HPHA lost a good friend, supporter, and active member with the recent death of Leon Clemmer on February 28, 2013. Leon was the principle author of HPHA's History of Horsham Book and had done watercolors of many local landmarks.
Leon Clemmer, Architect, Historian and Artist died peacefully on Thursday, February 28 2013. Born in 1926 to Leon and Mary Colton Steele Clemmer, he was raised in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia but lived the majority of his life in Abington and Jenkintown before retiring in the Horsham area. He died of complications from a series of strokes at Gwynedd Square Nursing Center.
Leon graduated from Central High School and attended the School of Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, his studies were postponed when he enlisted in the United States Navy. He served as ship's carpenter during World War II and served in the Philippine Island and Guam campaigns from 1941 -1943. After the war, Leon returned to the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with honors in 1951 from the School of Fine Arts/Architecture.
In 1961, Leon started his own firm and has a long list of significant design accomplishments. Among his many significant is the Glenside Library which won honors from the Pennsylvania Society of Architects with its Distinguished Building Award. He is credited with changing the way the nation deals with adjudicated youth with the design of The Montgomery County Youth Center, where he convinced officials that youths would be better served in a secure environment that was not institutional in nature. The facility has been honored by the American Institute of Architects, the National Juvenile Court Judges, and the American Correctional Associated.
Leon is also credited with changing the skyline of Ocean City, New Jersey with the design of the Port-O-Call Hotel, the tallest structure on the island, the Stingray and the Pavilion Hotels, Bay Club Condominium and Marina, The Ocean City Yacht Club and the family favorite Wonderland Amusement Park.
Other significant projects include The Centralized Biological Lab in Penn State's Main Campus, Wood River Village in Bensalem, PA, The Masonic Home in Lafayette Hill, The Elkins Park Train Station, Good Council Hall in Villanova University, Steam Building conversion at University of Pennsylvania, The Glenside Fire Department and the Whitpain Township Building.
Among his civic activities, Leon was particularly active in Historic Carpenter Company of Philadelphia where he served as President. He and his associates were responsible for the re-creation of the Grand Federal Edifice which was the center piece at the parade celebrating the Bicentennial of the Constitution of the United States. The Federal Edifice was praised by Vice President George H. Bush and was then featured in his inaugural parade in Washington, D.C.
He helped change the way the nation housed adjudicated youth; his design in the mid-1970s for the Montgomery County Youth Center was innovative because it was secure but resembled a school, not a jail.
"He thought that if you could get a kid into a calm environment, you could calm them down and help them," said his son. "He took a big risk by sticking his neck out and saying, 'This is what you have to do.' "
The facility - replicated nationwide - was honored by the American Institute of Architects, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the American Correctional Association.
Leon was a 54-year active member of the Union League of Philadelphia, former Director, Chair of the Library Committee and Chair of the Lincoln Foundation for Preservation of the League and its art and archives. He was also a member of The Independence Hall Association, The Engineers Club of Philadelphia, The Foundation for Architecture, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Historic Bartram Garden, Friends of Historic Rittenhouse Town, and The Old York Road Historic Society. He also served on the Abington Township Planning Commission and as Historic Consultant to Cheltenham Township.
Leon was also a member of the Summit Presbyterian Church in Mt. Airy, St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Elkins Park and St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Maple Glen, PA.
An accomplished artist and watercolorist, he studied at Woodmere Art Museum under Howard N. Watson, a nationally recognized watercolorist and illustrator.
He and his wife, the former Mary Jane Bertolet, bred and showed bearded collies for 30 years. He was a former president of the Huntingdon Valley Kennel Club and will be honored June 1, when the club dedicates its 100th show to his memory.
Leon was married for 57-years to Mary Jane. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter Catherine C. and her husband Gary Pickell; by his son Leon Clemmer, Jr.; by his grandchildren, Andrew, Bradley, Kristin, Samuel and Molly and by his brother, David Clemmer.
Leon was a good friend and will be missed.