A local official in the Philadelphia suburbs writes about a Lower Merion site where a notable older home was torn down and now a home home is being constructed. What is interesting here is how the official describes how preservationists are using the term “McMansion” as part of their criticism of the new house:
Those who criticize the Kestenbaum residence built in La Ronda’s place are trying to deflect blame for their own failure over many years. Their use of terms such as “McMansion,” “McMonstrosity,” and “cookie cutter” demonstrates ignorance of what Kestenbaum is actually building.
I have toured the construction site and can report that Kestenbaum is building a home befitting the historic traditions of craftsmanship and old-world elegance that are hallmarks of the Main Line estates of yesteryear. The home is made of hand-chiseled stone, with extensive masonry work and important architectural details throughout.
The home bears no resemblance to the cookie-cutter McMansions found in expensive tract housing elsewhere in the Philadelphia region. To so characterize the Kestenbaum residence is insulting, incendiary, and ignorant.
I have met the neighbors of the new Kestenbaum home. I have spoken to property owners with a real interest in what happens in their community and their neighborhood. Their reaction to the new construction is consistent with what I have reported. The responses of so-called neighbors described recently in The Inquirer are in fact those of a few preservationists who are continuing to pursue their one-sided agenda, regardless of whom they hurt in the process or what falsehoods they promote.
It seems that the use of the term “McMansion” is quite effective here, hence the response from this local official. The term suggests that the new home is a “cookie-cutter” home lacking in appropriate architecture. Compared to the older home that was on the site (and you can read a bit more about it here), preservationists see the new home as a travesty (see an example here). Overall, this new home is likely quite different than the suburban McMansions that one might expect to find not too far away. But by using this pejorative term in a teardown situation (an older home replaced with a newer home), preservationists have tied this new home, however nice it may be, to negative images of the exurbs.
This story also provides an example of questions that pop up in communities throughout the United States: what exactly should be done with older homes, particularly well-designed estates?