the Titanic. At the time of the creation of the videos in the early 1930s, the family was living at the Alden Park apartments on Wissahickon Avenue.

In the News

Events Calendar 

        • Saturday, April 27, Pastorius Park: Guided Park Tour with Rob Fleming and James McNabb (SOLD OUT)
        • Tuesday, May 7, Virtual, via Zoom. Discovering Chestnut Hill “Erdenheim Farm: A Legacy of Preservation from 1862 to the present day” at 7:00 PM. Registration is coming soon! Click HERE to register.
        • Saturday, June 8Spring Gala. Tickets are available now, click HERE.

Support the Conservancy

If you’re interested in volunteering for future Conservancy programs and events, contact Programs and Communications Manager Chrissy Clawson.


In addition to supporting our work, did you know that members receive special benefits like discounted admission to programs and free research in the archives? Join today!


Your support is a commitment to celebrating and sustaining the history, architecture, and open green space of Chestnut Hill and surrounding communities in the Wissahickon Watershed.






Great architecture is in our nature.

215-247-9329 | 8708 Germantown Avenue, Phila., PA 19118 | info@chconservancy.org