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Louella's Vestibule

Built between 1867 and 1868, Louella was home to J. Henry Askin.

There has been much discussion lately about a developer's plans to modify and renovate Wayne's famous Louella mansion. Built between 1867 and 1868, Louella was home to J. Henry Askin, the first entrepreneur to consider turning the area that would become Wayne into a suburban development.

Louella, now the oldest building in downtown Wayne, is set to become a 12-unit condominium, which, according to the developer, will require many historic elements to be replaced. Among these are the entrance doors, seen here in 1870, which will supposedly be replaced by similar copies.

Other features in place for at least 130 years will also be replaced, including interior woodwork, dormers along the mansion's roof, and original windows. Last week, the Radnor Township Board of Commissioners approved a preliminary plan for these changes in a 4-2 vote. This photograph is from an album of scenes at Louella by renowned Philadelphia photographer Frederick Gutekunst.

- Greg Prichard,

Radnor Historical Society March 01, 2012 at 06:38 PM
In preservation practice, it is normal to choose a building's "period of significance," one best representative of the building's history and most reflective of its existing historic fabric. While the "original" part of the building dates from 1867-8, it was enlarged in the early 1880s and further modified in the 1920s to become an apartment house. Given that it was a hotel first with its present configuration and during Wayne's most important period of development, a range of ca. 1885-1920 might be an appropriate period of significance. Normally, a building owner would do everything they could to retain/repair as much interior and exterior historic fabric from that period as possible; what will actually happen with Louella is yet to be seen, and has not been thoroughly described by the developer.
Louella Court March 01, 2012 at 06:53 PM
A large amount of the exterior of the building is going to be made out of or covered with FYPON, molded urethane millwork. This is according to the plans available for the HARB 3/7/12. There isn't much in the plans but that detail is.
gail March 01, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Maybe the developer is considering salvaging architectural elements. Certainly, they would add to the value of any restoration, and enhance rather than detract from any new uses for the building. Why is so little known about the plans? Hasn't the Historical Review Board noted salvageable elements in the interior and exterior: doors, windows, floors, mantels, marble? Why is so little attention being paid to the oldest building in Wayne? Just can't fathom this building and it's original architecture just slipping away as if it were ... trash? Dumpster material? What is happening?
Radnor Historical Society March 01, 2012 at 11:10 PM
The HARB and those overseeing it do not believe that they have the authority to rule on things such as the replacement of doors, windows, etc., including any interior element.
john March 02, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Having an inventory of salvageable architectural elements of historical value in a building of this age and significance, and presenting them with recommendations on preservation to the developer seems a reasonable and appropriate response for HARB to undertake in this instance. Perhaps many, if not all, of the recommendations would be considered and implemented by the developer. It might prove impossible to maintain any historical integrity throughout the town of Wayne without some guidance and leadership in why and how to preserve historically-significant architectural buildings.
Louella Court March 02, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Our experience with the developer has not indicated any interest in the preservation of the building's elements. He is only considering copying the doors and shutters at the insistence of the Board of Commissioners.
James March 02, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I am embarrassed by the Louella Court neighbors behavior through this whole process, the overall claim that the process hasn't worked is ridiculous, every board this has gone before has encouraged or insisted on revisions to the developer's plans, mostly based on the neighbors concerns and at EVERY turn changes have been made to that effect. The real problem here is that some of the neighbors believe they own the mansion and it's surrounding property, they don't, they had an opportunity to team together and purchase the property, the saying, "put your money where your mouth is," rings true here. This developer is a good man with a good track record, there is nothing positive or genuine about the approach or tactics of the neighbors, the hypocrisy is at an all-time high.
justwondering March 02, 2012 at 06:26 PM
I know that this comment is going to annoy some of you - but I feel compelled to say this. I love this town, I do - having lived here for more years than I care to admit and I have seen issues, fights, etc - I have seen many of you come and many of you go.......and what really, really, really gets to me is that claim to be interested in history and all that - but what you are really doing, in my very humble opinion - is trying to legislate TASTE. You do not know own the property - it is not for you to determine what and how it is used, aside from safety concerns, and maybe traffic. If this guys wants to put in a nudy bar/laundromat - then so be it - We really are starting to overreach ourselves here. Frankly, I am getting tired of this policing of people and their homes, while hiding under the guise of preservation - your beauty may be not what everyone else wants.......... Sorry to be offensive, but i have been thinking about this for a really long time.
