Lansdowne Park Historic District
The Lansdowne Park Historic District [†] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
Lansdowne Park Historic District was constructed primarily in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in the Borough of Lansdowne. Lansdowne is a 1.2 square mile, middle-class suburb on the Media-West Chester commuter rail line, just two miles southwest of Philadelphia's boundary with Delaware County. The southeastern edge of the district is one block from the Lansdowne railroad station, a thirteen minute commuter ride into center city Philadelphia. The district is compact, encompassing thirty three acres and 106 buildings, of which 103 are contributing and 3 are non-contributing. The non-contributing buildings are residential buildings added after the period of significance.
The topography of the district is essentially level, rising slightly in elevation from Baltimore Pike at the southern boundary, to the first block north of that point, West Stratford Avenue, where it plateaus. Baltimore Pike, formerly the Delaware County Turnpike and U.S. Route 1, is a two lane road which provides another major transportation corridor from the district to Philadelphia. One block east of the district, and intersecting with Baltimore Pike, is Lansdowne Avenue, also a two lane road. This intersection is Lansdowne's primary business area. Thus the Lansdowne Park district is a quiet residential area out of the traffic patterns but convenient to the businesses, churches and other services provided for the community and within a very short commuting distance of center city Philadelphia. The streets of the district have curbing, grass strips, shade trees and sidewalks throughout. The lots range in size from approximately one-fifth to four acres, with most of them closer to the lower figure. The homes are on uniform set-backs on each street, with most of the twins having a 25 foot set-back compared to set-backs of 50 to 75 feet for larger twins and singles, providing a park like setting.
Eighty one of the dwellings were built between 1889-1898 with Queen Anne as the dominant architectural style. The balance and Saint John's Episcopal Church were built between 1899 and 1912 and includes a cross-section of other styles popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, with examples of Dutch Colonial, Second Empire, Four-Square, Shingle, and Romanesque, Tudor and Georgian Revival. The most notable exception to these two periods of construction is the Dickinson farmhouse, Lansdowne's oldest extant building, at 12 Owen Avenue. This 2-1/2 story vernacular building was constructed in two sections; the eastern half was built in 1732, and the western half in 1790.
The 1889-1912 homes, which retain their turn of the century ambiance and spatial relationship between buildings, were built for middle income and upper middle income purchasers; none are on the huge institutional scale of the Main Line estates. Common denominators of the homes are large reception/entry halls with grand staircases, fine woodwork, free-flowing space, room for large families and servants, and porches to enjoy the outdoors. Almost all have stone foundations and first stories, with shingles or brick second stories and shingles under the eaves. The ratio of housing types was originally approximately one-third singles to two-thirds twins. Many have been converted to two or more living units, usually with the owner in residence. This has been accomplished within the existing structures without visual detraction from the neighborhood.
Well over half of the buildings in the district were built in the Queen Anne Style, with many of these homes concentrated on West Stratford, Owen, West LaCrosse, Runnemede and Windermere Avenues. These twins and single homes are 2-1/2 story dwellings that combine brick and shingle or fieldstone first stories, brick or stuccoed second stories, and fish-scale gables and dormers. The use of a variety of building materials is typical of the Queen Anne styles, as are the steeply pitched gabled roofs, dormers, decorative shingling, and ornamental wood and iron work. The twins share central dormers and porches, and homes on corners feature turrets. Much of the Queen Anne "gingerbread" survives and the integrity of these homes is very good.
The single homes on the west side of Windermere Avenue, are Queen Anne style dwellings of particular note, distinguished by the scale and large lot size. 72 Windermere Avenue was built about 1895. This large Queen Anne single has a cut-stone first story, fish-scale shingles, patterned slate roof, and a copper finial atop its hexagonal turret., Also especially interesting is the Queen Anne with eclectic detail at 42 Windermere Avenue, built between 1889-92. This home features a large central turret marked by porches, dormers and a smaller turret, all united by fieldstone construction on the first story and stucco on the second story.
Eighteen of the homes are designed in the locally popular Dutch Colonial style with gambrel roofs. The facades are either brick with shingles in the upper story, or stucco over stone. The homes in this style were constructed between 1902-1910. Other popular turn of the century styles are represented with more scattered examples. The large unaltered twin at 20/22 Runnemede Avenue is a fine example of Romanesque Revival, with fieldstone construction, battlements, a hipped gable roof, and windows with both flat and stepped arches. 111 Owen Avenue is a 1910 Tudor cottage, fieldstone and half timbered stucco, designed by New York architect, Clarence Brazer. 32 Owen Avenue, circa 1895, is a three-story brick and shingle house with a Mansard roof and wrap-around porch. The Shingle Style is represented by 29 West Stratford Avenue, built around 1905. Like most of the Shingle Style homes built in Lansdowne, its first story is constructed of fieldstone and the remainder is frame with plain cedar shingles. 60 West Stratford is a two-story fieldstone and stucco Georgian Revival, built in 1912. Taken together, the neighborhood provides a good example of middle-class turn of the century suburban architecture.
The Lansdowne Park Historic District illustrates the transformation of a rural eighteenth century farm into a late nineteenth and early twentieth century middle-class Philadelphia suburb. Lansdowne Park is distinctive for its late nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture, no other community in Delaware County has as large and cohesive a collection of Queen Anne style residential architecture. The district also includes the largest collection of buildings designed by a locally prominent architect, William H. Free.
The area that is today Lansdowne Park was first settled by the Bonsall family. In 1682 Richard Bonsall purchased the property encompassed by the historic district. In 1732 Bonsall's son, Jacob, erected the farmhouse that still stands at 12 Queen Avenue. The property within the historic district remained a farm until the late nineteenth century.
Changing transportation systems led to the transformation of the farm into a middle-class suburb. In the early 1850's the Philadelphia-West Chester Railroad Company constructed their main line from Philadelphia to within walking distance of the farm. In 1881 the Pennsylvania Railroad bought the line and up-graded the right of way. By the late 1880's with the construction of the Broad Street Station in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Railroad had greatly improved access to center city Philadelphia from Lansdowne.
Homer C. Stewart and Edward A. Price quickly took advantage of the improved access to Philadelphia. Stewart, who had moved to Lansdowne in 1884, resigned his position as cashier/treasurer of the Philadelphia-Media branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1887 and bought the farm land on the west side of present-day Windermere Avenue. He divided his tract into large lots of up to four acres for single family houses. He employed William Free to design the houses for specific buyers such as Charles Pilling, a Philadelphia manufacturer of surgical instruments. In 1890 Price, who was a Media, Delaware County developer, bought the rest of the farm. With Stewart as his agent, he divided his parcel into lots and promoted the development as Lansdowne Park. Later in the same year, Charles B. Prettyman, a Philadelphia builder purchased contiguous lots on Stratford, Owen, LaCrosse and Windermere Avenue, and commissioned Free to design thirty-four homes that form the core of the Queen Anne dwellings in the district. Other builders erected the remainder of the contributing homes in the district by 1912, utilizing a variety of late nineteenth and early twentieth century styles including Queen Anne.
† Adapted from: National Register of Historic Places, Lansdowne Park Historic District, Nomination Document, National Park Service, 1987, Washington, DC
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