chester county books

 

I admit it, I love books.

And I have been on the hunt for the three books you see pictured above for a while, and now I can say I have added them to my library.

These three fabulous books (Forty Years of Days, Chester County & Its Day, and Barns of Chester County Pennsylvania) were all written by a Chester County treasure named Berenice M. Ball

Once upon a time, the late Mrs. Ball was a long time Chairman of Chester County Day.  As a matter of fact her former home was on the 2015 Chester County Day house tour which benefits the Chester County Hospital Foundation.

I am pretty sure Chester County Day   is one of the longest running house tours in the nation, if not the longest.

Mrs. Ball published these fabulous books in the 1970s and 1980s. 1970 (Chester County and Its Day), 1974 (Barns of Chester County), 1980 (Forty Years of Days).

The books are full of old photos, sketches, history, anecdotes. Famous Chester County properties, even ones familiar to us today, are in these books. Like the often discussed Bryn Coed Farm, once home to Justice Owen J. Roberts.

Yes that Bryn Coed in West Vincent. It was restored back in the day by R. Brognard Okie.  I only knew the property made Chesterbrook look tiny, but I had non idea about Justice Robert’s actual home. I love Okie houses.

  Reading Chester County and Its Day it was interesting to learn that once upon a time this property Bryn Coed was a favorite on the Chester County Day circuit.

“Can anyone who ever saw Mr. Justice Owen J Roberts forget him in his country tweeds, standing in the driveway, pipe in hand, greeting each guest as if he were a visiting ambassador or posing for a picture after picture with groups and individuals? What a truly great human being he was and what good friends of the Day they both were.”

Given the constant discussion of the potential of development at Bryn Coed this sent chills up my spine!

Forty Years of Days has at the end of  it a complete listing of homes and landmarks open on Chester County Day between 1936 and 1980.

You can find these books on Amazon and eBay and in secondhand shops if you’re lucky. They were all produced back in the day as limited editions, and all of the ones I found are first editions and were signed by Mrs. Ball. I can’t tell you how awesome they are. If you are a Chester County history junkie and you don’t have these in your collection, you should definitely seek them out.

I hunted these books down to learn more about the history of the county I now call home. I’m so glad I did they are fascinating.

Thanks for stopping by on a rainy foggy day.

  

save strafford’s old covered wagon inn!

Pattye Benson Community Matters photo

Pattye Benson Community Matters photo

Yesterday I wrote about the wrecking ball of doom hanging over a very beloved and well-recognized landmark, the Old Covered Wagon Inn of Strafford PA. Once it was a tale of two counties, and apparently at some point the structure got plunked 100% in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County. (Say, has anyone asked Radnor Township how they feel about this??  It is right on the border and they are always taking care of than intersection aren’t they?)

Today thanks to Pattye Benson I have these great photos to share with you.  And a new post:

Preserving Tredyffrin: Inside the Covered Wagon Inn Today

 

There has been questions about the exact date of the Covered Wagon Inn. According to Tredyffrin Township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey, the construction date is attributed to circa 1780. A team of professionals from Preservation Design Partnership in Philadelphia conducted the municipal survey documentation project, which surveyed and documented over 350 historic resources in Tredyffrin Township.

Interestingly in 2004, the Historic Resource Survey was given the Government Award by Preservation Pennsylvania. The project was described as “providing a usable preservation planning tool for a suburban township currently under intense development and redevelopment (in the form of “tear-downs”) pressure.”  The award description went on to say that, “Tredyffrin Township Historic Resources Survey represents a model for the use of technology to document and plan for the management, protection and preservation of historic buildings, sites and districts valued by a municipality.”

The township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey was funded with taxpayer dollars and was intended to aid the municipal officials and staff in the protection of Tredyffrin Township’s resources. The preservation of historic buildings like the Covered Wagon Inn is a one-way street.  There is no chance to reuse or save the building, once it’s gone.  Preservation and restoration is the ultimate form of recycling.  What is historic, and worth saving, varies with the beholder.

