If you’ve recently passed by the big white house at North 33rd and Girard Avenue, you might’ve noticed some changes are afoot. In 2017, the Fairmount Park Conservancy embarked on a new partnership at the Hatfield House, working with artist collective Amber Art & Design to host a series of public programs and events that was centered around art, creativity, and community. The year-long Community Catalyst Artist residency breathed new life into a shuttered historic property, introducing a number of residents to the house for the very first time and building a foundation for the future.
Because of its location at the intersection of North 33rd Street and Girard Avenue, at the juncture of Fairmount Park and nearby neighborhoods of Strawberry Mansion, Brewerytown, and East Parkside, the Hatfield House is well situated to bring residents and park users together. The success of the residency showed us that historic houses can serve and attract new, hyperlocal audiences through community-centered programming. By highlighting the culture and history of Strawberry Mansion, collaborating with neighborhood-based organizations and artists, and hiring local caterers, businesses, and entrepreneurs, our work at the Hatfield House shows the power and potential of investing in local interests and economies to knit stronger ties between the park and its surrounding communities.
On October 30th, 2020, the Conservancy again brought neighbors together at the Hatfield House in celebration of continued investment in the house and community. Though the challenges of Covid-19 necessitated adaptation and strict adherence to safety guidelines, this outdoor, socially distanced event made good use of the house’s prominent porch and sprawling lawn. Guests enjoyed music and Hatfield House trivia (emceed by Hatfield House Advisory Panel member and WURD host Rick Ford), takeaway desserts by Taste and See Treats, and custom air-brushed t-shirts created by artist JT Taylor of Def Art Studio.
Restoring the house
This year has already seen a steady stream of investment in the form of needed repairs, including historic restoration of significant architectural features, as well as the addition of new amenities onsite. Restoration work, led by our staff of architectural conservators, includes restoring the house’s portico and porch steps, wood siding, front entry, and first floor windows and shutters. Inside the house, major plaster repairs and fresh paint have greatly improved the space, while the installation of wireless internet service and repairs to the HVAC system have brought much-needed contemporary updates to the house. Additional repairs have been completed on the house’s outdoor lights and downspouts. The house’s prominent white picket fence, which had been badly damaged in recent years, was replaced entirely. Finally, we completed installation of a new bike rack and outdoor bulletin board, bringing improved public amenities that contribute to the house’s continued transformation.
In addition to physical improvements to the house and grounds, we have also convened a Hatfield House Advisory Panel, a 10-member group of community leaders, artists, and engaged residents of Strawberry Mansion. This group has come together not only to help shape what happens at Hatfield House through activation and programming, but to establish a deeper network of neighbors and collaborators, working together to build greater awareness of this public space and transform it into a true community asset.
While we continue to adapt programming at the house with public health and safety as a top priority, activities at the house in 2021 will focus on continued capital improvements and activation in the form of new and site-specific art installations, by both emerging and established Strawberry Mansion and West Philadelphia-based artists. We have a number of exciting collaborations in the works, so stay tuned for more!