In Easttown Township on Waterloo Road there is a barn called the Kennedy Barn by some, Mrs. Rossi’s Barn by others. Mrs. Rossi’s husband was the one who restored the barn most recently, apparently. He was a co-founder of ANRO printing. So in a nutshell, this barn isn’t past salvation like many large and now unused barns.
The barn is described by the Inquirer today as “hundreds of years old.” Yet Tom Bentley of Bentley Homes can’t seem to do a thing with it, can’t seem to market it well enough to sell it. He wants to demolish it. You see the barn is standing between him and eight or so new McMansions.
Yes, some consider Bentley a better kind of developer. I just see his homes as more upscale stone facing, stylistically over complicated and contradictory on the exteriors, yet still at their heart big Tyvec boxes on relatively small lots for the most part for their size. For the most part all they do is scream “NEW”.
I first became aware of Bentley years ago when working on a wine tasting for a Philadelphia Orchestra Committee. Like many developers are wont to do, he lent one of his sample homes for the tasting. I think it was over near Aronomink Golf Club. The house was a large, drafty cavernous box with all the bells and whistles the nouveau riche of the Main Line would shrivel up and die without including a kitchen that you knew would be for show in the end rather than actual use. It kind of went with his girlfriend at the time, a woman who looked like a rather less expensive version of Stevie Nicks.
I was disappointed when I moved out to Chester County when I realized one of my favorite streets in Malvern, Forest Lane, had sprouted a veritable infantry of Bentley Homes. All but one is predictable and went up in about ten minutes. So over there, the horse is out of the proverbial barn, nothing can be done. But over in Easttown? What the heck is wrong with their supervisors and planning commission? Where is their historic commission on this?
Let’s get real: if Bentley wanted to save the barn, he would. If he wanted to use the barn he would, because earlier developments of his sometimes included older structures, original to the property. But nooooo, Bentley wanted to knock down the barn and leave some man-made ruin with a freaking plaque! “Barn Wuz Here”. How fabulous and generous. Not.
And those on this commission in Easttown including a woman I think highly of for prior preservation and community building efforts think this is o.k.? I think I am the most disappointed in her. And yes, I get how this all works and they are trying to make the best of a bad situation, but you know what? Not good enough.
Bentley is a well-heeled developer. If he wanted to, he could turn that barn into a living space adapted for modern use. It is done all over the country, and has been done successfully on the Main Line and out here in Chester County as well. Facing Forest Lane in Malvern on a corner of another development street just up from Bentley’s homes on Forest sits an amazing example of a barn converted to living space. Friends of my family live in another such space on Upper Gulph Road in Radnor Township and there is also another converted barn space on Darby-Paoli Road that once belonged to a family I knew in high school and then to another a woman my mother used to know. And circling back to Bentley, those houses he is building on County Line Road in Villanova? It is amazing how many trees did not survive, isn’t it?
The point is, it can be done (the barn saved and turned into some sort of adaptive reuse, preferably residential), only Bentley doesn’t care and Easttown is willing to settle at the expense of its irreplaceable history. Not that Easttown is the only municipality guilty of these travesties. As a bit if a related segue, I believe it is on one part or near Sugartown Road if you go the back way to hit that Buho Mexican restaurant in Exton you see a neat row of some houses that were quite lovely at one time which are now rotting. Obviously some developer bought them and got hit by the economy tanking. It makes you shake your head in wonder. Every one of those houses could have been upgraded to more modern means if need be, but no, someday they will all come tumbling down for some more plastic boxes.
Chester County municipalities need to collectively wake up before everything is ruined out here. Once the land is gone, it’s gone. Once the old buildings and historic structures are gone, they are gone. I know every old house and every old building can’t be saved, but lordy at least make an effort once in a while. And that is the problem: none of these municipalities make a consistent effort any longer.
If any of you out there know anyone that can wrest this barn from Bentley or get him to save it on his own, please do. Personally when I hear things like this I think next time there is an election Easttown residents should change-up the faces don’t you? It is time that deep pocketed developers stop running and ruining communities, isn’t it?
But if you see Tom Bentley cruising your neighborhood you can’t miss him. He has a preposterous vanity plate.
Shame on Easttown Township.
Philadelphia Inquirer: Plans to demolish centuries-old barn raises hackles in Chester County
Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013, 3:01 AM
For two centuries, give or take a few years, an enormous stone barn has occupied a patch of land now at the end of a winding Main Line driveway on Waterloo Road in Easttown Township.
In the township’s historic archives, it is known as the Kennedy Barn. For residents in the area, it’s Mrs. Rossi’s barn; for years, it was part of the estate of Rose Rossi, one of the cofounders of ANRO Inc., a printing company.
But lately, it has been the central figure in the Battle of the Barn, pitting longtime Main Line residents against a builder of some of the region’s largest and most luxurious residences.
The 10-acre parcel on which the barn sits is owned by Tom Bentley, chief executive officer of Bentley Homes.
Bentley wants to build an eight-house subdivision on the Rossi estate and has contended the barn is unmarketable. Leaving it intact and building a house on the same lot would violate zoning ordinances.
He has offered instead to demolish most of the barn, leave its ruins on the site, and erect a plaque on Waterloo Road explaining its historical significance.
On Tuesday night, the Easttown Township Board of Supervisors granted Bentley a demolition permit and permission to begin building his subdivision, with several caveats: He must take 120 days to market the barn, and if he sells it, he must redraw lot lines in the subdivision to comply with zoning ordinances….Locals have cried foul…. Kemp Littlepage, who lives across the street from the barn, offered to buy it from Bentley on the spot Tuesday night.
“I wouldn’t sell it to you anyway,” Bentley said.
If you want to call Tom Bentley’s office and tell him how you feel: 610.436.5500
If you want to e-mail Tom Bentley’s office and tell him how you feel: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to tell him on Facebook how you feel: http://www.facebook.com/BentleyHomes
By BRENT GLASGOW email@example.com
Posted: Thursday, 01/03/13 02:42 pm
The reducing-to-ruin of a refurbished early-1800s barn in Devon is one step closer following Wednesday’s Easttown Planning Commission meeting.
The commission agreed to recommend approval of Bentley Homes’ application for demolition to the Easttown Board of Supervisors, with consideration given to requests from the township’s Historical Commission.
For months, the Planning Commission has heard from those who hoped to save the barn on the former property of Angelo and Rose Rossi at 222 Waterloo Road, which Bentley CEO Tom Bentley wants to turn into a 10-acre subdivision.