HARB Meeting Synopsis : June 1, 2011

Note: This is the first installment of the News & Preservation blog’s synopses of Radnor Township Historic and Architectural Review Board (HARB) meetings. These meetings are vital to preservation efforts and oversight in the township, and provide interesting insights into the state of Radnor’s historic resources.

Item 1: 219 S. Aberdeen Avenue

An architect showed drawings for a proposed addition to this home in the South Wayne Historic District. Changes include a mudroom side addition (one story) and a family room rear addition (one story). A glass enclosure on the front porch would be removed to restore the historically appropriate appearance to the home’s front elevation. The HARB voted for a certificate of appropriateness 3-0.

Item 2: 200 West Wayne Avenue

This building, currently a 5-unit apartment building, is a 19th century structure with a mansard roof in the Second Empire style. It is located on the corner of Bloomingdale Avenue, a road where several houses of the same style were built in the 1870s as Wayne’s first planned development. Though 200 West Wayne matches the homes on Bloomingdale closely in style, it dates from a later time.

The proposed changes to the property involve removing a non-historic garage and constructing a rear addition to the building. The addition will have a mansard roof to match the existing structure, though it will be one story lower than the existing structure. According to the developer, the building will remain a 5-unit complex. The new addition is to include two arched garage door openings facing the east driveway from Bloomingdale Avenue.

The building has been neglected over the years, its windows replaced indiscriminately. “The building needs everything,” said builder Matt Paolino in response to HARB member Andrea Pilling’s question regarding a previous proposal to demolish the building and construct a similar one in its place. “At the end of the day, I just didn’t think there would be the appetite in the community to lose the building.” Restoring the structure was the developer’s first plan of action, and they have returned to that plan despite the additional work.

The HARB approved a certificate of appropriateness 3-0.

Item 3: 40 Louella Court

The bulk of the meeting concerned the proposed underground garage for the Louella House, set to be converted into a condominium complex by developer C.F. Holloway, III. Following the HARB’s denial of the previous proposal regarding this property (upheld by the Board of Commissioners), Dave Falcone, a lawyer with Saul Ewing, presented what he called an “ultimate solution” to a parking garage on the site, an underground garage with no above-ground parking. An entrance to the underground garage would be found to the east of the Louella mansion, facing south, across from two existing residential driveways on Louella Court.

Gordon Eadie created a landscaping plan for the new proposal. A flagstone patio adjoining the east side of the mansion would link the residences to the garage. 11 trees will be removed, and 18 will be planted.

Mr. Holloway stated that historically significant stairs on the west end of the mansion will be removed, and possibly relocated to another part of the property.

One Louella Court resident voiced concerns about possible detrimental effects of underground garages on historic structures. Other speakers’ concerns included changes to the building’s historic fabric, gentrification due to the building’s conversion into higher-end residences, the loss of existing trees, the effect of headlights of cars coming out of the garage, and more. The interaction between Louella Court neighbors and the developer was tense at times.

Despite the discussion about the house and grounds, the issue on the table at this particular meeting was the garage. In the end, the board members issued a certificate of appropriateness for the underground garage. The developer will likely have to go before the board again to present exterior alterations to the mansion.

Meeting Video (posted on YouTube by John Haines)

Preserve Louella’s Historic Character

(This column appeared in the April 14, 2011 issue of Main Line Suburban Life.)


The Louella Mansion is the most important building in downtown Wayne.


Whomever takes ownership of Louella inherits both a unique privilege and a great responsibility. A local developer has put forth a plan to convert the building into a 12-unit condominium complex, with an attached garage structure consisting of 24 bays. These plans have been presented at two Radnor Township Historic and Architectural Review Board (HARB) meetings, the most recent of which was on April 6. The residents of Louella Court, whose homes orbit the mansion’s east and north sides, have spoken out strongly regarding how the garage will alter their community. While they are rightfully focused on this single aspect, we cannot lose sight of possible changes to the mansion itself.

Built ca. 1865 by J. Henry Askin, the founder of the town, Louella was the largest and most prominent home in the area. Mr. Askin wanted to build a utopian community in Wayne, with a Presbyterian Church on Lancaster Pike (still standing) and a row of houses on Bloomingdale Avenue that looked similar to his own (most of which still stand). In the 1880s, Louella was expanded for re-use as a summer hotel, and a girl’s school used it during winter months. After this, it became a multi-unit residence, which it remains.

Unfortunately, Louella is not in the best condition today. When viewed up close, there are some obvious cosmetic flaws that need to be addressed. However, for a building of its age, Louella remains remarkably intact. One of its greatest original features are its windows, some of which reach to the floor, typical of the Second Empire style of the 1860s and ’70s. The windows are all the more remarkable when one considers that it was from these that Mr. Askin watched his town grow 140 years ago.

