Historic Wissahickon building gets new tenant

After searching for 10 years, the Fairmount Park Historic Foundation Trust has finally found a tenant for Glen Fern, an 18th-century stone house alongside Wissahickon Creek.

The Trust signed a lease last week with Interpret Green, a company that creates podcasts, websites, exhibits and other multimedia for such clients as the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center, DuPont Nature Center and the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.

In the next couple months, the company will set up offices at Glen Fern, located at 1100 Livezey Lane in West Mt. Airy.

“They’re a great tenant,” says the Trust’s executive director, Lucy Stackhouse, “because they understand how historically and ecologically sensitive the building is.”

In 2000, the Valley Green Canoe Club, which had been headquartered in Glen Fern for nearly 100 years, moved out. Back in the day, the creek’s water level was higher than it is now, making the locale ideal for an active boating club. Since 2000, a caretaker has resided in Glen Fern, but the Trust hasn’t been able to secure a long-term tenant until now.

A historic building

The property is born of the Industrial Revolution: In 1717, Thomas Shomaker built one of the largest mills in the colonies on the site. It later burnt down, but its ruins are still visible behind Glen Fern. In 1747, Thomas Livezey, a wealthy colonial miller, then purchased the home and mill. (That’s why Glen Fern is sometimes referred to as the “Livezey House.”) It is now the last standing miller’s house in the Wissahickon, once home to 60-some mills.

With funds from Fairmount Park and Livezey’s family, the Trust has preserved the home, as well as revitalized the spring house next door.

The Trust struggled to find a long-term tenant for the property because there are only so many possible uses for it, since it lacks a hook-up to a public sewer. In 2000, the city put in a new septic tank and drainage system, however.

Interpret Green already has plans to improve Glen Fern. Upon moving in, it will upgrade the electric system, conduct a historic paint analysis, and install a new ventilation system.

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