The year in review Pt. 2: looking back at the events of 2013

News December 31, 2013 0 Comments

This week we continue our look at the year’s most memorable stories of 2013.

JULY

New shops come to farmer’s market

by Katharine Cusick

Outside the Market on the Fareway, the rumbling and clanking of construction work mark the progress of a major project: the complete remodeling of the Chestnut Hill Farmer’s Market behind the Chestnut Hill Hotel, 8229 Germantown Ave.

For several months, patrons have had to maneuver around yellow construction tape and increasingly large dirt patches to enter the market. But, according to Eileen Reilly, a marketing and recruitment consultant for the market, “the price that we’re paying for the month of June” will all be in the name of a “fantastic” final product.

By the end of this year, shoppers will be able to peruse literature while eyeing delectable, fresh cupcakes from the Brunettes’ Bookshop Bakery, watch experts from Bacio Italian Restaurante make pasta by hand, and choose from artisan cheeses and charcuterie at The Cheese Trap to create the perfect appetizer board. An influx of new vendors, along with an entirely new look, will breathe fresh life into the Chestnut Hill staple.

The Market on the Fareway – formerly the Chestnut Hill Farmer’s Market – began to undergo major changes in June 2012. The first six months of the project were focused on design and branding, including the name change, a new, modern website and plans for construction and redesign. Since the Fall of 2012, Reilly and her colleagues have concentrated on recruiting new vendors and construction – both inside and outside the market.

“The name change and the website came first in the changes to the market,” Reilly said, “but the real core of the change is the market itself and the outside fairway.”

 

Police arrest two Germantown residents in connection to a robbery in Chestnut Hill

by Sue Ann Rybak

Eric Rawls, 37, and Shelvell Freeman, 27, both of Tacoma Street in Germantown were arrested on Wednesday, July 3, on the 8100 block of Germantown Avenue for allegedly robbing a 31-year-old woman, police said.

According to the police report, the Chestnut Hill resident was walking down the 8500 block of Shawnee Street when a man approached her from behind, pointed a gun at her and demanded she give him her purse and wedding ring. After she gave him the items, he fled on foot. The woman walked home and immediately called police.

Police charged Rawls and Freeman with robbery, simple assault, terroristic threats, criminal conspiracy, violation of the Uniform Firearms Act and other related offenses.

 

Bald eagles reported nesting in the Wissahickon

by Joe Tressa

Story_Eagle

Bald eagles are now residents of the Wissahickon Park (Photo by Ruth Pfeffer)

If you see a bald eagle flying around in Chestnut Hill, you’re not imagining it. The national bird of America has been spotted nesting in the Wissahickon Creek area, near the Valley Green Inn.

Northwest Philadelphia is not the only part of the state (or country) where bald eagles have been seen. The eagles have been spotted in other parts of Pennsylvania, and they have also been seen throughout other parts of the nation.

The eagles’ return comes shortly after they were officially removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in August of 2007. The return has been a long time coming, since the eagles were put on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered list for the first time in 1967 and were officially classified as endangered in all 50 states in 1978.

Willow Grove resident Ruth Pfeffer, who is known for her bird walks and lectures, many of which are held in the Wissahickon, said she is thrilled to have some bald eagles nesting in the area.

“It is amazing to have the bald eagles return and be so plentiful throughout our state,” said Pfeffer. “It is so much fun to be with a group of birders and spot a bald eagle. The smiles appear on every face and the first spoken word is ‘wow.’ The bald eagle has a magical effect on our spirits.”

 

Waldorf School to relocate in Germantown church

by Sue Ann Rybak

The Waldorf School of Philadelphia, a private nursery through 8th grade elementary school at 7500 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy, plans to relocate to the former St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 6008 Wayne Ave. in Germantown in September of 2014.

It will occupy a 140-year-old historic church that was designed and built by Frank Furness and George Hewitt between 1873 and 1883 for Henry Houston. The church has been on the Register of Historic Places since 1985.

“When we first did the walk-through on this building it was magical,” said Kerry Hoffman, interim school chair at Waldorf. “For years, we have been talking about finding our own permanent home. We started looking at St. Peter’s two years ago, but after discussing it among ourselves we realized we wouldn’t be able to do it on our own.”

In May 2011, the school approached developer Ken Weinstein to discuss the possibility of securing the property and renovating it to fit the needs of the school. Weinstein acquired the site in June for $435,000 and said the project, which includes renovations, will cost more than $5 million.

The church, which has been unoccupied since 2005, sits on one and a-half acres and has four vacant, deteriorated, historically significant buildings: a Gothic stone church, chapel, rectory and parish house.

