20th Annual Watchlist
Call for 2017 Submissions
For two decades, the Conservancy has been using its annual Watchlist to help reverse the fate of historic properties threatened with neglect, demolition, or insensitive development. The Watchlist is a product of multiple preservation stakeholders. It derives its potency, however, from members of the public who simply wish to preserve the heritage of their communities. In this spirit, the Conservancy invites the public to submit nominations for its 20th annual Watchlist.
In the past, the Conservancy has asked individuals to limit their Watchlist submissions to three properties. The relentless pace of development in our communities, however (which is both reflected in and encouraged by weak preservation protections), makes the demolition of significant historic resources an increasingly familiar occurrence in Lower Merion and Narberth. The Conservancy, therefore, is not setting a limit on the number of properties an individual may submit for Watchlist submission.
Please see the following criteria for guidance in identifying Watchlist properties. 2016 Watchlist properties, as well as updates on their status, are listed below the criteria for listing.
Criteria For Listing:
- Significance of the property: How inherently important is the property? What would the impact be if the property were lost?
- Nature, immediacy, and severity of the threat: Is the property slated for demolition? Is it vacant? Is the property involved in a development or real estate transaction?
- Special or unique considerations: Is it an uncommon or unusual type? Is there a special or unique situation concerning the property? Is there strong public interest in preserving the property? Do problems with the property illustrate a larger preservation issue?
- Action: Is there a strategy that the Conservancy can adopt to affect change and contribute to preservation?
*Submissions will remain anonymous.
2016 Preservation WatchList
To roam the streets of Lower Merion and Narberth is to travel through time. In these distinctive communities, a diverse collection of buildings, structures, objects, and landscapes documents more than three centuries of history. From the leafy canopies of Gladwyne to the tree-lined sidewalks of Penn Wynne; from the cliff-hanging houses of Belmont Hills to the august estates of Haverford and Bryn Mawr; and from the timeless neighborhoods of Narberth to the modern icons of City Avenue, the architecture of the township and borough records the history of those who have called these places home. The built environment marks the struggles, the progress, the accomplishments, and the dreams of countless ordinary and extraordinary people.
Our embarrassment of riches is impressive. It should not, however, make us complacent about the resiliency of our heritage. Every year, Lower Merion and Narberth suffer an attrition of historic resources, including the demolition of significant landmarks, the degradation of historic landscapes, and the teardown of houses and buildings in traditional neighborhoods. Over time, the steady loss of historic resources undermines the character of our communities. This loss stems not from a willful desire to dispose of our heritage but, rather, from a belief that historic buildings are not attractive prospects for rehabilitation.
Yet, visionaries in the township and borough are increasingly challenging beliefs that development and historic preservation are contrary objectives. During the past few years, residents, lawmakers, and stakeholders in Lower Merion and Narberth have repeatedly affirmed that there are social, cultural, environmental, and economic benefits to embracing building projects that meet modern expectations for comfort, technology, and convenience, but that also pay deference to history through the rehabilitation of old buildings. Rehabilitation projects in Lower Merion and Narberth have demonstrated that people want to live, work and socialize in places that embrace innovation yet retain their historic character. In Ardmore, Gladwyne, and Narberth, vacant churches have recently found new uses as distinctive residences. In Haverford, a tired main street store has been creatively reimagined as a popular neighborhood coffee house. And, in Bala Cynwyd a historic railroad station has been reestablished as a community landmark. The retention and reuse of these historic resources has helped restore a sense of place and identity to their respective communities.
The properties on the 2016 WatchList are historic buildings that lend a strong sense of place to their communities. They are on the WatchList because they are at risk of demolition, they have experienced deferred maintenance, or they are vacant. Each property on the WatchList is unique; its age, its use, its character, and its setting in the landscape tells its own history. As an assemblage, however, the properties on the WatchList reflect the dense layering of history in our communities. This history, which has edified, surprised, provoked, and delighted generations of residents and visitors, is crucial to the identity of Lower Merion and Narberth and should be preserved for the benefit of future generations.
The properties on the WatchList were nominated by residents of the community and members of the Lower Merion Conservancy. An advisory committee comprising professional preservationists, scholars, historians, and architects used the criteria, listed below, to evaluate the WatchList nominations. The Conservancy’s Preservation Committee approved the final WatchList. The Conservancy informed all owners about the listing of their properties.
The 2016 WatchList properties are listed below, in order of their construction dates.