My interest in endangered properties began a few years ago when I drove past the Heidelberg-Kerlin Farm on Ashbourne Road in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania. The house is set back, hidden amongst the trees that have grown unfettered all over the property. That house spoke to me – it called my name. Houses have personalities (unless they are in a neighborhood in the Greater Northeast.) Especially houses like this one that was built in the 1680s and is still standing (though just barely) almost 400 years later.
The next week, late in the afternoon, I enlisted a friend, Nina Sabatino, to jump over the chain link fence that surrounds the property and ignore the “NO TRESPASSING” sign to wonder around the house, taking pictures of the once majestic house. (Those are her photos pictured above.) The house was silent, and it was a little bit creepy. You could hear the wind blowing softly and the occasional chipmunk scampering into one of the many holes in the foundation of the building. The only human sound to be heard was Nina’s startled gasp when she happened upon a rubber Halloween mask hanging from a doorway. I am sure teenagers occasionally hang out here at night, when no one is around, on a dare. Beer to make them brave. I know I would need that were I to come back after dark.
What happened to this house? Why was it abandoned, allowed to deteriorate to a state seemingly beyond repair?
Recently, I’ve become “Philadelphia Stories” art editor. One night, Christine Weiser, its founder and publisher, and I started talking about an idea we both had for an art exhibition that combined words with images. The exhibition would be called “Forgotten Philadelphia” and it would focus on those places in Philadelphia and its immediate suburbs that are in danger of disappearing from this earth. The visual art, poems and fiction inspired by these places may someday be the only thing left to speak to their existence. Which is the beauty of art, allowing life to go on even after its gone.
My next post is our call for artist proposals. We are asking artists to submit locations and proposals, (The Preservation Alliance lists properties in the Philadelphia area that are in danger of being demolished. http://www.preservationalliance.com/), by May 31st for an exhibition to be held at the Fairmount Park Welcome Center this September. We have big plans for this exhibition. We would like it to travel and there will be a book published in conjunction.
To purchase Nina’s photos of the Heidelberg-Kerlin estate, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.