October 27, 2015 | Elizabeth McGuire
West Chester, PA — On October 22, 2015, the 5th Annual West Chester Preservation Awards Ceremony was held at the Chester County Historical Society. More than 200 guests attended the 2015 event to celebrate West Chester and to show their support for the projects, programs and individuals that have contributed to the Borough’s historic character and integrity.
- Bricks and Mortar Preservation Awards:
Mitch’s Gym – 232 West Market Street: Owners: Donna Markley, Joe Messner, Eli Kahn and Gary Toll
Adaptive Reuse of the West Chester Laundry Building
Architect: Richard Levingood; General Contractors: Gary Toll and Joe Messner
Completed in 1998, Mitch’s Gym illustrates how the sensitive renovation of an existing historic structure can meet this modern community’s needs, while preserving our historic resources. Mitch’s 16 years of successful operation serves as a testament to the economic wisdom of sensitively repurposing existing structures. The original interior was retained to provide an open, light-filled exercise space. The large, main level windows were replaced with energy efficient units, while keeping the distinctive original clerestory windows at the roof level. The original brick and stone exterior was retained and decorative metal wall panels were added in a manner that is appropriate to the industrial origins of the building. The adaptive reuse as Mitch’s Gym allows the building to maintain an ongoing connection to the local residents who use its facilities.
Grape House – 210 South Walnut Street:
Owners: William and June McLaughlin
Architect: John Reynolds Design Assoc.; General Contractor: Stephen J. Esh Sons, Inc.
Forty years ago, the front porch of this pre-1850 Gothic Revival home was removed, leaving a scarred brick exterior and sloppy repairs where the porch had been. The home’s current owners wanted to construct a new porch to match the original. Initial efforts to find photographic evidence of the original porch through archival research were unsuccessful. However, working with their architect, they investigated the design and detailing of similar porches in West Chester, and developed an appropriate design for the reconstructed porch. Previously installed, non-appropriate construction was removed. Brick restoration replaced newer in-fill facade bricks with the correct, non-standard size historic bricks. Correctly styled wood railings were salvaged locally. The new porch floor is mahogany. The roof is copper coated standing seam stainless steel- traditional in appearance and modern in durability. The contractor took obvious care to craft a porch equal to the historic precedents that served as the project’s inspiration. The Grape House Porch is an outstanding example of the significant contribution a motivated homeowner can make to West Chester’s historic neighborhoods.
Sidewalk Canopy – 33-39 West Market Street:
Owners: Zukin Realty
Architect: Greg Radford; General Contractor: Jeff Baranzano of Zukin Realty
In the 19th Century, many of the sidewalks in West Chester’s commercial downtown were covered with fixed canopy roofs. Today, only a few of these canopies remain. This structure was, at one time, the Regan Smoke Shop, and had lost its original canopy to time. The new canopy was constructed to connect with the adjoining existing canopies. This subtle project has deftly restored a significant half-block long section of covered sidewalk for public use and enjoyment. The project successfully recreates a once-common element in West Chester’s historic commercial center. The design and construction team of Architect, Greg Radford and Zukin Realty undertook archival research to obtain historic photographs of the Regan property, and the adjacent commercial district. When the new canopy support framing was installed, it aligned perfectly with the existing structure of the adjoining historic canopies. The reconstructed canopy restores a distinctive architectural element to the downtown and
serves as an important link to West Chester’s historic past.
Paxon Park – West Dean Street: Preservation Planning Efforts
Owners: Richard Meadows and Joseph Liberato
Architect, Designer, Engineer: Richard Meadows, Josh Arthur, Doug Seymour, PE;
General Contractor: Short Brothers
Paxon Park consists of twelve new homes constructed on the westward extension of West Dean Street. The site of the new neighborhood was an open space that had originally been part of the Willliam Everhart tract in the nineteenth century. The property eventually passed to the Paxson Family. In the late 1990s, SBCM, Inc. acquired the property to develop Paxon Park in accordance with the Chester County mandate for sustainable “smart growth”. The goal was to build a walkable neighborhood of urban-type homes, integrated into West Chester’s existing historic fabric. The new homes were based on four models designed with massing and details patterned after the vernacular homes built in the Borough between 1880 and 1920. While the homes have traditional features, they are unmistakably new, twenty-first century residences. The overriding impression is of a traditional block of homes that blends seamlessly into the fabric of the local neighborhood.
The Deli Building – 214 South New Street: Adaptive Reuse
Owner: William Robinson
Project Designer and General Contractor: William Robinson
This former carriage house has a long and colorful history in the Borough. Currently operated as a law office, the building was the long time home to Rosi’s Deli, owned by Rosie Wichanski, nee DiConstanza. The DiConstanza family owned multiple sandwich shops in West Chester in the mid-twentieth century. Assumed to have been a stable in its earliest days, the building is also believed to have been used as a woodshop by the First Baptist Church of West Chester. The current owner renovated the building for conversion to offices and a residential apartment. It is an excellent example of the continued adaption of the Borough’s historic buildings to new uses, insuring their economic viability. The renovations were implemented in a manner that retains the building’s intrinsic historic features and architectural character. The second floor hay loading doors were retained as well as the ground floor stable door on the alley side. The renovations included a new roof, woodwork, windows, shutters, and entrance canopy. The Deli Building is an excellent example of how one of West Chester’s hidden historic jewels can adapt and find a new life through sensitive treatment.