“It’s our goal to make an impact in our community, one property at a time,” said Weinstein, whose organization Philly Office Retail will lease the property to the school.

 

AUGUST

Everyone helped write stories of two lost dogs

by Pete Mazzaccaro

During the last month, we’ve had some pretty remarkable developments concerning lost dogs and their owners.

In mid July, a golden retriever was found at the Chestnut Hill News Stand. After publicizing the dog on our website and Facebook page, the dog was quickly reunited with its owners. Just last week, a young dog named Truman was lost on Germantown Avenue. We ran a notice on our website and on our Facebook page and posted a video that Brian Rudnick captured of Truman’s owners, Robin Gold and William Russell, handing out fliers. Truman was found after nearly a week of being lost and is currently recuperating at an animal hospital.

The intriguing thing about both of these stories, aside from the fact that both turned out to have relatively happy endings, is the interest residents of Chestnut Hill showed in spreading the word and helping to make sure both pets were returned to their worried owners.

 

A new dental practice seeks variance to open at Top of the Hill

by Wesley Ratko

A group dental practice to be called “Top of the Hill Orthodontic and Pediatric Dentistry” is coming to Chestnut Hill.

The applicants, orthodontist Jake Orozco and his wife, pediatric dentist Abbey Sullivan-Orozco, did not attend the Tuesday Aug. 20 meeting of the CHCA’a Development Review Committee but were represented by their lawyer Mike Gumbel.

Gumbel told the DRC that the applicants plan to move into a space in the Top of the Hill shopping center at 8705 Germantown Ave. The previous tenant, KCBA Architects, moved out last year.

The dental practice is looking for support from the DRC for a “special exception” to the zoning on the property. While the shopping center is zoned to allow for a single medical practice, a group practice with more than one doctor requires the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment to grant a special exception before they can begin their operation.

Gumbel told the DRC that there are no plans to change the building’s exterior. Gumbel did present plans for changes to the building’s interior.

 

SEPTEMBER

Father, son drown in Wissahickon Creek

by Kevin Dicciani 

On Friday Sept. 6, 41-year-old Pete Luciano and his 13-year-old son Jordan, of Hunting Park, drowned in the Wissahickon Creek.

According to a report by NBC Philadelphia, Luciano and his four children, including Jordan, spent the afternoon in the Wissahickon near an area known as “Devil’s Pool.”

Before 3 p.m., The Philadelphia Police Department said that Jordan voluntarily jumped in the water for a swim. In a matter of moments he had disappeared below the surface of the water.

The boy’s father then jumped in to rescue his son, but he too never resurfaced. Luciano’s three other children watched before they ran to the Valley Green Inn for help.

The Philadelphia Police Marine Unit and firefighters arrived on the scene and tried to save the father and his son, but it was too late. They recovered their bodies around 4 p.m., and both were pronounced dead at the scene.

Police say the water where they drowned was more than 10 feet deep and had a powerful current.

 

Owner closes Cafette, seeks new owner

by Pete Mazzaccaro 

Chestnut Hill’s Cafette closed in September. (Photo by Pete Mazzaccaro)

Chestnut Hill’s Cafette closed in September. (Photo by Pete Mazzaccaro)

Last week, Jan Wilson posted a letter on the door of Cafette, the small yellow-brick restaurant at 8136 Ardleigh St. that she ran for 21 years, announcing she was closing it and searching for a new owner.

Wilson recently earned a degree in acupuncture and said she would open up a temporary practice at the restaurant site. In the letter to the community, which follows, Wilson is offering complimentary acupuncture sessions.

Becoming an acupuncturist is, she wrote in her letter, the culmination of a 10-year plan.

The small BYOB has been a neighborhood institution and was often full to capacity for both lunch and dinner.

It had, several years ago, completed renovations that added outdoor seating in the side-yard garden. It was the only restaurant in Chestnut Hill not on or adjacent to Germantown Avenue.

Wilson said in the letter that she was looking for the”right restaurant operator”to take over the business.

 

Hill Friends worship in new meetinghouse

by Barbara Sherf 

Members of Chestnut Hill Friends meeting gather at their new E. Mermaid Lane Meetinghouse. (Photo by Terry Foss)

Members of Chestnut Hill Friends meeting gather at their new E. Mermaid Lane Meetinghouse. (Photo by Terry Foss)

Reaction to the new Chestnut Hill Friends meetinghouse was celebratory on Sunday, as members worshiped for the first time in their new meeting room. The new meetinghouse is the only structure in the Greater Philadelphia region with a Skyspace by world-renowned light artist James Turrell.

