Renovation in Haverford preserved the historical exterior while creating a modern interior
Living in Whitby Hall, an 18th-century stone Georgian house on the Haverford Heritage Trail, is ideal for Caroline and Brian Linz and their four sons. After buying the home in 2016, they spent three years meticulously creating a warm, livable space for a modern family, while respecting the structure’s original architecture and rich history.
That history dates to 1754, the year Col. James Coultas, Philadelphia’s high sheriff, built the house. Coultas was born in Yorkshire, England, near the town of Whitby, and the house he named Whitby Hall is thought to have been a celebrated meeting place of the day, with visits by dignitaries including George Washington.
“We fell in love with the history,” said Caroline, who grew up in Massachusetts in an 18th-century home. “My mom’s from Chestnut Hill, and this reminded me of some of the homes there.”
According to the Haverford Historical Commission, Whitby Hall was originally built in the Kingsessing section of Philadelphia at what is now 48th and Florence Streets. By the 1920s, the scenic views of bucolic meadows had been replaced by densely populated rowhouses. Unhappy with the change in surroundings, the family moved the structure — stone by stone — to its current Haverford location.
“When we were doing renovations and the beams were exposed, you could see the stones literally had numbers on them,” recalled Caroline, who works in fund-raising. “It was like a puzzle they put together.”
To help defray moving costs, part of the original home, including the main parlor with a black Scottish marble fireplace and the fireplace’s accompanying cabinets, was sold to the Detroit Institute of Arts, a museum where it still resides.
When designing the latest Whitby Hall renovations, Elizabeth Springer, principal of Dames Design in Bryn Mawr, capitalized on a change that was made when the home was reconstructed in Haverford — the roof ridgeline was rotated 90 degrees.
“This century-old update became a key feature in our recent renovation, as it allowed the primary bedroom suite and kitchen to extend as a wing off of the home in an accurate manner,” Springer said. “The roofline of the rear wall of the family room was then able to be turned to match the pedimented gable projections of the center hall entryway.”
When the Linzes first spotted the house, they were living in Wayne and searching for a home that had plenty of growing room for their four sons, Charlie, 15, Teddy, 13, William, 10, and Harry, 9. Though they weren’t looking for a large renovation project, they certainly found one. The historical house wasn’t conducive to a 21st-century family.
“Back then, there weren’t family rooms. Kitchens were much smaller because that wasn’t the place where you gathered like today, and the garage was made to hold a carriage,” Caroline said. “We wanted to build a house for our family and still keep the original house.”
With the help of Springer, RKA Builders in Bryn Mawr, and Main Line-based interior designer Megan Boss, they got to work. With approvals from Haverford Township and the Haverford Township Historical Commission, they turned the original 6,000-square-foot house into an 8,850-square-foot home with seven bedrooms, six full and three half bathrooms.
“Anything on the exterior had to stay within the integrity of the original home,” Caroline said. “There were no rules internally with regard to the house being on the historical trail.”
The original main portion of the house remains, including the living room, dining room, and much of the woodwork and flooring. Extensive interior renovations included adding a new kitchen, creating a family room and primary bedroom, bath and sitting area. A new garage has an apartment above — complete with a bedroom, sitting room, kitchenette, and bathroom. The apartment serves double duty as Brian Linz’s office and a guest space for visiting friends and family.
To match the original mortar and stones on the home’s exterior, they searched several quarries, ultimately finding them in Wissahickon. They also renovated the landscaping and hardscaping, the pool area and fenced in the backyard.
“One of the things that was really important for us on this project was the opportunity to repurpose materials from the house as opposed to replacing them,” said Brian, who works in e-commerce. “For example, we took granite slabs that were used as steps from the side porch and moved them to the backyard around the pool and patio. We were also able to restore a number of original wooden doors and relocate them to new interior and exterior locations.”
The original house has dated stones indicating when the house was built and when it was moved to Haverford in 1923. Working with a mason who knew the specific stone that had been used, they created one for the new section saying 2018, the year they completed the renovations.
The family enjoy having their home on the Haverford Heritage Trail, a 14-mile loop on paths and existing roads past 30 sites from the 1600s to 1900s. Eagle Scout Alex Hartley, a township resident, created the first section of off-road trail along Karakung Drive in 2007 when he was 16, and Friends of Haverford Trails extended the path from Manoa Road to Beechwood to add a safe alternative route for pedestrians and cyclists. The trail had its official ribbon-cutting ceremony in June 2012.
“The purpose of the trail is to promote history in the township,” said Chris Whiting, vice president of the Haverford Township Historical Society.
While history buffs drive by to see the Linz home, no one has ever knocked on their door, they said.
Haverford Township lists 133 properties in its Historic Resource Survey as meriting recognition of their historical significance, said Suzanna Barucco, chair of the township historical commission. Applicants submit their proposed changes to the commission to be reviewed for compliance with U.S. Secretary of the Interior standards to preserve the character of the historic resource. The township board of commissioners makes the final decision on approval.
“There is a historic preservation ordinance that protects buildings from wholesale demolition, but also the removal of any significant character defining features,” Barucco said.
Caroline said: “Having these original homes and the history that goes along with them is going to be important for generations in the future.”
The couple credit their designer Boss with successfully marrying their more contemporary style with the home’s original Georgian architecture.
“Her aesthetic and style mixes the old with the new really well for a traditional look with contemporary functionality,” Brian said.
Inside, the house features bright colors with whimsical wallpaper in several rooms. Each space features unique light fixtures, some contemporary and others traditional. The flooring throughout most of the house was matched to the original wide-planked hardwood floors.
“We contrasted the dark hardwood floors with bright colors and high gloss paint to play off each other, a contemporary with traditional aesthetic combination,” Brian said.
Maintaining an older home presents challenges. To make the house more energy efficient, they replaced the knob and tube wiring, windows and roof.
“It’s not just an older home, but an older home with four boys and two dogs,” Caroline joked. “It seems that every couple of months, there’s something that has to be maintained.”
Whitby Hall boasts seven window seats from the original house, each neatly tucked into a nook or cranny. The Linzes added decorative cushions to match each room’s style.
“The one on the staircase going up to the second floor is our favorite,” Caroline said. “It has a beautiful window with light coming through, and it’s the first thing you see when you walk through the front door. We’ll catch one of the littler boys snuggled in there.”
Whitby Hall is a perfect home for entertaining. To create flow from the dining room to the back patio, they replaced the dining room windows with French doors. Outside, guests can enjoy the swimming pool, trampoline, fire pit and food fresh off the grill.
“We have a lot of good friends that live in our neighborhood, and our kids are all the same age,” Caroline said. “We constantly have kids coming over. It’s a lot of fun.”
Have you solved a decorating, remodeling, or renovation challenge in your home? Tell us your story by email (and send a few digital photographs) to [email protected].