benjamin jacobs house in exton gets new lease on life



I have said (and written previously) that ever since I came to Chester County I have loved this house alone in its own meadow and field on Ship Road in Exton. So I put a photo I took up on the Chester County Ramblings Facebook page and a friend of mine told me it was a house on the National Register of Historic Places, the Benjamin Jacobs House .

Anyway, the Benjamin Jacobs House has been part of the Church Farms School land parcels.  It was even mentioned in the Downingtown Area Historical Society Newsletter of April 3, 2014 . That house and the family from which it gets its name are steeped in Chester County history.

So today I got a new Twitter follower request and much to my delight it is the new owner of the Benjamin Jacobs house!  And the house is being restored!!!

The owner, Sarah Toms,  is chronicling the restoration in a blog. Personally, old house nut that I am, I am very excited about this!  This is, after all something amazing in today’s age: someone actually wants to restore a truly amazing house like this! I can’t wait to read along with everyone else as the work progresses!

Here is her inaugural post:

Benjamin Jacobs House: Why Exton?

I’ve lived in Pennsylvania’s Chester and Montgomery counties since the mid 1990’s, and to be honest, the Exton area never spoke to me. For one, there’s no quaint town center like so many boroughs in this area to draw you in and make you want to explore the shops and neighborhoods. The busy routes 100 and 30, which transect Exton, are uninspired corridors of stop and go traffic lined with same-same chain stores and restaurants. It really could be Anywhere, USA. So when my husband Ben and I started looking for a home close to a train station and near our children’s charter school, we reluctantly decided to take a second look at this area.

The Benjamin Jacobs House was the first home for sale that we looked at online and based on the pictures and description, it seemed to be exactly what we were looking for. Large enough for our big family and situated in a peaceful park setting, Ben and I were excited to see it in person. We also liked that this home has a really interesting past that is connected to the founding of our country (Benjamin Jacobs’ father, John Jacobs, was Speaker of the House when the Constitution was signed, and Benjamin not only helped to fund the Revolutionary War but was also a signer of Continental Currency – stay tuned for more history!).

Our first viewing was in March, 2014 and I have to say my first impression as I pulled in and parked in the home’s parking lot (yes, it has a 15 car parking lot) was Addams Family, here I come! Half of the front porch had fallen down and was lying next to the house, all the exterior paint was flaking off, and there are no shrubs or gardens, so the huge white structure felt stark and at odds with its setting. The house sits a little way back from Ship Road, but given the unwritten rule that everyone must exceed the speed limit by at least 20 mph, I didn’t feel too keen about living on this busy road. When I looked to Ben to gauge his first impressions, I was amazed to see my beloved beaming from ear to ear. My English husband had finally found his country estate, and where I saw years of renovations ahead of us, he saw vast potential in this dilapidated gem. Our realtor Terry, who with his wife Lois, has helped us to sell and buy previous homes, let out a chuckle – he seemed to already know that this place would be right up the alley of his quirky clients.

good morning coffee cake



I also call this cheater’s coffee cake because it is made with Bisquick a pre-made baking mix. So it is also semi-homemade but without Sandra Lee’s coordinating kitchen scape, table scape, and so on. You can also use a generic baking mix that is like Bisquick.

The base for this recipe used to be on the Bisquick box. I don’t see it there anymore. But over the years I have tweaked it and this is my favorite version. It mixes up quickly and is a delicious treat on weekends!


    Batter
    2 cups Bisquick (or comparable generic baking mix that is like it)
    2/3 cup milk (NOT skim – 1% or 2% or even buttermilk)
    1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
    1 egg
    1/3 cup sugar
    1/2 teaspoon  cardamom 
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
      Topping
      2/3 cup Bisquick
      2/3 cup brown sugar
      1 teaspoon cinnamon 
      4 tablespoons butter
    Preheat oven to 400°

    Grease with either butter or Crisco  a large deep dish  pie plate.
    Mix batter ingredients – everything except the blueberries. Fold them in when everything else is mixed thoroughly.  (NOTE: You can also use dried cranberries or white seedless raisins instead of the blueberries. If you use dried fruit like that you’re going to bake on the lower end of the time estimation, or about 20 minutes.)

