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West Chester Preservation Awards 2017

The West Chester Downtown Foundation presented the 7th Annual West Chester Preservation Awards on October 19, 2017.  More than 200 guests attended the ceremony and reception at the Chester County Historical Society to recognize and celebrate this year's award recipients. The response to the call for nominations was, once again, impressive, and included submissions in each award category: Bricks & Mortar, Preservation Service, and Preservation Legacy.

Plan to join us for the 2018 West Chester Preservation Awards on October 18th at the Chester County Historical Society. In the meantime, think about a project, program, or an individual that you might wish to submit for consideration when the Nominations Period opens in Spring of 2018. Details on the 2018 Nominations Period will be available shortly.  

The purpose of the West Chester Preservation Awards program is to raise awareness and appreciation of West Chester's significant historic character and to encourage the preservation of its historic integrity.

2017 Preservation Awards 
Photos Courtesy of Timlyn Vaughan Photography

Bricks & Mortar Awards

The Social - 115 East Gay Street "The Social" Building - 119 East Gay Street
Renovation & Restoration
Owner:  The Zukin Family / Gay Street Development Company, LLC

Located at the heart of West Chester's Commercial Shopping district on Gay Street, this building was reportedly erected prior to the Civil War. The original owner, William Hoffman, was a cabinet maker who displayed his products in the front retail showroom. The Civil War tragically created a demand for coffins, so Hoffman began to combine cabinetmaking with coffin building and undertaking. In 1876, a local newspaper noted "Our townsman, Joseph B. Smith, has purchased of T.P. Apple, the Hoffman undertaking and furniture business property ...". The Smith family operated the funeral home for three generations until Ashton Smith sold the building in 1998. To better accommodate the funeral home's requirements, significant alterations were made to the original first floor storefront in the 1950s.

After purchasing the building, the Zukin family conducted historical research and discovered photographs illustrating the building's early appearance. Preliminary demolition revealed the original structural support beam was intact, allowing the storefront to be reopened. It was restored to closely replicate the original storefront design, while accommodating the intended occupancy. The front entrance was narrowed, slightly, to accommodate larger flanking display windows. The original shallow arched design was retained. The facade was rebuilt with Spanish cedar and Douglas fir to replicate the character of the original storefront. The original decorative wood brackets were meticulously removed, repaired and reinstalled. The entire building was renovated, first as a home design store, and later as a restaurant. In the early years, the business owner lived above the shop. The 2nd floor access was later moved further back in the building, but the Zukin's were careful to retain the original staircase as a prominent feature on the main floor, despite the fact that it no longer provides access to the 2nd floor. In an adjacent room, which is used for parties, the original fireplace has been retained. The preserved building has become a local Gay Street landmark, accented by its signature exterior gas lamps.

The project demonstrates how carefully researched design can transform existing structures into important architectural and economic community assets. The project was considered of such quality that it is illustrated as an example of good storefront restoration in the West Chester Historic District Design Guidelines. 

Smithworks - Court Yard  Smithworks Design - Corner of Mechanic's Alley & Ash Alley
Adaptive Reuse
Owners:  Eric and Susan Smith   
In 2006, Susan and Eric Smith aspired to create a combined living and working arrangement for their growing graphics and advertising design business. They purchased a small complex of former commercial buildings to adapt to their requirements. Tucked into the heart of West Chester's southeast Riggtown neighborhood, the property is located at the corner of Mechanic's Alley and Ash Alley. The result is a remarkable complex of business office, residence, and open courtyard that serves as a wonderful example of creatively adapting historic structures to meet the needs of a modern family and business.

In 1895, David Scott, a lumber dealer, sold the property to brothers T. Evans Smith and Shoffner M. Smith, for their express business, which required horses, so the Smith's soon constructed a "commodious brick stable" for that purpose. In 1899, T.E. Smith brought out his brother, and T.E. Smith and Son became a well known West Chester moving firm.  Eventually, the site was used by Gordon Whitcraft for weekly auctions of household goods into the 1960s. The Smithworks Design office, located on the east side of the courtyard, was developed out of the 1909 brick warehouse T.E. Smith and Sons used to house their express business. It was remodeled to create a comfortable workspace for their creative group, including flex space, committed office and meeting space, large open studio space, and gallery display walls for making presentations. The design retained the building's original industrial character, incorporating new materials, aligned with the industrial aesthetic. New Homasote walls, Plexiglas clerestory, repurposed interior sliding wooden doors, an exterior brick ramp, metal railings, and entrance hoods over the pair of existing doors all compliment the original structure.

