University City's Holiday House Tour

Stone Carving on Clavary Methodist ChurchThe University City Historical Society will host its annual Holiday House Tour on Sunday, December 12, 1999 beginning at 4 p.m. featuring homes north and south of Baltimore Avenue in the West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb Historic District, Philadelphia's largest Victorian National Register District. This year's tour will feature homes recently purchased by enthusiastic new residents who wish to share their new living spaces and holiday decorations in this annual area celebration. Ten great University City homes dating from the late 1880's to the 1920's will be open for this early evening tour. Some homes have been kept in the Victorian style while others have been completely made over to reflect a new era. Traditional Christmas greenery and special preparations for Chanukah will share the spotlight with the beautiful architectural details for which University City homes are so well known. Dining tables will be set for holiday meals, candles will be lit in celebration and sounds of the season will resound through the halls. The homes will be open from 4 to 8 p.m., with refreshments and bathroom facilities available throughout the tour. A brief celebration of the season will be held at Calvary Church from 7:30 to 8:30. Ambassadors from the University City District will be on hand to help guests with directions. Proceeds from the tour benefit the preservation of Walnut West Library at 40th and Walnut Streets. In addition to the traditional tour of decorated home interiors, the historical society this year is sponsoring a contest with prizes for the most festively decorated exteriors in the area. These are not restricted to houses on the tour. This effort is to highlight the magnificent architectural features of the homes of University City for both tour goers and others in the area during the holiday season. Judging of the exterior decorations will take place on the Saturday evening before the tour with the winners announced at the closing festivities. Tickets are available only on the day of the tour. They are $15 each, with children under 16 free if accompanied by an adult. If you are a member of the historical society, or join that evening, the price is only $12. Tickets can be purchased at the tour's starting point, Calvary United Methodist Church, at the corner of 48th Street and Baltimore Avenue no earlier than 3:30 p.m. on the day of tour. The Route 34 Baltimore streetcar line from city hall to 63rd Street stops at the corner. For more information, call (215) 387-3019 or consult the historical society web site at www.uchs.net.

Letter From The President
Kathy Dowdell, UCHS President

Although the year officially starts in January, we at UCHS still chart our year from September to September, as this is the time of our elections. I am honored to be President of the society for this year, and I welcome our new board members, Arlene Matzkin, John Holmes, and Ernie Waugh, who were elected to three-year terms. Arlene, John and Ernie join current board members Sylvia Barkan, Warren Cedarholm, Ellie Cernansky, Doris Cochran-Fikes, Robin Dougherty, Don Gillis, Matt Grubel, Mike Hardy, John Hayden, Chris Hibberd, Secretary Nadine Landis, Carolynne Martin, Ray Rorke, Greg Schopp, Theresa Sims, David Toccafondi, Joan Wells, and Vice President Tim Wood. Although we are approaching the end of 1999, the University City Historical Society has many new initiatives under consideration, and we will be looking at December as a beginning, rather than an ending. With this in mind, I ask our broader membership to think about our mission and purpose, and, as you read about our plans, to feel free to call me or any of our board members with your thoughts and ideas. (You can call the general number for the UCHS, (215) 387-3019, or check our e-mail info@uchs.net to contact us.) We will also be looking to our members to help implement these ideas, so think about what you'd like to do! One of the "hot" issues currently facing our group is the disposition of our collection. Since our unceremonious departure from The Woodlands, Bill Coleman of the Firehouse Farmer's Market has been kind enough to give us storage space for a bargain rent. Bill has now located a market-rate tenant for that space, and has asked us to vacate the space at the Firehouse. New board member Arlene Matzkin (a former member of the city's historical commission) has investigated numerous options, including selling the collection; moving and continuing to store the collection; donating the collection to some other historical society or museum; and others. The board has discussed these options exhaustively, and has decided to hold a limited sale of the more common items (things which can still be found in many houses, such as turned balusters, wood mantles, etc). We will select the most unique and significant pieces, and UCHS will continue to keep these for posterity. (We will continue to search for a way to display these pieces, in a protected setting, so that the community can enjoy them.) Watch your mail for notice of the sale - it will occur sometime after the New Year, and will be open to members first, and then to the entire community. We had a wonderful board retreat in at the beginning of November, hosted by the Marigold Restaurant at 45th and Larchwood. We are still formulating plans and directions from the many ideas discussed there, but several major themes were brought forth. They include:

We will continue to work on our ongoing projects as well - house tours, date markers, streetscape improvement - and hope that our members will support and join in these efforts. Don't miss this year's Holiday House Tour, on December 12, 1999 - there is more information in this newsletter, but save the date now! I'm interested in hearing our members' ideas, thoughts, or concerns at any time. Please feel free to contact me with questions, information, news, or suggestions.