 

How horribly and sadly true. Not everyone sees the value in our old and historic structures.

Don’t you wish they would in this case?

http://tinyurl.com/SaveCoveredWagonInn   (Sign the petition!)

 http://www.facebook.com/SaveCoveredWagonInn (like the Facebook page and share your memories and photos!)

The Facebook messages and memories are pouring in – today one that just touched my heart:

 

I proposed to my lovely wife 64 years ago there

 

I.can’t.even. How beautiful.

All these people sharing all of these memories.

And less than 24 hours after launching the Facebook Save page…  1,141 likes and growing! The petition had 1893 signatures last count and that also has not been up a full 24 hours.

#ThisPlaceMatters Keep it up!  Thank you for caring!

Covered Wagon Inn fireplace. Photo courtesy of Pattye Benson Community Matters

Covered Wagon Inn fireplace. Photo courtesy of Pattye Benson Community Matters

 

 

 

development food for thought

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August 13, 2008.  O’Neill’s apartment buildings Riverwalk at Millennium go up in flames. It burned hard and fast and was awful.  A lot of the articles surrounding this have magically disappeared off of newspaper sites over time but for those of us who worked in Conshohocken during that time frame and watched them going from a dedication where then relatively new President Bush (as in George the younger) was at a brownfield ceremony to sign a piece of legislation known as The Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act to a reality often have strong opinions about rapid development and so on.  This legislation was signed in Conshohocken PA in 2002. I know as I was there right in the first few rows watching it happen. My State Senator at the time gave me a ticket.

As the Inquirer article stated at the time:

The legislation that Bush will sign – the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act – creates a five-year program that can give states up to $200 million a year to clean up more than 500,000 polluted industrial sites, more commonly known as brownfields.

The act authorizes money for the cleanups and exempts small businesses from liability if they did not contribute a significant amount of the pollution. It also will create a public record of brownfields.

O’Neill Properties is one of the most familiar names when it comes to developments on sites like this.  Quite a few of the sites like this are actually in Chester County.  In East Whiteland. (Uptown Worthington or Bishop Tube anyone?)

2761103987_6629fc2f5e_oWhen Millennium went up in flames it was a crazy thing to watch, and SO many fire companies responded.  Here is what 6 ABC WPVI TV said at the time:

A multi-alarm fire was raged for hours Wednesday night in the 200 block of Washington Street in Conshohocken.According to Conshohocken Fire Department Chief Robert Phipps, 11 firefighters have been injured due to the multi-alarm fire at the Riverwalk at Millenium and three or four fire trucks have been damaged. The extent of the injuries is not yet known.

Officials also tell Action News that 80 fire companies from 5 counties helped extinguish the blaze…..”It’s surreal. People are just in shock; they don’t know what to do,” resident Hope Raitt said.

It was an emotional scene in the haze of smoke.

Residents were in tears.

Many made frantic calls on cell phones……The main concern for many was their pets.

The Riverwalk at Millenium allows animals, so many people arrived home from work only to learn their pets may be trapped.

 

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A little over a year after the fire, a settlement on it was reached (Click here to read about that).   In the fall of 2010 the project then completed was for sale (Click here to read about that.)  All of this occurred after a big huge article about the developer in Philadelphia Magazine.

After the fire there were enough articles to fell a forest. Again, most of them are no longer online, and who knows if they even exist in archives. Here’s a LINK to a related article having to do with the banking in 2012.) And today Riverwalk at Millennium has reviews on Yelp. A lot of the reviews aren’t exactly flattering. (However in all fairness reviews of Eastside Flats is not so fabulous either – see this and this and this and this.)

In 2010 a crazy lawsuit started in Federal Court about Uptown Worthington (where the Malvern Wegmans and Target and other things are today.) This think burbled and spat fire for a few years until it was settled (one article about this available HERE.)

