phoenixville project (very cool !!)



So. I read about something really cool today. And I thought I would share it with you all:



So I think what BP Miller of Chorus Photography is doing sounds like a very cool project! So if any of you who live or have lived in and outside Phoenixville who are interested contact him at projectpville@chorusmediagroup.com 

Oral histories are a very cool thing to give back to a community and area, so I hope people will contact him.  He is interested in Phoenixville in the broader sense – not just the Chester County Borough of Phoenixville, but the surrounding areas known as Phoenixville that lie in other municipalities. There is a lot to the area- farmland that once was, industry that once was, how everything has evolved.

Thanks for stopping by on the first (and snowy) day of spring.

shoehorn development



I hadn’t been down towards the Main Line in a while again until yesterday. Since I moved a few years ago now, I rarely get below Wayne which I still love. 

But I rarely go down near where I used to call home in Lower Merion. It just makes me too sad that where I grew up and lived a lot of my adult life is getting crammed full of ill advised  development plans and what can only be described as shoehorn development.

This photo is from my old neighborhood in Haverford and is in  Lower Merion Township. This house being constructed is way too large for the lot it is sitting on – it was an empty lot for almost the entire 15 years I was living there. Prior to that it had been this large yellow and white Victorian which had burned to the ground two days before Thanksgiving one year. The former structure that burned had been subdivided into two student rentals and at the time it was your typical slumlord deal. I would definitely say this new structure is shoehorned in. The old house that was once there was once a part of a much larger land parcel that had been subdivided decades before it burned down. 

Where I used to live and where I grew up was I thought at one time very beautiful. Now every time I drive through I am hit with how shabby everything looks and overdeveloped. 

Remarkably, yesterday was the first time I had actually been through my old neighborhood that I left to come to Chester County for a few years ago.

So when I occasionally write about development and how I feel Chester County needs to have a care, this is why.

foxcatcher farm now



The ugliness of it is astounding. It’s like looking at overpriced tyvek wrapped tenanment housing.

This is the former Foxcatcher Farm today. There are all these houses crammed together and on the tops of some hills there are giant McMansions in progress crammed close together. So many of the trees are gone it’s staggering.

This is why people fight Toll Brothers and their ilk from coming into their communities.

I am a realist and I no longer expect large parcels of land like this to stay as intact estates as the years go by, but if this isn’t a reason that screams for more control on developers  and development within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania I don’t know what does.

And it’s funny as you go past this debacle in Newtown Township, Delaware County, and you go into Radnor Hunt you notice every year how much more of the land is being developed within the Radnor Hunt  area, don’t you? I wonder how many years longer the actual fox hunts near Radnor Hunt will be able to  take place?

Change is inevitable, but this is a case of where change is kind of sad.



what happened to the devon horse show sign?

They say a picture is worth 1000 words. Here’s one to spark a conversation.

A friend of mine called me about this yesterday. This is the iconic Devon Horse Show sign as of two minutes ago.

What the heck happened? And is it an odd portent of the future?
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devon horse show at risk.

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Why does this stuff happen at Christmas?

Group of Devon Horse Show and Country Fair board members calls sudden meeting to oust president, chairman Published: Friday, December 19, 2014

By Linda Stein
lstein@mainlinemedianews.com
@lsteinreporter on Twitter
Officials say future of horse show at stake

Devon >> Despite an apparently successful Devon Horse Show this past May, a group of nine members of the Devon Country Fair Committee called a surprise board meeting Monday to oust Sarah Coxe Lange, the president and CEO of the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, and board Chairman Henry Lafayette Collins III.

When Coxe Lange took the reins of the horse show earlier this year, she announced some changes including streamlining the board, beginning a separate endowment fund and establishing new bylaws for the board and attracting new, younger volunteers. Coxe Lange also noted that the horse show made a profit of $200,000 in 2014 after years of breaking even. The Country Fair earned $400,000 for 2014. Also, the foundation garnered an 11 percent increase in donations.

“I want people to know Devon has never been so successful, so modern and energized and yet this is happening,” said Coxe Lange…..She believes the group opposing her is among those who would allow the grounds of the horse show, founded in 1896, to be developed and the show itself moved to the hinterlands.

