Fire destroys Trumbauer-designed Main Line mansion

The Philadelphia area lost another of its grand manors on April 4, when a fire ran through Bloomfield, a Villanova estate designed in 1923 by Horace Trumbauer in the style of a 16th-century Loire Valley chateau.

The fire at 200 South Ithan Avenue started at 2:30 p.m. in a portion of the building that linked the main house with the garage.

A man and a woman who had been renting the property escaped unharmed, according to reports, though three firefighters were injured battling the blaze, which drew 10 fire companies.

The property had been the site of a Victorian home built in 1885 and later owned by Albert Eugene Gallatin. A Villanova native who ancestors included the Secretary of the Treasury under Thomas Jefferson, Gallatin was a painter and renowned collector of abstract art.

The estate was purchased in the 1920s by cotton broker George McFadden Jr., who hired Trumbauer to remodel and transform the house.

Trumbauer was one of the most prominent architects of the period. At the time of Bloomfield’s construction, Trumbauer’s firm was building the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Free Library on Vine Street. His other work included the rear annex of the Union League, the Public Ledger Building, Irvine Auditorium, and Grey Towers Castle, which is now Arcadia University.

The chateau in Villanova was made of limestone with French Caen stone trim and a slate roof. The residence contained 14 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms, a dozen fireplaces, a ballroom with parquet floors, a music room, loggia, card room, library and servants’ wing.

The interiors were likely designed by Paris and New York decorator Lucien Alavoine, a longtime Trumbauer associate, according to the Radnor Historical Society Bulletin.

As for the grounds, McFadden hired the Olmsted Brothers, whose father designed Central Park and many of the great urban greens across the U.S. The six-acre site included courtyards and walkways, formal gardens, fountains, and a reflecting pond.

The property was listed last May for $7.9 million. County records indicate the property is owned by Jerald Batoff, a son of the late William Batoff, the Democratic fundraiser who helped elect mayors, governors and presidents, according to an obituary in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The cause of the fire at Bloomfield had not been determined last week.

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