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Cheltenham Township Historical Commission

April 2021

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Commission News

We are tentatively planning a Grand Re-Opening Open House in September, pending a turnaround with the pandemic. See the Wall Paper for details. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shut down Wall House tours, the Historical Commission is hosting its monthly meetings remotely, via Zoom.

Upcoming Commission Presentation

On May 13th at 7:30 PM, join the Historical Commission for an online presentation. Zoom details to follow in next month's newsletter.

Preserving Pennsylvania

May is Preservation Month and a perfect time to learn about the work of Pennsylvania’s statewide nonprofit advocacy organization, Preservation Pennsylvania. Since 1982, this organization has been working to preserve historic places across Pennsylvania as well as advocating for good legislation and policies that help make saving these historic resources easier. The Pennsylvania At Risk program started in 1992 and each year, the list includes resources that are in danger of being lost through demolition, inappropriate alteration, neglect, or loss of setting. There are been some amazing saves, some very tragic losses, and some properties that are still at risk. This presentation will highlight some of this work as well as sharing stories about projects in Montgomery County and nearby.

About the Speaker: Mindy Gulden Crawford

A part-time job typing National Register Nominations in 1982 turned into a long career for Mindy. She has been the Executive Director of Preservation Pennsylvania since 2006, after spending 24 years at Historic York, Inc. (20 years as Executive Director). A Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from York College coupled with a Master’s degree in Historic Preservation from Goucher College has opened up many opportunities for work and volunteering.

Mindy serves on the boards of several history and preservation organizations: the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NAPC), the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association, the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad Preservation Authority, and Main Street Hanover.

In her spare time, you’ll find Mindy exploring the Lincoln Highway and other old roads looking for great roadside architecture and searching for the perfect souvenir snowglobe. You might also find her wearing seven layers of period clothing to participate in Civil War dancing or living history events with her husband, Rodney.

A Moment in History

The Historical Commission is researching historical markers and buildings within the township, and noticed some confusion about the Breyer house.
Henry W. Breyer Sr. built Haredith (now the Township Municipal Building) in 1915, and, after  Rodman Wanamaker’s death in 1928, purchased next-door Lindenhurst in January of 1929. Lindenhurst sat vacant due to the Great Depression for the next 15 years. Breyer died in 1936, at which time his son Henry W. Breyer, Jr., inherited both properties. In 1944, Breyer, Jr., was able to arrange a deal with the Boy Scouts of America to purchase the Wanamaker property at a greatly discounted price. The Scouts demolished the mansion about 1946. Henry Junior moved to Bryn Mawr and sold the Haredith property to Cheltenham Township in 1956.

The Henry W. Breyer Sr. home is on the National Register of Historic Places. The complete National Register application is available on the National Archives site.

The estate was noted in the first half of the 20th century for its azalea gardens. Courtesy of Old York Road Historical Society.
This article from The Inky in 1946, describes the garden. Here is an excerpt of the experience.

"A dazzling avalanche of color cascading over a picturesque green hillside only a few feet off bustling Old York road is attracting hundreds of visitors to the Breyer estate in Elkins Park to view one of the finest displays of azaleas in the East.

It is located on the portion of Old York road which curves around to West Church road. The highway abandoned in favor of a stretch of straight road up Ogontz hill, makes a fine rendezvous for lovers of horticultural beauty, for there is no parking problem.
The breath-taking central theme is a graceful series of five waterfalls, each individual falls is a sheet of clear water hanging like a light of plate glass from the breast to the foot of each falls. You feel as though you can see your own reflection in a mirror, on the smooth glazed curtain that sparkles across each miniature dam.

The first falls is high above the sidewalk. Just behind it stands two white wistaria [sic], one on either side of the top cascade. Between the two great billows of flowing white stand one line evergreen, tall and straight. Forming a delicately tinted backdrop beyond the top of the falls is an array of beautiful dogwood trees, skipping across the horizon like a ballet in misty hues."

Courtesy of Old York Road Historical Society.

DVDs for Sale

Longtime friend of the Historical Commission, Patricia Miller, is selling a DVD about the Elkins Estate: "A Story of the Dominican Retreat Property and Tyler School of Art in Cheltenham Township." Copies are $30 each. Please contact Patricia Miller,, 215-635-2444 to order copies. Proceeds are shared with Patricia and the Historical Commission.

Commission Events

Upcoming Historical Commission Meeting

The next meeting of the Cheltenham Township Historical Commission will be April 8th at 7:30 PM via Zoom. Here is the agenda.

Join via the free Zoom app. If the link does not work use the ID and password.

