by Pete Mazzaccaro
For those who don’t know, Louis Kahn is one of the most important architects of the last century. For years, the iconic Kahn was also a Philadelphia local: He was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design and designed one of his best-known residential homes in Chestnut Hill.
This week, another residential home designed by Kahn in Hatboro, known as the Fisher Kahn house, will go on sale for $600,000. The listing agents are local Realtors Janice Manzi and Louise D’Alessandro of Elfant Wissahickon Realty in Chestnut Hill.
The Fisher Kahn house was built for Dr. Norman Fisher and his wife, Doris, in 1967 after four years of planning. The Fisher family gave the house to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which covered the home in easements to preserve its architectural character and the character of the landscape surrounding the home.
The trust decided recently to sell the home and invited Realtors to bid on the rights to sell the home. Manzi and D’Alessandro won the bid
“We were invited to make a proposal,” Manzi said in an interview Monday. “Based on what we said and our experience, we won the bid. We have a lot of experience with these kind of houses.”
Unlike most homes, which would require listings in print ads and real estate websites, the sale of the Fisher Kahn house called for a full-court marketing push. Manzi said the difference has amounted to a lot more work.
“Well, we’ve done a lot that is certainly above and beyond a typical house,” she said. “ We’ve set up a website, a Facebook page. We’ve put out a press release. This is a significant house. It’s one of Kahn’s most important residential homes. When architecture professors talk about Kahn’s residential work, this is one of the houses that very much gets his philosophy of big public areas with high ceilings and lots of light and intimate private spaces.”
Adding complexity to the sale is that the house is being sold in a narrow window of time, with bids accepted from Wednesday, July 18, through Tuesday, August 21. It’s also the kind of home that requires a special type of buyer.
Any prospective buyer, Manzi said, would have to understand that the home in its current shape and form, from the interior to the gardens outside, is protected by conservation easements that make it difficult for anyone who owns the home to change things.
Also, the home must be open to the public two days during the year, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation will make an annual walk-through to inspect the property and enforce the easements. As a board member of the historic Cliveden house in Germantown and an old-home owner herself, Manzi said she understands the position of any buyer.
“It must be someone who gets the whole idea,” she said. “A lot of us with old houses know we’re stewards of these homes.”
So far, Manzi said there has been a lot of interest in the home “up and down the East Coast.”
The public sale was scheduled to open Wednesday, July 18, with an open house from 4 to 8 p.m.
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