Explore Swarthmore’s Evolution on Made in Swarthmore House Tour September 18

One of the seven houses on the tour, 400 Riverview Road, as sketched by Swarthmorean Bill Menke.

One of the seven houses on the tour, 400 Riverview Road, as sketched by Swarthmorean Bill Menke.

By Linda Heffernan

One of the fascinating features of this year’s Swarthmore Historical Society House Tour will be a view into how some structures in Swarthmore have evolved over the years. Perhaps no conversion is more amazing than the Riverview Farm dairy barn and creamery.

The current residence originally featured a large overhead shed that was used to park a fleet of milk trucks, while animals and equipment were housed on the first floor. Successive owners have continually transformed the spaces, so that the home of prize Guernsey cattle in 1916 is now an inviting family home. The most recent renovations, completed between 2013 and 2016, include a new entryway with thick walls crafted of Wissahickon schist.

Another residence that has been thoroughly transformed is the Harvard Avenue home that originally functioned as the telephone exchange for Swarthmore. The exchange consisted of a group of operators working a large switchboard.Decades later, the building temporarily housed the Swarthmore Public Library while Borough Hall and the library were being rebuilt following the fire at the original Borough Hall.

A sketch of 215 Harvard Avenue by Bill Menke.

A sketch of 215 Harvard Avenue by Bill Menke.

The current owners purchased the house in 2008 and have done extensive renovations, combining their preferences and style with a deep respect for its history and heritage.

The grand, imposing Georgian Colonial long known as the Bishop House has also undergone many changes since it was built in 1902. The second floor, where the Bishops once entertained guests in their ballroom, is now family living space. During alterations, the owners retained numerous original features such as chestnut moldings, beams and doors, windows and glass, and the original tile surrounding the fireplace. Even one original light fixture (converted from gas to electric).

The house tour will run from 12:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 18. Tour-goers may visit the houses in any order. Complimentary refreshments will be offered at one of the houses, and public restrooms may be found at Borough Hall.

Enjoy brunch before the tour at one of Swarthmore’s restaurants. Visit swarthmorehistoricalsociety.org for participating locations and details, as well as other tour information.

Advance tickets are $15 and are available at the following locations: HOM, Kandy Kids Toys and Gifts, Paulsons’s, Swarthmore Flowers and Gifts, and War3House3. Tickets will also be sold at the Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to noon on September 10 and 17, and will be available on the day of the tour for $20.

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