August 12, 2010

Chestnut Hill Dining Guide

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Laverock Hill  is important

The Chestnut Hill Historical Society is dismayed to learn that Hansen-Lloyd, the developer of the Starr (formerly Simms) Estate in Cheltenham and Springfield townships, has withdrawn the compromise plan, which had been under discussion for the last year, and has reverted to its original plan to build out the Laverock Hill estate and in the process demolish the house and designed landscape on the property. [“Mansion faces demolition despite neighbors’ concerns,” Aug. 5]

This estate is extraordinarily significant as a design, even for the high quality of our community:  the work of nationally important designers – architect Charles Platt and landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman – created a synthesis of house and estate which will be destroyed if the current plan is implemented. In a perfect world, this exceptionally significant estate would remain intact. 

The compromise proposal developed by Cheltenham Township would preserve at least the main house, other important historic buildings and the gardens immediately around the house, and provides for a lower density of development in keeping with the character of the surrounding community.

The historical society seeks to manage change appropriately rather than stop development. The unusually high value of the historic design of this property and the open space to the greater community merits exceptionally sensitive treatment.

The proposed development of the 30-acre Sugarloaf site by the Chestnut Hill College provides a model for moving forward. While final agreements have not, as yet, been signed, during more than 10 months of intense negotiation with a coalition of community organizations under the auspices of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, the college has consistently demonstrated a willingness to hear the views of the Chestnut Hill community, to accommodate the concerns of the near neighbors, and to abide by the demanding environmental restrictions related to the Wissahickon watershed.

Significantly, during these negotiations the community sought to retain the existing historic structures. In response, the college revised its master plan to protect the majority of these buildings and their historical landscape, and in doing so, has gained a significant level of community support.

We urge all those who share our support for a compromise development plan to join us at the Cheltenham Township Planning Commission meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, August 23, at Curtis Hall, 1250 W. Church Rd. in Wyncote.

Frank Niepold
CHHS Board of Directors

Frustrated by local store hours

As a fairly recent resident of Chestnut Hill (I moved here with my family from Center City last summer), I felt the need to give some feedback to the current “Support Local Business” campaign I’ve seen mentioned in various local publications and notices around town.

Of course, I find the initiative to shop locally honorable. But, in practice, in Chestnut Hill, it is actually quite frustrating if not amusing. I have to laugh when I see many stores advertising their hours with question marks or the phrase “hit or miss.” Also, the fact that many stores close at 5 p.m. (or even earlier) means that after a year of living “on the Hill” I’ve yet to shop in more than two or three stores.

I understand that Chestnut Hill is striving to maintain a small village feel with a quaint and charming main street – and that it does have. But, if one has a day job, which I do, and doesn’t get home until 6, all the charm in the world isn’t going to stop someone from purchasing the majority of necessities from the big chain stores in the surrounding areas that are more accommodating to those of us who work.

J. Oravec
Chestnut Hill

Jazz scene not that distant 

 On Miles Davis, coke, one-note concerts, etc.: I am responding not to what I would expect to be outrage by some that such a gritty article was being foisted upon us by our Local (drug usage, sexual innuendo, OMG!), but that the “great jazz scene” described was so distant. [“Guess who I’m snorting coke with?” by Bob Ingram, Aug. 5]

Right here in our home town, Jim Dragoni, a really talented jazz musician and founder of the Music Studio, has brought (clean) living jazz legends like Mose Allison and Larry Coryell to Chestnut Hill, in intimate venues supplied by Paul Roller and Stagecrafters.  These are people who have recorded, and whose music has been recorded, for many years – people of real musical inspiration and accomplishment. 

My first experience hearing jazz was back in my home town of Dayton, Ohio, in about 1972, when some friends and I ventured into North Dayton to hear a guitarist named Larry Coryell and his quartet of that time. When I saw his show recently at Roller’s in Chestnut Hill, I ran into him at the top of the stairs on my way in, and he said “Hello, how are you?” — just like I was visiting a regular friend. 

As our conversation continued, I mentioned seeing him in Dayton and recalled that the keyboard player was blind.  He rattled off all the guys who played with him that night, and when I asked, responded that he still kept in touch with them regularly.  I asked him how the first show had gone, and he replied “It was a terrific show, and we had some great moments.  But those moments are gone, and now we’ll have to make some new great moments.  Let’s go see what happens.”

The Chestnut Hill shows, for those who haven’t yet attended, are sessions where the musicians often talk freely with the audience during and afterwards about sources of inspiration, history, technique, equipment – the kind of thing you just don’t get in a large venue.  Coryell also conducted a master session for students the Sunday after the concerts.  Future concerts are in the planning; people should be looking for them, and the Local should be publicizing this great effort.

You can catch Jim Dragoni playing guitar certain evenings at Roller’s or other local venues.  I arrived late one recent evening to find him talking with a group of friends who had stayed after the dinner hour.  He introduced us, and we ended up playing music together in several combinations for about two hours as the staff set up the tables for the next day’s restaurant operations.  Maybe not exactly Tony Williams’ “Lifetime,” but it’s ours.  And if enough talented people got together, it could be quite a scene.

Lawrence D McEwen
Chestnut Hill

Schizophrenic can empathize with Jules

 (This letter was written last week to Rich McIlhenny, who wrote the article about the late Jules Csatary in the June 10 issue. The writer, Debbie Collier, gave us permission to print it.)

I’m sorry that this letter is so late in coming. I have schizophrenia and am severely technologically challenged. This is only the third e-mail I have ever sent. It is very frightening to me to use a computer.

My birthday is June 10, and the article that you wrote on Jules, which was published that day, was touching and informative. It made my day to have such a tribute to someone I had always been concerned about. There is some evidence that nicotine reduces the symptoms of schizophrenia. I, too, used to chain-smoke and pick cigarette butts off of the street. My lungs are severely damaged, but I quit before I died.

Three close friends who had schizophrenia died suddenly recently. Two were only 40 years old. Today there was an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer on the sudden death of another friend who had schizophrenia. He died due to the heat. His name was John Malkasian.

He, too, was a lovely man, very religious and loving. He had a charity of shaving poor elderly mentally ill men who could not shave themselves.

His death due to heat reminds me of 15 years ago, when I was alone in a rundown apartment during a heat wave with no fan or air conditioner. For some reason all I had was hot water. The temperature in my apartment was 120, and I lost 40 pounds in three months due to lack of food.

Flash forward to today. My 87-year-old father took me out of the public mental health system and paid for a private therapist, and I improved dramatically. Three months ago he purchased a wonderful condo in West Mt Airy and is renting it to me and my boyfriend of 26 years who also has schizophrenia.

It seems too good to be true. We are worried about what will happen in the future if my father should pass, but for now it’s like living a dream.

Everybody who is mentally ill has a story. I nearly completed a master’s degree in neuropsychology after my diagnosis, but had to quit three courses short because of my illness. I have written three books of short stories and poems, but I just share them with friends.

Again, thank you for your beautiful article. If only I could write something so touching about my friend, John, who recently passed.

Debbie Collier
Mt. Airy



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