Woodward Community Center board to raise funds for threatened building

by Debra Malinics
Posted 11/4/20

The historically certified Woodward Community Center, 8419 Germantown Ave., is a Chestnut Hill landmark and is now under threat of closing due to a variety of health and safety violations. Without …

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Woodward Community Center board to raise funds for threatened building

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The historically certified Woodward Community Center, 8419 Germantown Ave., is a Chestnut Hill landmark and is now under threat of closing due to a variety of health and safety violations. Without major renovations, this Chestnut Hill icon will close.

The building has had a presence in the community for more than 100 years. Originally owned by Gertrude Houston Woodward, it was donated to the community by her, for use by non-profit organizations in the area. In her honor, the name was recently changed to the Woodward Community Center. 

The building has stayed true to its mission and has been used by a variety of volunteer and non-profit organizations including A Home Within, Alcoholics Anonymous and the Seybert Foundation. Over its past 100+ year history, the center has served many purposes - as a base for making bandages for injured soldiers in WWI, as an information center during the smallpox epidemic and as a regular meeting place for community organizations. The building is also home to Villavillekula, a children’s clothing boutique, and Bird in Hand Thrift Store, one of Chestnut Hill’s most captivating, non-profit shops. Who hasn’t strolled down the avenue and stopped into this shop to look for hidden treasures and explore the variety of donated items, from jewelry to china to art and linens?

Chestnut Hill has long been a special place to live, and with the help of residents and those who appreciate the historical history of this building, it can be saved, and continue to have a useful and vital presence. A capital fund-raising campaign has been initiated, with Susan Bray, MD serving as Campaign Chair. Additionally, John Milner Architects, well known and respected for their historic preservation work, are ready to do the needed work that includes meeting the building’s historic registration needs, eliminating code violations, improving general conditions, installing a modern, HVAC system, adding energy efficiencies, replacing the porch, adding ADA compliant bathrooms, safe stairways, an elevator, and an ADA outside entrance. 

Funds will also be used to increase the building’s usable square footage to enable it to be financially self-sustaining while continuing to accommodate community non-profit organizations. Co-working spaces, conference rooms and a multi-purpose room will be added, and outside public areas will be enhanced to serve the public as a gathering space that is convenient to Germantown Avenue and Parking.

To kickstart the drive, The William Penn Foundation has given a matching grant to support the $1.75 million capital fund goal and community efforts are now underway to raise the needed funds. Repairs can then be made and the building will be renewed and ready to serve for another 100 years in the community it has already served so well. 

Chestnut Hill is a community where friends and neighbors help each other. Those who live here go out of their way to support, promote and protect the community. This project is another way to show how much you care about where you live. We know Chestnut Hill is a special place….so let’s do our part and do what needs to be done to save this historic building that is so reflective of our community’s history and values. 

Susan H. Bray MD, Campaign Chair, is a longtime resident of Chestnut Hill. She can be contacted at Sjhbray2@verison.net  to answer any questions on how you can help this worthwhile and needed restoration project. 

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