By Alan Jaffe
“Look Up” is a new feature of PlanPhilly that encourages appreciation of our architectural and historical environment. Each week, the photo essay will focus on a different Philadelphia area neighborhood and its distinctive building styles and details, all of which make up the physical fabric of the city and region.
A green island rests in the midst of the dense, busy streets of Germantown. The 55-acre Awbury Arboretum, centered on Chew Avenue near Washington Lane, is home to beautiful native and exotic tree species, gardens, a stream, ponds, wetlands and farmland. It also contains an enclave of 24 houses built from the 1850s to 1920s for the members of the Cope family, a Quaker clan who championed education, social service, conservation, city planning and abolition.
The houses erected by the Copes, who named their community after their ancestral home in Avebury, England, cover a range of styles, including Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, and Germantown Colonial Revival, and were designed by the prominent architects of the times. Many are set in a landscape laid out by William Saunders, designer of the cemetery at the Gettysburg Battlefield and the grounds of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
The two dozen homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are pending approval for the Philadelphia Register, led by the efforts of one resident, Mark R. Sellers, co-author of “The Historic Houses of Awbury.”
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