Having outgrown the tight quarters of its 82-year-old meetinghouse and after many years of discussion and careful consideration, the 200-member Chestnut Hill Friends congregation marveled at the environmentally friendly building built just one lot below the old meetinghouse near United Cerebral Palsy of Philadelphia on Mermaid Lane.

Following an unusually talkative meeting, Storm Evans, clerk of the Client (Building) Committee, pushed the button to open the retractable roof in the ceiling at the close of the meeting.

“I’m thrilled that people were thrilled – it needed to be opened,” she said, noting that what the group witnessed was just a preview to seeing the finished Turrell Skyspace.

The piece will not be complete until Turrell comes in early October to program the interior lights for approximately hour-long cycles at dawn and dusk.

“For it to be a Skyspace, it needs to be the right time of day with the lighting on,” she said.

 

New Teenagers Inc. director comes with experience

by Sue Ann Rybak 

Arianna Neromiliotis took over directorship of Teens Inc. following the retirement of Marianne Dwyer. (Photo by Sue Ann Rybak)

Arianna Neromiliotis took over directorship of Teens Inc. following the retirement of Marianne Dwyer. (Photo by Sue Ann Rybak)

Arianna Neromiliotis, 31, of East Mt. Airy, took over the reins from Marianne Dwyer, the former director of Teenagers Inc. on Saturday, Sept. 14, at the center’s Kick-off event.

Neromiliotis, one of the original founding teens of the organization, still remembers sitting on Dwyer’s porch in 1996, discussing how she and her friends could make a difference in the Chestnut Hill community. At the time there was no formal organization for teenagers under one organization.

“We used to meet in the Chestnut Hill Community Association,” Neromiliotis said. “In the beginning, we were just trying to integrate ourselves into the Chestnut Hill way of life.”

Teenagers Inc. didn’t even have a formal meeting place until 2000, when local businessman Richard Snowden donated the current center located at 105 Bethlehem Pike in Chestnut Hill.

“It took sometime to break the ice,” she said. “Teenagers Inc. is kind of household name now. People know who we are, and that’s made such a big difference.”

 

OCTOBER

John Jay Institute considers move to Chestnut Hill

by Sue Ann Rybak

The John Jay Institute, a politically conservative civic leadership organization whose mission is to “to prepare principled leaders for faith-informed public service,” is considering moving to Chestnut Hill.

Alan Crippen II, president of the institute, said the organization, currently based in Bala Cynwyd, is looking for a new permanent home.

“We love Chestnut Hill,” Crippen said. “We think it’s a choice location for the John Jay Institute. It’s an ideal setting for the nature of our programs and the kinds of students we attract – the top tier students from around the world.

“Our programs involve leadership training, ethics, exploration of the animating ideals and values of the American founding fathers.”

He said it was just one of the reasons the institute is planning to move to Philadelphia, pointing out that Chestnut Hill is an ideal location because the community “is committed to historic preservation, walkable sustainable communities, friendly to academic enterprises and [promotes] cultural events.”

“All of these commend Chestnut Hill for our institute, its mission and its students,” he added.

The site of the proposed development is 9002 Crefeld St., which is currently zoned as R1 for single- family homes. The house, built in 1928, has approximately 20,000 square feet. To relocate there, the institute must obtain a special use variance.

“Ideally, we want to be in the city – we are committed to human flourishing and leadership training,” Crippen said. “We want to inspire leaders in government at every level from local to state to national.”

 

Hill leaders form CDC with $850,000 in tax redirect

by Paula M. Riley

“Collaboration.” That’s the word Chestnut Hill leaders are using to describe how they work together. This collaboration has resulted in successful event programming, stronger marketing efforts, new businesses and the sharing of resources across Chestnut Hill organizations.

Recently this collaboration has paid off in the form of an $850,000 corporate grant that will seed a brand-new organization: the Chestnut Hill Community Development Corporation.

The money comes from a law that allows any corporation doing business with the city to redirect up to $85,000 a year of its business taxes to a CDC for 10 years. Chestnut Hill Hospital was happy to serve as a partner to fund the endeavor.

“Four years ago, serving as president of Chestnut Hill Business Association, I questioned why we weren’t applying for that partnership,” said Greg Welsh, co-owner of the Chestnut Grill & Sidewalk Café. “Brooks Turkel (former CEO of Chestnut Hill Hospital) jumped right in and was happy to join in that partnership and we began.”

