Letter: Chestnut Hill College is not safe-guarding historic sites

Posted 3/31/22

The college is ignoring the fact that their campus and the SugarLoaf property are both listed as “significant" resources in the National Register Historic District.

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Letter: Chestnut Hill College is not safe-guarding historic sites

Posted

Lori Salganicoff and the Chestnut Hill Historical Society are correct in their concerns about the actions of Chestnut Hill College at the SugarLoaf site.

The College has received many millions of dollars of public funds from the state of Pennsylvania – which means from all of us. It is therefore obligated to meet the terms of the Pennsylvania History Code which states that “irreplaceable historical, architectural, archaeological and cultural heritage of this Commonwealth should be preserved and protected for the benefit of all the people, including future generations.” 

The college has stated that there is nothing historical here – ignoring the fact that their campus and the SugarLoaf property are both listed as “significant" resources in the National Register Historic District that covers most of Chestnut Hill. 

Two historic maps demonstrate the actual historical evidence. An 1863 map entitled “Map of a reconnaissance of the approaches to Philadelphia ...” (Library of Congress) showed sites that could be fortified against General Lee’s invading Confederate army. “SugarLoaf” was to be the site of a “1rst order” fort, to be built by Black troops from Fort William Penn. The Franklin Survey Company Atlas of the Twenty Second Ward, Phila. (plate 36) shows the site in 1955 with extensive outbuildings including a remarkable pool house by the significant modern architect Edward Durell Stone. The Page mansion and many of its outbuildings were demolished in the last twenty years. These sites provide archaeological evidence that illuminates a century and a half of Chestnut Hill's history. 

Given the extensive public funding to Chestnut Hill College, the college and the Sisters of St. Joseph have an obligation to the state and our community to safeguard rather than destroy the Chestnut Hill history that is in their control. 

George E. Thomas, Ph.D., Board Member, Responsible Preservation, Inc.

Comments

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  • robertbruce

    My first reaction: Are you asking Chestnut Hill College to make amends for actions by previous owners ? Or for the fire that destroyed the Page mansion years before their ownership.

    Let's see what comes from the archeological survey they have now agreed to do. Maybe they can preserve any significant sites which may (or may not) still exist.

    For me, the biggest issue is the appearance of massive retains walls. Overall it seems the activity is as agreed to 10 years ago with local RCOs. In the end it should be a benefit to the community. Without the zoning change it would've been developed with many McMansions without concern for any historical significance.

    Friday, April 1 Report this

  • anne.dicker

    Did Chestnut Hill College get permission to remove Heritage Trees?

    They are in violation of the Zoning Code if they removed any of the trees on this list without permission:

    https://www.phila.gov/media/20210114140219/Heritage-Tree-List-082713.pdf

    Friday, April 1 Report this

  • robertbruce

    Turns out the College has completed and published the archeological survey. https://www.chc.edu/sites/default/files/Uploads/2022-03-22%20CHRS%20Final%20Report%20Phase%201a%20Archaeological%20Survey.pdf

    Friday, April 1 Report this

  • tbreslin

    Here, this sums up the promise vs. reality: https://ibb.co/HpJ2Tjw

    Friday, April 1 Report this

  • robertbruce

    Breslin. That must be a really old rendering from before all the meetings. The one posted at least since December when trees were being removed is much different. https://www.chc.edu/sites/default/files/Uploads/Base-14_View%204_0.jpg

    Friday, April 1 Report this