Preservation WatchList

 2017 Annual Watchlist

Every year since 1996, the Lower Merion Conservancy has published a WatchList of significant historic properties in Lower Merion and Narberth that are threatened with demolition, neglect, or insensitive development.  The intent of this List is to cultivate preservation opportunities for threatened properties by enhancing the public’s awareness of their importance, their value to the community, and their reuse potential.

Throughout the past two decades, many properties on the WatchList have been saved through the determination of individuals.  During the past two years alone, the conviction of residents and commissioners, the generosity of civic-minded benefactors, and the financial investment of private developers have helped to preserve the Pennsylvania Railroad Freight Shed in Ardmore, the Women’s Club and the Levering Mill House in Bala Cynwyd, the First Baptist Church in Ardmore, the Odd Fellows Home in Gladwyne, and the William Penn Inn in Wynnewood.  The activism of individuals is critical to the preservation of the community’s character; it excites the public’s curiosity about a range of historic resources, it sparks ideas for rescuing unsung treasures, and it stimulates conversations about the communal value of our older building stock.

The passion of individuals alone, however, is not sufficient to protect the character of our community. 

The preservation of our traditional neighborhoods, the revitalization of our main streets, and the conservation of our open spaces are community-wide aspirations that can only be fully realized with a plan that acknowledges and responds to the relationship of our landscape to our quality of life.

Lower Merion’s new Comprehensive Plan [the Plan] does this.  The Plan, which was completed in 2016 with the input of thousands of community members, recommends the adoption of institutional, commercial, residential, and open space land-use strategies that support and enhance Lower Merion’s traditional design aesthetic.  This aesthetic, which is present in the township’s early neighborhoods, in its many unique villages, and in the stunning natural beauty of the Mill Creek Valley, has long distinguished Lower Merion as an exceptional community.

The Comprehensive Plan recommends the use of conventional preservation strategies to protect Lower Merion’s historic buildings and neighborhoods.  Some of these strategies, which the township has already authorized and successfully employed, include the creation of historic districts and the designation of historic properties.  The Plan also recommends new strategies to advance preservation and land conservation, including enacting neighborhood-based zoning regulations and strengthening the demolition review process.  The Lower Merion Conservancy supports the use of these proposed strategies for the preservation of its 2017 WatchList properties.  This fall, the Lower Merion Conservancy and the Lower Merion Township Building and Planning Department also intend to host a series of workshops that will focus on the means by which one proposed strategy, Form-Based zoning, can aid in the preservation of our historic neighborhoods and open spaces.  Information on these workshops will follow.

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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.

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?

2017 Advisory Committee:

• Suzanna Barucco sbk + partners, LLC, Historic Preservation Consulting  Christian Busch 20th Century Preservation, LLC Jeff Groff Winterthur Museum and Library Jerry Francis Lower Merion Historical Society Gerry Fisher Historic Preservation Consultant Philip Franks, AIA Philip Franks Architects Dennis Montagna, Ph.D. National Parks ServiceKaren Nagel, Ph.D. Architectural Historian Jean Wolf Wolf Historic Preservation Scott Kalner, AIA Principal, Architect for Amtrak Bob Weisbord Narberth Borough Councilor Jeff Levine Levine and Company Roof Consulting and Architectural Conservation Lonnie Hovey, AIA Whitman, Requardt and Associates, LLP

The 2017 WatchList properties are listed below