revisionist history on the main line

File under the more things change, the more things stay the same.

When an article comes out about anything Lower Merion Township, let alone Ardmore, PA I give it a read. I just lived there too many years.

This is both puff piece and a lovely attempt at revisionist history.

Main Line Today March, 2018

As Ardmore Prepares for a Revitalization, Some Residents are Hesitant About the Change
Will additions like One Ardmore Place disrupt the town’s way of life? Many locals are divided.

BY MICHAEL BRADLEY

Excerpt:

📌None of this is Angela Murray’s fault. Not the giant crane that hovers over the Cricket Avenue parking lot, its American flag billowing in the breeze. Not the 110 apartments rising from a giant hole in the ground. Not the upheaval for residents and business owners alike. Not the possible traffic congestion. None of it.

“People have blamed me,” says Murray, who’s been Lower Merion Township’s assistant director of building and planning for 16 years. “But I think it meets a need that was pressing.”….The allocated state money was supposed to go for the station, but when Amtrak balked at allowing apartments so close to its tracks, the plan—which included replacing some buildings along Lancaster Avenue south of the station—lost momentum. Meanwhile, the Save Ardmore folks filed lawsuits and protested the idea mightily. “Amtrak didn’t want people living so close to the rail line because it didn’t think it would be safe,” Lower Merion’s Murray says. “They were concerned about people throwing things out of windows onto the track.”📌

So….this is quite the piece in favor of Ardmore development. I don’t know who the writer is but my, he was sure led by the nose down a primrose development path.

I also take issue with the latest attempt at glossing over eminent domain in Ardmore. But then I also do not quite understand the article love affair with Angela Murray of Lower Merion Township, but perhaps she had a hand in the placement of the article?

Lower Merion Township can not unring the bells of the past.

Back in the day, as a member of the ORIGINAL Save Ardmore Coalition, Ms. Murray was awful to us. She was not nice, she was perennially unpleasant. However she wasn’t alone. You were either with them or against them. If you were against them, well then you were the enemy.

Let’s recap:

In 2004–2006, Ardmore’s business district was the subject of a hotly contested eminent domain for private gain battle. Lower Merion wanted to take a nice train track side chunk of land via eminent domain and give it over to private development- hence the private gain part.

A grassroots organization of which I was part of until diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 2011, the Save Ardmore Coalition, along with local businesses and other civic associations and civics groups, opposed eminent domain as a redevelopment program that would have involved the demolition of historic buildings, in favor of preserving those buildings for other commercial use.

In March 2006 after the previous election in the fall of 2005 when a large chunk of the THEN Board of Commissioners got voted out of office and the then new and improved 2006 Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution disavowing the use of eminent domain for the benefit of private redevelopment projects. The Ardmore battle was also instrumental in prompting PA to enact state legislation in 2006 restricting the use of eminent domain for private projects.

So that is the Cliff Notes version. Those of us down in the trenches back then were vilified and targeted. We were publicity spun into being resident and business owner pariahs by our opposition. It was really, really bad. All for defending what we loved.

Lower Merion Township have you forgotten? I haven’t.

Mind you this is not the first time that Lower Merion has placed Ardmore pieces that were glossy and glossed over things. May 2009 for the same magazine was one time and they even used my photo:

It hasn’t all been fabulous and if people point fingers at Lower Merion Township appointed and elected officials well shall we say it has been with good reason?

Ardmore’s largest handicap, is the fact Lower Merion Township as in the township seat, is situated there.

I am not commenting on the most recent past president of Save Ardmore Coalition or the litigation they filed in more recent times. It was sort of a horse is already out of the barn scenario to go after One Ardmore Place when they did. I did not think they would get the necessary traction and a positive result, and they didn’t.

But are they wrong?

I still think this development is a hideous mistake. I think their overlay zoning ordinance known as MUST (Mixed Use Special Transit/More Unfair Special Treatment take your pick) has been a disaster since enactment, and the development on and off Ardmore’s “Main Street” is ridiculous. You know, like the “mini” Target and whatever else is going to happen at the corner of Ardmore Avenue and Lancaster Avenue?

I think these developments will destroy Ardmore. But perhaps the only way for other parts of Lower Merion Township to survive is to lose Ardmore to all of this development?

The thing is this, I think for the most part these types of developments ultimately fail is because nothing is done in moderation. Nothing is done truly in concert with residents and/or small businesses. A good game is always talked, and with the case of Ardmore, Lower Merion Township is always trying to change the underlying narrative, but they can’t.

The township is responsible for this cluster F. They are responsible for the mistrust of residents and the like. They have never owned their part and their many, many missteps.

