Novotny House Rescue

c 1753 Novotny House

The Novotny House at 100 Chestnut Lane in Horsham is named for its previous owners: Dr and Dr Novotny. This house, which dates to c1753, was scheduled for demolition but was saved through the work of HPHA, Horsham Township Council, the Horsham Historical Commission, and the David Cutler Group, the Conservancy of Montgomery County, and Curt Kaller of CD Kaller Inc.

Drs Novotny's property, which included the farmhouse and land, were sold to David Cutler Group upon their deaths.

HPHA learned of the impending demolition of the home in 2001. Recognizing the historical value of this house we enlisted councilman and HPHA member Bill Whiteside. HPHA's Pete and Margaret Choate, Mr, Whiteside, and attorney Richard McBride of McBride & Murphy (representing the David Cutler Group) sat down and worked out a new plan that would save the structure.

The home, which dates back to 1753, sits on one of five land grants made by William Penn in what would become Horsham Township. It was a rare grant to a woman, Mary Blunston. and the only one of its kind in Montgomery County. It has winder staircases, pretty typical for the colonial period. The inside corner fireplaces, according to architectural historian Herb Levy, show a German influence. There are 3 in the home.

After the initial meeting on saving the home, Horsham Township Council extended the demolition permit to allow time to develop a plan. Cutler', initially, was to develop the land and build new homes on 17 lots. Part of this land abutted Kohler Farms. The Kohlers had land on the Warrington side of County Line Road and worked with Cutler to swap some of that for land on the Horsham side which could be added to their farm.

Horsham Township Council worked with Cutler to redo the lots on the Horsham side to carve out an 18th lot around the Novotny home. Cutler then worked with the Conservancy of Montgomery County to create a facade easement.

Preservation easements are conservation easements that protect properties that have historic, architectural, or archaeological significance and, in addition, can be used to preserve important natural land values that comprise the setting of historic buildings.
National Trust for Historic Preservation

The group then decided to sell the property in a public bid with restrictions that the buyer restore the home. HPHA created the bid package.

The winning bidder was Curt Kaller, president of CD Kaller Inc.

"The house was, by all rights, a tear down. Everything in it had to be replaced, except for the stone walls and the framing. Plumbing, electrical, heat, everything." ... Curt Kaller

One of the obstacles still in the way was the right of way for a road into Kohler Farm. This right of way required that the existing garage and a patio off the kitchen be torn down. The bid also specified that the exterior of the home be completed first and by a certain date so the old home wouldn't be an eyesore facing Cutler's potential home buyers.

Mr Kaller spent 8 months on the exterior. In addition to tearing down the garage and patio, the work included:

  • Complete interior rehab including a modern kitchen
  • New cedar shake roof with 50 year warranty
  • New copper gutters and flashing
  • Repaired masonry and stucco - painted exterior
  • New historically accurate energy efficient wood windows by Marvin

The entire process took five years. HPHA recognized a property worth saving. Horsham Township Council agreed and worked with the developer. The developer, the David Cutler Group, according to Horsham Township Council President Bill Whiteside, "... bent over backwards to make this happen."

The David Cutler Group donated the proceeds of the sale, $42,000, to HPHA for its restoration of the Penrose Strawbridge House. As an added bonus, HPHA contacted the Yetta Deitch Novotny Foundation - set up by the late Dr Yetta Novotny - to let them know of the success of the project, and they replied with a $1,000 donation.

"It's a success" said Pete Choate "The house is being saved, didn't cost Cutler any money and made money for historic preservation The owner is happy and neighbors are happy . It has taken a lot longer than we expected, but what's five years to an over 200-year-old house?'"

The home is now a private residence.


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