- Preservation Service Award: Dr. Rob Lukens
The Preservation Service Awards are presented to individuals and organizations in recognition of projects that promote a better understanding of the history of West Chester and the importance of preserving the physical evidence of that history.
The 2015 Preservation Service Award is presented, posthumously, to Dr. Rob Lukens for his rich and continuing contributions to understanding the history of West Chester and Chester County. Dr. Lukens served as the President of the Chester County Historical Society since 2011, strongly advocating for education and outreach. In his role as CCHS President, Rob was intimately involved in historic programs serving the greater West Chester Community. Rob brought an energy and passion to share the unique history of West Chester with the general public. In 2013, he redefined the mission of the historical society as “CCHS inspires, informs, and builds community identity by preserving and sharing the remarkable story of Chester County and its people”.
Rob Lukens brought a special combination of his professional attitude and contagious enthusiasm for local history to all of his efforts. Rob was often innovative in his approach to enlightening the public about our shared history. He once organized residents in a campaign to lobby for one of the CCHS artifacts- A chester County Abolotionist’s Diary, to be declared the winner in a state-wide contest to save Pennsylvania’s most-endangered artifacts. Through his inconventional methods and warm personality, Rob was able to energize average people to learn and care about history. West Chester was a beneficiary of Rob’s efforts to increase the visibility of the Chester County Historical Society. Rob’s leadership brought important upgrades to the CCHS facilities, programs, and exhibitions. As a West Chester resident, Rob Lukens had a great appreciation for the Borough’s rich history and was an enthusiastic advocate for communicating that interest to the next generation.
- Preservation Legacy Award:
Alice Kent Schooler
The Preservation Legacy Awards were established to recognize individuals who made outstanding contributions to the better understanding of West Chester’s history and the preservation of the Borough’s historic character.
The 2015 West Chester Preservation Legacy Award is presented, posthumously to pre-eminent architectural historian, Alice Kent Schooler. Mrs. Schooler was raised in southeastern Massachusetts and studied art history at Wheaton College and UCLA. She moved to Pennsylvania in 1956, and in 1961 began to volunteer at the Chester County Historical Society, where she was introduced to the history of old houses and became interested in researching that history. In 1974, John Milner Associates hired Alice as his architectural historian. In that role, she researched and documented a wide variety of historic properties throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and beyond. In 1979 and 1982, Alice worked with a small group of volunteers to inventory approximately 2000 resources within the Borough; based on that inventory, she completed Pennsylvania Historic Resource Survey Forms for approximately 200 of the most significant individual resources. Alice also acted as liaison between the various project partners and wrote the final analysis of the survey findings. This detailed survey of West Chester’s historic architecture has proved to be an invaluable go-to resource that is still utilized by architects and historians today. In 1985, Mrs. Schooler wrote her popular book, Livable West Chester, an Architectural Overview. Her book illustrated outstanding examples of the variety of West Chester’s architecture, both extant and demolished, and was the first book to focus, exclusively, on West Chester’s historic architecture. Alice enjoyed passing on her knowledge, and gave a series of popular lectures at the Chester County Historical Society on the architectural history of West Chester, Chester County, Southeastern Pennsylvania, and the Delaware Valley.
In recognition of her pioneering inventory and survey of West Chester’s historic architecture; the publication of Livable West Chester; her educational efforts through her lectures; and her public advocacy for best preservation practices, Alice Kent Schooler is presented with the 2015 Preservation Legacy Award.
The West Chester Historic Preservation Awards is presented by the West Chester Downtown Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes community interest in the vitality, culture and livability of the Borough of West Chester through education, historic preservatiion, and collaboration.
See West Chester Preservation Awards & Recognitions: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
- County Lines Magazine article History All Around (PDF) featuring the 2014 Preservation Award winners.
The Board of the West Chester Downtown Foundation, and the West Chester Preservation Awards Committee gratefully acknowledge the generous support of the sponsors of the 5th Annual West Chester Preservation Awards Program:
-THE BOROUGH OF WEST CHESTER
-ALLEN AND SARAH BURKE
-THE CHESTER COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
-THE DAVE MAGROGAN GROUP
-A. ROY SMITH
-DEB SPARRE RE/MAX REALTOR
-VAN GROFSKI, LP
–Gross Realty Group, BHHS Fox & Roach, Realtors
-Commissioner Michelle Kichline
–Limoncello Ristorante and Caterers
-McLaughlin Law Offices
-Bliss & Company, Ltd.
-Brandywine Studio, LLC
-Brewer Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc.
-Commissioner Terence Farrell
-County Lines Magazine / Valley Del Publications
-Frens and Frens, LLC Restoration Architects
-Friend of the WCDF
-Jane Chalfant / Kiki Boutique
-Ray Ott & Associates, Inc.
-Philip Yocum, Architect
-David B. Reinfeld
-Dr. and Mrs. John E. Spellman
-Susquehanna Bank – A Division of B B & T
-Thomas Comitta Associates, Inc.
-Kathleen A. Wileczek, CPA
-Philip Yocum, Architect
-Gerri and George Zumbano
-Chester County Bar Association
-Commissioner Kathi Cozzone
-Jane E. Dorchester, Architectural Historian
-Malcolm and Susan Johnstone
-Richard and Julie May
-Brian and Ellen McFadden
-Councilman William J. Scott, Jr.
-Visual Expansion Gallery
-West Chester Business Improvement District