The West Chester Downtown Foundation (WCDF) is a staple of our beloved community. The WCDF operates as a non-profit entity and is dedicated to fostering community engagement in the vibrancy, culture, and overall quality of life in Downtown West Chester. Through initiatives focused on education, preservation, and collaboration, WCDF actively endorses events and backs projects aimed at elevating the appeal of the Borough of West Chester. It is fair to say the WCDF is most widely known for its annual “Up on the Roof” fundraiser, which is easily one of the best events in West Chester each year. However, their Historic Preservation Awards are an integral part of the vibrancy and longevity of West Chester.
Owners, Lori, Wayne, and Scott Zukin, receiving the Downtown West Chester Preservation Award, alongside other esteemed guests. Photo provided by West Chester Downtown Foundation.
What are the West Chester Preservation Awards?
The Borough of West Chester, Pennsylvania, boasts a rich historical legacy that merits careful preservation. Established in 1799, West Chester is renowned for housing Chester County’s 1840 courthouse, serving as a prominent center for clockmaking in the 18th century, and being the site of significant industrial establishments like major wheelworks and the Sharples Separator Company. With a wealth of historical landmarks ranging from industrial sites to residential structures of historical importance, there exists a multitude of compelling reasons to safeguard and commemorate our shared past. 2023 marked West Chester Downtown Foundation’s 12th Annual West Chester Preservation Awards Event.
Awards are given in three categories:
- Bricks and Mortar for construction projects
- Preservation Service for educational and advocacy projects
- Preservation Legacy Award for long-term or far-reaching contributions to the preservation of West Chester.
This year, Zukin Realty was fortunate enough to be nominated and received two of the three awards: the Bricks and Mortar (29 E. Gay St., otherwise knows as “the Spence Building“) and Preservation Legacy Award in honor of our beloved founder, Stan Zukin. The Legacy Award is awarded to an individual who really changed the footprint of Downtown West Chester. “My father really should have won this a few times, at least…once in his lifetime. This year, it worked out that he was finally nominated,” stated Scott Zukin. Here’s a brief interview we conducted with Scott Zukin regarding the award ceremony and why it is so near and dear to him.
The 2023 West Chester Preservation Awards: An Interview with Scott Zukin
How does it make you feel to accept an award on behalf of your father (Stan Zukin)?
I was really excited, because we were able to invite a lot of family. It was a great celebration for the Zukin family. It was a bittersweet moment for all of us, not having Dad there, but it was really just great to finally see him get a pat on the back for all he did. My father was never one to look back and say, “Hey…look at my accomplishments.” He always was one that was just moving forward, like a train just going to the next stop getting his next deal and his next exciting project. Thus, it was nice to be able to celebrate that for him.
Why was it important for you to have Vernét Spence-Brown be a part of your acceptance of this year’s Preservation Award?
Vernét Spence-Brown is the great-granddaughter and the last living relative of James Spence, the original owner of the Historic Spence Building. I have always simply felt honored to know her. She felt such a sense of pride for James Spence, who has a lot of roots in the history of our town. I just felt it was important to give her her dues. James Spence was the first African American in Chester County to get a liquor license. It was a different time, and the community–because of racism–fought him tooth and nail. They simply just did not want to have an African American have a liquor license. James Spence fought and kept the fight going and finally won.
Your father’s legacy in West Chester, whether a household name or not, is appreciated and enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors alike. Moving beyond 2023, what do you hope your and Zukin Realty’s preservation legacy will be 30 years from now?
We intend to continue the legacy of my father. All of our buildings are an important part of West Chester’s history. In a town as old as ours, you have to be very careful in how you go about renovating and preserving. When I came on board many years ago, I brought a keen eye to the table, and a lot of the craftsmanship skills because of my cabinet-making background went into the preservation of our buildings. I worked directly with my dad to create things we needed to do for the proper preservation of the buildings, and I will continue that legacy in the future.