Building on the momentum of the Visionaries Roundtable, we invite you to participate in the conversation, and more over, in the future of Chestnut Hill. Three easy ways you can do that:

  1. JOIN US, BECOME A MEMBER: If you’re not already a member of Chestnut Hill Conservancy, join us as we embark on our second half-century of stewarding this incredible neighborhood. Membership starts at only $50; learn more HERE.
  2. BUY THE TICKET, TAKE THE RIDE: Our series of programs and events threads its way through historic, natural, and contemporary Chestnut Hill. The Great Houses Tour wrapped up on May 21st, on the Perennial Fete is coming on Sunday, June 4th. Join community members both longtime and new for this wonderful garden party to talk Chestnut Hill. Tickets HERE.
  3. REACH OUT, LEARN MORE: The Philadelphia City Planning Commission will this fall conduct its Upper Northwest District Plan (comprising Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy, and Germantown) as part of its Philadelphia 2035 Comprehensive Plan. Make sure your voice is heard; contact Conservancy executive director Lori Salganicoff to learn more about what you can do. Email:; phone: 215-247-9329 x 201.

Visionaries Roundtable, April 21, 2017. (Click for photo gallery.) All photos by Marcos Salganicoff. 

THANK YOU: A hearty and sincere thank you goes out to our sponsors, visionaries, speakers, and the 350+ community members who came out on Friday, April 21st to make the Visionaries Roundtable a rousing success. We are very grateful.

Alan Jaffe wrote a nice profile of the evening for PlanPhilly; read it HERE. Sue Ann Rybak recapped the event for the Chestnut Hill Local; read her account HERE.


The April 21st “Visionaries Roundtable: A Public Conversation on the Future of Chestnut Hill and the Balance Between Preservation and Change” attracted an overflow audience of 350 individuals. For inspiration the program organizers drew on the Chestnut Hill Historical Society’s 1970 program: “An Evening of Speculation: Chestnut Hill’s Future.“ Then, Louis Kahn said, “we can only know Chestnut Hill as a spirit.”

That spirit was present at the Visionaries Roundtable on April 21, where the audience radiated a perceptible appreciation for Chestnut Hill’s special character. Also, they expressed a deep desire to influence its future.  We can call it “community spirit.”

The luminaries at the roundtable – David De Long, Bryan Hanes, Witold Rybczynski, Inga Saffron, and Richard Snowden with Gail Harrity as moderator – fulfilled this desire to take hold of the future. Inga Saffron called the audience to action. She asked them to decide: “Where is the right place to build and what kind of building should it be? The key is to prepare for what is coming and prepare developers for what you expect.”   

About Shirley: A founding member of the Chestnut Hill Conservancy, former president and current board member, Shirley Hanson has been working for more than half a century to celebrate and protect Philadelphia’s treasures, with a special focus on Chestnut Hill. Shirley studied City Planning at the University of Pennsylvania, and guided the Conservancy through the creation of the Chestnut Hill National Register Historic District and the organization’s groundbreaking easement program. Notably, she also helped to organize the landmark “Chestnut Hill’s Future: Evening of Speculation” almost 50 years ago.

by Lori Salganicoff, Executive Director, Chestnut Hill Conservancy

Chestnut Hill is distinct in the deep connection between the built environment and neighboring natural resources. Topographically rising above the rest of the city, bordered by the Cresheim and Wissahickon Valleys, and graced with a stylistic variety of thoughtfully-designed buildings, Chestnut Hill evolved to seamlessly combine the built and natural environment.

Last Friday evening, Chestnut Hill Conservancy & Historical Society hosted more than 350 community members to a vigorous discussion of balancing preservation and development in Chestnut Hill in the wake of strong urban expansion here and throughout Philadelphia.

It is the quality of architecture, the rhythms of built and open space, and the green “fingers of the park” permeating public and private space alike that define our streetscapes. Public transportation, retail and other amenities add to our distinctive village character.

These are also the qualities that attract development – development that could enhance, or could destroy, the very qualities that bring top dollar. How do we protect Chestnut Hill’s uniqueness while fostering our long-held tradition of careful, thoughtful development? Where might development make the most sense? The question of how to manage this pressure is a matter of aesthetics, tradition, health, and economics. It is a question the Conservancy hopes to help all of us to engage in.

Chestnut Hill is unusual not just for the significant architecture and green space we have retained, but also for the fact that we have surveyed and evaluated most of it. Work by the Conservancy, the Chestnut Hill Community Association, Friends of the Wissahickon and others puts us ahead of every other Philadelphia neighborhood in planning our future. But, as currently zoned, the community is shockingly vulnerable to by-right changes that could greatly diminish its character.

The Roundtable, and our related “Residential Conservation, Preservation, and Development Study” will ready the community to truly engage in the Philadelphia Planning Commission’s Upper Northwest Philadelphia District Plan this Fall, one of the final elements of the city’s Philadelphia2035 Comprehensive Plan.  

The Chestnut Hill Conservancy & Historical Society has spent the last 50 years celebrating and protecting the area’s significant historical, cultural and natural resources. Join us! Please visit the to learn how to support and remain engaged with these efforts.


An evening of enlightened discussion focused on how to balance preservation and development in Chestnut Hill in the wake of unprecedented urban expansion here and throughout Philadelphia. Visionaries in the architecture and urban planning fields led the dialogue. The conversation centered around four main questions for the evening:

  • What is the sense of place in Chestnut Hill?
  • What is the role of development in an established historic community?
  • What is the role of preservation in a growing community?
  • What does public and private green space mean to the urban community character?

The event commemorated a similar discussion Chestnut Hill Conservancy (then Historical Society) hosted nearly 50 years ago. That discussion featured renowned architects Louis Kahn, Robert Venturi, and Romaldo Giurgola—each having designed a significant home in Chestnut Hill.

The Visionaries Roundtable kicked off with remarks by Oscar-nominated director Nathaniel Kahn, son of Louis Kahn. It then featured a keynote talk by Witold Rybczynski, Emeritus Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, architect, architecture critic, and noted author on architecture and the home.

Gail Harrity, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, then moderated the roundtable discussion and invited the audience to engage:

  • David De Long, Professor Emeritus of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and an architect who studied with Louis Kahn.
  • Bryan Hanes, noted landscape architect and urban planner working on the designs of The Rail Park in Philadelphia.
  • Inga Saffron, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Richard Snowden, managing partner of Bowman Properties, which oversees a portfolio of historic residential and commercial buildings in Chestnut Hill.

Chestnut Hill Conservancy 50th Anniversary Presenting Sponsor

Chestnut Hill Conservancy 50th Anniversary Sponsors

Visionaries Roundtable Program Sponsors