Chester County Day Opens with a Historical Flourish

A cool morning warmed when the Radnor Hunt set loose fox, hounds and horseback riders for a rousing hunt. The fox hunt kicked off the 79th Chester County Day on October 5. The Women’s Auxiliary holds this annual event to benefit Chester County Hospital. Ticket-holders had a choice of twenty-four historic stops focused on southeastern Chester County.

“It’s the historic part that keeps us coming back,” shares Barbara Valentine, who attends annually with her daughter Leanne. “The surroundings are so beautiful and tranquil.”

A cadre of 260 volunteers answered questions and guided visitors throughout the day.

Many homes allowed participants to wander through their beautiful landscaping, often including water features like falls, fountains and pools. One home included a stable tour which featured stories about their horses – like the 28-year-old show horse who had been retired 16 years ago for his habit of either being very good in the show, or very bad.

All the homes selected for the tour are historic in nature. The oldest home on this year’s tour dates from 1704 and included examples of architecture throughout the colonial period. Recent homes can be included as well, like the 2017 Okie-style home, which honors the legacy of R. Brognard Okie, a Devon architect famous for his colonial revival homes.

“We work with local architects to get recommendations,” says Marie Robinson, this year’s Sponsorship Chair, “but sometimes our committee members drive by a house that interests them. They then research it, and if it is historically significant, they try to contact the owner to get permission to include it on the tour.”

The generosity of these homeowners supports our hospital and the community. Their homes provide participants with a view of life inside these historic homes. Exposed stones, beamed ceilings, original fireplaces and wide-planked floors have been preserved and restored. These homeowners have striven to integrate elements of past architecture with today’s comforts. Modern kitchens and bathrooms abound in these gracious homes.

“Tying the existing home with the new addition, facilitating old and new, but giving each its own identity,” explains architect Peter Archer when asked about the biggest challenge in restoring the 1830 Georgian manor house and completing the 5,000 square foot addition. The home of Christopher and Beth Knauer, this year’s VIP house, was in disrepair when they rescued the seven-acre property in 2016. The two-year project to restore and enlarge the home has created a gracious blending of the nineteenth century with the twenty-first. As Peter explains, “Our goal was to emulate and complement.”

Springhouse joins a 1790 log house with an 1865 stone house that features student created Westtown School samplers and maps.

The care the homeowners take in preparing their homes is shown in the clutter-free rooms, the lovingly-displayed artwork and floral arrangements. Booties, like those worn in operating rooms, were required in some homes to protect the floors. Many floors featured original wood flooring that had been restored or resourced from another historical home. With 1,500 to 2,000 tickets sold each year, protecting the homes is important to the tour’s success.

Not all the buildings on the tour started as homes. Three were originally erected as bank barns, built into the hillside, and have since been transformed into stunning homes. In addition to homes, the tour included a stop at Paoli Battlefield Historical Park and Sugartown Strawberries Farm Stand – the only working farm in Willistown Township.

The Women’s Auxiliary has been supporting the Chester County Hospital for over 125 years and has pledged $1.25 million to the Heart and Vascular Program to invest in leading edge technology. “Last year we completed our $1.25 million dollar pledge which was part of creating an entirely new NICU,” says Marie Robinson, this year’s Sponsorship Chair. The new neo-natal intensive care unit is the only Level III in the county, increasing the quality of care for newborns needing specialized medical care.

The all-volunteer event keeps cost low to maximize donations to Chester Country Hospital. In addition to all the preparation work for the event, each home had volunteers in each room. Next year’s historic home tour will focus on the southeastern quadrant of the county. Interested homeowners can find the right contact online https://www.chestercountyhospital.org/giving/get-involved/volunteer/womens-auxiliary.

 

 

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About Karen Myers

Karen Myers lives in Pocopson Township and has written for several local publications. A strong supporter of our community, Karen has served on several non-profit boards, such as Pocopson Elementary PTO, The United Way of Southern Chester County, Chester County Art Association and Tick Tock Early Learning Center. She received her M.B.A. from the University of Delaware and worked in marketing and operations with a focus on banking.

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