jane March 02, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Sorry, but taste has nothing to do with preserving the unique. As American towns disappear with chain stores and restaurants all selling the same merchandise, WE become more bored and boring. Throwing away the original in favor of the reproduced is not about taste, but authenticity and the thrill of "experiencing and witnessing" real history in it's peculiar and singular setting. Mr. Calloway, in purchasing the oldest property in an historical town, should expect and probably welcomes feedback on his proposal especially given that he is a good man. Perhaps, now that he has the specs and architectural drafts for a reproduced-historical Louella building, maybe he will consider building Louella Two on a piece of property not of historical value on the perimeter of Wayne, and commit to the historical preservation that the original Louella Mansion deserves. Surely, he will benefit in the great success of both properties in addition to the town. We won't have to be worried about ordinances for bed and breakfast establishments when Wayne is turned into a town of reproductions of once-historical buildings, and chain-store operations that are already present in every-town-USA. Successful towns worldwide maintain their uniqueness including their historical heritage; otherwise, why bother visiting them? Why not choose the exciting dance of being an unusual and treasured Wayne, PA, and advance down a road NOT taken by most US towns? What DO we have to lose?
justwondering March 02, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Well put - but surely you see just how difficult we make it for business people here? We need business commerce to take the tax burden off of the residential home owner. 40 years ago - Walter Annenberg with Triangle Publications, Sun Oil, Wyeth - they made it possible for us to flourish as we do now.......We have oversized homes on undersized lots and I am not seeing people staying around as they used to - so what is it that is keeping people from choosing to stay here?
jane March 02, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Most of the revenues of national chain businesses, while they have their place and contribute to taxes, leave the local economy. A town like Wayne would be more business-profitable if it attracted small business owners who live locally whether that is a unique restaurant, or one-of-a-kind store selling unique locally-made or grown products. The notion of a global economy is only truly successful for those at the top of the monetary system. It is only if revenues stay in the community that a town has a chance of prospering. This IS why small towns used to be able to make it; they didn't have to compete with national chains. But, small towns can commit to educating their citizens on supporting the local economy, & seek out and attract small business owners with tax incentives especially within walkable towns like Wayne. Box stores & national chains are 5-10 minutes away; they are already easily accessible. One way to ensure that revenues stay local is to maintain unique historical properties; they always attract visitors to admire them/or plan house tours/lectures. Art venues also attract visitors. These visitors are then supporting other local merchants. Meanwhile, oversized homes should be subdivided into twins, and outfitted with sustainable energy manufactured & installed by local entrepreneurs. The myth of a global economy for most middle-class Americans needs to be unveiled for what it is - a myth. Take a look at: http://www.the350project.net/home.html
James March 03, 2012 at 01:09 AM
I understand the fear of Wayne becoming too commercialized, I am curious how Jane or anyone else feels about the redevelopment of the ACME property, on one hand I see top-name vendors but I also see a genuine threat to stores like Wayne Sporting Goods, etc. I just don't see the problem with a private property like this being modernized internally while the outside is restored, the building will be brought up to code and the windows, doors, roof, etc. will be modernized while maintaining the architectural integrity. The neighbors continuously shift their focus at every turn, now they "genuinely" care about a porch on the side of the building that virtually no one sees, especially no one on the court. The overall spirit and integrity of the building will not only be maintained but it will be improved, with no other suitors interested in the project this is the best opportunity for the property to be restored to it's former glory. None of the surrounding neighbors have done a thing about the upkeep or integrity of the mansion but they used the history of the building to get the historical designation for the district so they could try and gain control of this particular property. No one wants a big construction project in their front or back yard but once this is finished it will be beautiful and it will add to the neighborhood. The most storied building in Wayne should not be falling apart, it should not be a slum.
