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April 1, 2007

House Designed by Horace Trumbauer Put On the Market

Philadelphia Business Journal -- April, 2007 | Natalie Kostelni

A carriage house complex designed by world renowned architect Horace Trumbauer is up for sale in what some real estate people liken to a great piece of art coming on the market.

‘Pheasant Run’ was once part of the noted Ronaele Manor estate in Elkins Park that Trumbauer designed in 1921 for Fitz Eugene Dixon and Eleanor Widener, a Philadelphia socialite and the daughter of traction magnate P. A. B. Widener.

Designed in the Tudor Revival style, the 114-acre Ronaele estate boasted 50 rooms and 28 chimneys, as well as a stable and carriage complex, four cottages, and a teahouse. In 1950, Eleanor Widener Dixon moved out of Ronaele to smaller quarters in Chestnut Hill and the property was subdivided. ‘Pheasant Run’ is what remains of the original estate.

In the 1950’s, Philadelphia businessman William Waterman converted the carriage complex into a 15,000 square-foot residence that even has a butlers’ apartment and a separate gatehouse.

The property changed hands over the years, and its current owners, John and Darlene Centanni, bought the property in 1985 from Tom Knox, the millionaire businessman and mayoral candidate.

The Centannis, after raising their family in the house, want to spend more time in Florida , where they also have a home. Steve DiFrancesco of Hunter, Reed and Company Inc, a high-end residential real estate firm, has been retained to sell the property.

How much the Trumbauer name will add to the property will be determined by a buyer with an appreciation for the Trumbauer pedigree. Like a fine piece of artwork, value is in the eye of the beholder.

That it is a Trumbauer gives the property a certain cachet, since he was a “first-rank and very important architect who catered to the needs of the super rich, ” said Bruce Laverty, the Gladys Brooks Curator of Architecture at the Athenaeum in Philadelphia, a special collections library. “It certainly adds value.”