I believe I was in 9th or 10th grade the last time there was a fire at the historic Radnor Township mansion known as Bloomfield. Bloomfield was built at the turn of the 20th century in the Radnor Township portion of Villanova on the bones of a Victorian Estate built for Albert Eugene Gallatin in the 1880’s. Bloomfield was built by Horace Trumbauer and her gardens were designed by the Olmstead brothers.
This place in my opinion was like Radnor’s La Ronda and it was a marvel it had survived this long without being torn down or bastardized. It looked like a French Chateau with fabulous gardens and a graceful, grand presence. It was being rented by a Canadian family at the time of the fire – which began mid-afternoon yesterday.
I went today to the site and when I got out of my car there were some news vans at the estate entrance on S. Ithan and the air smelled heavily of smoke. As I went to take my photos I also glanced up the street shows the gaping, ravaged land where private school Agnes Irwin had been reportedly blasting this week.
There were many gapers and gawkers on the driveway and the road when I arrived and I wandered around with a local reporter from Radnor Patch (Sam Strike) taking photos. We got up the driveway to in front of the fencing now surrounding the site where we were met by a Radnor police officer who was none too happy to see us and asked us to leave. He also threatened to take my camera. He was just doing his job.
So we left, and we got some good photos, and as we wandered back down the driveway, there were yet more gawkers, so I would not be surprised if they did not soon post a police car at the foot of the driveway.
People are driving up and down S. Ithan hoping for a glance of the scene, and I found others back around Trianon Lane, where you can see glimpses of the gardens, house, and pool from behind wrought iron fencing.
NBC10 is reporting that investigators are trying to find a cause. The state police fire investigator is now reported to be in charge of the investigation. I was told that around 175 volunteer fire fighters responded from several companies from all over the area to fight this fire. (This as a related aside is why everyone should support their local first responders and on the Main Line and in Chester County they are a predominantly volunteer force.) First responders came from Radnor, Bryn Mawr, Ardmore, Gladwyne, Penn Wynne, King Of Prussia, Manoa and Newtown Square.
They say the slate roof made it hard for firefighters to break into the roof and battle the fire. I am also told some firefighters may have suffered some issues due to the heat, etc of the fire. God bless them for what they did, because truthfully, I know many people near the mansion who had fears of the fire jumping via the trees surrounding the property. With wind and fire, you just never know how it will travel.
The mansion was most recently owned by Jerald Batoff, son of a former Democratic fundraiser heavyweight, William “Bill” Batoff. I looked at Delaware County property records yesterday and Batoff had only owned it a few years. I am told by neighbors that although it had renters, the mansion had been for sale. Apparently a movie soon to be released called “Safe” was partially filmed there in 2010 – the mansion was a film double for New York City’s Gracie Mansion.
I think this is an incredibly sad loss if this mansion ends up not being rebuilt (I am sure residents will now be nervous that the mansion will be razed and the land sold for some sort of development because that would be a natural thought process after a fire of such devastation), and it is but for the grace of God that people weren’t killed because of this fire.
Here’s the coverage:
Radnor Patch: History Goes Up in Flames at Radnor Mansion:Bloomfield was home to historic architecture. By Bob Byrne and Sam Strike Email the authors 5:51 am
When fire tore through the mansion named Bloomfield on South Ithan Avenue on Wednesday, it not only repeated history, but also destroyed it.
Watching with a crowd of neighbors as Bloomfield burned, real estate agent and home builder Jeff Bader lamented what he was seeing.
“It’s a shame. They don’t build them like that anymore,” Bader said about the home with 19 bedrooms, a 25 by 35-foot ballroom and six-car garage.
“You can’t replicate the workmanship and design,” Bader told Patch as firefighters moved into the third hour of fighting the flames.
Historic Main Line mansion falls to fire
By Bonnie L. Cook and Robert Moran Inquirer Staff Writers
A historic Main Line mansion in Radnor Township was gutted by a fire Wednesday afternoon.
An automatic alarm was triggered shortly before 2:30 p.m., and by the time firefighters arrived, flames could be seen shooting through the roof of the three-story structure on the estate known as Bloomfield, said Township Fire Marshal Don Wood.
A man and woman who were renting the property got out safely with their two dogs and a rabbit in a cage, Wood said. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries.
The fire, which started in an area between the main house and an adjoining garage, was declared under control before 6 p.m., but fire crews were still putting out hot spots well into the night, Wood said.
About 10 companies and 175 firefighters responded to the blaze, which was the equivalent of four alarms, Wood said.
As they battled the towering flames, the mansion was veiled in white smoke that would occasionally clear enough to reveal the charred remains….The estate was originally the site of the Victorian home of Albert Eugene Gallatin, which was built around 1885.
George McFadden Jr., a cotton tycoon, acquired the estate, and in the early 1920s he hired famed Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer to remake the main residence ….It became known as Bloomfield, the name of a branch of the family, the historical society reported in a 1988 newsletter article.
McFadden died when he was electrocuted by a steam cabinet in a bathroom, the article said, but the estate remained in the family until 1984.
In late 2010, the 5.87-acre estate served as a double for Gracie Mansion, the official residence of New York City’s mayor, for the Jason Statham action movie Safe…Bloomfield, listed for sale last year at $6.9 million, had 19 bedrooms and nine full baths in its 22,000-plus square feet of living space, officials said.
County records show the property is owned by Jerald Batoff, the son of the late William Batoff, a prominent Democratic fund-raiser.
NBC10: No Cause Yet for Main Line Mansion Fire/State authorities take over investigation into massive Villanova mansion fire
By Dan Stamm and Rosemary Connors
| Thursday, Apr 5, 2012 | Updated 2:56 PM EDT
On Thursday all that was left of a once a sprawling Main Line Mansion was the charred remains and stone walls.
Just a day earlier flames broke out at the historic Horace Trumbauer-designed mansion at 200 S Ithan Avenue in Villanova, Pa….On Thursday the State Police and state fire officials took over the investigation into the cause of the multi-alarm blaze at the 22,000-plus-square-foot home as authorities remained quiet as to what could have caused the massive blaze.
Neighbors told NBC10 that renters were apparently inside when the fire started…A few firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the blaze.
Delaware County assessed the property for nearly $2.25 million in August 2006 but the historic home, built more than 100 years ago, could be worth more.
The property is valued at nearly $5 million on Zillow.com….According to the home’s property record, the three-story, single-family home was built in 1905 and includes 19 bedrooms, 12.5 bathrooms, nine fireplaces, a full basement and a pool.
Fire struck the house once before. In 1978, flames consumed a large portion of the upper level.
Jerald Batoff bought the home in 2001, according to Delaware County records. The home was up for sale in the Fall for $6.9 million, a real estate source tells NBC10. It doesn’t appear it ever sold.