Dr. John D. Cacciamani, current CEO of the Hospital, sits on the boards of both the Chestnut Hill Community Association and the CHBA. He wholeheartedly supports the partnership.

“So much of what the hospital is doing is just like that of the (Chestnut Hill) businesses,” Cacciamani said. “We have the same struggles. We are all working together. If we (the hospital) have an opportunity to provide tax, we will do it. We are all in this together.”

 

John Jay Institute will not buy Crefeld St. mansion

by Pete Mazzaccaro

Following a meeting of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Development Review Committee on Oct. 15, in which a number of near neighbors voiced their opposition, the John Jay Institute has decided that it will not pursue a plan to buy and move into a home at 9002 Crefeld St., known as Copperwood.

CHCA Community Manager Celeste Hardester told the Local that the institute had called her to say it was no longer going to pursue a variance to move into the space. The institute did not return calls from the Local seeking comment.

 

Chestnut 7 closes

by Sue Ann Rybak

Chestnut 7 at 8201 Germantown Ave., a restaurant that opened with a tremendous amount of promise and enthusiasm in 2011, has apparently closed its doors for good.

A note posted on the door written by the management states in part, “It is with great sadness that we will be closing our doors effective immediately. We thank you for your continued patronage of our restaurant and we regret that we weren’t able to continue to serve you here in Chestnut Hill.”

 

Neighbors work to restore a forgotten Colonial-era cemetery

by Pete Mazzaccaro 

A large memorial to Shwenkenfelder “pilgrims” occupies the middle of the Yeakel Cemetery, a small 18th century burial ground for early Chestnut Hill and Springfield Township settlers that a local group is working to preserve. (Photo by Pete Mazzaccaro)

A large memorial to Shwenkenfelder “pilgrims” occupies the middle of the Yeakel Cemetery, a small 18th century burial ground for early Chestnut Hill and Springfield Township settlers that a local group is working to preserve. (Photo by Pete Mazzaccaro)

As a kid in East Falls, Jack Yeakel’s grandfather told him that his family had a cemetery named for them somewhere in the city. But the family really didn’t know where it was.

In 1988, the 18-year-old Yeakel started searching for the plot and found it with the help of the Springfield Township Historical Society.

“At that time it was not easy to get to,” Yeakel, now a Flourtown resident, said. “It was kind of a cool adventure to have, being in high school and finding this overgrown cemetery.”

Yeakel had essentially “rediscovered” the Yeakel Cemetery, a 260-year-old burial ground for 53 of the earliest residents of Chestnut Hill and Springfield township. When he found it, the cemetery was choked with weeds and covered in fallen limbs. Many stones were leaning and some were broken. The earliest marble stones had faded to the point where the original inscriptions were no longer readable.

Yeakel began researching the cemetery and began to document the names of those buried there. The earliest interment was of Maria Yeakel in 1752, and the last was of Matilda Heydrick in 1902.

He discovered that a forefather some nine generations removed, Chris Yeakel of Chestnut Hill, had fought in the Revolution and was buried there with three other Revolutionary War veterans.

In addition to Yeakels and Heydricks, other surnames in the cemetery include Dowers, Heebner, Neff, Schubert, Schultz, and Schuman.

Those families were all tied together by their membership in the Schwenkfelder Church, a small Christian community that had traveled to Philadelphia from Germany to escape persecution. The community had no church building, meeting instead in the homes of its members. The church continues to own the small 80-foot-square parcel, which has a small easement for access from Stenton Avenue.

Over the years, Yeakel said he continued to visit the cemetery, taking notes and just keeping tabs on the plot. On one of those visits two years ago, he said that Chestnut Hill Historical Society archivist Liz Jarvis and Schwenkfelder Church member Jerry Heebner came down the path. Out of that meeting, a committee was formed to restore the cemetery.

The committee is hoping to raise $72,000 for the effort. Early fund-raising has already produced a gift of $8,500 from Bowman Properties and $1,000 from other private donors. The committee is hoping to also raise money from Springfield Township homeowners who live near the cemetery and from the broader community. The Schwenkfelder Church will oversee the fund.

 

NOVEMBER

Woodmere to embark on new strategic plan with public design workshop

by Pete Mazzaccaro 

The Woodmere Art Museum

The Woodmere Art Museum

William Valerio, who took over the helm of the museum three years ago,, said the museum is currently experiencing the very same pressures that led Woodmere to embark on expansion 13 years ago. And much of those needs have become greater in the last three years.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth at Woodmere,” he said. “Attendance is triple what it was. Our donor base is stronger. We now have a four-star rating on Charity Navigator, which is huge. We’ve done a lot of work to get our fiscal house in order. And with that kind of growth, it pushes your facility beyond its capacity.”

