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April 26, 2016

Chestnut Hill's Vanna Venturi house purchased by anonymous buyer

Influential Post-Modern forebear named one of 'Ten Buildings that Changed America'

Real Estate Architecture
120315_Venturi House Contributed Art/Wikimedia Commons

The Vanna Venturi House, located on Millman Street in Chestnut Hill, was designed by American architect Robert Venturi between 1962-1964.

After more than nine months on the market, Chestnut Hill's famed Vanna Venturi house has sold to an anonymous buyer who plans to preserve the private residence, best known for its seminal influence on Post-Modern architecture. 

The Millman Street home, constructed by architect Robert Venturi in the early 1960s, was designed as a departure from Modernist orthodoxy and received the affectionate moniker "Mother's House" to recognize the contributions of Vanna Venturi, a feminist intellectual who helped shape her son's views. 

Melanie Stecura, a representative for Kurfiss Sotheby's International Realty, confirmed that the home, named one of the "Ten Buildings that Changed America," has cleared the contingency phase and a settlement is pending on June 30. The buyer, who requested anonymity, will be listed in the public record after the sale has been completed. 

NoneContributed art/

The famed Vanna Venturi house in Chestnut Hill is a classic example of Postmodern architecture.

The property, which has inspired numerous critiques and attracted architectural pilgrimages from around the world, was nominated last December for designation to Philadelphia's Register of Historic Places. Committee members on the Philadelphia Historical Commission considered "Mother's House" a "slam dunk" for designation, which would open it up to receive official preservation protections. A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places said the Historical Commission will hold a meeting on the property's designation in September. 

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Around the same time of the nomination last December, Venturi and his partner, fellow architect Denise Scott Brown, were awarded a joint Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects, the first award of its kind granted to a married couple and to a living woman. In documents archived at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Venturi succinctly declared his then-emergent design philosophy: 

I speak of a complex and contradictory architecture … I welcome the problems and exploit the uncertainties … I like elements which are hybrid rather than ‘pure,’ compromising rather than ‘clean,’ distorted rather than ‘straightforward,’ ambiguous rather than articulated … I am for messy vitality over obvious unity. I include the non sequitur and proclaim the duality."

Since the 1970s, the Vanna Venturi House has been in the care and stewardship of owners Thomas and Agatha Hughes. When it was listed for sale last summer, many in the preservation community expressed concerns that it might not receive the same degree of maintenance. The new buyer is believed to be interested in carrying on the Hughes family's legacy at the property. 

NoneContributed art/

The famed Vanna Venturi House in Chestnut Hill is a classic example of Postmodern architecture.

In March, the price of the home was reduced to $1,500,000 from $1,750,000 in order to put it "more in line with other area homes on the market." A final sale price was not immediately disclosed. 

The buyer will take ownership of a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom property that — while still closed to the public — remains a treasured marker of architectural history at 8330 Millman Street.