Louis Kahn’s Margaret Esherick House Named to the National Register of Historic Places
Philadelphia, PA. – The Louis I. Kahn designed Margaret Esherick house, located in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of Interior. The private residence was listed on the Register on August 21 due to its architectural significance as an iconic modernist building, universally recognized as a premier example of Kahn’s design principles.
World renowned architect Louis Kahn designed the house between 1959-1961 for his client, Chestnut Hill bookstore owner Margaret Esherick. Margaret’s uncle, Wharton Esherick, considered to be the father of the modern studio craft movement, built the home’s copper and wood sculptural kitchen.
Architectural historians have referred to the house “as one of the most significant residential structures built in the second half of the twentieth century in the United States, if not beyond,” according to the nomination documents approved by the Department of the Interior. “It continues to be one of the most studied examples of mid-twentieth century residential architecture.”
The 2,500 square foot, one-bedroom residence is divided into “served” and “service” spaces by the entrance, balconies and linear stairs, Kahn’s take on a traditional center hall colonial residence. One wing of the rectangular volume contains a double height living room, while the other has a stacked dining room/bedroom and service zone that includes the kitchen.
“Known for his monumental and institutional works, Kahn’s few residential designs are especially important as representative of his core architectural principals applied on a smaller scale,” cites the approved nomination. “The house retains remarkable integrity being extremely intact from its original completion fifty years ago.”
“We are honored that the Department of Interior has listed the Margaret Esherick house on the National Register and happy that both Louis Kahn and Wharton Esherick are being nationally recognized for their work together,” said Paul Savidge, who together with his husband, Dan Macey, have owned the house since 2014. “We also want to thank the three previous owners who had the foresight to understand the genius of Kahn and contribute to its on-going preservation.”
The house is especially known as a notable example of Kahn’s use of light. “The light coming through the windows changes all the time, depending on the time of day or the season. But it is always a very soothing and comforting light that makes the house a wonderful place to work, read and just be,” added Macey.
In 1992, the Margaret Esherick house received the Landmark Building Award from the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In 2009, the house was added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. The house was inducted into the Chestnut Hill Conservancy’s Architecture Hall of Fame in 2015 and the owners have received preservation and conservation awards from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and Docomomo-US, recognizing their extensive and sensitive preservation efforts.
Administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of historic resources worthy of preservation and is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect our historic and archaeological resources.
Posted: August 25, 2023
Paul Savidge, owner of
Margaret Esherick House
Image Credit: Jeffrey Totaro from NPR