It is not unusual, now, to see the museum’s 200-space parking lot filled beyond capacity for a weekend lecture or show opening. Valerio said it was time to begin imagining just how the museum could accommodate that growth.

So the museum decided to start fresh and – through a process of listening to neighbors, museum patrons and staff – began to form a vision that was focused more on the restoration of the Charles Knox Smith estate the museum currently occupies than on the addition of a new wing.

“As I got to know the place and as I talked to people, I started to understand the history of this site,” Valerio said.

He learned that the six-acre site offered a lot of opportunities, including the possibility of rebuilding a large horse.

Requests for proposals were offered to a number of architecture firms, and the one firm the museum chose was that of Matthew Baird, a New York City architect who grew up in Chestnut Hill and was more than just familiar with the neighborhood’s architectural history.

Baird said that his response to Woodmere’s RFP included conceptual drawings, but that the plan really is in the beginning phases. He is not sure yet, he said, how much new construction the plan will call for. It remains to be seen, though he is sure that the museum will need more space.

“That process is ongoing,” Baird said. “What is the ideal solution? That will be the master plan. With the director’s house being repurposed and in rethinking this building in an efficient way, we can minimize the disruption to the landscape. There’s no question that the institution needs more exhibition space. There’s no question this institution needs a dedicated lecture hall – an auditorium. Those are two things that are hard to incorporate in a meaningful way in what we have here.”

 

‘A Taste of Chestnut Hill’ honors Marianne Dwyer

by Paula M. Riley

How much of an impact has Marianne Dwyer had on Teenagers Inc., the organization she spent nearly two decades directing? There is no clear way to count the number of people that Marianne Dwyer has affected in her work with Teenagers Inc., but most estimate it to be in the thousands.

“Her impact is almost immeasurable,” said her son Brendan Dwyer.

On Sunday, Nov. 17, at Teenagers Inc.’s “Taste of Chestnut Hill,” Marianne Dwyer will be honored for her years of service. Dwyer stepped down as director earlier this year, and Arianna Neromiliotis, a past participant of Teenagers Inc. is the new director.

“I know I have big shoes to fill,” Neromiliotis said “She has given so much of herself for Teenagers Inc. I’m so happy to call her my mentor!”

 

DECEMBER

Fox & Roach Realtors make easy transition to Berkshire Hathaway

by Lou Mancinelli

Realtors at the newly minted Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach office in Chestnut Hill have a joke: Their new boss is Warren Buffet.

In August, HomeServices America, an offshoot of Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway multinational conglomerate, purchased the Fox & Roach name. The former Prudential Fox & Roach office, at 14 West Evergreen Ave, near Germantown Avenue, officially changed its name Nov. 12.

While in early December it was business as usual and too soon to see how the change might affect day-to-day operations – aside from branding changes like a new sign and different literature – the long-term aligning with Buffet’s company could improve the already successful Fox & Roach brand of business and customer service, according to Chestnut Hill branch manager Sue Walsh.

“I think if you’re familiar with the name and familiar with Warren Buffet and familiar with anything in the financial world, then, yeah, [the change] is good,” said Walsh, when asked if the association with Buffet would spark increased confidence in Fox & Roach.

 

Hill Holiday Parade returns to spread cheer

by Sue Ann Rybak

Chestnut-Hill-Parade-5-640x480

Chestnut Hill held a holiday parade on Dec. 14.

Despite a winter storm warning, hundreds of residents lined Germantown Avenue last Saturday to celebrate the return of Chestnut Hill’s annual holiday parade. The parade, originally sponsored by the Chestnut Hill Development Group, has not been held for more than two decades.

Philadelphia’s Mounted Police Unit led the parade, which began at Chestnut Hill Avenue. But, the star of this year’s parade, sponsored by the Chestnut Hill Community Association, was the Phillie Phanatic, who waved and shook his belly as he rode atop Chestnut Hill Fire Company Engine 37.

Amelia Terry, 2½, of Chestnut Hill, beamed with delight from the excitement of the festivities.

“The Phillie Phanatic was funny,” she said as she waited in anticipation of Santa’s arrival.

“It was a fabulous success,” said Celeste Hardester, community manager at the Chestnut Hill Community Association.

Hardester said she was worried that it was going to be “a parade that nobody came to” because of the threat of a fast-approaching snowstorm.

“It was absolutely perfect weather for a holiday parade,” Hardester said.

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