Historic Streetscapes To Date

If you were one of the many University City residents who ordered date plaques for properties in the West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb Historic District and asked for professional installation with a donation of $10 to the society, know that Board Member and carpenter, Greg Schopp, who is also an avid gardener, promises, that with cold weather upon us, will be devoting some weekend time to mounting your plaques. Other orders have been or are being delivered as they are produced by our plaque-maker, Art Winfield of ArtSigns of Upper Darby. Additional orders may be submitted using the enclosed form. Versions for the Garden Court and Powelton Village Historic Districts are begin developed. Also enclosed in this newsletter is information about entering our contest to develop ideas for "stashing the trash" out of sight on University City streets. Click here for contest information. We encourage other entries to join those already received before the contest closes on February 1 of the new year. We would particularly welcome design communities at area schools and universities trying their hands and imaginations at developing innovative, attractive and practical proposals for solving this complex problem. Keep checking our web site for additional suggestions and details.

ArtSigns also produces the 7"x 10.25", brass colored metal "management plaques" like that pictured which the society is offering to area management companies at their price of $25 per sign to replace the illegal "blade type" signs which disfigure the area's historic streetscapes. To date, Sherman Properties, Apartments@Penn and UCA Realty have commissioned these for their buildings and Campus Apartments, another major property owner/manager, have begun installing similar signage. We thank them all for their concern for improving the appearance of the area. Companies interested in seeing a version of these plaques for their own properties should contact UCHS at (215) 387-3019 or info@uchs.net. We continue to request suggestions for recognizing and honoring those who donate their "Gifts to the Street" in the form of improved historic facades and landscaping in the historic districts. This season has seen a burst of greening occur on many front yards of both residential and rental properties and all of these should be remembered next Valentine's Day at our annual "Gift to the Street" citations. If you think we might have overlooked a candidate, please let us know.

Awards For 1999

Until the end of this century, December 31, 1999 that is, the nominations are open for UCHS's annual Preservation Awards. This and every year, the society recognizes and publicly rewards efforts for outstanding examples of historic preservation. Awards are presented in the categories of "Outstanding Preservation" and "Preservation Initiative." The first recognizes an excellent example of exterior restoration or outstanding external preservation of a University City structure; the second, an effort at historic preservation not necessarily apparent in the existing building fabric of a specific structure, but which makes a major contribution to such ends. Call or write in your nominations to (215) 387-3019 or uchs@libertynet.org. The awards for 1999 will be granted in February 2000.

1999: Calvary's Year of Renewal
Rich Kirk, UCHS member

Calvary United Methodist ChurchThe tower of Calvary soars eight stories over one of Philadelphia's most perfectly preserved and harmonious Victorian urban intersections. The fate of this magnificent building, with its world class Tiffany stained glass, Brothers O'Dell organ, and acoustically perfect auditorium, has hung in the balance for the past few years, even as it became a crown jewel in the newly named West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb National Historic District. More than a year has passed since any new information has been made public about the church, so it is time for an update. Calvary's Building Subcommittee (it is, functionally, a subcommittee of the Board of Trustees) was formally activated and given the signal to move ahead this spring. This committee is composed of five members of Calvary's trustees and several committed participants from the community at large, representing the Friends of Calvary and UCHS. The subcommittee has been meeting regularly since April. This group from the start has been dealing with three primary areas of concern: building use through redevelopment, building restoration, and the formation of a formal organization to succeed itself and see through the building restoration and program for the building's community uses for the long term. The long-range goals here are to obtain funding to restore the building, for the building to achieve financial self-sufficiency and for it to function in a manner consistent with its architectural importance and its central position in the University City community. The vision here is to create a true center for community, culture and the arts, all of which to reflect and strengthen the diversity and vitality of the surrounding neighborhood. So far in 1999, the committee and church leadership have conducted a special building use study, negotiated contract renewals with the Philadelphia School District for its basement Day Care Center, and entered into discussions with an additional congregation to share worship space in the building. Several other groups, including UCHS, have also expressed interest in using spaces at the church, and Calvary will do all it can to accommodate as many groups as possible. As for the second area of concern, building restoration, Calvary's two most serious problems are being addressed simultaneously. Work being done this month will complete all necessary roof repairs. This work has taken three years and over $50,000 to complete, a major accomplishment. Because of the complexity of the roof, a chronic problem throughout the building's history, constant vigilance will be required, but major new roof expenses are not anticipated for several years. The second problem involves the major structural crisis in the building, the listing gables on both the 48th Street and Baltimore Avenue sides of the church. To address this issue, so far two major grants have been received. The first grant for $20,000 from Preservation Pennsylvania is a work in progress with architectural engineer Richard Ortega, who is currently employed with the task of devising the most cost effective final solution to the problem of the gables, and also providing complete, start-to-finish cost projections for the rest of the project. In collaboration with Ortega's work, stained glass expert Kathy Jordan of The Art of Glass, Media, is addressing the interrelated matter of the Tiffany windows below the listings gables. The second grant, from the William Penn Foundation, is an outright gift of $25,000 toward the gables repairs with a matching grant of an additional $25,000, if the match is raised by March 2000. You will be hearing much more from us on this last after the holidays. In addressing the third area of concern, a new 501-C-3 non-profit organization is being formed. Help from the Penn Law School has been requested, a mission statement drafted and nominations to an advisory board developed. Check out the UCHS website for a new page devoted to Calvary with some spectacular new pictures. Further news of the progress of the Center for Culture and Community at Calvary will be appearing there as well. Altogether, a very exciting year of new beginnings at Calvary with more in store in the new millennium.

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