It’s a shame, really.

The other fault lies with Lower Merion Township voters. And who they allow to continue to represent them.

I loved spending a lot of my growing up and young adult to early middle-aged years in Lower Merion Township, but as an adult the bloom came off of the rose. And a lot of that had to do with all of the politics, development, and Ardmore.

It is because of what I bore witness to in Lower Merion that the pace of development in Chester County terrifies me….because I have already lived through the negative effects of overdevelopment.

And it is only getting worse because read the jaw dropping Main Line Times article of April 20 on what Lower Merion School District wants to do.

Lower Merion School District eyes four properties for future middle school location
By Richard Ilgenfritz rilgenfritz@21st-centurymedia.com @rpilgenfritz on Twitter Apr 20, 2018

Lower Merion Township claims it’s brand as exclusive and well-heeled. I think the history books will remember this time as the cautionary tale of what happens to a beautiful area when development takes over.

Another post with a postscript, as I received a note tonight with photos:


📌Loved your post tonight, especially as one who lives smack dam in the center of the nightmare – Suburban Square neighborhood. You came to my house once, about 14 years ago.

Take a look at this, and please consider encouraging anyone you know who cares about fighting the blood thirsty developers in LMT to show up at the meeting Township Planning meeting this week to oppose the demolition of three quintessential Main Line Homes to make way for CF Holloway’s next apartment building – 4 stories and a parking garage directly across Montgomery Avenue from Suburban Square. I live in one of them.

Sale of all three homes is contingent upon Holloway getting LMT’s buy-in. Sadly, I think we both know how this will turn out. Here’s a pic of the building I live in on Glenn Road.📌

Wonder if the developer will cry on cue if things do not go his way like he did one time in Radnor?

People live in that house. It is in nice shape and it is lovely. But does the fact that people live there and it’s lovely matter in Lower Merion Township? (And by the way, the head of the Chester County Planning Commission lives in Lower Merion. And spent many a year on Lower Merion’s Planning Commission.)

loch aerie compare and contrast: 1963/2016

George W. Pyle Jr photo. 1963

George W. Pyle, Jr. took the above photo in 1963. Next is same room, taken by me in 2016.

Next is another photo taken by George W. Pyle Jr. in 1963. The little dots are basically age spots on the 1963 negatives. What follows is a photo of the same room that I took in 2017.

the witch house of exton…a/k/a what was the whelen/ferrell/meredith farm

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Photo by Andrea M. Moore found on Flickr. Taken on July 3, 2011. “Exton Witch House”

One of THE most talked about houses that languishes in Chester County, PA is known literally far and wide as the Exton Witch House. It’s on/off Gordon Drive.

It was even in The San Francisco Globe in 2015.  That article also has the Abandoned Steve video embedded:

I will note that the video refers to “vandals” having the headstones. Mmmm, do they mean these headstones (and thank you Lee Wisdom for the photos!!):

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Let’s just say those poor headstones are in municipal protective custody to preserve them. They were removed so people did not steal them.

This house is a YouTube star. Seriously, people film it again and again and again.  Here is another one from 2016:

Here is a video that was posted recently. Not sure of the date.  Maybe 2017?

Why I look at the videos is it shows the progression of deterioration. And the progression of the vandals who graffiti the poor house and decorate it with profanities.  Note to graffiti practitioners here: you all deserve to be haunted for tagging old farmhouses, and if you believe in that sort of thing, maybe you are?

I have never gone back there as of yet, because it’s private property and I have not been invited.  People say it is haunted. Now maybe it’s just that the spirits can’t rest because too many thrill seekers tromp back there?

This house is in Uwchlan Township.

When I asked Lee Wisdom who contacted me about the house about the grave stones this is what she said:

They are not graves but markers. No one is sure why they were there. I think they could have been grave stones for a burial on the property and when the land was developed they were moved. Another person I talked to had another theory but now I can’t remember what it was! So no one buried under those that we know of. They were placed like stones for a path, so no room for a grave.

So when people run out here to photograph and ghost video this house, perhaps some of these things might start reverting to facts versus urban legend.

As per what I found on the University of Pennsylvania online archives:

Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries, the area now known as Uwchlan Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania was occupied by the Leni-Lenape (Delaware) and Iroquoian-speaking Susquehanuck peoples. The first Europeans in the area were Swedish explorers in 1637-1638, although the first permanent settlement was not established until the 1700s.

