Chestnut Hill, in northwest Philadelphia, is one of America's most beautiful urban villages thanks to the fusion of a magnificent physical setting, notable architecture, historic preservation, and careful planning. During the Colonial period, Chestnut Hill was a rough-hewn village of farmers and millers. After the railroad reached the area in 1854, Chestnut Hill's natural splendor and healthful atmosphere made it a popular spot for Philadelphia's wealthy. Soon, it was ringed by magnificent estates designed by Frank Furness, T.P. Chandler, and Horace Trumbauer. Living side-by-side with the wealthy were hardworking communities of Italian, Irish, and German immigrants. Chestnut Hill, a fascinating photographic record of Chestnut Hill's past, reveals some surprising secrets about this vibrant community. The current community center was once the site of a perpetual motion machine hoax that swindled nineteenth-century Philadelphians, and one local hotel provided liquor (and perhaps other illicit services) to Chestnut Hillers during Prohibition. The stunning photographs and riveting stories of Chestnut Hill include those of the anti-Catholic Know-Nothings, who threatened to halt the construction of Our Mother of Consolation Catholic Church in the 1850s, and of Richard Norris Williams II, who survived the sinking of the Titanic and went on to win the national tennis championship twice at the Philadelphia Cricket Club.
Author Bio: Historian Thomas H. Keels has written numerous articles for the Chestnut Hill Local and other newspapers. Elizabeth Farmer Jarvis is a curatorial consultant for institutions such as the Chestnut Hill Historical Society and the Atwater Kent Museum. She was museum curator at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania for nine years.
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