Preservation WatchList

Freight Shed

SAVED! 2016 Watchlist property, Pennsylvania Railroad Freight Shed, 100 Coulter Ave. 

 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?

Submit Your Nominations HERE!*

*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.

Barker Mill: Mill Creek Road, Gladwyne Constructed in 1814; reconstructed in 1840 and 1895; expanded during the 1920s

Barker Mill: Mill Creek Road, Gladwyne Constructed in 1814; reconstructed in 1840 and 1895; expanded during the 1920s The Barker Mill is a historic landmark of undisputed importance.  Located in Gladwyne on the banks of Mill Creek, a fast-moving watercourse that once powered an impres
Read More

Mill Creek Tenement House Walls: Rolling Hill Park, Gladwyne Constructed mid-1800s

Mill Creek Tenement House Walls: Rolling Hill Park, Gladwyne Constructed mid-1800s       *UPDATE* *Lower Merion Township Parks and Recreation Department, working under department head, Donna Heller, have been hard at work clearing vegetation that has been threatening th
Read More

St. Charles Borromeo Seminary: 100 Wynnewood Road, Wynnewood Constructed in 1866, expanded in 1928

St. Charles Borromeo Seminary: 100 Wynnewood Road, Wynnewood Constructed in 1866, expanded in 1928 The 75-acre St. Charles Borromeo Seminary houses the oldest Catholic seminary within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  The property, which is located in Wynnewood, comprises a historic l
Read More

Pennsylvania Railroad Freight Shed: 100 Coulter Avenue, Ardmore Constructed in 1881

Pennsylvania Railroad Freight Shed: 100 Coulter Avenue, Ardmore Constructed in 1881 *UPDATE* Kimco Realty, the owner of the Pennsylvania Railroad freight shed on the Trader Joe’s site, has indicated that it has no immediate or future plans to replace the historic frame building with p
Read More

Baptist Church of the Evangel: 198 Elmwood Avenue, Narberth Constructed in 1892

Baptist Church of the Evangel: 198 Elmwood Avenue, Narberth Constructed in 1892 The demolition of Narberth’s Baptist Church of the Evangel is imminent.  The church’s owner, who initially proposed converting the building to mixed-use (residential and limited commercial for his own busi
Read More

306 Bala Avenue, Bala Cynwyd Constructed in 1896

306 Bala Avenue, Bala Cynwyd Constructed in 1896     **UPDATE** At its recent meeting, the Building and Planning Committee of the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners recommended a preliminary development plan that encourages the preservation of 306 Bala Avenue, a house designed by the
Read More

Ardmore Theatre: 38 W. Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore Constructed in 1926

Ardmore Theatre: 38 W. Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore Constructed in 1926 **UPDATE** The Ardmore Theatre may soon regain its place as the keystone of Ardmore’s business district. At a recent Historical Commission meeting, the theatre’s owner and a preservation architect informally discusse
Read More

Bala Theatre (The Egyptian): 157 Bala Avenue, Bala Cynwyd Constructed in 1926

Bala Theatre (The Egyptian): 157 Bala Avenue, Bala Cynwyd Constructed in 1926 Among Lower Merion’s architectural treasures, the Bala Theatre building complex is unique.  The building, which comprises a theatre and flanking commercial spaces, was designed in 1926 by W. H. Hoffman and P
Read More

Nine Walter Durham Houses: Elbow Lane, Grays Lane, Cheswold Lane, Haverford Constructed between 1935 and 1955

Nine Walter Durham Houses: Elbow Lane, Grays Lane, Cheswold Lane, Haverford Constructed between 1935 and 1955 Lower Merion contains a voluminous collection of houses designed by Walter K. Durham, one of the Main Line’s most notable mid-twentieth-century architects.  Durham’s revival-s
Read More