Past Events

Previous Historical Commission Meeting

The last meeting was on March 11th at 7:30 PM via Zoom. Here are the minutes.


The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Civil War Museum & LIbrary

“The Importance of the 1860 Election of Abraham Lincoln”

  • When: 1:00 pm, Sunday, April 11, 2021
  • Speaker: Hugh Boyle, historian and Lincoln scholar and former president of the G.A.R. Museum

Every four years when we elect a President, a cry goes out that this election is the most important in American history.  The election of 1860 was the most important. With a war looming, and four failed years of James Buchanan, and states leaving the union. There is hardly an argument about the importance of this election. Abraham Lincoln a backwoods lawyer from the west, surprised the country with his nomination. We will look at how he got that nomination and how he won the election. Lincoln only received 40% of the total votes. So, he was not popular, but he would bring this country again and end slavery. He is noted as our best and greatest president. Find out what he brought to the presidency to accomplish that distinction.

Please send a request to reserve a virtual seat for this outstanding presentation by replying to this e-mail at You will be sent a link with a password that will enable you to access the program within 24 hours of the start of the presentation. 

As a lover of history, you know how critical it is to keep history alive, especially today!  We very much appreciate your continued support for the GAR Civil War Museum & Library

Northeast Philadelphia History Network


Holmesburg Prison - Klondike Bake Oven Deaths


  • When: 7pm, Wednesday,  April 7, 2021 
  • Speaker: Allen Hornblum – Author

Over the course of a late summer weekend in 1938, Holmesburg Prison inmates perceived as leaders of a prison food strike are celled in a punishment block known as “Klondike,” and cooked alive as payback for their incorrigible behavior. The event will receive front page headlines throughout the nation, and be described as “the most extreme example of prison abuse in American history.”

Author Allen Hornblum’s recently published book, The Klondike Bake-Oven Deaths, is a partially fictionalized portrayal of the efforts of Philadelphia County coroner Heshel Glass – the protagonist - to get to the bottom of the horrendous crime.

Review at

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YouTube Videos of Recent NEPHN Presentations

Old York Road Historical Society

Due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the Society will host lectures virtually over the internet via Zoom. Lectures will be held live and will not be recorded for later playback. A link will be sent out to those on our email list several days in advance. Additionally, the link will be posted on our website and Facebook page a day prior to the presentation. If you would like to be on our reminder list, please send an email to

Lectures will be held live and will NOT be recorded for later playback due to copyright restrictions on the images used in the presentations.
The lecture series is sponsored by a grant from the Jenkinstown Lyceum and all programs are offered on Zoom free of charge. For more information please call the Old York Road Historical Society at 215–886–8590.

The Philadelphia Area Architecture of Horace Trumbauer

  • When: 7:30 pm, Wednesday,  April 14, 2021 
  • Speaker: David Rowland, Society President

Raised in Jenkintown, architect Horace Trumbauer achieved national renown for his wide range of residential, commercial and civic structures he designed in and around Philadelphia. During the American renaissance in architecture, he masterfully interpreted the classical styles. Society President David Rowland will share some of the beautiful buildings Trumbauer designed in the area, with a focus on those in the northern suburbs of Philadelphia.

Join us as Society President David Rowland shares the history of some of the beautiful buildings Trumbauer designed in the area, with a focus on those in the northern suburbs of Philadelphia.

The Wall Paper

A Publication of the Cheltenham Township Historical Commission

The spring 2021 publication of The Wall Paper is now available - click here. Back issues of The Wall Paper are available on the Cheltenham Township website. The edition features:
  • Chairman's Chatter
  • 50th Anniversary Grand Re-Opening Open House 
  • Upcoming Events
  • Questions from Residents

The Richard Wall House

The Richard Wall House is normally open on the fourth Sunday of every month and upon request, when not closed due to the COVID-19 crisis. To arrange for a tour after the COVID-19 crisis is over, either private or for a group, either call the Township at 215-887-1000, ext. 227 during business hours, or call the house directly at 215-887-9159 and leave a message.

Learn more about the Wall House on the Cheltenham Township website.

Friends of the Wall House

Be a Friend of the Wall House and help preserve the rich history of Cheltenham Township.
Benefactor: $100 * Sponsor: $50 * Patron: $20

Make checks payable to Cheltenham Township Historical Commission. Mail your check, name, address, and email to:
Friends of the Wall House
c/o Cheltenham Township
8230 Old York Road
Elkins Park, PA 19027-1589
Copyright © 2021 Cheltenham Township Historical Commission, All rights reserved.

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