14 November 2015

Saturday Spotlight- Circa 1925 Bungalow in Glenside

This week's Saturday Spotlight is the bungalow right across the street from mine, in Glenside, PA.

View today, from the street.

View from better times, in 2007, included so you can see what it looks like without the trees!! Photo courtesy of Montgomery County.
I promise, the vegetation isn't swallowing the house, it just looks that way. This bungalow actually could clean up someday to be a standout on the block, but for now it sits awaiting a new owner, as it is currently bank-owned. At just over 1,000 square feet, it contains its primary living on one level, typical of most bungalows. That main floor is raised up from ground level, allowing itself a healthy set of concrete steps up to the front porch, which commands an elevated view of the surroundings. Although exhibiting fiberglass or composite posts and railings today, there likely would have been piers of stone or clad in wood shingle originally. The concrete steps probably were preceded by a wood set.

The porch and the main house itself are topped with a hipped roof, with a simple gabled dormer on the front facade. The dormer is repeated on the rear, and also on the back is a small area of low-sloped roof over what is likely a former back porch which was enclosed. The house is clad fully at its main level with cement asbestos shingles, whereas the foundation is stuccoed and painted.

View from the rear (from 2007, but very much the same today) with enclosed porch to the left. My house is peeking over from across the street in the background.

Origins

The house, along with mine, is one of the very first built on this block of Central Avenue in a new subdivision of land established in 1919 by Philadelphia jeweler Reginald Ferguson. It is at the extreme southwest border of what was formerly a 217-acre tract of land owned by the Spear family. By 1927, only five houses existed on the block. Maps from both 1927 and 1937 show that there was at one point a one-story outbuilding (probably either a shed or garage) behind the house, at approximately the location where the rear photo above was taken. This outbuilding no longer exists.

The earliest known homeowners were Thomas H. Hoy and his wife Ethel, who owned the house as early as 1930. Thomas was a 32-year-old milk salesman at the time, and the couple had two sons Thomas (6) and Donald (4). This family must have been fairly nomadic, with Thomas H. born in New Jersey, Ethel born in Delaware, and their two sons born in New York and Pennsylvania respectively. By 1940, they appear to have moved on, although to where it is not quite clear.

1940s to Present

In 1940, the house was owned by a divorced 33-year-old railroad signalman named Leslie Robinson. With two different branches of the railroad line passing through Glenside nearby, this may have been an ideal location for him to shack up with this occupation. He occupied the house along with his younger brother, Everett, who was an employee at a paper box company, as well as with a housekeeper named Jane Feusner. The two Robinson men had grown up in a family of at least 8 children in Philadelphia, and although they appear to have been bachelors during their time at this house, it is unclear if Ms. Feusner was anything more than a tenant housekeeper. There is a record of a Jane Robinson passing away in Philadelphia in 1988 with the right birth year to match Jane Feusner, but I do not know for sure if Jane became either Leslie or Everett's husband without further research.

By as earlier as 1956, a middle-aged couple named Robert and Anna "Genevieve" Johnstone had purchased the home. Robert was a waterproofer by trade, and although the couple had at least two children (a daughter Jean and a son Robert Jr), they may have grown to adulthood by the time the Johnstones took residence on Central Avenue.

A view of the bungalow likely from the 1990's, when it had metal railing and posts at the front porch. Photo courtesy of Montgomery County.
Genevieve Johnstone (born 1907) was very close in age to the widowed Catherine Cantlin (born 1906) living across the street in the other bungalow-- I like to think that they may have developed a close friendship, as both occupied their homes for the remainder of the 20th century, Mrs. Johnstone passing away in 2000.

Up until 2010, there was an adjacent parcel of land with no house upon it, which was part of this same property. In 1987, the Johnstones split this lot off and sold it to their neighbors on the other side of the open lot, Louis & Regina Giandomenico. Perhaps the Giandomenicos intended to add onto their home with this land, or to save it for one of their children. Either way, nothing was built and Mr. Giandomenico passed away in 2010, with the land sold again to another couple who shortly erected a new 2-story home.

The formerly vacant lot which used to be part of the bungalow's land. It presently houses a new two-story neo-colonial home.
As for the subject bungalow, it has had three different owners since 2001, including the Giandomenicos' son. Ever since we moved in across the street in the summer of 2014, it had rental tenants until recently, and it currently bank-owned.

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