“We’ve lost the battle for Devon,” said Coxe Lange in an interview after she received the email calling for her removal. “Nine of 11 Country Fair board members sent a memo calling for a special meeting Monday, [Dec. 22] at 5 p.m. to remove Hank Collins as chairman and me as president in the best interest in Devon. I’m clearly the poster child for protecting Devon. I’m in the way. We’ve lost.”

Also, Collins, “has worked tirelessly on all the bylaws and been the bylaws chairman,” she said. “They want us out. I am here to protect Devon in perpetuity and it’s clear that is threatening to them. Outside interests want to do a deal. They want to buy us. I stand in their way so they want to get rid of me.”

Coxe Lange added, “Several board members have told me [the opponents] went to great lengths to assassinate my character… The horse show, in a couple a years, will not be in Devon.”

Coxe Lange, who owns Willisbrook, a horse farm in Malvern, and is the third generation of her family involved in the Devon Horse Show….Collins, whose grandfather and namesake was a founder of Devon, said the first time he remembers being involved in the horse show was just after World War II when he was about 8 years old.

“I dragged a little wagon around with lemon sticks and fudge,” Collins said. Along with his grandfather, his grandmother was “a long time exhibitor.” His father was also a Devon Horse Show board member and a master of foxes at the Radnor Hunt.

“After he died in 1961, I was elected as a director,” said Collins

(take the time to read the entire article – long but worth it.)

Wonder where the former chair of Devon who was ousted over the development issues is in all of this, hmmmmm? Remember that article from this past October? And all the scuttlebutt about the proposed Urban Outfitters Eli Kahn Devon Yard development plans?

Anonymous letter spurs questions over Devon Horse Show, proposed Devon Yard, Urban Outfitters Published: Friday, October 03, 2014 By Linda Stein

….The current horse show president Sarah Coxe Lange has been in her present post for less than a year, after a controversy arose regarding McDevitt, the former chairman, who stepped down in February.

McDevitt, whose grandfather was one of the horse show founders, is the principal of The McDevitt Co., a commercial real estate developer that, along with Eli Kahn, has proposed Devon Yard, a mixed use shopping center, at the former Waterloo Gardens site. McDevitt’s company develops sites worldwide for Urban Outfitters and other clients. McDevitt stepped down from the horse show in February after controversy over plans to lease the horse show parking lot for overflow parking for new shopping center, Devon Yard, to be anchored by an Urban Outfitters branch. McDevitt said that he had announced his retirement previous to that brouhaha and wanted to spend more time with his family and to concentrate on business. McDevitt’s wife, Wendy, is president of Terrain, one of the Urban Outfitters brands and Wendy McDevitt also withdrew from the horse show.

An anonymous email received by Main Line Media News claimed that some of the Country Fair board members were given gifts and promised jobs by McDevitt and Urban Outfitters for their support.

In a phone interview, Hayne, of Unionville, called all the allegations in the email “crazy” and “not true.” He denied his company has designs on the horse show grounds.

The board members who signed the letter in the news that broke yesterday barely a week before Christmas should be ashamed of themselves. They are Gail McCarthy, Karin Maynard, Mimi Killian (she’s the one with the vanity plate and bad parking jobs, right?), Carolyn Capaldi, Beth Wright, Eileen Devine, Dolly Somers, Sandy Shinners and Ann Seidel – ANYONE who knows them should apply social pressure and whatever other pressure is needed to save this horse show from ruin. (And lest we forget this show was founded to fundraise for a hospital, not to just be a horse show.)

These people are JUST AS BAD as the people who were for eminent domain for private gain at Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show.

These people want to change Devon irrevocably and for the worse. Do you want what is Devon Horse Show replaced by development? I have a hard time respecting people who can’t respect tradition.

The Nouveau Main Line could very well completely ruin Devon.

Sarah Coxe Lange turned a significant profit for the horse show this year, and although they had broken even in years past, they had not done that. Ms. Lange rose above all the drama and she deserves kudos and thanks. She also owns a horse farm in Malvern, Willisbrook. And Henry Lafayette Collins III has an impeccable lineage and wow just wow.

