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Views of Narberth Past

210 North Essex, about 1900

Image source: Lower Merion Historical Society

Addresses in view: 210 N. Essex Ave.

modern view of the historical image seen from the same viewpoint
24 Jun 2018

210 North Essex Avenue is one of many Narberth Victorian houses that have been demolished or converted to multiple units. It may be noteworthy for the degree of its alterations and how early it changed from owner-occupied to rentals.

It was commissioned in 1888 by George W. Christy, one of the founders of the 1889 Narberth Park Association (Narberth's earliest civic association), and vice president of the Elm Land Improvement Co., which purchased the remnants of the Price estate in 1890.

Christy sold the house in 1891, and it quickly passed through two more owners, landing in 1911 with Mary E. Harris, wife of building contractor and real estate agent William T. Harris. On the 1919 map, it belongs to another prominent Narberth builder and agent, William D. Smedley, and #208 has been subdivided out of the property. One or the other of these Narberth real estate families, we may reasonably suppose, turned it into rentals: there is no census record for the address until 1920, when it is listed as having two renters. It has remained rentals ever since.[1]

The house was designed and built by Minerva Parker Nichols (1862 - 1949), considered the first independent female architect in the United States. Nichols (she married in 1891) is known to have built five, possibly six, houses in the Narberth Park development in 1888 and 1889.

Philadelphia Real Estate and Builders' Guide, March 25, 1890:

Miss Parker has, also, in her office the plans for a large stone and frame dwelling, to be erected at Elm Station by George Christy. These plans call for an interior finish of cherry and quartered oak, with considerable tile work, and a number of handsome stained glass windows. Mr. Davis, Mr. Bulow [Bewley?] and Mr. H. Mullwood [Millwood] Justice, have each erected residences at Elm Station from plans furnished by Miss Parker, and also John M. Kennedy.
house with stucco and stone surface
2018: the truncated turret is visible at the left.

Although 210 N. Essex survives, it has been so thoroughly altered as to be almost unrecognizable. Stucco additions have concealed its curves, and it stands shorn of its turret and that glorious wrap-around porch. Today it is a five-unit apartment building.

Scientifc American profiled 210 N. Essex in December 1890.

Notes

  1. Montgomery County Deed Book 361, page 456, recorded 10/13/1891, George W. Christy to Daniel Epler, Jr. Christy, "wine salesman" in the 1900 census, dreaded the prospect of a dry Methodist congregation up the hill, speculated Victoria Donohoe in A Cultural History of Narberth. Next it belonged to E. T. Maguire, Jr., who dubbed it "Court Hey", previously the name of his late father's house at 209 N. Wynnewood. In 1911 Maguire sold to Mary Harris (Deed Book 647, page 192). Deed book 717, page 519 records a Harris to Smedley transaction 07/11/1914. So in its first 16 years, the great house had at least five owners. Return