    In  a separate bowl mix topping ingredients together with either two forks or a pastry blender until crumbly crumbs are formed.

    Take a large deep dish pie plate and grease it.

    Pour batter into pie plate. Evenly distribute crumbly topping on top and cut crisscross well across top a few  times with a knife. 

    Bake in 400° oven for approximately 25 – 30 minutes

    Allow to cool for a little bit (at least 20 to 25 minutes) before serving but tastes best serve warm.

    my little soapbox

     

    Soapbox

    Writing is something I just enjoy. This blog is the latest step in my writing journey. When you write a blog you get the good with the bad in as far as the Internet goes.  It really depends on what your topic is.

    Today I got this comment from one of my regular, somewhat-but-not-really-anonymous cranks.  They said (in part):

     

    It’s tough being you, isn’t it? Always something to complain about.  Well you have your soapbox. I’m sure it is good therapy for you and your readers….It’s not as though you are providing meaningful social commentary….

     

    Sigh.

    But not really because this is my blog, which makes it my little slice of soapbox, doesn’t it?   (The answer is of course “yes” )

    It got me thinking about how people were reacting to Angelina Jolie Pitt’s editorial in the New York Times today.

    In part, she said:

    LOS ANGELES — TWO years ago I wrote about my choice to have a preventive double mastectomy. A simple blood test had revealed that I carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. It gave me an estimated 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. I lost my mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer.

    I wanted other women at risk to know about the options. I promised to follow up with any information that could be useful, including about my next preventive surgery, the removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes.

    I had been planning this for some time. It is a less complex surgery than the mastectomy, but its effects are more severe. It puts a woman into forced menopause.

    Women, especially breast cancer survivors like myself are applauding her. But then there are the cranks.  So maybe it’s a woman who writes kind of a thing?  Is it like that tired old adage that when a man tells it like it is, it’s fine, but when a woman asserts herself, she’s a bitch?

    I usually would put something about the topic of breast cancer on my breast cancer blog but Mrs. Jolie Pitt’s op-ed isn’t just about that topic. When she writes, she writes from her personal experience or what she knows. I get it. I respect it. But a lot of people don’t.

    As the Atlantic said later on this afternoon in a terrific editorial:

    Jolie’s advocacy is especially powerful, though, because the issues she’s discussing—and the issues she is, more importantly, encouraging a discussion about—are intimately connected to cultural assumptions about youth and desirability. Jolie is oversharing, in a way, but it’s a productive form of oversharing—far removed from the vapidities of the Kardashian Selfie or the self-indulgences of Celebrity Instagram. Jolie, in talking about her surgery, is also emphasizing the inextricable connection between inner health and outer beauty. “I feel feminine,” Jolie writes in today’s essay. That declaration is preceded, tellingly, by this one: “I will look for natural ways to strengthen my immune system.”

    So there and she is using her writing skills for good. But she still gets a lot of criticism.

    Mind you, I am not on par with or comparing myself to some glamorous actress-activist, I am just me writing about whatever strikes my fancy.  Sometimes it’s a recipe, a photograph, politics, locally newsworthy, my garden, or a topic that just interests me.

    But if someone disagrees with what I write? Most of the time, it is just another perspective and I am actually cool with that, but other times it is like my pal from today with the recurring IP address from Wayne who feels they have a life obligation to shred what I write about on occasion and me along with it for bonus points. I delete the comments as that is all the air space most of them deserve but every once in a while I  wonder about why it is I am supposed to be seen and not heard? Why do they read what I write if it is so offensive to them?

    I read lots of other people’s blogs and articles. If I don’t like what some of them are writing, I don’t feel particularly compelled to shred their efforts, I just move onto something else. They have their opinions, I have mine. It’s their little slice of soapbox and I think the world is big enough for all of us.