jane March 03, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Any chain business in Wayne will not contribute to the uniqueness of Wayne, nor add significant revenues to the local economy, and will probably threaten local owners of similar stores. How many chain businesses do we really need or want or is even useful? Can we drive 5 minutes to experience one, and keep Wayne itself and its businesses special? The Louella project should be in consultation with historical restoration experts that have local historical knowledge and preservation expertise. Modernizing an antique building is admirable, but should involve salvaging as much as possible of the original architectural elements, and incorporating or reutilizing them in carefully considered new ways. They have value in their originality vs. reproduced copies of the antique. They really can't be viewed as insignificant or improved upon in regards to preserving the architectural and historical integrity of the building. Anyone truly hoping to restore the building to its former glory would be wise to consult with historical preservation experts like we have here in Wayne at the Historical Society. They would not be steering anyone to consider means of restoration that would not be beneficial to all involved. They would know what can be preserved, and how best to restore the building.
James March 03, 2012 at 05:29 AM
I think your take on the local vs. chain business is a bit narrow-minded. The Gap has been in Wayne for nearly two decades and has done fine and provided an outlet for our town. By and large local people own a lot of the commercial space in Wayne, in today's market they are lucky to retain tenants whether they are local or national so it is not accurate to suggest chain vendors don't benefit Wayne. Regarding the Louella project, I believe we are lucky the building isn't being torn down, I went to a party in the building 5 - 6 years ago and it was in terrible shape then. Everyone has a different interpretation of what restoring the building to it's former glory means, ultimately I believe it is up to the developer and the new buyers to determine what is acceptable, if this was registered as a historical building I may feel differently but the "concerned" neighbors didn't lobby for that designation. The reason no one has stepped up to preserve every historical aspect of that building is because it is too costly and there is a lack of interest, the Township is not equipped to purchase and preserve / find a use for the building and the Historical Society is full of people with opinions but clearly not enough deep pockets or wherewithal to do something about it. So what transpires? Negative comments, besmirching and distorting a good developer who has benefitted Wayne and Radnor Township and creating a hostile environment due to fear, envy and ignorance.
jane March 03, 2012 at 10:49 AM
History is what it is. We either preserve or destroy it, but we cannot redefine it. Statistics are also what they are; they are not opinions.
James March 03, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I don't understand your comment, it doesn't address anything I've said. It is very simple, if you or any of these other preservationists or the neighbors wanted to do something different with that mansion or any other old building or mansion in the township then they should buy it or find someone like minded and buy it and preserve away. Everyone has an opinion but if you are not willing to do something about it then you're just blowing air. It takes vision and guts to buy a property like Louella, I can't imagine taking on that risk / challenge let alone dealing with the ever changing criticism of the neighbors who by all accounts are unconsolable. This developer is saving that building, actually he is ensuring that it has the proper stewardship to maintain and preserve it indefinitely, I can't think of a better scenario that works to the mutual benefit of everyone. So the windows and doors will be replaced and some minor changes will occur, the overall outcome will be that the building remains in place as the center point / focus of Wayne and that district. Lets be honest, the mansion is the only thing that makes that area special, without it you have 15 - 20 homes that are not unlike the majority of homes in that price range throughout the entire Philadelphia suburbs. I'd like to say that the neighbors make it a warm and friendly place but look at how they have behaved, selfishness is not a virtue.
Louella Court March 03, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Thanks Jane, we couldn't agree more!The Mansion has always and still does deserve the best treatment. That is was allowed to go with no maintenance in the last year is dissappointing. We are still working to get the best outcome for the Founders house. James, We are still wondering how you could be embarrased by our actions. If must be tough being you. You are missing some details that are significant. We trust the Pennsylvania Museum and Historic commmission's judgement about this building & district more than your opinion. The Mansion never went on the open market. We spoke with several developers and at least 1/2 were/are interested but won't touch a property under agreement. I suggest you take a look at the videos to see what actually happened or maybe your are just interested in spreading your bad mojo. As mentioned above it must be tough being you. We found the discourse between you both interesting, though. We think it is time for us all to think more seriously about what we want for our town.