Welsh Quakers were the main group to settle in Uwchlan, requesting their own meeting in 1712, which is the same year that Uwchlan Township was founded. An additional tract was added to the eastern portion of the township in 1726, likely at the behest of prominent resident and large landholder David Lloyd. In 1858 the upper part of Uwchlan Township split from Uwchlan to form Upper Uwchlan Township.

Uwchlan was a primarily rural farming community until World War II, when post-war suburbanization resulted in rapid development. The population increased has increased dramatically from about 500 in 1920 to over 6,000 in the 1970s and upwards of 18,000 at the beginning of the 21st century.

Lee Wisdom is one of the volunteers on the Uwchlan Historic Commission. (They can be found HERE on their township website  and also HERE on their super fun Facebook page.)  With regard to this house she tells me:

The Merediths lived here before they moved to Taylor Rd . It was called Richmere Farm by them. They are my step family. I think the progression was Whelen, Ferrell, Meredith (not sure if there were owners in between).

The headstones in protective custody were those of the Ferrells. Where they were located and rescued from are not believed to be where they may have been  buried. I don’t know where theses graves truly are, and whatever they succumbed to all in a similar time frame was likely a disease, or an influenza. Not witchcraft.

This property is kept after by whomever owns the property.  Some commercial real estate concern is my guess.  They keep boarding it up when people break in and they keep grass cut.  If I had the opportunity to go back there with the Uwchlan Historic Commission I would.  I would love to photograph back there. But even though I know where it is, it is a far different situation than the farmhouse at Main Street at Exton which is out in completely plain view.

It disturbs me that people seem to think they can graffiti tag these old properties. And I think the profanities routinely tagged here add to the property’s spooky reputation.  Is the property REALLY haunted?  Well the place is what? 200 years old give or take? It has seen a lot of life, and death.

I would love to know more about the families who lived here, so if you know please comment.

Now enjoy a whole slew of photos courtesy of Lee Wisdom:

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A post script to this post which may finally debunk the four buried witches urban legend and the curse of everyone dying at once comes from one of the local genealogy buffs that send in information from time to time named Tina. She messaged me this morning the following:

Hi
I just did a quick search. I think someone bought a new stone for the Farrells. They are in Fairview Cemetery. Also Jesse’s daughter Mary A married a Richard Meredith.

So now we know how it came to be a Meredith farm,right? And Fairview Cemetery is where? Coatesville?

loch aerie 1963 photos and some of a more recent vintage.

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George Pyle sent me more photos.  This morning I have lined up his 1963 photos with my more recent vintage photos taken over the past couple of years.

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unnamed (1)I do not know what of the ornate plaster work will survive the adaptive reuse in progress, but I imagine what can be saved, will be. It was so badly deteriorated in spots, and in other spots just plain missing.

But it is so cool to see the rooms as they once were. Add to that the juxtaposition in time of when my photos were taken, decades later – 53 years later give or take.

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MORE loch aerie 1963 photos!!

Loch Aerie, 1963
George W. Pyle, Jr courtesy photo

Yes MORE photos!! How cool is this? (Oh and on SCRIBD you can read the Historic American Buildings Survey of Loch Aerie in the 1960s!)

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

I always wanted to see more into Loch Aerie when inhabited by the Lockwoods. My friend author Thom Nickels was someone who as a boy got to interview the aged Lockwood sisters and has told me stories of kids trying to sneak through the then woods around Loch Aerie (now Home Depot).  In his book Philadelphia Mansions: Stories and Characters Behind the Walls, Thom brings the Lockwood family and the era in which they lived to light.

One thing Thom speaks of on page 177-178 of his book  was a painting which apparently now hangs in the Valley Forge Memorial Chapel called Washington after the Battle of Trenton by Christian Schussele.

And guess what? Thanks to my new friend Mr. Pyle, I can see how the painting hung in Loch Aerie!

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr. – Large painting is Washington after the Battle of Trenton by Christian Schussele.

My friend Thom in his book , speaks of Miss Edith Lockwood and I think I would have liked her.  In Philadelphia Mansions: Stories and Characters Behind the Walls he has a photograph of Edith with her dogs on the back porch.  She had terriers, and they look to have been Scotties.  She was also a gardener, and Miss Edith was an integral part of the Church Farm School’s floriculture program and had quite a hand in the running of the greenhouses, “and a large peony field from which 60,000 to 70,000 flowers were cut and sold annually.”

Now the gardener in me of course wonders if Church Farm School has any of Miss Edith’s peonies left?

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

According to Thom Nickels’ research the things in the house were auctioned off. Makes you wonder where everything ended up.

It is so cool to have access to these photos.  It is so interesting to see what it was like inside when lived in!