The smaller brick building on the west side of the courtyard, the original stable, was converted to a residence around 1915, when trucks replaced the horses. The building was renovated to provide modern living space for the Smiths and their twin teenage daughters. The office and residence both front onto the landscaped central courtyard, which is visible from the alley. It forms an intimate oasis in the center of this busy residential block. The brick pavers, plantings, and landscape lighting unify the Smithworks complex, architecturally. Functionally, the courtyard accommodates parking and provides outdoor space for an active young family. A recent modern structure was erected to replace a fire damaged garage. The new addition introduces a contemporary vocabulary consistent with the commercial heritage of the property and the renovations to the office and residence.

The current owners have fully embraced the historic concept of living where you work - once the typical arrangement in West Chester. Their careful renovation of the office building and residence preserves the property's historic commercial character. This hidden jewel, largely undiscovered to most West Chester residents, celebrates the incredible potential contained in the Borough's less visible historic structures.

Chester County Historical Society - 225 North High Street
Adaptive Reuse

This year, the West Chester Preservation Awards Program is continuing its recognition of West Chester's pioneering historic preservation projects, because they illustrated the immense potential for the preservation and adaptive reuse of the town's many historic assets. During the past 30 years, West Chester has become a recognized leader in successfully leveraging that historic character, to create a culturally vibrant and economically thriving community. This year, we recognize the Chester County Historical Society's 1995 project to adaptively reuse two historic buildings to create their new headquarters building in downtown West Chester. This project is a highly visible showcase for what is possible through creative planning and exceptional historic preservation efforts.

The Chester County Historical Society originally acquired the Horticultural Hall building on North High Street in 1936. Designed by Thomas U Walter, the 1848 building has a distinctive serpentine stone facade featuring a recessed Norman arch as its architectural focus. Originally built as a venue to host horticultural lectures and exhibitions, the building subdequently operated as an Opera House and, later, as the McCall Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterens' organization. Since the late 1930s, the Historical Society utilized the building as their headquarters with a museum gallery, library, offices and storage space. By the 1990s, the group had outgrown the structure and the decision was made to expand into the adjacent 1908 YMCA building. Combining the two buildings would provide adequate space to accommodate the Historical Society's growing programmatic needs. The obvious problem was that the two buildings were physically separated by Evans Street and were architecturally dissimilar. Working with Frens and Frens Restoration Architects, the Historical Society developed an ingenious plan to link the two historic buildings with an enclosed second floor walkway spanning above the alley.

The former 1908 YMCA building on the south side of Evans Street now functions as the public entrance for the Historical Society complex. The YMCA building also provides meeting spaces for public and private events, the CCHS Library, administrative offices and storage rooms. The 1848 Horticultural Hall building houses the Historical Societyy's museum galleries on two floors. Both buildings were extensively renovated while preserving important historic features.  Based on historical research, the non-contributing additions to the YMCA building were demolished. The original colonial revival facade was reconstructed and the new entrance portico and adjacent terrace were constructed. A three story entrance lobby in the 1908 YMCA building leads to the second floor auditorium, galleries, and links to the original 1848 Horticultural Hall. The expanded library provides space for research and architectural storage of documents, while the museum gift shop offers books and decorative items for sale. New educational facilities support the Historical Society's outreach programs for youth and adult learners. The project also expanded the museum space by 60%, including five new galleries and expanded collections storage. Building systems were completely replaced with modern energy efficient mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and security systems. Since its original opening in 1994, the Historical Society has continually maintained and upgraded their downtown headquarters. Their careful, ongoing stewardship demonstrates the Historical Society's commitment to historic preservation.