Windows are a major character-defining feature of any historic building, as outlined by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and even local groups: the Lower Merion Conservancy has just listed historic windows as their township’s #1 most threatened historic resource. Many do not realize the historic and environmental benefits of preserving windows, especially in light of incentives that falsely pronounce replacement windows as more environmentally conscious. The studies are in: replacing windows is far more wasteful than restoring them, and replacement detracts from a building’s historic character in a way that can never be regained.

Neither the developer nor his architects have indicated that they have even explored the option of restoring Louella’s existing windows, and possibly adding interior storm windows for increased efficiency. Instead, they have gone to great lengths to reproduce the “look” of what’s already there, having a window fabricator create a sample of a modern window that creates an appearance that is “virtually identical” to what already exists. “Virtually identical” doesn’t cut it. The very idea of respecting an old building is recognizing and appreciating its historic features, not by trying to make it look “new” again.

Another idea that was presented at the April 6 HARB meeting was of replacing the building’s slate mansard roof with asphalt shingles that are designed with fake shadow lines to mimic the appearance of slate. The developer mentioned that the shingles’ 40 year lifespan will be of benefit to the future homeowners. The mansion’s present slate roof has been in use for approximately 130 years (possibly more in some places). A new (or repaired) slate roof would require periodic maintenance, but in terms of the long-term durability and historic appropriateness, slate wins.

Louella is Wayne’s “Founder’s House,” a distinction that many towns uphold as their single most important historic building. And yet, the would-be developer of Louella has not gone as far as to hire an architect or consultant with any preservation experience. As far as their website would indicate, the architects chosen for the renovation of Louella have very little experience in working with existing buildings. If Louella does not deserve the careful and experienced attention of a preservation architect, then what does? (Preservation also makes good business sense: following the correct guidelines and restoring historic windows could lead the developer to significant historic preservation tax credits.)

As the HARB is only an advisory board, the township Board of Commissioners will have the final say on the proposal during their March 25 meeting. All Wayne residents need to realize the impact of this plan. Mr. Askin would probably be proud with the success of his town more than a century after he started it, but today we need to remember how it began, and respect the historic fabric that remains. If preservation is of importance to the new owners of Louella, the Radnor Historical Society graciously offers its support and guidance in planning for Louella’s future.

Above: At the April 6 HARB meeting, architects of the Louella "renovation" show a sample of a Pella replacement window that they plan to use in the mansion. The bottom sash represents the planned replacement.
Above: At the April 6 HARB meeting, architects of the Louella “renovation” show a sample of a Pella replacement window that they plan to use in the mansion. The bottom sash represents the planned replacement.

Radnor’s New Historic Asset Inventory Takes Shape


The Radnor Historical Society is pleased to announce that a new Historic Asset Inventory for Radnor Township is now underway. This follows up on previous inventories from the 1980s and 2004, using the data gathered from those surveys, expanding it with information from other documents, and including many newly identified resources. Currently, over 1,600 individual resources have been identified.

The purpose of the inventory is to promote preservation throughout Radnor by identifying historic assets throughout the Township, especially those that are obscure and overlooked. This new survey examines not only large houses and prominent public buildings, but also gateposts, stone walls, ruins, and even architectural icons of the 20th century, such as the building that was once the national headquarters of TV Guide magazine. Our hope is that property owners and the Township government will use the inventory as a guide to evaluating the importance of Radnor’s historic assets, as well as to deter modifications and demolitions to historically important structures.

The inventory was made possible by the Radnor Historical Society’s extensive archives, and it is publicly accessible thanks to hosting provided by the society. It was put together in the summer of 2010 by Greg Prichard as a project for the Delaware County Planning Department’s office of Historic Preservation, which is led by RHS board member Beverlee Barnes.

The inventory’s findings are represented online by a series of maps, as well as a list. Each item in the inventory has an additional survey form, which is also accessible through an online database. Many forms are complete, but many more still need to be finished. The Radnor Historical Society needs your help to finish the project! If you are interested in writing architectural descriptions or taking photographs, please write to us.

Wayne Natatorium Marker Ceremony October 17


We are excited to announce that on Sunday, October 17, a state historical marker from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission will be unveiled in Wayne. The marker, located at Willow Avenue and Radnor Street Rd. near Cowan Field, will commemorate the Wayne Natatorium. This man-made swimming pool was one of the largest in the country, and was an attraction in Wayne between 1895 and 1903. The marker was sponsored by the Radnor Historical Society, and was made possible thanks to the research and efforts of Carla Zambelli.

The event will take place at 2pm October 17, and will be attended by distinguished guests. We will post video of the ceremony here on the website.