The food for thought here is simple: what can we learn from other developments? That is a valid question because if you think about it, no matter where we live around here in Southeastern PA we share the commonality of the same or similar pool of developers from place to place.  These developers are like old time mining prospectors – they get what they can get and pull up stakes and move on to the next community. That leaves the reality of these developments for the community to deal with.

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Let’s talk about Eastside Flats. How are they renting really? And why is it these Stoltz people and Korman people don’t seem to care about issues? Or basic things like trash? I was there the other day to have lunch with a friend and there was trash on the sidewalk, like it was a true urban area versus downtown Malvern. And the fake “brick” sidewalks? They look fake, are fake, and are more slippery than the real deal. And what about trucks? Why is it delivery trucks can just block the street, block the only driveways into the parking lots? And the landscaping? Or lack there of?

img_1840And at the end of the day one of the biggest problems with Eastside Flats is still human scale and inappropriate design for the area.  They tower over everything and citify a small town in a way that is architecturally inappropriate. And I would still like to know how fire trucks can navigate this site in the event of fire. How will they reach the rear for example? Via the train tracks? That is another thing that is potentially worrisome.

Development also causes other potential issues. Things like storm water management. When I lived in Lower Merion all you ever heard from the township is how on top of the topic they were.  Yeah right, and they own the Brooklyn Bridge too, right?

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3934298722_d09f391eba_oAbove was my old neighborhood and one photo from Pennsylvania Ave in Bryn Mawr.  I documented storm water management issues for years because even with a summer thunder storm the flooding was insane.  A lot of it had to do with the railroad tracks that ran elevated up their hills through the neighborhood, but not all of it.   We would even have power and Verizon outages from Lancaster Avenue from the water underground. On a few occasions, PECO actually brought in people to pump the water OUT from underneath the ground.

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And have you ever seen what happens when the Schuylkill River floods? Check out this photo I took in Conshohocken in 2007:

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Radnor Township often doesn’t fare better. Next are photos of Wayne a friend of mine took here and there over the past few years:

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Ok so yes, this is the Main Line. Not us here in Chester County. But we can LEARN from their mistakes if our municipalities would kindly wake-up.

Development is an ugly fact of life. No way to seemingly avoid it. And the pool of developers, our veritable land sharks isn’t so big. It’s basically the same ones hop scotching around.

We are Chester County. We were known for great open spaces and farmland and horses and our beautiful natural vistas. I use past tense because development project by development project what Chester County is or was known for is eroding. Fast.

Take for example a project in Willistown I did not realize was happening. Passed by it the other day on Devon Road. Chapel Hill at Daylesford Abbey. People have been upset about this for years….and it finally is starting to happen. (read about it in an old Inquirer Article.)

Or the old DuPont Estate Foxcatcher Farm now Listeter or whatever by Toll?  How jarring is THAT development? And how is it selling? Yes it is neighboring Delaware County but again, it is another example of “is that really what the community wanted or needed”?

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Whenever we read about these developments in the newspaper we hear the talk of “demand”. Whose demand and is it real or imagined?

It doesn’t matter where we live in Chester County, I am reminding all of you once again in 2016 that if we aren’t better stewards of where we live, what we love about Chester County will cease to exist and as we get more and more development we will experience more and more issues like from a lack of true storm water management much like our Main Line neighbors and so on.

Whatever happened to the SOS or Save Open Space initiative in Chester County from the what 1980s and 1990s?  In my opinion we need something like this more than ever. Or we will be seeing more ugliness like the last photo I am going to post. Taken from the Schuylkill Expressway head west as a car passenger recently.  Not sure where the project is, but I think Lower Merion Township near the river?

Bottom line is we need more than lip service when it comes to development from planning, zoning, or elected officials. Doesn’t matter what municipality. We don’t exist in a vacuum and what happens where we live affects our neighbors and vice versa. If your idea of Chester County is well, Chesterbrook or Eastside Flats you will be steaming by now.  But I am betting most of you want more moderation and more land and open space and area character and historic preservation.  Saving land saves us all.

