On the Market: Louis Kahn’s Esherick House in Chestnut Hill for $1,100,000

The Esherick House, designed by renowned architect Louis Kahn, is on the market for $1.1 million.

On the Market profiles homes for sale in the Philadelphia region.

The Esherick House, which was completed by renowned architect Louis Kahn in 1961, is on the market for $1.1 million.

The Chestnut Hill home, which is one of nine designed by Kahn in the Philadelphia region, has garnered worldwide attention from architects, scholars and students because of its design and influence in Kahn’s career. Located at 204 Sunrise Lane, the modern mid-century home was a turning point in Kahn’s career, according to William Whitaker, curator of the Louis Kahn archive at the University of Pennsylvania. Kahn's work includes the National Assembly Building of Bangladesh and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

"Visitors always comment on the wonderful quality of natural light in the house," current owner Lynn Gallagher said. "I'm told this is the project where Kahn first came to understand light's poetic potential."

Gallagher is only the third owner of the 2,770-square-foot property, which has one bedroom and one-and-a-half baths. Kahn built the home for Margaret Esherick, the niece of famed Philadelphia sculptor Wharton Esherick, who also worked with Kahn in building the home. But Margaret Esherick did not get to experience living in the home for very long because she passed away four months after moving in. One other couple lived there before Gallagher.

Gallagher, a retired dental hygienist, and her late husband Dr. Robert Gallagher, who was a dentist in the area for 60 years, purchased the home in 1981 just before they were married. But this wasn’t the home they had originally planned to live in as newlyweds; they were going to convert the third floor of Dr. Gallagher’s Chestnut Hill dental office into an apartment.

Those plans changed soon after a patient of Dr. Gallagher's told the couple they should check out the newly-listed Esherick House. Gallagher recalls her husband saying they should go because he “felt it was something special.”

Gallagher says she and her husband knew immediately the home was for them. They spent nearly three decades in the home until Dr. Gallagher passed away in 2010.

”It was a natural for us,” she says. “And we have since shared it with the world.”

One of the features that make the home so prominent is the window and shutter configuration, which represents Kahn’s experimentation with natural light. Gallagher says she and her husband loved the bright layout with floor-to-ceiling windows on the first and second floors.

“The use of light is what makes it extremely special in addition to the use of the beautiful woods,” she said. “It’s a very uplifting house; it’s very zen-like.”

Other unique features can be seen in the kitchen, where Wharton Esherick hand-carved the Cherry Wood countertops and copper sink and drain.

The brick patio was designed by architect Frederick Peck, who also designed Pastorius Park in Chestnut Hill. The home’s three-quarter of an acre backyard borders this park.

Gallagher says maintenance on the home was easy, although she and her husband had to restore some of the floors when they first moved in. Gallagher tracked down the architects who had worked with Kahn, and found the same type of Southeast Asian hardwood – apitong – that he had used.

“We tried to keep everything as pure as possible," she said.

Gallagher, who refers to the property as a “work of art” rather than a home, originally had planned to “bring the home to the art world” and auction it off in 2008. But with some bad timing, during which the recession occurred, Gallagher wasn’t able to sell it. 

Since that time, the home has been on and off the market, but with an improved housing market and lowered listing price – it was first listed at $2.5 million at the auction and $1.9 million in 2011 – Gallagher says she is hoping to “find a new steward” for the home.

Listing agent Patrick Gallagher, the Gallagher's son, says that since the latest pricing adjustment there has been "very good activity and sincere interest" in the home.

Lynn Gallagher says her biggest joy has been being able to meet and share the home with people from all over the world.

“The Esherick House is not just a house,” she says. “It’s not every day that one comes across an architectural building that is much more. It is a work of art created by one of the greatest architects of the 20th century.”

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