Penelope Hartshorne Batcheler, 78, the only woman on the team of historic preservationists who restored Independence Hall in the 1960s - an undertaking that led to the rebirth of the historical district - died of a stroke yesterday at Pennsylvania Hospital. She collapsed Saturday while cleaning ice off her car parked behind her Society Hill home.
"Penny had a skilled, determined passion for researching architectural historical details," said John Milner, an architect and member of the National Park Service team in the 1960s. "Her enthusiasm was infectious. She got into the minds of 18th-century craftsmen, and that excited her."
Born in East Orange, N.J., she studied at Bennington College in Vermont before earning a bachelor's degree in architecture in 1953 from Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. She studied under one of the masters of modern architecture, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
After graduating, she spent two years documenting old timber and stone buildings in the Dalecarlian area of Sweden before moving to a farm in Chester County owned by an aunt and uncle.
When she arrived here, she met historic preservationist Charles E. Peterson, an architect for the National Park Service who was studying the restoration of Independence National Historical Park, and she became interested in the project to restore some of the country's most valued historical buildings. She was the only woman on a team of about half a dozen architects and preservationists in the five-year project to restore Independence Hall.
She researched and recorded the types of nails used in the original buildings, details of woodwork, and the history of paint colors, said William Bolger, a protege of Mrs. Batcheler's at the Park Service. "Penny never sought the limelight," Bolger said. "She was determined, skilled, focused and dedicated. And she knew how to manage a strong personality like Peterson."
She moved to Society Hill in the '60s and became active in the restoration of historic homes. She met architect George Batcheler while restoring homes in Elfreth's Alley in Old City in the 1960s.
"She caught my eye because she even washed windows with enthusiasm," George Batcheler said. "We married in 1968 and bought a home at 315 S. American St. for $15,000, which we restored. Ours was a marriage made in heaven. I learned that my wife could move mountains."
The couple purchased the home across the street from theirs on American Street for her parents in 1982 for $25,000. They restored that home and moved in after her parents died.
During her career at the Park Service, Mrs. Batcheler also documented architectural history, prepared historic-structure reports, and supervised the restorations and recreations of Assembly Hall, Congress Hall, Old City Hall, Franklin Court, City Tavern, Edgar Allen Poe House, Old Swedes Church, and other significant buildings.
In the mid-1990s, she was involved in a $12.5 million, 10-year technological upgrade of Independence Hall, Congress Hall, and Old City Hall.
The plans and details for the mechanical systems for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, fire safety and security were extensive.
In a 1994 Inquirer report, she said, "We are not the last generation that is going to deal with this building. . . . This is precedent-setting."
Mrs. Batcheler described the stairway in Independence Hall as "the grandest staircase built in this country in the 18th century."
She retired from the Park Service in 1993 as chief architect. Afterward, Mrs. Batcheler tirelessly fought for the restoration of old buildings in Society Hill. Recently, she gathered signatures in the neighborhood for a petition to fight the building of casinos along the Delaware River.
In 1991, Mrs. Batcheler received the Preservationist of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Commission and, in 2000, the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia honored her with the James Biddle Award for Lifetime Achievement in Historic Preservation.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Batcheler is survived by two brothers and a sister.
A memorial service will be held at a future date. Burial is private.