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Lyn Thompson-Gibson can recall some of her earliest childhood memories at 539 Pelham Road in West Mt. Airy.
When her grandmother purchased the Northwest Philadelphia home back in the 1960s, it was the start of a family legacy.
It’s where Thompson-Gibson learned to bake apple pies with her grandmother as a little girl, and where her grandfather taught her how to make wine from the backyard grape vine. Throughout the years, she celebrated milestones there as well: her bridal shower, her daughter’s eighth grade graduation, and more recently, her grandson’s first birthday party.
The home is filled with a half-century’s worth of family memories. And while Thompson-Gibson will forever remember those special moments, like everything else, all good things must come to an end.
The last member of the family to live in the home in its 50-year run, Thompson-Gibson recently put the property on the market for $425,000.
It wasn’t until nine years ago that Thompson-Gibson moved in to help her sick mother. Although she would visit her family there her whole life, this was the first time she actually lived there. Her mother passed away just after a month of living together.
Thompson-Gibson, a teacher and academic coach for the Philadelphia School District, stayed in the home, and continued to maintain and update it the way her parents and grandparents would have wanted.
“My grandma loved that house so much,” Thompson-Gibson said. “I just wanted to make it as grand as it had been when I was a little girl.”
She moved the kitchen, which “pays homage to her grandmother,” from the back of the house to the front, and put in all new appliances and upgrades.
“My nana loved to have or use the latest of everything,” she said. “She was an excellent cook and would have enjoyed my ninja, juicer and fancy garnish tools for salads and adding that extra special touch to decorate a dish.”
Thompson-Gibson put a “mancave” in the back of the home where the kitchen used to be, updated all of the bathrooms, and converted one of the bedrooms – adjacent to the master suite – into a dressing room.
Aside from Thompson-Gibson’s rich family history, the home has its own story as well. Built in 1895 and developed by the popular firm at the time Messrs. Wendell and Smith, the home became a girls-only boarding and day school in 1907.
The home has some special features in its design, such as a well-shaded piazza, a wrap-around front porch, parquet floors, crown moldings, and a large, open fireplace in the hall. Thompson-Gibson had the original floors refinished, and says the doors are original as well.
There’s also an original stained glass window and a window seat right across from the bottom of the stairs, which Thompson-Gibson says holds many memories as well.
“I remember sitting there as a kid, and now my daughter and grandson sit there,” she said. “You usually don’t see those kinds of things in a house; it’s just an intimate place to sit.”
The home is about 5,000 square feet, has six bedrooms, and four-and-a-half bathrooms. Thompson-Gibson is selling the home now because she’s decided to downsize.
She says it’s a bittersweet feeling saying goodbye to the home that has been in her family for so long, and where many of her most cherished memories took place.
“I can only hope the next family enjoys my grandfather's garden, my mom's daffodils, and that little kids learn to cook just as I did in the kitchen,” she said. “If the next family has half the positive memories I have of this former girls school, they will be fortunate and blessed.”
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