Thanks for stopping by.

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here we go again…will easttown have it’s “waterloo”?

Former Waterloo Gardens…sad from any angle now

Once upon a time there was Waterloo Gardens. Then it went bust and development plans grew instead.  The initial development plans and news of a development tore the Devon Horse Show apart and neighbors have been on guard ever since, haven’t they?

 Stark in black and white is Waterloo's former gates unkempt and looking very much like Main Line Grey Gardens

Stark in black and white is Waterloo’s former gates unkempt and looking very much like Main Line Grey Gardens

Of course the former Waterloo site in Devon would be a target for development. It is just too juicy to let alone.  It’s Chester County but considered the Main Line and well, infill development is at a premium…not to residents of course. Developers just lick their chops at the prospect of such a site.

It’s been quiet around the proposed “Devon Yards“…but no more because up has cropped a public meeting notice…

NOTICE IS GIVEN that the Board of Supervisors of Easttown Township will conduct a public hearing and special public meeting on Wednesday, February 3, 2016, at 7:00 p.m., prevailing time at the Beaumont Elementary School located at 575 Beaumont Road, Devon, Pennsylvania 19333

Surprise and happy 2016! For your pleasure Tredyffrin and Easttown residents you have a public hearing to have developer designed zoning shoved down your throats because what is a developer worth his salt with out a custom designed bad ass zoning overlay?  Devon Center Overlay DRAFT Ordinance – January 2016  (Yes indeedy! hot off the presses!)

So this developer seems to literally want to citify Chester County from Devon to Downingtown (and in between.) You have 20 Moores Rd Malvern , Charlestown “Village” Malvern , Clover Mill Exton, 120 Pennsylvania Ave Malvern, and who knows what else in the pipeline.

The behemoth of King Street Eastside Flats. Still a fair bit of empty retail space and unknown true occupancy. These buildings tower over the tiny Borough of Malvern and traditional houses and store fronts. There are some terrific businesses there for now but will they stay? Only time will tell. This development is out of character with a tiny town.

This project is brought to you by Eli Kahn who brought Eastside Flats to the tiny borough of Malvern (and sold). Now Eastside Flats when built was such a jarring square peg in a round hole that the next election in Malvern saw not only a change in Mayor

It's all a grand façade. The side and rear of Eastside Flats make the building look like no tell motel architecture.

It’s all a grand façade. The side and rear of Eastside Flats make the building look like no tell motel architecture.

but also quite a few borough council members .

So now in the new year as nouveau neighbors at Devon Horse show flex their muscles across the way “Devon Yards” is heating up again. And as predicted quietly by many, the other shoe is already dropping.  Hence the public hearing.

A letter came out from Easttown Neighbors that I received today.   EasttownNeighborsletter(00147310).  Not surprising and I can’t blame them. If I was staring down the barrel of the prospect of a area altering project like this I would not be at ease or happy.

We hadn’t heard much about this whole “Devon Yards” since Easttown Planning approved the plan in November, 2015. At the time Easttown Manager Dan Fox assured a reporter everyone has a voice in the process but when it comes to developer vs. real people is that true?

Only time will tell.

I am a realist and this land was never going to be a park. You knew it would get developed given the location.  But it’s all about the density and why can’t it be a project compatible but that won’t crush the surrounding area?

This project has gotten a lot of press and will continue to. (You can check out what it was imagined as in April 2015 in Philadelphia Magazine).  And way back in 2013 there was going to be a small hotel and some retail. Now it’s leaning towards density and a towering structure TALLER than Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough? Yikes.

I do not have to see this from my window and for that I am grateful.  I am totally concerned however that yet another custom zoning overlay designed by a developer is up for consideration in yet another municipality.