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

loch aerie in 1963

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

I received a note form this nice man asking if I wanted to see photos he took in 1963 of Loch Aerie in Malvern/Frazer (I say Frazer, but others say Malvern.)

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

He lived here when he was young and his name is George W. Pyle, Jr.

This is what he had to say about the photos, some of which he sent overnight:

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My personal copy of the book – affordable and easily found on Amazon

These and all of the photos to follow were taken by me around 1963.  I found the Loch Aerie Mansion, LLC Facebook page.  It is quite interesting.  I saw a picture of the new owner (?) with Eugene DiOrio.  Mr. DiOrio has a very nice section on Loch Aerie in his book, “Chester County. A Travler’s Album”  I believe that book is out of print but I was able to find an excellent copy, #51, signed by Mr. DiOrio, in 1991 at Baldwin’s Book Barn.

The first picture is a higher quality image of the one you already have.  The stairs were not carpeted.  There were area rugs in the entry way but bare floors on either side of the staircase.  Against the wall on the left was a large and heavy mirrored hat and coat rack with holders for canes or umbrellas on either side of a bench seat.

The second picture was taken standing about halfway up the stairs.  On the right side are the bell chimes that were used to call the upstairs or downstairs maid or housekeeper.  There is a note safety pinned to the back of the chair on the left.  There was a ribbon stretched across the arms at one time.  The note said the chair was valuable and shouldn’t be used.

Outside the front door was a mat that had a couple pair of large men’s boots on them.  Mrs. Reilly said they put them there to give the impression that men were there and not just two older women.

 

 

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

Mr. Pyle also tells me that in the photos, the dark spots are artifacts on the negatives from development.  The last two photos are one of his and one of mine.  Just to show everyone what time and neglect causes. Mr. Pyle’s photo was 1963.  Mine was 2016 from a similar angle.

I will post any others he might send.  Thanks for stopping by!

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

My photo. Taken March, 2016.

rest in peace, barbara bush

Photo found on a Google Image Search

NPR is reporting that former First Lady Barbara Bush has died.  She lived an amazing life, but as an American, I am so truly sad.

Barbara Bush was the embodiment of a life well led.  Barbara Bush was an amazing First Lady and woman. Barbara Bush totally spoke her truth at all times, and I so respect that. Barbara Bush was always her own woman.

I am a fan of the Bush family and while some might find that surprising, it shouldn’t.  They are as a family, literally a  legacy of service to Americans. None more than the senior Bushes, or Barbara and the first President Bush, President George H.W. Bush.

And I have a Barbara Bush story. Or two, actually.

Photo found on a Google Image Search

My parents had neighbors who arrived on the Main Line as sort of political exiles after the Bushes left Washington.  They had worked for them in Washington.  The wife subsequently worked in the second Bush White House. Anyway, these neighbors fostered a love of day lilies in me, and they did something really nice for my late father one time.

After the Bushes Senior returned to Texas, my father was going to be in Texas on business so their then neighbors arranged for him to attend some luncheon where he got to meet and spend time with Barbara Bush.

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Photo found on a Google Image Search

Also decades ago at this point, I was an executive assistant to a financial services executive.  One of his friends was one of the non-political Bush family members.  One day that person was in the office and noticed a photo of my dogs on my desk. I had a pair of liver and white English Springer Spaniels at the time.

A few weeks went by and a Fed Ex arrived from Kennebunkport, Maine.  Inside was a note from Barbara Bush and a personalized autographed and pawtographed photo of her and Millie, her beloved liver and white English Springer Spaniel.

It was one of the coolest things ever. And I still have the photo.

The Bushes made you believe in being a Republican.  There were no late night Twitter tirades, they were just the embodiment of class and dignity in the White House.  I was always sad President George H.W. Bush only did one term.

It was because of Republican women of a certain era like Barbara Bush that I then went on to be a media relations volunteer for the RNC 2000 in Philadelphia. And it was when I came to terms with the fact that this kind of Republican was lost at the onset  and uptick of the “tea party” and a Twitter President, that I eventually stopped being a Republican.

Barbara Bush, you were everyone’s First Lady and an amazing human being.  May your memory be a blessing.

NPR: Former First Lady Barbara Bush Dies At 92
April 17, 20187:47 PM ET
TOVIA SMITH

Former first lady Barbara Bush died Tuesday at the age of 92, according to a family spokesman.

statement issued on Sunday by the office of former President George H.W. Bush said that Bush had elected to receive “comfort care” over additional medical treatment after a series of hospitalizations.

“It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself — thanks to her abiding faith — but for others,” it said. “She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving.”

 

Image result for barbara bush

Photo found on a Google Image Search