Jim Higgins wins award for Wayne Station work

Wayne Station

Congratulations to Jim Higgins, president of the Wayne Station Historic Preservation Association, who was awarded a Preservation Award from the Heritage Commission of Delaware County on May 4. In 1998 Jim founded the Association and worked towards the station’s restoration and inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Thanks to the efforts of this grassroots campaign, restoration work on the station began and ensured the future of the long-neglected 1882 structure. SEPTA is currently finishing their overhaul of the station, and Jim has continued to offer his insights and advice to the continuing work there. The Radnor Historical Society commends Jim for this award, and thanks him for his service to the historic Wayne Station!

Lower Merion Historical Commission: FREE Workshops

The Radnor Historical Society would like to promote the following free upcoming historic preservation workshops from the Lower Merion Historical Commission:

If you own an older home, the Lower Merion Historical Commission invites you to attend a series of free workshops to learn how to repair and restore original roofs and masonry.

– April 19th – Roofs: Learn about maintaining and restoring traditional slate, tile, wood and metal roofs.

– April 26th – Masonry: Learn about maintaining and restoring traditional stucco, mortar, pointing and stonework.

All workshops will be held in the Board Room of the Lower Merion Township Administration Building from 6-8 p.m.

More than just a series of lectures, these workshops will include demonstrations, practical advice, and ample time to ask questions. Refreshments will also be provided. For more information, contact Andrea Campisi, Senior Planner at (610) 645-6112.

Willow Avenue to Receive PHMC Marker for Wayne Natatorium: You Can Help!

The Wayne Natatorium

The Wayne Natatorium, which was located along Willow Avenue in Wayne from 1895 to 1903, was one of the largest fresh-water swimming pools in the United States. It was fed by the waters of Gulf Creek, and was a one of Wayne’s most recognizable landmarks in the heyday of the town’s early development. Today, houses stand where swimmers once used the pool, but the original Natatorium clubhouse still stands at the corner where Willow Avenue curves south towards Plant Avenue.

Thanks to the efforts of Carla Zambelli, and the archival resources of the Radnor Historical Society, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has awarded an historical sign to the corner of North Wayne where the Natatorium once operated. These signs are a common sight throughout Pennsylvania; they are cast iron, painted dark blue, with yellow embossed letters.

Read more about the PHMC Natatorium marker in this Main Line Suburban Life article.

Being awarded by the PHMC with one of these signs is a great honor, but it is not free. The Historical Society is accepting donations to make these signs possible. Any donations can be sent to the following address; please make sure they are earmarked for the Natatorium Marker fund.

Radnor Historical Society
Wayne Natatorium Marker Fund
113 West Beech Tree Lane, Wayne, PA, 19087

Here is a video of Carla Zambelli’s presentation about the Natatorium marker at the October 26 Radnor Board of Commissioners Meeting.

Main Line Suburban Life: “Radnor Library unearths find for the local war-vet project”

See this week’s Main Line Suburban Life article about the discovery of Radnor veterans’ information here.


As the Main Line Suburban Life article states, we were very excited to receive the email from the library director. A small group of us has been working on this project since last Fall and hope to have the website up by Veterans’ Day. The project entails finding as much information about each vet on the Memorial as possible, and we hope that from articles about the project, friends and relatives will come forth with more information. Please email us or give us a call. Thank you!

Ted Pollard
President, Radnor Historical Society

Web Updates: Video and Vintage Articles

Two major updates have just been made to the Radnor Historical Society website which will enhance the online research capabilities of anyone visiting our website.

• One of the Historical Society’s long-term projects has been to digitize the entire catalog of Emma C. Patterson “Your Town and My Town” articles. These articles appeared weekly in the Suburban & Wayne Times from 1949 through 1958. We are pleased to announce that all articles from the beginning of the series through April 1952 are now archived on our site (151 articles). You can read them here. They are organized by date, and are all searchable.

Say you want to find articles about the Wayne Opera House: simply type “Wayne Opera House” into the search box on the upper right of the “Your Town and My Town” page and all articles relating to that building will be shown.

We are continuing to digitize the articles, and all articles from the 9-year run will eventually be online.

• Videos of some of our programs are now in an easy to use Vimeo format. They play quickly and can be scrolled through easily. To view them, please visit the Podcasts page.

Welcome to Radnor Historical Society News

This news page has been created to keep the community informed on the happenings of the Radnor Historical Society. This news blog will include commentary from the Society’s President, news on our events, and updates to our website.Input from the Radnor community is always important to us, and it can add volumes to the news stories posted here. Visitors can contribute to this blog by commenting to the stories posted. If you have any comments about the blog, please write to webmaster@radnorhistory.org.