Design set for Lincoln Drive gateway markers

A pair of stone markers on Lincoln Drive in Mt. Airy will soon be restored to their original glory making them a lot more noticeable to drivers.

For almost two years, West Mt. Airy Neighbors (WMAN) and the Germantown Historical Society (GHS) have been working towards restoring a unique gift given to the Northwest at the turn of the 20th Century.

In 1901, a pair of ornate arbors, or pergolas, topped two sets of stone piers on either side of Lincoln Drive at Johnson Street. Together, the twin structures – funded by Philadelphia financier Edward T. Stotesbury – formed a gateway that loosely separated residential areas from the park.

More than 100 years later, however, the pergolas are gone. And only a single pier on each side of the street remains. The city widened Lincoln Drive from two lanes to four in the 1950s.

Patrick Moran, of the Germantown Historical Society (GHS), said the city began to neglect the gateway in the 1950s.

“People would use the Lincoln Drive area as a park area,” said Moran. “But as these communities moved away it was not a focus.”

To redraw attention to the Stotesbury Gates, WMAN and GHS are working with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, which now owns the piers, to design and erect a new set of pergolas by spring 2011. There is no effort, at this point, to reconstruct the lost piers.

Chris Palmer, the city’s director of Operations and Landscape Management, said the department has given the groups permission to move forward with the project, but says the design will have to go through engineering and safety reviews before construction begins.

The project must also be coordinated with the city’s Streets Department, which has plans to replace sidewalks and curbs along Lincoln Drive, said Palmer.

Peter DiCarlo, lead architect of Peter DiCarlo Architecture and a member of GHS, has been charged with drawing up the design for the new gateway. Claudia Levy of DiCarlo architecture and Doris Kessler of WMAN will design the surrounding landscaping that will complement the project.

DiCarlo said restoring the gateway is not difficult from a construction standpoint but designing the pergolas, however, will be a little tricky.

“It’s really a very elaborate cap,” said DiCarlo. “The ornamentation is more comparable to what you’d see on the interior of a house or on an edifice such as city hall or the art museum.”

Luckily, DiCarlo said, he was able to glean most of the pergola’s original design by enlarging some historic photos of the gateway. But he adds he’s not looking to create exact replicas.

The wood for example, will be Wissahickon Black Locust, a more durable material than the oak originally used in the gateway’s construction.

To complete the project, Moran said it would take about $25,000. He says $15,000 of the bill has already been taken care of thanks to donations from The Drumcliff Foundation of West Mount Airy and Richard Snowden of Bowman Properties in Chestnut Hill.

Going forward, Moran said there will be more fundraising efforts to meet the $25,000 mark.

Palmer of Parks and Recreation said he looks forward to when everything is done. “This is one of those projects that will certainly enhance the area for all users,” he said.  “It’s the type of thing we’re trying to do in a number of locations to welcome people into the park even if they’re driving 40 miles an hour down Lincoln Drive.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.