Monday, January 30 2023 10:39

Celebrating West Chester’s Historic Treasures

Written by Jane E. Dorchester, Founding Preservation Awards Committee Chair
Photos by Timlyn Vaughan Photography

11th annual Preservation Award winners

Uriah V. Pennypacker House Rehabilitation

We have so much to celebrate in West Chester, not the least of which are the buildings that make this town charming and distinctive. And for the eleventh time, the West Chester Downtown Foundation identified local treasures and their champions to recognize as part of a mission to raise awareness and appreciation of the Borough’s rich character and to encourage its preservation.

Happily, a record number of people decided to join in for the annual awards ceremony at the Chester County History Center last October for the West Chester Preservation Awards Ceremony. This event also marked the return of more civic celebrations.

The Awards Ceremony honors projects and people in three categories. This year, the event recognized five Bricks and Mortar projects, two Preservation Service Awards, and one Legacy Award. For those who don’t know the history, the Awards Program began years ago when Malcolm Johnstone, then Executive Director of the Business Improvement District, took an idea from Tom Walsh and presented it to the Downtown Foundation Board. And now we’re celebrating eleven years of recognizing the value and power of preservation.

And the Winners Are …

For 2022, five Bricks and Mortar Awards recognized a wide variety of construction projects of sterling quality that demonstrate the creative ways buildings and their settings can be preserved, restored or rehabilitated.

Uriah V. Pennypacker House Rehabilitation, 229 North High Street, won its award for the efforts by its owner, William Howard, and architects, Archer & Buchannan, to carefully rehabilitate a prominent 19th-century High Street building to insure its livability and longevity. Once owned by an early abolitionist, the building had become rental space and fell into disrepair. The goal of rehabilitating both interior and exterior was to retain as much of the building’s historic character as possible, using sympathetic new finish materials, while enhancing its historic character, appeal and appropriateness.

Porch Reconstruction, 139 E. Marshall St.

Porch Reconstruction, 139 East Marshall Street, was recognized for the efforts of its owner, Rosalie Stancato, to replace a modern concrete stoop with a more historically accurate front porch. The new porch design by Hazley Builders incorporates historically appropriate synthetic wood porch floor, columns and trim, plus a standing seam metal roof. This project is a good example of the positive impact a small but well executed project can have on both the house itself and the surrounding neighborhood.

New Twin Houses Construction, 219–221 W. Lafayette St.

New Twin Houses Construction, 219–221 West Lafayette Street, won for the sensitive design of an in-fill building that successfully met the needs of the owner, Michael O’Rourke, while preserving the architectural character of the area. In addition, by having the building face West Lafayette Street, the owner turned the street into the kind of cohesive neighborhood found throughout the Borough. The creative approach for appropriate in-fill, consistent detailing and material selection by M.W. Builders provides a model for other similar projects.

Christ Church West Chester Tower Restoration

Church Street Market House Rehabilitation, 120 North Church Street, was recognized for the recent restoration of the exterior of the building and the rehabilitation of its interior. The once-trendsetting 1990 adaptive reuse of the 1870 building as professional offices was further updated by Bernardon, Pelliccio & Sons / A. Polletto & Associates. The work ensures both its continued contribution to the historic character of West Chester and its viability as a modern office building.

Christ Church West Chester Tower Restoration, 200 South Church Street, received its award in recognition of the their church’s tower following a damaging lightning strike. While the restoration was a significant and expensive undertaking done by Culbertson Restoration, by choosing to restore it instead of removing the damaged parts and letting it go at that, the Congregation has demonstrated that preserving West Chester’s resources can be accomplished with patience and perseverance.

Recognizing People

The Preservation Service and Legacy Awards recognize contributions to the better understanding of the history of West Chester and the need to preserve the physical evidence of that history.

Douglas R. Harper received a Preservation Service Award for his book, West Chester to 1864 – That Elegant and Notorious Place, published by the Chester County Historical Society in 1999. In chronicling the detailed history of the beginnings of the Borough, this 750+-page book not only opened a much-needed window on the early development of the Borough, but provided a valuable historical and educational tool for the future. The author calls it “time-travel through immersion in the details.”

Bernie Flynn, Preservation Service Award recipient

Bernie Flynn received a Preservation Service Award in recognition of his ten-year campaign against graffiti. This graffiti-fighting superhero also performs small maintenance projects throughout the Borough. In removing graffiti and taking on small painting and clean-up jobs, Mr. Flynn has helped preserve both the integrity of the individual buildings victimized by graffiti and the overall historic character of the Borough, one structure at a time.

Dr. Clifford DeBaptiste, 2022 Legacy Award recipient

The 2022 Legacy Award was presented to Dr. Clifford DeBaptiste, the Borough’s first African-American mayor, who has been recognized by over 500 different awards for his leadership in civic engagement, business, education and philanthropy. In this role, he’s devoted his lifetime working to enhance the quality of life and promote the heritage of West Chester and its historic figures. Two notable achievements include promoting Iron Hill’s adaptive reuse of the Woolworth’s Building and leading the Borough’s yearlong bicentennial celebration in 1999. He serves as an inspiration for our community and future generations.

For 2023

The 12th Annual Preservation Awards will kick off in March with the opening of nominations, which close in June. Nomination forms and rules are available at the West Chester BID office or online at Winners will be announced in July, and the Awards Ceremony is scheduled for October 19, 2023.

Please help recognize projects that have enhanced West Chester’s historic character by submitting a nomination!

Jane E. Dorchester has worked in the preservation field since 1983. She specializes in historic property research, historic resource inventories and surveys, and National Register nominations. In 2001, Jane earned her master’s degree in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania, and she currently provides historic preservation consulting services based in East Goshen Township.