Monday, January 29 2024 10:31

Recognizing West Chester’s Historic Treasures

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

Winners at the 12th annual Preservation Awards Ceremony

West Chester Post Office Preservation

West Chester is justifiably proud of its ongoing efforts to preserve its historic character by promoting the preservation of its extensive collection of distinctive historic buildings. Much of the pleasure from living in, working in or visiting West Chester comes from experiencing its historic character — its history visibly reflected in its architecture and streetscapes.

One way the Borough raises awareness and promotes preservation is with the annual West Chester Historic Preservation Awards Ceremony, sponsored by the West Chester Downtown Foundation and hosted at the Chester County History Center. For those who don’t know the history, the Awards Program started in 2008 when Malcolm Johnstone, then the Executive Director of the Business Improvement District, took an idea from Tom Walsh and presented it to the Downtown Foundation Board. And now we’ve celebrated 12 years of recognizing the value and power of preservation.

Last October, the Awards Ceremony honored projects and people in several categories, recognizing five Bricks and Mortar Awards, one Preservation Service Award, one Special Recognition Award and one Preservation Legacy Award.

And the Winners Are…

Bricks and Mortar Awards recognize a wide variety of construction projects that demonstrate the creative ways best preservation practices can be used to preserve, restore or rehabilitate historic buildings and their settings.

Major Seneca G. Wallauer House Restoration

The Major Seneca G. Willauer House Restoration, 106 South Church Street, won its award for the owners’ careful restoration of the exterior of this elegant c. 1846 house to its 19th-century appearance. Work included restoring the side porch to its original appearance and redesigning the public-facing side yard. A large Civil Warera canon was installed in the garden, which befits the home of a former soldier who pursued President Lincoln’s assassin. This project demonstrates how a limited amount of carefully planned work can restore a distinctive historic structure’s early beauty.

West Chester Post Office Preservation, 101 East Gay Street, was recognized for the U.S. Postal Service’s meticulous preservation of this important Borough landmark. The classic revival-style Post Office had suffered from years of deferred maintenance, so its preservation entailed extensive repair of almost all of its exterior fabric, including rebuilding and repainting windows, repairing and repainting woodwork, and repointing exterior stone walls. This project is an excellent example of what collaboration among community leaders at all governmental levels — from local to federal — can achieve for preserving our historic resources and improving our streetscapes.

Wineski Residence Restoration

Wisneski Residence Restoration, 346 West Union Street, won in recognition of its owners’ outstanding restoration of the exterior of this c. 1885 house. Work included repair and restoration of the deteriorated front porch, removing vinyl shutters plus restoring and reinstalling the original wood shutters, repairing and painting the original windows and woodwork, installing a new roof on the main house block, repairing and painting the front and rear porch roofs, and restoring the brick sidewalk along West Union Street. This project demonstrates how restoring a historic resource can make a significant contribution to the integrity of its neighborhood as well as the Borough.

Spence Building Restoration

The Spence Building Restoration, 29 East Gay Street, was recognized for the owners’ decision to restore and reuse this iconic, landmark building instead of demolishing it. The restoration of the exterior of the building — including uncovering and restoring its original stone exterior walls, replacing its slate roof in-like-kind and rehabilitating its interior — has ensured the building’s continued use as a restaurant or retail space with apartments above. This project is an excellent example of how collaboration of property owners with Borough officials achieved a positive outcome that’s beneficial to all.

Franklin Corners Rehabilitation

Franklin Corners Historic Industrial Complex Rehabilitation*, 301 Lacey Street and 501 & 515 South Franklin Street, won in recognition of the owner’s decision to adapt this expansive industrial space — including three historic industrial structures and one sympathetic modern construction near the West Chester Railroad — into commercial offices. The project followed a site design that unified the buildings and included cleaning and repointing the brick and stone walls and installing compatible new windows and roof materials, as well as the sensitive reorganization of interior spaces and insertion of modern amenities. The result is an inspiring commercial project currently housing a variety of vibrant businesses in an economically successful adaptive reuse site.

Rettew Program by Chester County History Center

The Preservation Service, Special Recognition and Preservation Legacy Awards recognize contributions to the better understanding of the history of West Chester and to the preservation of the physical evidence of that history.

The Chester County History Center received a Preservation Service Award in recognition of its G. Raymond Rettew Program, which has documented and celebrated Rettew’s groundbreaking work in the race to commercially mass produce penicillin. This program started in 1973 and over the years has included publishing a book, creating an exhibit, producing a documentary film and erecting a historical marker.

West Chester Historical & Architectural Review Board

The West Chester Historical and Architectural Review Board (HARB) was presented with a Special Recognition Award for 35 years of volunteer service to the community. Over those years, the HARB (affectionately known to some as the hysterical review board) has endeavored to promote and oversee preserving the historic fabric of West Chester and ensuring the preservation of is distinctive historic character.

Stan Zukin

The 2023 Preservation Legacy Award was presented posthumously to Stanford Roland (Stan) Zukin for his longtime efforts to preserve and restore the historic character of the Borough. From 1978 until his death in 2018, Stan bought and restored many buildings throughout the Borough and in the process, he and his real estate firm had been awarded five Historic Preservation Awards.


For 2024

West Chester Preservation Award for Franklin Corners

The 13th Annual Preservation Awards kicks off in April when nominations for 2024 open (they close in June). Nomination forms and rules are available at the West Chester BID office and online at Winners will be announced in July, and the Awards Ceremony will take place on October 17, 2024.

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


*Editor’s Note: County Lines Magazine’s office is located in Franklin Corners. Its editor, Jo Anne Durako, nominated the site for the award.

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 received her Master of Science in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania. She’s currently operates a historic preservation consulting firm located in East Goshen Township.