The facility provides a setting for lectures and educational programs, while the meeting spaces are utilized for numerous public and private events. The museum displays the Historical Society's significant collection of antiques and fine art, and also presents rotating exhibits on a wide variety of historic subjects. Since its opening, the Chester County Historical Society has become an active landmark in downtown West Chester, a focal point for the celebration of Chester County's historic past, as well as its exciting future.

Fountain - Marshall Square ParkMarshall Square Park Fountain - 200 East Marshall Street
Owner: Borough of West Chester

The restoration of the historic fountain at the northeast corner of Marshall Square Park is an outstanding example of what a dedicated, passionate community group can accomplish to make West Chester a better place to live, work and visit. Marshall Square Park was established as an Arboretum in 1848, eight years before the founding of New York's Central Park. The park contained the borough reservoir at the southwest corner, the highest elevation in West Chester. The ordinance establishing the park also specified the rest of the Square would be planted in native shrubs and trees and paths would be provided for the public. In 1889, a fountain was purchased from Philadelphia and installed for the sum of $170. The fountain became a popular center of social interaction. A 1932 Daily Local News editorial stated, "There is no social line in the fountain, white, colored and all the intervening shades being welcome, for it is realized that the sun shines upon all races, and water flows freely for all to admire." By the early 1950's, the fountain had become deteriorated. The original masonry basin was retained as a planting area, but the cast iron fountain was removed and seemingly lost forever. In 2012, the missing fountain was rediscovered in a local barn, inspiring a group of community leaders to arrange for its return to Marshall Square Park. Initial planning revealed the restoration of the fountain would be a very involved and expensive undertaking. However, the group persevered, with simultaneous design and fundraising activities. The fountain restoration was implemented under the guidance of Jeffrey C. Beitel, AIA, President of the Friends of Marshall Square Park, and Anne F. Walters, RLA, Chair of the Fountain Restoration Committee. The work included leveling and reconstructing the 25-foot diameter masonry, and refurbishing the original 14-foot high cast iron fountain, including the bowls, stems and elements. Several missing cast iron pieces were refabricated at substantial expense. Completely new plumbing systems with modern controls were installed for maximum decorative effect. A new lighting systems insures the fountain provides a spectacular visual impact at night. The original brick plaza was reconstructed, including the accurate installation of original brick swales and decorative features.The plaza incorporates benches for viewing and enjoying the fountain. Acorn finials from the original iron fence were salvaged and reused on the new circular fence that matches the original design. The fountain restoration was privately funded by generous donations from the local community. The plaza benches, bronze plaques on the fence, and engraved paving bricks serve to commemorate donors to the fountain restoration. Rededicated on September 24, 2016, the restored fountain is, once again, a higly visible local landmark and serves as a beautiful reminder of West Chester's gracious past.  

West Chester National Guard Armory - 226 North High Street Uptown Knauer Theater of the Performing Arts
Adaptive Reuse
Owner: Uptown! Bravo Theater, LLC

The exciting adaptive reuse of the National Guard Armory building into the Knauer Performing Arts Center is a call out to everyone in West Chester to Dream BIG! 

The Uptown! Bravo Theater Company, LLC, was formed to preserve the Armory building and create a much needed venue for live performance in West Chester. Saving the armory for any purpose would merit recognition, but this group saw an opportunity to noticeably improve the quality of life in the Borough by converting the building into a performing arts center. The building was originally constructed in 1916 at a cost of $40,000 to house the local National Guard unit. In 1916 a local paper wrote, "Besides furnishing quarters for the local military organization, the armory will be rented for dances, conventions, suppers, fairs, etc." In the 1940's, it was the site of the first Chester County Historical Society Antiques Show, and routinly hosted Saturday night dances. The Armory most recently was headquarters for the Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team. When that unit began construction of a new facility in Western Chester County in 2012, the West Chester Armory became available. The Uptown! Bravo Theater Company was organized by local community members to raise money and plan for the Armory's new life  as a performing arts center. The core of the original structure has been carefully preserved in compliance with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Rehabilitation of Historic Properties. A preservation covenant is held by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) as a condition of the building's discounted purchase price. The Armory building was renovated to accommodate the new programmatic requirements. Renovation included converting the former drill hall into a 327 seat main stage theater, an upstairs performance space for 100, a lower level performance and educational space, as well as a classroom. Green rooms, dressing rooms and bathrooms for the cast members are also provided on the lower level. The renovations have created a dynamic environment, often used simultaneously by multiple groups for rehearsals and events. The building's infrastructure was thoroughly upgraded with a new roof, modern energy efficient mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems. State of the art lighting and sound systems were installed to support the main stage productions. The fundraising burden required to bring this project to life was taken on by community leaders who believed in its mission. A capital campaign was launched and raised $4.2 million to purchase, preserve and renovate the Armory and Theater for film and live performances. Since its opening on December 31, 2016, the Knauer Performing Arts Center has been a center for events and artistic activity in the Borough. The theater is now in full swing with events from its eight Resident Companies and the West Chester Studio of the Performing Arts. The Knauer Perfforming Arts Center stands as an example of what is possible through the collective efforts of an inspired community.