James March 04, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Excuses, excuses. I am embarrassed as a resident of Wayne, I've lived here my whole life and the behavior of some of these neighbors is sickening, I have watched the meetings and followed the discourse on Patch, your behavior and approach is disingenuous, now you mention that the mansion never came up for sale on the open market, as if you or any of your cohorts would have done anything about it, after all you've lived in the area for awhile, did it ever occur to you to approach the owner? The comical aspect of this is that you site my supposed bad mojo, when it is the negative vibes of the residents that has consumed this process, I watched Susan from the Court recommend underground parking as opposed to the above ground garage (which I didn't agree with either given it's large footprint) in one of the earlier meetings only to then watch her complain incessantly about it once the developer went in that direction. Obviously the township and all of it's boards see the need for this project to proceed considering it has won approval at nearly every stage and it has done so while taking into consideration the needs and desires of the neighbors. The process has worked just not to the neighbors liking, that is because the neighbors want nothing to happen, god forbid the aspect of the district that makes it noteworthy receives some real attention. I am thrilled the project is going to proceed, hopefully all of the neighbors will find some peace once construction is complete.
Frank March 04, 2012 at 03:26 AM
James is spot on, none of the home owners gave two cents about the renters until this came up. Now they expoit them by putting the renters children's photos online? Perhaps they could move the renters into to their homes instead of using them to try to get sympathy? Jane, Very few people that come to Wayne to Eat or Shop visit any historic properties or care much about them. The vast majority of people who live in Radnor Township leave here because: 1) Close to where they work 2) Good schools 3) Good access to Blue Route if they commute 4) Grew up in the area/relatives live in the area 5) Lower taxes than many places with these features (but we are raising taxes as fast as we can lately so this may change) The same people who fight progress are happy to enjoy the increased value to their homes... I think Holloway should stop trying and let it fall apart; the neighbors sure won't pay one cent to fix it up to "restore its glory".
justwondering March 04, 2012 at 06:15 AM
Well said, Frank - you really captured how I feel, too - another life long resident.
Terry March 05, 2012 at 10:18 AM
Where can we sign the petition to "Save the Louella"? I would even contribute one cent or two when signing the petition to "restore its glory" by maintaining its authentic history. Keep Wayne special; keep it real.
Louella Court March 05, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Terry, we love the idea! We'll post information later today, please check back. Thanks
i grew here you moved here March 05, 2012 at 03:03 PM
As stewards of the community, shouldn't the Township guide appropriate development that is in the best interest of the community; particularly something that is not by-right and requires significant variances and special conditions to be a legal use that may severly impact the residents, the neighborhood, the environment, and other social/political/economic qualities? LC and other Louella supporters are doing a great service by creating awareness and attempting to appropriately guide the decision-making process of the Township, as it is clear that Twp. staff needs help and guidance making such decisions. In the past, I have noticed that there is often a disconnect between the supportive groups of the community and the Township. The groups create the awareness and present the facts, and seems it is rarely conveyed or acknowledged by the Twp. Maybe this time it'll be different
mary March 05, 2012 at 08:42 PM
The Louella Mansion isn't just any development. It is the oldest and most prominent landmark building in a town center that has an historical designation, and much of the architectural interior and exterior is authentic, intact, and salvagable. It is wonderful that so many people are concerned and care about its historical significance given that it is truly irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind, and has been a communal treasure for centuries. Citizens themselves are often well aware of what is in the best interest of their own community. Maybe they need to petition in order to be truly heard. Township officials are not the only stewards of communal history. History is shared among all citizens of the past, present, and future.