    Thanks for stopping by this evening!

    apparently complaining about the postal service is un-american ?? their customer service doesn’t think so…

    

    Yesterday I finally had enough of mail going missing, arriving opened or damaged, and so on.  So I blogged about it.

    I have received many, many comments and not just the ones I have published on my blog.  Here’s one  I received off blog:

    I mailed a couple of things a couple of months ago. It never got there and was never returned. The guy I spoke to said they have had problems since they go through Wilmington. My question is why did they have to change things?  :(

    I totally understand how the commentor above feels. I am actually sitting on hold for the United States Postal Service in Washington DC, not that I feel it will do any good.

    My mail , even local mail, also gets routed now through Wilmington, Delaware. I find it ridiculous that is a Pennsylvania resident, my mail goes out of state before comes back in state. 

    Other commenters mentioned similar issues of mail not arriving, arriving damaged, arriving reeking of cigarette smoke.

    But then there are the commenters who feel they have to defend the United States Postal Service at all costs. I am exaggerating , I don’t understand how hard they have to work , and how they now have to pay for some of their benefits and so on.

    Here’s  one of my favorites, because it had absolutely nothing to do with what I was discussing in my previous post:

    Perhaps you need to learn something about the USPS … it has to sustain itself since it does not receive US tax dollars. However, it has Congress critters who are determined to kill it since USPS has to ask Congressional permission for virtually any action to become more efficient or to streamline. On top of it, USPS is the ONLY entity that has to prepay retirement liabilities for retirees decades in advance … for future employees who are not even born yet. That was a bon-bon that Congress enacted during the Reagan years on the march to privatizing the USPS. Of course, private companies are not going to maintain service to Podunk USA. After all, for those places,UPS hands off the packages to USPS since USPS, by law, must deliver to Podunk.

    Funny, I don’t remember writing about their retirement benefits or “liabilities”. And I’m sorry it has to sustain itself as a business and it is supposed to be a business? And as a customer isn’t my part in sustaining this “business” dependent upon the service received and delivery of my own mail? And yeah, Podunk. Sorry, I kind of live in Podunk so I hope that’s not too dreadfully inconvenient to deliver mail to us?

    Then there is the man who keeps writing in that I am exaggerating and basically he knows this because his mail is perfect. HUH?

    I am not exaggerating. My mother sent me a card, nothing fancy just a greeting card… Over a week ago. She lives in Center City Philadelphia.  Still hasn’t arrived.  Someone else has sent me something from Holmdel, New Jersey twice in two and a half weeks. Neither times has it arrived. Things mailed to me from Berwyn and Wynnewood have also not arrived. 

    A package marked fragile containing a gift for someone arrived yesterday looking like it had been kicked around like a soccer ball. And that was sent some degree of “Priority” mail.

    I have a great postmaster at my local post office, and the gentlemen who handle our residential route know where everyone lives and do a great job. But they are only as good as the mail that the actually reaches my local post office. Obviously there is some sort of problem with where my mail goes before it reaches my post office.

    So it has been a while since I started this post.  I called the hotline number for the Office of the Inspector General for the United States Postal Service this morning. Hotline phone calls are answered M-F 11:00am – 3:00pm EST 1-888-USPS-OIG (1-888-877-7644).

    The customer service woman I reached took close to an hour with me on the phone going over delivery issues and opened, destroyed, and missing mail. I have opened a case and she also gave me the number to consumer affairs in our area which I’m going to share with you my readers. That number is 215-863-6060.

    This woman I spoke with tracked the path of some of my mail that she was able to track using basically the tracking numbers that a couple packages arrived with.  And she agreed there was an issue with my nail because I wasn’t just telling her about one type of mail going missing routinely, it’s a little of everything , bills included.  