Preservation Service Award

Johnathan Ashton - West Chester Prime West Chester Historical Landmarks Video - Johnathan Ashton
West Chester Historical Landmarks Video Tour

The 2017 Preservation Service Award is presented to Johnathan Ashton for his West Chester Historical Landmarks Video Tour, which highlights downtown West Chester. The video was developed as an internet accessible platform to introduce and educate the public about the downtown district's valuable historic inventory. The production is the first known of its type to take the viewer on a narrated tour of West Chester's most important historic buildings and sites. Visiting sixteen historic sites in West Chester, the video weaves historic photographs with modern video footage to illustrate some of West Chester's most significant historic sites. The tour depicts architectural landmarks, such as Thomas U. Walter's First Bank of Chester County, as well as unique properties, such as the 1943 site of the world's first mass-produced penicillin facility, in a converted downtown auto-repair garage; currently the site of the Borough's Chestnut Street Parking Garage. Other sites include Horticultural Hall, the Armory Building, the William Darlington Building, Peter and Mary Rush's Grocery Store (Currently Senator Dinniman's Office), and the Post Office.

The narrative provides interesting insights into West Chester's historic past. The video was produced in conjunction with the West Chester Business Improvement District. The video and a printable text summary can be accessed at with a computer or handheld device. The West Chester Historical Landmarks Video Tour opens the next chapter documenting West Chester's historic past, and will, hopefully, inspire others to follow this innovative trail.

Special Recognition Award

Timothy Coldren - Monroe Coldren & Son Monroe Coldren & SonMonroe Coldren & Son - Timothy Coldren
Organization President - Timothy Coldren

The preservation of West Chester's historic character depends on many individuals and organizations. Some are well known to the general public, but others are known only within the preservation community. Without the dedicated efforts of these artists and craftsmen, the high quality preservation of our local treasures would not be guaranteed. This year, we wish to recognize the important contribution of Timothy Coldren, proprietor of Monroe Coldren & Son, for his dedicated contributions to West Chester's preservation. Mr. Coldren specializes in providing the antique hardware critical to the restoration of many historic West Chester properties. Tim is the second generation owner of a West Chester business founded by his father, Monroe Coldren. Since 1958, Monroe Coldren & Son have been the acknowledged primary resource for the restoration, refit and custom construction of period hardware. As an apprentice with his father, beginning in 1975, Tim gained a solid foundation in the business and the art of hardware restoration. The company offers a full range of services, including accurate restoration and/or reproduction of 18th or 19th century hardware. Tim restores or provides period locksets, keys, operating hardware for doors, windows, shutters and miscellaneous period household hardware elements. As an accomplished metalsmith, Tim can fabricate almost any hardware item needed.  

Through his wonderful work, Tim has contributed to the restoration of many important West Chester properties, such as West Chester Friends Meeting, the Lincoln Building, the First Presbyterian Church, the Everhart Library, Boyd's Funeral Home, Portico Row, and numerous private residences throughout the Borough. Tim enjoys sharing his vast knowledge of West Chester's history and its buildings, as well as educating architects, carpenters and property owners about the intricate details and operation of antique hardware. He also conducts workshops on historic hardware, door and window construction for preservation groups. Through devotion to his craft, passion for historic preservation and sharing his knowledge with others, Timothy Coldren has made a significant and lasting contribution to the preservation of West Chester's historic fabric.

