Preservationists unite to find steward for Mitchell/Giurgola-designed home


Michele Racioppi


Docomomo US staff


Threatened, Advocacy, philadelphia
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The Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia is well-stocked with modernist homes of impressive architectural pedigrees. There is the Vanna Venturi House, designed by Robert Venturi for his mother, Louis Kahn's Esherick House, a Bauhaus-inspired home built by local architect Kenneth Day in 1938, five dwellings by Robert Bishop, who apprenticed at Taliesin under Frank Lloyd Wright, and an apartment complex and a pair of homes by Oskar Stonorov. Nestled on Glengarry Road, there is the Dorothy Shipley White Residence, designed by Mitchell/Giurgola Architects and completed in 1963.

The original homeowner, Dorothy Shipley White, retired to Utah in the late 1970s. She passed away in 2001 at the age of 105, at which time the home was sold to Judge Tama Myers Clark and her husband Peter. 

Preservationists had been keeping an eye on the property for many years as, the condition continued to deteriorate. After multiple attempts to reach Judge Clark to address the destressing state of the house, the Docomomo US/Philadelphia chapter was instrumental in getting preservation status by the city to help protect the house. Former Philadelphia chapter board member Ben Leech wrote the nomination that was ultimately supported by a variety of like-minded preservation organizations within the city including the Chestnut Hill Conservancy and the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. "It was great to see all of these organizations unite to support the preservation of this iconic house," said Docomomo US/Philadelphia board member and Chestnut Hill resident Dan Macey. 

The home was officially listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in October of 2017. The local designation mandates that any work on the building that requires a building permit must be approved by the Philadelphia Historical Commission. This provides a layer of protection for the home’s exterior character-defining features.

In January of this year, Judge Clark passed away, and the estate has begun preparing the home for sale by maintaining the landscaping and cleaning out the interior, Hidden City Philadelphia reports. "I am so very happy to see the estate of Judge Clark take an interest in improving the fantastic modern house in Chestnut Hill designed by Romaldo Giurgola," Macey commented. "Judge Clark told me on several occasions how much she loved the house and how happy and proud she and her former husband were living there. I know she loved the house and while ultimately she was not able to property care for and maintain the historic house and allowed it to deteriorate, she nonetheless wanted a new steward to love the house as much as she once did. I welcome her estate to help us all find the right steward."

Thanks to the proactive approach of the local preservation groups, who helped raise awareness of the home's significance while also taking steps to protect it, finding a new owner may not take very long. According to local reports, people have been leaving notes on the door inquiring about the sale. Lori Salganicoff, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Conservancy, noted that the home "is drawing interest from architects, as well as from area residents who want to scale down."


"A new beginning for Dorothy Shipley White house," Chestnut Hill Local, June 18, 2020.

"Advocates Mobilize to Save a Mid-Century Modern Icon," Hidden City Philadelphia, July 13, 2020.

Dorothy Shipley White House nomination to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.