Friday, May 23, 2014

They Don't Make 'Em Like This Anymore

Every year in May, the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Sewing Guild holds a "Sewing Camp" -- five days and four nights to sew anything you desire, visit with sewing friends and share tips and techniques for creating great garments, accessories and quilts.  This was the 10th year we've held camp, and for nine years, we've spent our time on the campus of Eastern University, in Radnor, PA.  The conference staff sets up a large room as our sewing space, we sleep in the dorms and eat in the cafeteria.

Every year, we marvel at the beautiful campus as we walk to the cafeteria, which is located in what is now called Walton Hall.  But that building was once a 'great house,' a Main Line mansion built as a home for the family of Charles S. Walton, a leather manufacturer of considerable means.

A view of Walton Hall, Eastern University
Ceiling detail, Library, Walton Hall
My fascination with these great, old estate homes overwhelms me when I stroll into the building.  They simply don't make mansions -- or any building -- like this anymore. Designed by Philadelphia architect David Knickerbacker Boyd, the 40 room mansion was built in the northern Italian villa style in 1914 on the property then called Walmarthon.

Fireplace Mantel Detail, Library

Charles Walton  died just two years after the home was built.  His family resided there for a while, and the property changed hands a few times before being purchased by Eastern University in 1952.

His son, Charles S. Walton, Jr., also a successful businessman, became chairman of the board of the University in the early '50's.  He brought in architect William Henry Lee to convert the estate's many buildings into usable space for a college campus while maintaining some of the original integrity of the structures.

Ornate fireplaces, marble floors and staircases, stained glass, and my favorite decor, the tiny human figures that decorate the corners of the library reading room, are found throughout the building.

I only hope  that the historic nature and fine craftsmanship of the space is not lost on the young college students that use the buildings on a daily basis.

I also hope that the University continues to find the money to maintain the integrity of the buildings and the entire property, and doesn't allow Walton Hall and the other historic buildings to fall into disrepair.  

If you have the chance to go there some nice day, a visit to Eastern University's campus is worth your time. Try to imagine life in the early 1920's as you stroll through the campus...swimming or ice-skating on the lake, horse-back riding around the estate, or breakfast in the Observatory.     

A beautiful photo of Walton hall!
Walton Hall, once the great mansion of a Main Line estate.

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