Preservation Legacy  

Ray H. Ott, Jr. Ray H. Ott - Preservation Legacy Award

This year's Legacy Award recipient is Ray H. Ott, Jr., for his significant contributions to the preservation of West Chester's historic fabric. Upon his arrival to work with the Chester County Planning Commission, Ray quickly recognized West Chester's unique historic character. Through his work as a professional planner, Ray was an early urban preservation advocate. His community-centered volunteer activities made a significant contribution by educating the public to appreciate West Chester's historic resources.  

In the mid-1980's, Ray nominated the West Chester Historic District (aka the West Chester Business District) to the National Register of Historic Places (listed in 1985). He was instrumental in the adoption of the Historic District Ordinance in 1988, and formation of the Historical and Architectural Review Board (HARB) in 1989. Ray recognized the need to economically revitalize West Chester's downtown commercial core to insure the town's long-term preservation. He was an early advocate of the Main Street Program; the first iteration of which was in place from c. 1990 to c. 1997.

In the late 1990's, Ray was a champion of the Business Improvement District. The BID focused on revitalizing West Chester's commercial core, and recognized the economic value of preserving its unique historic resources. Ray has occupied a seat on the BID's Board of Directors since its inception. Since that time, West Chester's economic revival has been closely tied to its success in preserving its valuable historic resources.  

In 1999, Ray's planning firm, Ray Ott & Associates, created the West Chester Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted by Borough Council in 2000. In 2010, Ray's firm created the West Chester Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan. This plan was one of the first historic preservation plans in the Commonwealth and is now used as an excellent example for other municipalities to follow. As a local resident, Ray has restored several historic properties in the Borough. He also encourages community appreciation of West Chester's historic fabric by leading educational tours for the annual West Chester Town Tours program, and the Old Fashioned Christmas Walking Tours. Ray has been a champion of West Chester's historic preservation since the beginning. His contributions as both a professional planner and private citizen have laid much of the foundation for West Chester's historic preservation. The West Chester Preservation Awards is proud to recognize Ray H. Ott, Jr., as a recipient of the 2017 West Chester Preservation Legacy Award.

>>See West Chester Preservation Awards: 2016 & 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011


The West Chester Downtown Foundation gratefully acknowledges the Sponsors of the 2017 West Chester Preservation Awards

Serpentine Sponsors:  







Logo - Breen Company

Logo - Archer & Buchanan

Logo - MacElree Harvey

Marble Sponsors:  

-County Lines Magazine
-Galer Estate Winery 
-Gemelli Artisinal Gelato & Dessert Cafe'
-Synchrony Group
-Chester County Historical Society 
-West Chester Business Improvement District 
-Pancoast & Clifford, Inc.
-Umbreit Korengel & Associates, P.C.
-Limoncello Ristorante & Caterers 
-Brandywine Valley Heating & Air Conditioning
-Arthur Hall Insurance 
-Swope Lees Commercial Real Estate, LLC 
-Lamb McErlane PC  

 Limestone Sponsors:  

-DellaVecchia, Reilly, Smith & Boyd Funeral Home, Inc. 
-Jane Chalfant / Kiki Boutique
-Brandywine Studio LLC

-John and Barbara Spellman 
-Fulton Bank
-Period Architecture, Ltd.

-Thomas Comitta Associates, Inc. 
-Bliss & Co., Ltd.
-Fulton Bank
-Arcus Design Group

-Lawrence M. O'Donnell 
-Zukin Realty, Inc. 

Brick Sponsors: 
-Friend of the West Chester Downtown Foundation
Philip Yocum Architect
Hon. Matthew Holliday

-Ray Ott & Associates 
-Michael and Susan Hudson

-Robert and Lori Uhl
-Gerard and Margaret Williams 

Media Partners: 
-Fig West Chester
-County Lines Magazine


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