I haven’t a clue as to how this gets undone but I felt compelled to post because what is happening is just so wrong.

Again the magic signers of this letter as per the published media reports are Gail McCarthy, Karin Maynard, Mimi Killian, Carolyn Capaldi, Beth Wright, Eileen Devine, Dolly Somers, Sandy Shinners and Ann Seidel. Shame on the Scrooges of Devon.

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contrasts

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Yesterday was a study in contrasts. Started out my morning in Chester County, and headed up to New York City for the day.

New York City in October is very alive and bustling. A cacophony of sights and sounds and smells. I worked in New York for a few years when I was younger and fall and spring were my favorite seasons. It is such a contrast now to go from the quiet of Chester County to the very definition of urban.

From the east side to the west side, New York City is a sea of constant motion…and taxi cabs. It’s beeping and honking and massive waves of people bustling across giant intersections.

It is one of my favorite places to take photos, but yesterday there wasn’t time for that. I appreciate the beauty and the urban canyons of Manhattan, but I truly am a Chester County person now….I love getting back to the trees and fields.

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From New York City it was back to Ardmore for the last First Friday Main Line. The event was the Happy Howl O’Ween dress up your dog contest.

Since 2006 First Friday Main Line has been there to bring art and music to every day life ; bringing local artists, musicians, and small businesses together. Inspired by the Old City (Philadelphia) First Friday, First Friday Main Line has had people discovering art in unexpected places.

Because Ardmore doesn’t really have gallery spaces, the art and music were tucked in alleys, store fronts, restaurants and on the street. All of this was done by Executive Director and Ardmore business owner and resident, Sherry Tillman. These were never Lower Merion Township as in municipal sponsored events. Many municipalities are deeply involved in the First Friday celebrations of their communities, but the extent of Lower Merion’s involvement was basically collecting permit fees.

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First Friday Main Line was something I was deeply involved in until the spring of 2013. I did the publicity and event photography and it was an amazing ride, including a Congressional Commendation in 2010 for our Operation Angel Wings initiative.

But change is inevitable. Sherry called me a couple of months ago to let me know she was putting First Friday on hiatus. I had stopped actively participating because of my move to Chester County and new life here. I was sad to hear her news, but understood. She wanted to focus on different kinds of art events and get back to creating on her own. Sherry is an artist in her own right.

Coming back to the last First Friday Main Line was a bittersweet, yet sentimental journey. I had spent so much time in Ardmore between First Friday Main Line and the community activism I was part of a few years ago. (Lower Merion Township had once to seize part of the historic business district via eminent domain for private gain.)

Coming back to the area I once called home is now like being a stranger in a strange land. What once was home, is now just a place I used to live. The contrast was very pronounced to me this visit. I loved seeing all the old and in many cases beloved familiar faces, but I see everything now through different eyes in a thanks for the memories kind of way. I no longer belong to these old places, I belong to Chester County.

Part of the contrast which was sad to see is just well, how grungy and almost worn around the edges Lower Merion Township seems to look. And that isn’t just the business districts. When I was a kid Lower Merion really was a beautiful place to live. Now it is just an expensive place to live, which is not the same thing.

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What I observed was a lot of the sense of community and neighborliness no longer seems to be self evident. A lot of strangers bustling by, and I wonder are there still people stepping up to foster a true sense of community? Or maybe it’s no longer that kind of place?

I have to be honest I do not miss the congestion and traffic of the Main Line nor do I miss the constant development. I felt really old passing by locations where I remember the house and the people who lived there, only now planted on those spots were condos and McMansions and such. All of what replaced what was in these spots are built out to the last possible inch with no real attempt at human scale let alone compatible style. In fact, no real style at all, these projects between Wayne and Ardmore scream nothing more than “new”. Sad.

Down the street from where my parents used to live, I read recently about a house which has a property which is now the subject of potential development. I knew it as the Woodruff House.. The super family which once lived there is long gone and sadly mostly passed away. Realistically, the development will probably happen. There is no zoning and planning to prevent it even if it is a ridiculous and vastly inappropriate spot for infill development.

But it has been almost 40 years at this point since Lower Merion Township had a comprehensive plan update, and the lack of planning is showing. What worries me about what is happening on the Main Line is the same developers snapping up whatever they can there are also in Chester County.

