The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote.
In celebration of this historic anniversary, and Women’s Equality Day on August 26th, we’ll be featuring stories or elements throughout August that focus on women and history – starting with our own history.
Shaping Chestnut Hill’s Future
Since 1967
Celebrating Conservancy Founders Shirley Hanson,
Nancy Hubby, Ann Spaeth, and Alice Lea Tasman
In 1966, a young mother named Shirley Hanson was shocked by drastic alterations to one significant building, the VFW building at 8217-19 Germantown Avenue. Wholeheartedly, she joined Nancy Hubby, Ann Spaeth, and others in a community fund-raising effort to help the VFW restore the building. The Chestnut Hill Local took up the cause with spirited editorials. To belie the naysayers who asserted (shocking to read now), “There is nothing historic in Chestnut Hill,” contributions from 50 cents to $1,500 streamed in to the committee’s mailbox.
This small group originally called themselves “the Committee for the Preservation of Historic Buildings in Chestnut Hill.”
Their efforts didn’t stop there. The committee’s tenacity and the community’s zeal ultimately spawned the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, incorporated in February 1967 and now known as the Chestnut Hill Conservancy. This citizen- and community-led effort launched architectural preservation in Chestnut Hill, and later grew to include a professionally managed archival collection and the nation’s first accredited urban land trust.
We would love to hear about other remarkable women and their achievements! Who are your female heroes? Let us know about those that inspire you! Contact us at
Photos from the Conservancy’s Archives-
Top: Chestnut Hill Historical Society (CHHS) signing the contract for a comprehensive architectural and historical survey of Chestnut Hill. (Seated) Nancy Hubby, CHHS President Ann Spaeth. (Standing from left) Board Member and former President Mr. & Mrs. John MacArthur Harris, Board Members Alston Jenkins, Shirley Hanson, and Susan Detweiler, Consultant.
Second (left): Gretchen Ingersoll, Joseph Pennington Strauss, Shirley Hanson, and Victoria Sicks with check to pay off the mortgage on our Headquarters at 8708 Germantown Avenue.
Third (middle): Alice Lea Tasman at a CHHS event in 1973.
Fourth (right): The 1980 photograph shows founding members Nancy Hubby and Shirley Hanson in front of 8810 Norwood Avenue, one of three houses slated for demolition by Chestnut Hill Hospital. Although 8810 fell to the wrecker’s ball, CHHS was able to preserve and restore the other two. (From the book Images of America, by Elizabeth Jarvis: Chestnut Hill p.121 bottom)
Bottom: 1970 architects’ forum panel discussion “An Evening of Speculation” with, from left: Evan Turner, Romaldo Giurgola, Robert Venturi, Louis Kahn and Nancy Hubby.
New Acquisitions to the Archives
John H. Thompson, second row, second from the left, is pictured here with his class at the Gilbert School in 1924. He lived at 214 Rex Avenue from 1920 to 1952. John Thompson’s son donated this photograph and other items recently to the Chestnut Hill Conservancy.
In 1871, the city built the Chestnut Hill Consolidated School at 212 West Highland Avenue. It was renamed the Josephus C. Gilbert School in 1896 after a local physician and politician who donated the land for the school. The school closed in 1924 when the John Story Jenks School was completed and was demolished for the construction of the Highland Court Apartments in 1925.
Ask the Experts Returns August 20th
Homeowner Strategies for Planting and Maintaining Trees in a Changing Climate
Mark Your Calendars!
Thursday, August 20th, 8 pm
Hal Rosner, certified arborist with Conservancy sponsors Shechtman Tree Care will discuss maintaining and planting trees to combat climate change, the importance of canopy trees and native species, and spotted lantern fly mitigation. This talk was originally planned for April and we’re so pleased to be able to share it with you this summer!
A free program to the community, Ask the Experts addresses a featured topic by an expert on prevalent issues relating to historic home and landscape care. Ask questions; get solutions! Organized by the Chestnut Hill Conservancy and co-sponsored by the Chestnut Hill Community Association.
Again, this lecture is free, although pre-registration is required.
Visit for more information.
Night of Lights
New Socially Distant Format! October 9-25
Night of Lights window display
Save the Date!
Mark your calendars for the fourth annual Night of Lights! This year’s Night of Lights will take the form of an extended public art installation activating Germantown Avenue and transforming Chestnut Hill’s familiar commercial corridor into an interactive exhibition of local history and architecture.
Over two and half weeks in October, historical images and films from the Conservancy’s Archives will be projected through storefront windows along Germantown Avenue, while neighboring historic buildings will be illuminated with colored lights. An expanded virtual experience—accessible on site and at home—will allow for socially distanced explorations of community history, while offering a platform for attendees to share their own stories.
Projections will be on view every night from October 9 through the 25, distributed the full length of the Avenue. Come early, often, and anywhere in between!
From the Conservancy Archives
A Look at August in Chestnut Hill
For a look back at life in Chestnut Hill, here’s a fun post that we ran on Facebook on August 1, 2019 for #throwbackthursday.
In the mid-20th century, it may have seemed that half of Chestnut Hill’s commercial real estate was connected to the automobile. By the end of the 1950s, the Chestnut Hill Parking Company’s (later the Parking Foundation) series of parking lots had been completed, and dealers and gas stations lined Germantown Avenue.
These businesses included Lowry’s used cars, which was located inside of the trolley loop at Germantown Avenue and Bethlehem Pike and was adjacent to the Gulf station which also stood there. Seen in this photograph taken by Bud Gilchrist is the used car lot in 1955, with a Route 23 trolley rounding the loop. In the background are the Chestnut Hill Baptist Church and an earlier version of the Sunoco gas station now standing there. The space inside the loop would be redeveloped with a new Gulf station in the mid-1960s, and with a Bassett’s book shop/ Borders Books in the early 1990s. A SEPTA bus shelter now stands in the location occupied by the cars, with the Children of America center- previously Borders Books- standing in the location of the brick building visible at the right. #throwbackthursday
Did you know that the Chestnut Hill Conservancy has just uploaded over 350 new photographs from the Chestnut Hill Local to its online photograph collection? These newly-uploaded photographs include many views of Chestnut Hill storefronts from the 1970s through 1990s and can be viewed HERE. To see more photographs like the one shown here or to join as a member, visit the website of the Chestnut Hill Conservancy at
is made possible by our generous members and supporters
Chestnut Hill Conservancy 2020 Lead Sponsor
Chestnut Hill Conservancy 2020 General Sponsors
Always feel free to contact us with any questions about the Conservancy, our programs and events, or your membership at
Chestnut Hill Conservancy | 8708 Germantown AvenuePhiladelphia, PA 19118