    I told her honestly that I was a blogger and I had written about this on my blog. And that I was doing a follow up post. I told her about the comments I had received, and she was very polite and didn’t discount anything I was saying. She also told me if mail is arriving and it reeks of cigarette smoke that means my mail is sitting somewhere for longer periods of time then it should be. She said people smoke, but for me or anyone to get mail where the odor is pervasive and strong and lingering it means that your mail was sitting somewhere. For quite  a while. And I have read this complaint in groups I belong to.

    Maybe this hour out of my day will amount to nothing, but I hope it will amount to mail reaching me better and reaching my friends and neighbors having issues with their mail delivery as well.  

    I think it is absolutely ridiculous that they used to sort or mail through Southeastern PA, and now it sorts  through Wilmington Delaware. This woman also suggested that we contact our Congress people. So Ryan Costello tag you’re it.

    I end with USPS trivia: the new postmaster general is a woman and she hails from Pottsville PA

    

    down the rabbit hole

    Do you ever wonder what happened to people? And that’s when you take a peek on social media to see where they’ve been for all the intervening years? Mind you, I’m not talking about people you were necessarily close to,  just people that were sort of in your world or circled your orbit as it were. Sometimes they were just people you sort of saw in the background.

    I have done that a few times recently and it’s so odd to look at some of these people you knew once as kids now as adults, often with their own kids. Time has flown, yet the  strangest thing I’ve noticed in some of these cases is how little some of these people have changed. They’ve aged, so have I, but it’s like time stood still even if the aging clock didn’t . There they are, in poses similar to what their younger selves used to do and in similar situations. It is like Alice looking down the rabbit hole.

    And then there are the people that you run into in real time. My favorite have been people that just used to know my parents and in some cases are the kids of the people who used to know my parents.  Most of the time, it’s really nice to run into these people as we shared some fun memories, but some are not so pleasant.

    Sometimes you run into people whose parents used to be friends with your parents but are no longer friends with your parents.  You see these people and you say “hello” to because that’s the polite thing to do when you run into someone, especially when you’re about 3 feet or less from them. And these are also the kind of people who pretend they don’t see you, don’t hear you, or just turn their backs.  What is the point of being rude? Yet they do it. Haven’t run into some of these people in a long time except for occasional near misses on social media on other friends’ Facebook pages. Which is terrific. Who needs that pettiness and negativity?

    But looking down the rabbit hole can be painful. You see people you were once close to as well as the people who were just sort of peripheral or on the fringe of your life. People change as they get older, and commonality fades. People just let go of one and other. 
     

    Sometimes you see people who were once a very large part of your life…..until they weren’t. Sometimes seeing those people is ok, and sometimes it’s not. Because some people just hurt you when they leave. Period. Sometimes these people know they have done that, but often times they don’t because they are not thinking about anything other than their own path.

    I guess that is one of the blessings of growing up and even getting older: you can choose who you wish to spend your time with.  And that is such a nice thing. Occasionally looking down the rabbit hole for me reinforces I am glad I am where I am in my life and who I am with.  Love and respect are very powerful things.

    I have been working on this piece of writing for a while and put it away. Then I came back to it. I did not want to sound negative writing it because I wasn’t feeling negative.

    But then I was. It’s like I was a kid again with all those raw feelings you can feel at those young ages.

    Sometimes it is just hard to have grace when you unexpectedly find yourself face to social media face with someone who hurt you deeply.  But then you realize they aren’t the people really once were. And while it still hurts in a sense, in a sense you can let it go. You have nice memories, but you are both off on different journeys.

    Trust me, grace and forgiveness take work, but if you don’t release it it’s simply unhealthy. Why let it fester? After all, these people you see in your rear view mirror ? They aren’t worrying about you are they?

    I know some will read this post and wonder if I am speaking about them in particular. Those are the people who will never get it, and I can’t control what they think (or feel). This is just one of those things I have thought about and have actually discussed with other friends who have also thought about and/or  experienced this.

     Thanks for stopping by.

    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.