Take Downingtown, as in the borough. If they don’t watch it, they will make the same mistake that Malvern Borough did with Eli Kahn and Eastside Flats, which should really be seen from the rear too. An article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer recently:

Archdiocese sells Delco property, 2 others for $56.2M By Harold Brubaker, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: October 04, 2014

…..In addition ……..the archdiocese said that it had an agreement to sell a 454-acre property in Northampton County for $5.5 million, and that it had sold 55 acres in Chester County for $3.7 million.

The $3.7 million from the sale of excess land at the St. John Vianney Center in Downingtown, a behavioral-health center for clergy and women religious, was deposited into the archdiocesan priests’ pension fund. That fund previously had a $76.3 million deficit.

The buyer was Woodbine Partners L.P., a partnership of Chester County developers E. Kahn Development and J. Lowe & Associates.

Stephen Sullins, Downingtown’s borough manager, said the expected mixed-use development was significant for the town, which covers just two square miles.

“It looks like it is going to expand our tax base somewhat. We’re looking forward to some new jobs,” Sullins said.

Yep, Eli Kahn.again….Eastside Flats which still look vastly out of place in Malvern and unfinished although they are finished and the project is for sale (See Philadelphia Business Journal, July 2, 2014) .

And remember that very telling Patch article a couple years ago that told a very different tale of how much money Malvern Borough would actually make off of this project?

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$60,000: East King Revitalization’s Impact on the Borough The new apartments and businesses won’t be a windfall for the borough. By Pete Kennedy (Open Post) Updated June 29, 2012 at 1:38 am

During a discussion…at….Malvern Borough Council, resident Joan Yeager asked a related question:

“Once the King Street project is completed, how much additional money is going to come into the borough? In taxes and all,” she said.

“Something in the neighborhood of $60,000 a year,” council president Woody Van Sciver said, citing a financial feasibility study done before the project was approved.

“That’s it?” Yeager replied, expecting a bigger payoff from the several new businesses and hundreds of new residents that will be moving to the east end of the borough.

Downingtown can afford a development misstep even less than Malvern Borough. And I love Malvern, but if there is some benefit to having that Christ awful development once you get beyond having Christopher’s there and Kimberton Whole Foods moving in, I haven’t seen it. And the development looks like giant Lego buildings (with about as much finesse) plunked down in Lilliput.

There are a lot of empty store fronts in Eastside Flats and the borough itself, and last time I was there to have lunch at Christopher’s there were cigarette butts all over the sidewalk in front of the nail salon. Of course I also wondered why such “high end” and new real estate could only get a nail salon? And have you ever see Eastside Flats from the rear? It shows it’s backside to a lot of Malvern residents over the tracks and wow, a little landscaping might help. But do developers like this care about the existing residents?

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My travels yesterday merely reaffirmed the true contrast between urban, suburban, and Chester County. And suburban doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be the mini-me to urban, and well for us out here in Chester County, we shouldn’t want developers to spin their tales of the Emperor’s New Clothes out here and give us the awkward new urbanism fairy tale or hybrid cross of what they are shoe horning in everywhere else. Maybe that is NIMBY (not in my back yard) of me, but heck I have lived with bad projects and bad planning in my back yard–it’s one of the things I was happy to leave behind on the Main Line when I moved to Chester County.

I still believe Chester County is incredibly vulnerable to these projects, and these tiny towns and boroughs need to think carefully before jumping to the extremes of these very dense developments. Places grow and evolve and not all development is bad, but there is just way too much of it. The pace needs to slow.

The open space and gracious rolling farm lands,fields, and forests which make up Chester County are worth preserving. So is the way of life which accompanies it. Thanks for stopping by today. I know this post has rambled along, and when I started out with my original thought of contrast I wasn’t quite sure where this post would lead me.

Enjoy the beautiful day!

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development…..

Intersection of Chester Springs Rd. and Eagle Farms Rd. (I have a picture of a barn there somewhere.) Apparently this is another fine Toll Brothers project? People say that barn will soon be history, but I don’t know….sigh….sure hope this municipality is staying on top of permits and stuff, right?
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