1870s West Philly home blends Victorian history with today's style

The glass gazebo dining room is a favorite spot for Mike and Daphne Hawkins Parker in their West Philadelphia Victorian. “It’s a hard room to leave,” Daphne says.

The moment that Daphne Hawkins Parker set eyes on the grand Victorian home in West Philadelphia, she was smitten.

“I remember feeling like this is the place that could be home,” Daphne said about the house, constructed in the 1870s and currently under consideration for a historical designation from the Philadelphia Historical Commission.

When Daphne and her husband, Mike, bought the 3,600-square-foot home in 2009, they knew it needed a lot of tender loving care. Through several previous owners and renovations, the house required some structural shoring up, as well as cosmetic changes. Many of the original elements had been lost in renovations, and the couple worked to restore some of that classic Victorian style.

Camera icon STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
The three-story Victorian sits on a double lot in West Philadelphia.

Daphne, an interior designer, was excited to begin. “We knew it was a big job, and we weren’t able to do it all in the beginning, that it would have to be phased out in stages,” she said.

The home sits on a double lot with the entrance through a wrought-iron gate up a few steps from the street. Visitors are greeted enthusiastically by Ace, a 6-year-old Goldendoodle. The couple renovated the entryway, creating a small foyer surrounded by glass, to give the house an open, brightly lit entrance.

Despite the home’s size, it had little storage space, so they added floor-to-ceiling closets and created a warm kitchen filled with wooden cabinets and mirrors, surrounding a large stone island.

The three-story house has an eclectic style with a contemporary feel. The original wooden banisters remain on the staircases that lead to the second and third floors. Five large, cozy rooms serve as the master bedroom, bedrooms for the kids, a game room, and guest room.

The family’s favorite spot is the dining room, which sits in a glass gazebo — originally a sun porch — offering the feel of dining outdoors.

“One of my very first memories was the way the sun comes in through this room, with this lovely play of light at all times of the day,” Daphne said. “It’s dappled, and it changes whether there are leaves on the trees or not, or if it’s snowing.”

The room has become the gathering place for games, homework, socializing, or just staring outside. “It’s a hard room to leave,” the couple said.

Camera icon STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
The Parkers restored some of the classic Victorian style even as they enhanced modern comforts.

Much of their furniture and artwork have come from family members or artist friends. Their dining room contains the wooden table Mike used while growing up.

“In resurfacing it, I sanded down the homework that I had scratched into it pressing too hard with my pencil,” recalls Mike, a partner in a global consulting firm. “We lost my mom a few years ago and both of her parents, so having some connections to their homes within ours is fun. We host Thanksgiving here, too.”

The home’s large outdoor space tends to be a place “where a lot of memories are made,” Daphne said. The family loves to host family, friends, and neighbors on cushy couches and chairs scattered throughout the yard. A hammock and a stylish treehouse designed by Daphne are favorites of neighborhood kids.

“It’s very comfortable,” Mike adds.

Camera icon STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Daphne Hawkins Parker designed the backyard treehouse, now a favorite with neighborhood children.

The down-to-earth couple are all about comfort. They met at a dermatologist’s office where Daphne worked as a medical aesthetician in New York City in 2000 and Mike was a patient.

“Daphne was going to be vacationing in Massachusetts and my family lives on Martha’s Vineyard,” recalls Mike, who also was planning to be there with some buddies. He invited her to come visit.

“I didn’t realize Martha’s Vineyard was an island without a bridge to get on and off,” she adds, laughing. “I ended up staying for five days, and that sealed the deal. I met his whole family and all his friends from college in the first week. It was a week-long first date.”

The couple married in 2003, had their first child in New York, and moved to Philadelphia in 2006. They fell in love not only with their house, but also their neighborhood.

Camera icon STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
The original house was short on storage so the Parkers added floor-to-ceiling closets and lots of cabinets, as well as a large island, in the kitchen.

“The people across the street have been here 52 years and are the best neighbors ever,” Daphne said. “The neighborhood reflects the best things about West Philly. A lot of different types of people live here seamlessly.”

For Daphne, their home is “calming, a refuge, a sanctuary, and a place where I can just reset,” she said. “That’s big in the world to have a place you can come home to recharge.”

“To have a home that is historic, close to the city, walking distance to work, and right by the transit line is amazing,” Mike adds. “At the same time, we have a yard, a great public school in the neighborhood — Penn Alexander — and this unique house. We’re very grateful.”

Camera icon STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
The Parkers added a glass foyer in the entry to bring light into the house and created comfortable outdoor spaces “where a lot of memories are made,” Daphne Hawkins Parker said.

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