2017 Year in Review


In April, Upper School students from Germantown Friends School worked with Philadelphia Young Playwrights to examine the Chew Family Papers to create new scenes for the 1767 and 1959 Kitchens, bringing to life the service spaces of the Main House. Click here to watch their video. 


2017 Cast of Liberty to Go to See

Liberty to Go to See, a dramatic event based on the Chew Family Papers, continued its momentum this year with multiple sold-out shows and was featured on WHYY’s program, Friday Arts. Click here to see the video. 

From March through June, the exhibition Fire & ff-logoFreedom: Food and Enslavement in Early America was on view in the Carriage House, thanks to the chair of our Education Committee, Dr. Randall Miller. Exhibition curator, Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson, spoke at one of our Cliveden Conversations where she encouraged the audience to engage with the concepts of autonomy in culinary knowledge and skill, and how cultures and practices are then created by enslaved persons on rural plantations. Click here to see the online exhibition.

At the same time, the National Trust awarded Cliveden an Interpretation and Education grant for The Cliveden Food Chain to explore the expansive range of the elite Chew Family, their social networks in the Mid-Atlantic region, and the service staff that comprised their households. This two-year project began this year with research into the families, geography, and economy of the Mid-Atlantic. In 2018 a series of Cliveden Conversations and programs, featuring culinary historian Michael Twitty and jazz musician Warren Oree, will respond to the research findings.


Cliveden and Germantown lost a friend this summer. Jack Asher (1943-2017) played a significant role in the stewardship of Cliveden and Historic Germantown. This year’s battle reenactments marked the first time Jack missed a battle in 40 years. In his honor, Cliveden created the Jack Asher Legacy Fund to continue reenactments every year and for everyone.

Big changes came to the Revolutionary Germantown this year with the introduction of a new sponsorship program that brought new festival partners. Cliveden partnered with Historic Germantown, the Museum of the American Revolution, and PhilaLandmarks to collaborate on marketing and programming for a stronger, united front for Cliveden’s signature event. In total, sixteen organizations sponsored the festival, insuring for the longevity of the only urban reenactment in the U.S.


Cliveden new paintWorking with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Cliveden has successfully completed preservation and painting of the exterior woodwork on the Main House and dependencies. The facade of the Main House that faces Germantown Avenue is painted to reflect 18th century colors, including a light ocher color on the sills of the Kitchen Dependency, as opposed to the white sills of the Main House. The historic paint colors show a distinction between service spaces and family spaces on the grounds of Cliveden.

Ably led by Preservation Director, Libbie Hawes, Cliveden has received a Keystone Grant to stabilize the exterior of the Kitchen Dependency. This means, along with on-going archaeology, the floor joists will be refitted, the well pump will be excavated, and the stucco will be reexamined to reflect current best practices in preservation. 

Recently, preservation carpenter Andrew Palewski discovered a brick bake oven next to the 1767 open hearth, broadening our understanding of the work in the kitchen.

Cliveden stewarded Upsala successfully from a failed house museum, through preservation maintenance and repairs, to a new owner now returning it to its original uses as a private residence. Working with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, community stakeholders, and city and state public officials, Upsala now serves the community in new ways, even on Mt. Airy Day and during the Revolutionary Germantown Festival. You can follow Upsala’s restoration journey on our neighbors’ website: www.historicupsala.com.

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