Chestnut Hill Tour Part 5
The French Village & Environs
In this addition we will be examining the West Mount Airy side of the Cresheim Valley and The French Village in particular. The Wissahickon Style
was first identified by Carol Franklin in a seminar she gave in 1989 in which she stated that the three key ingredients where stone, water and trees native to the region. The Wissahickon Style is not a style of architecture, but a method of incorporating the three aforementioned elements into the structure. Despite the disparate styles of houses, the materials used and the type of landscaping bring them together as a cohesive community. Absent are the red brick of the old city of Philadelphia. The mica schist found everywhere in the valley gives the homes an even more ancient look. The German Township of which the Wissahickon Valley was once part had buildings built almost exclusively of the commonly found stone.
The French Village
Dr. George S. Woodward
Elbow Lane and Gate Lane Above Allens Lane Architects:
Robert R. McGoodwin; Edmund B. Gilchrist; Willings, Sims & Talbutt
Located in upper West Mount Airy is an architectural anomaly. The French Village was the brain child of developer Dr. George S. Woodward (1863-1952). According to legend, Woodward, on a trip to Europe, became enamored with the rural architecture of Normandy. He already created several successful developments elsewhere in the region, but they were of the English Village or Early American themes. Another style that had started to appear was the Anglo-Norman style which combined elements of both British and French architectural idioms. But with the French Village, Woodward was able to more fully realize a truly French themed project. Built between 1924 to 1929 the first faze of the French Village was carved out of a piece of the Wissahckon Park on the newly created street of Gate Lane. Later houses would be built on Elbow Lane, a new curved connector street between Allens Lane and McCallum Streets. Woodward hired architects Robert R. McGoodwin (1886-1967) and Edmund B. Gilchrist (1885-1953) to design the houses to be built along Gate Lane. The firm of Willings, Sims & Talbutt were primarily responsible for the larger estates on Elbow Lane.
Allens Lane was developed much earlier than the French Village and features some large mansions on enormous plots of land bordering on Wissahickon Park. Proximity to the wild and scenic Wissahickon was reason enough to be entice pioneering suburbanites to move to upper West Mount Airy. In the late 19th century, West Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill were becoming fashionable railroad suburbs for the city's wealthy white collar class with the opening of new train stations and increased amenities. The French Village was built in the Wissahickon Style as were the other housing stock of the Wissahickon region. The style consisted of three main elements; rock, water, trees. The rock being the Wissahickon schist, a common building stone found in the valley. The flowing water of the Wissahickon and Cresheim Creeks was emulated in the drainage ditches which were open rather than enclosed and lined with paving stones. Each property contained a generous portion of green space for lawns and gardens. The Cresheim Valley is the dividing line between Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill and is a lovely spot for hikers and nature enthusiasts. Near the confluence of the two creeks is the venerable old homestead of Livezey near the site of an old mill, one of many that once dotted the Wissahickon. The mills are gone but the beauty of the Wissahickon Valley remains for all to enjoy.
One of the gate houses on Emlen Street and Allens Lane.
One of the stone archways across the sidewalk of Emlen Street.
Another "gateway" arch on the opposite side of Emlen Street. Note the brick gutter on the lower right.
Défense D'afficer, "Post No Bills".
Some views of Elbow Lane
A view of the Gate Houses from Allens Lane.
Well before the French Village concept, wealthy city dwellers built large estates along Allens Lane.
c. 1890 Client:
John W. Moffley
624 W. Allens Lane Architect:
Mantle Fielding, Jr.
630 W. Allens Lane.
701 W. Allens Lane Architects:
Hazlehurst & Huckel
Harlan Page made his fortune manufacturing grinding wheels in the city's Bridesburg section. The house once had a conical roof and large porch.
710 W. Allens Lane.
714 W. Allens Lane.
737 W. Allens Lane.
Jessie Wilcox Smith Residence
Jesse W. Smith
Allens Lane Architect:
Edmund B. Gilchrist
St. Georges Lane
Cogshill, The Cozen and Smith Residence
Jesse W. Smith
601 St. Georges Road Architect:
Edmund B. Gilchrist
Cogslea, The Violet Oakley Studio and Residence
1902, incorporating an early farmhouse Client:
615 St. Georges Road Architects:
Frank Miles Day & Bro.
New Jersey born Violet Oakley was born into a family of artists and is well known for a series of 42 murals in the Pennsylvania Capital Building in Harrisburg.
Scenic view along St. Georges Road
Thomas A. Todd
7321 McCallum Street Architects:
Wallace, Roberts & Todd
A funky modern home at 1007 Livezey Lane.
Livezey Cottage (Glen Fern)
c. 1733-1739, Enlarged:
c. 1765 Client:
End of Livezey Lane on the Wissahickon Builder:
"As early as 1745 the Livezeys had a grist mill just above where the Pipe Bridge now is, and that was only to be reached from Germantown by what is now known as Allen's Lane. For many years a certain Thomas Livezey owned and resided at the mill."
-Rev. S.F. Hotchkin, 1889
Thomas Livezey not only operated a mill at this lovely spot, he cultivated a farm, raised a vineyard and made his own wine. Livezey's wine was so fine it was a favorite of Ben Franklin. Some scenes from the 1873 novel about the American Revolution Pemberton take place at the Livezey Cottage.
Ancient stone steps reminiscent of a time when there was a working mill on this spot.
The Wissahickon Creek.
Pedestrian bridge over the Cresheim Creek.
The Cresheim Creek flowing into Devil's Pool.
End of Tour