These custom zoning overlays are just designed (and designed often by the developers themselves) to give developers what they need at the expense of residents. (Sorry that is my opinion and am I wrong?)  After all just look at the drawings a developer will bring into a township meeting…any township meeting.  Like the Elysian Fields sit their pet projects with no actual reality of true perspective or human scale involved.  A resident will go to the meetings and wonder if it’s Logan’s Run and existing residents are being erased because well…you never ever see any kind of rendering that shows what these grand plans and Elysian Fields will actually look like next to everyone else who has the misfortune of kind of sort of being in their way. And setbacks? Forgeddaboutit you might as well be in a city.

So now Easttown residents are stuck with the same conundrum as residents in municipalities before them have struggled with.  What do they want their futures to look like and does it really matter because will their local government actually listen to them?

Anyway, I hope residents and lots and lots of media turn out for this hearing. And I hope for once with a ginormous new development what residents want will matter.  But the jaded realist in me doesn’t hold out much hope.

Maybe it’s finally time to change the Municipalities Planning Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? Just a thought.

Thanks for stopping by.

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nothing says christmas in east whiteland like more demolition for development 

 

Once there was a little stone house on Morstein Road in East Whiteland. Old timers would tell you it wasn’t a very happy house so no one was surprised the family wanted to sell it after a death in the family.

As local lore and legend had it a few neighbors approached the family about purchasing even small pieces of the land to protect the woods and natural surroundings as we all know developers will shoe horn in wherever they can…especially in municipalities like East Whiteland which are shall we say developer friendly?

 
Anyway, local and legend also  has it that the family didn’t respond well to neighbors interested in purchasing parts of the land and lo and behold they came forth to East Whiteland along with the developer for a two lot subdivision plan a while back.

It was astounding to hear these people tell the zoning board that no one wanted to buy the property which is why they were selling to a developer. It’s on the record somewhere I attended the meeting. But they wanted the most money out of the land which is their right, even if it sucks for the neighbors.

The house sat and rotted for a couple of years and the other day I thought I heard the sounds of demolition through the woods to the side. And when I drove by today  lo and behold, the house was no more. I couldn’t help but wonder if they moved the family items that you could see in the front windows out of the house every time you drove by before they demolished it, or if somebody’s probably holiday platter that sat in a picture window in the front just got bulldozed away along with the house.

So now neighbors in East Whiteland get to deal with the reality of yet more development.  

Yes, it’s just a two lot subdivision but you can see by what has been cleared away that whoever is building there isn’t very interested in the trees or natural surroundings. But then if they were interested in trees are natural surroundings they would’ve only got one house approved wouldn’t they?

Now neighbors got to babysit construction of a two  lot subdivision to make sure that stormwater runoff is treated properly and septic. Unless of course that is one of the sections over there that has public sewer access.

Merry Christmas in East Whiteland – nothing says happy holidays like  demolition.

Do I sound sarcastic? I was going more for ironic but I’ll take sarcastic. Chester County is going to be as messed up as the Main Line  if it doesn’t start to pay attention to every development project.

Yes it’s a two lot subdivision, it could be a heck of a lot worse it could be some of those lovely “carriage home” or “townhouse” developments. But for those who live nearby there is always the same things to worry about —issues with construction stormwater management , septic problems, drinking water wells.

I hope this project goes smoothly and I know it was coming but right or wrong, the fact that they tore down a house at Christmas just bothers me.

The other day when I was visiting Duffy’s Cut I was struck by the juxtaposition of development quite literally a stone’s throw from the Duffy’s Cut  site. It made me realize how quickly Chester County’s geography is changing.

We can’t save every old barn, every house, and so on. I know that. But what frightens me is the density that is replacing all of these things. 

It’s like we all moved out here for the open space and the land and the farms and the feeling that you could just breathe…. And slowly but surely one development project at a time it’s all being erased.

Thanks for stopping by on a rainy day.

  

linden hall december, 2015

This is what I was referring to recently – a lot of windows are getting broken in the rush to build townhouses. Now I get with restoration they will need new windows but why let all the elements in ?

(East Whiteland Historical Commission, hello? What do you people actually do?)