Amy Ragsdale: Inspired by the Elkins Estate
Producer: Karen Smyles
Amy Ragsdale is a jewelry designer who lives on The Elkins Estate in Cheltenham PA. In 2008, looking for a venue for a craft show she was putting together for a non-profit organization, she was invited to hold the event on the property. After the event, she was asked to stay on to help look after the estate. A lover of horses from a very early age, it immediately felt like home when she moved into the former stablemaster’s cottage.
In her home/studio, Ragsdale creates handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces from metal. Her work often centers around symbolic pieces that represent important aspects of the lives of her clients and resonate with people on an emotional level. Ragsdale says that “Waking up here and walking around here and having access to the buildings” fortifies her work and ability to create.
The Elkins Estate is 42-acres containing seven buildings, the most notable being Estowe Manor. The mansion was built in 1898 by William L. Elkins and designed by architect Horace Trumbauer. Having considerable wealth, Elkins spared no expense when he built the mansion, furnishing it with the finest art, furniture and decorative materials, from around the world. The estate also contains another Trumbauer commissioned mansion, Chelten House, built for his son George W. Elkins, along with the stables, a casino and its very own power station.
Elkins, born in 1832, was a Philadelphia businessman who played a big role in the formation of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company, the forerunner of SEPTA. Like many of Phildelphia’s wealthiest residents of the era, he built his summer home in Cheltenham. Elkins died in 1903 and subsequent family members resided on the property up until around 1932.
By then it was overgrown with vines and The Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine de’Ricci purchased the estate for a retreat. The reason the estate is in such amazing condition today, is because the sisters repaired, maintained, and took such loving care of the property. Until recently, it also served as a rental venue for weddings and other major events. The sisters still own the estate, however it is currently up for sale.
The property is well-known to neighbors and others who see it’s grand presence from the road, but tours are extremely rare. So Friday Arts was thrilled for the opportunity to take our cameras throughout the estate with Amy Ragsdale, to witness it’s incredible beauty. We also sit down with Amy in her studio to talk about what life is like experiencing this on a daily basis and how it all inspires her to work wonders with metal.
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