Louella Court March 05, 2012 at 09:44 PM
It is about stewardships. We are glad most of you see that. We are trying to figure out the best way to get a petition moving. In the mean time, the Mansion is item #2 on the 3/7 Historic Review Board (HARB) meeting. That would be a great venue for you all to express your concerns. This is the first of the HARB meetings related to the Mansion that will discuss the building not the garage. The board chair is Cam Lacey. After the HARB, it will to the Board of Commissioners for their approval or denial of the HARB recommendation. . Another way to voice your opinion is to contact your commissioner. Keeping in mind that Bill Spingler is the real estate agent for the deal, we haven't included him on the list. The public e-mail for each ward follows. jhiggins@radnor.org; eschaefer@rdnor.org; Khiggins40@radnor.org; jnagle@radnor.org; dcurley@radnor.org; jfisher@radnor.org; You could also get in touch with the Twp Manager - Rzienkowski@radnor.org. We will be on the agenda for the Zoning Hearing Board on 4/19 in 3 appeals of earlier determinations that we believe were made in error. To Terry or anyone else who would like to support that effort, we would greatly appreciated it. Thanks
Louella Court March 05, 2012 at 09:49 PM
We certainly have worked hard to get to this level of awareness and hope it will be different this time. You raise a very important point. The people who work 'for us' need to know what is important to us. There are always issues and we need to focus attention where we want attention paid. We believe this project has issues well beyond the property lines that will have an impact in the future; stormwater, imperviousness, parking & on &on &on.
kevin March 06, 2012 at 11:26 AM
It will be a travesty is we lose the real history of the Louella Mansion. Watching it get turned into a fake reproduction of itself will feel like a wound every time we look at it. All the emphasis on a planned garage has taken the focus off the lost history of the building itself. Just can't understand how this building is slipping away. Something really is wrong when the real history of the oldest founding building in an historic town is foresaken for a pseudo-plastic reproduction of itself.
theresa March 09, 2012 at 08:48 PM
It was encouraging to hear Mr. Holloway at the recent HARB meeting (3/7/12) invite the Radnor Historical Society into the Louella Mansion for a look-around. Also, happy to hear him say that original exterior doors to the Mansion will be repurposed as accent pieces in the newly refurbished historical condos along w other items of architectural significance: molding, floors, interior doors, mantels. Just wondering if all the roof cornices are being removed (to be replaced w/ replicated PVC plastic cornices) couldn't the original cornices be restored, once removed, using modern architectural preservation-quality wood filler (such as they have at the VF historic home show)? Rotted areas can be chiseled out, filled, and restored w/ modern conservation applications, mediums, and paints. Mr. Holloway might be pleasantly surprised by the # of volunteers (through the historical society) who would be willing to volunteer their time to help restore the original wooden cornices (w/ the proper training). Also just wondering if Pella windows can fabricate new custom windows, couldn't they also make new custom interior storm windows while the original windows that are salvagable are restored? There might just be willing volunteers to restore the original windows as well (again w/proper training). People may not be able to purchase a luxury historical condo in the restored Louella, but they might be proud and happy to participate in its historical restoration.
theresa March 09, 2012 at 09:02 PM
"for a building of its age, Louella remains remarkably intact. One of its greatest original features are its windows, some of which reach to the floor, typical of the Second Empire style of the 1860s and ’70s. The windows are all the more remarkable when one considers that it was from these that Mr. Askin watched his town grow 140 years ago. Windows are a major character-defining feature of any historic building, as outlined by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and even local groups: the Lower Merion Conservancy has just listed historic windows as their township’s #1 most threatened historic resource. Many do not realize the historic and environmental benefits of preserving windows, especially in light of incentives that falsely pronounce replacement windows as more environmentally conscious. The studies are in: replacing windows is far more wasteful than restoring them, and replacement detracts from a building’s historic character in a way that can never be regained" [from Preserve Louella's Historic Character, Radnor Hist. Society, 4/20/11]. Finally, if the slate roof shingles are also being removed (to be replaced w/asphalt) couldn't they also be cleaned up (old tar removed, etc.), and reused over new roofing tarp materials. Surely, 130 year old shingles have already stood the test of time. If some are too damaged, couldn't they be replaced with new slate? Historically appropriate materials are just such a vital part of a true historical building.
Louella Court March 13, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Thanks Kevin and Theresa! You understand. You are more concerned with authenticity than with bright and shiny. So are we. 'Watching it get turned into a fake reproduction of itself.....wound...every time we look at it.' said it quite well, Kevin. We, the neighbors of the Court will be looking at it all the time, every day. That is why we continue to be passionate about it.

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