A Louis Kahn Icon in Chestnut Hill Wins National Preservation Award

The restoration of Louis Kahn's Margaret Esherick House is recognized by the nationwide organization devoted to preserving Modernist architecture.

Margaret Esherick House

The restored Wharton Esherick House shows its photogenic side to Chestnut Hill’s Pastorius Park. | Photo: © Jeffrey Totaro Photography

The Margaret Esherick House in Chestnut Hill, one of Louis Kahn’s few residential commissions, has just won a national award for the preservation effort that restored it last year.

Docomomo US, an organization devoted to documentation and conservation of the buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement, has bestowed a Citation of Merit on the preservation project in its 2016 Modernism in America Awards.

The project, carried out by the house’s owners, Paul Savidge and Daniel Macey, was cited for the way in which the owners, architect k YODER design and designer Louise Cohen channeled the spirit of Kahn in restoring and updating the house.

The house was built between 1959 and 1962 for Margaret Esherick, a bookseller, with a kitchen designed by her uncle, noted wood sculptor and cabinetmaker Wharton Esherick. Savidge, the head of policy for a pharmaceutical company, and his husband Macey, a food stylist, purchased the home in 2014. At the time, it had been on the market for several years because of “livability issues” — specifically, its small size and single bedroom, which made it unsuitable for more than two people. It is one of only nine homes the legendary Modernist architect designed; all nine remain standing and are located in the Philadelphia area.

In carrying out the restoration, the owners, architect and designer drew on the knowledge and guidance of William Whitaker, curator and collections manager of the Architectural Archives at the University of Pennsylvania, where the Louis I. Kahn Collection is housed, and Paul Eisenhower, former executive director of the Wharton Esherick Museum in Malvern.

“Extraordinary sensitivity to the original details included the services of a paint conservator; restoration of the idiosyncratic, Wharton Esherick-designed, original kitchen, long outdated, and made useful by today’s standards by adding contemporary components in an adjacent utility area; and cleverly adapting the spirit of the character-giving shutters during the winter months, allowing a sustainable future for the house,” the award jury said in its citation.

Savidge and Macey discussed living in the house and their restoration project with the National Trust for Historic Preservation last February; you can read the full story here.

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