Earth Day At The Elkins Estate

Sunday, April 26, 2009 marked the first annual Earth Day event at the recently rescued Elkins Estate, in Elkins Park Pennsylvania and Cutting Edge Entertainment had the honor of providing music and sound for this Earthly get-together.

Now keep in mind that although I was invited to participate, I had never attended an ‘Earth Day’ event of any kind before in my life, so I thought long and hard about what one wears to such a gathering.  In my younger days I did have a pair of moccasin boots, but those have long since disappeared along with any peace sign necklaces or mood rings I might have donned as a teenager.  I dug deep in my t-shirt drawer and discovered a Tye dye shirt, which I threw on with some faded jeans, grabbed my earthiest walking stick and headed out the door.  On the drive over I listened to some Crosby, Stills and Nash to sort of set a mood while wondering the whole time if I was somehow confusing the late 1960’s with the Earth.

When I arrived, I realized that the Earth and the late 60’s and early 70’s had converged at a mystical and forgotten place called The Elkins Estate.  The ‘main house’ was big (we’ll get to that later) while a winding walkway to the right of the mansion was littered with all sorts of vendors, selling baubles, clothes, eats and drinks.  Crafts, jewelery and hippie-esque garments were for sale while others offered energy healing and fortune telling.  Bag lunches were made available through Culinary Concepts, wine tasting from Sand Castle Winery, (kosher) hot dogs from Max & Davids and lots of cookies and other goodies compliments of Culinary Design.  Further up the path was a smaller, yet no less stately home known as ‘The Chelten House’ stood which hosted sessions of meditation, yoga,  and other creative moving arts which were all carefully overseen by the lady of the house, the esteemed Ettel Dobson.  Back at the ‘main house,’ DJ Justin played C,S,N,Y, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and James Taylor between musical performances by percussionists, Afro-Caribbean dancers and even a Didgeridoo!

But what is ‘The Elkins Estate’ I ask?  After checking out the vendors and making my rounds, I made my way to the main house, also known as Elstowe Manor.  For those of you who read my blogs you know that my love for history is second only to my love of music, and Elstowe Manor is a historical treasure.  Elstowe is magnificent, and by far one of the most beautiful and stately homes I have ever set foot in.  The foyer alone is magnificent, with marble floors and regal balconies.  The rest of the house is utterly breathtaking and an example of the affluence and grandeur of the Gilded Age in which it was built.  The home was built by William Elkins (click here for a history) between 1895 and 1900.  William – a philanthropist, financier and industrialist -died in 1903 (click here for obituary archive) and during The Great Depression – in 1932  – the estate was sold to the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de Ricci, who preserved the integrity of the buildings and grounds while operating the manor as a womens religious retreat.

Enter my newest historical hero…

David Dobson, and his Land Conservancy of Elkins Park stepped in and literally rescued this elegant historical landmark from being torn down and the property being ‘developed’ into town homes.  To this man and his organization I give thanks.  As for the late Mr. Elkins, well David Dobson was kind enough to share a bit of the history with me and said that they are still uncovering information on this seemingly forgotten Philadelphian.  David told me that Mr. Elkins was so well known, loved and respected in the city that on the day of his funeral, the city literally shut down.  Mr. Dobson has truly saved and preserved a magnificent piece of Philadelphian, and American history.

All in all, it was a fun and ‘earthy’ day.  Thanks again to David Dobson for taking the time to give me a brief history of the estate, and thanks to all the vendors, musicians, performers and artists/craft people for helping to make the event so successful.


For more information on how to help donate to preserving and restoring this historical property click here –

Here are a few of the vendors I had the pleasure of meeting at the Earth Day event.

Ettel Dobson of The Moving Arts Institute

Frank Levien of Sand Castle Winery

Mark Schmerling – Photographer and Enviromental Activist –

Denise Shardlow & Glenn Kohler of Shardlow Designs

Brein & Lisa Molino of Cookievites

Caryn Axelrod & Maryann Franco of Jewelbees


Kelly-Ayn McKay of Culinary Concepts

Glenn Pitt of Culinary Design

Joshua Katz of Max & Davids Kosher Cuisine

2 Responses

  1. Craig,
    Thanks for the great recap of the day. Having spent the whole day out on the magnificent grounds of the Elkins Estate, i know that this will be the place to hold events over the next two years and Culinary Concepts is looking forward to working with Cutting Edge on MANY fabulous events in the Mansion!
    Cheers to a bright future!!

  2. Patricia Maida-Miller

    It truly is a beautiful estate. For most
    of my life (since 1966) I have lived
    accross the street from first the
    Dominican Retreat House and now the
    Elkins Estate. Since June of 2007 I have
    been researching the estate’s history. I own
    close to 200 photographs of my memories
    of living close to the estate and have
    been working on a book about its history.
    I hope Mr. Dobson continues to preserve
    the property.

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