it’s palm sunday, so why not post about an abandoned church?

DSC_0049So yesterday, I went out and photographed an abandoned church that had historical importance to the area: Ebenezer AME Church.  I had taken a couple of photos a while back and then Pete Kennedy from Malvern Patch told me what I was looking at so I wrote the post ebenezer ame church – bacton hill road.

DSC_0042Ironically and as life might have it, as I was out yesterday taking photos, someone from the East Whiteland Historical Society popped by to leave a comment on my post.  His name is Peter H. Spengeman and this is what he had to say:

As a member of the East Whiteland Township Historical Commission, I appreciate the writer’s interest and concern about the considerable historical resources in the Township , and the ongoing need for protection of structures such as the Ebenezer AME Church, a recent focus of beginning conservation planning.   All of us shudder when we pass a formerly stately structure crying for help.   To mount preservation efforts , it does require committment, time and often public advocacy and substantive funds to ensure that bricks and mortar are added to create stability of these structures as well as interest in publicizing our rich history.  We are pleased that the Supervisors of the Township have supported the Historical Commission over the years, as well as past and recent efforts by the County of Chester and private societies to catalog all resources and provide new and excellent research into the Paoli Battlefield  and Battle of the Clouds.  The Township Historical Commission now has openings, and those in the community who feel strongly about historical preservation are welcome to come to a meeting, held the second Tuesday of each month, and see if they would be interested in contributing.  Thank you,

Peter H. Spengeman, Member, EWTHC

I am going to not try to sound harsh, but what is it they do besides bemoan the fact that a heck of a lot of history in East Whiteland is rotting?  Loch Aerie, Linden House, and more?  For example (I do not know all the municipal boundaries so feel free to correct me) but isn’t part of Duffy’s Cut that Amtrak won’t allow any more archeological digs on in East Whiteland?  Is the mass grave important enough that maybe another marker closer to the actual site is in order?

DSC_0037Or Linden Hall or Lock Aerie?  Have they sought commercial conservation minded buyers or donations from the developers getting rich off of East Whiteland?

I get that part of the problem is East Whiteland has probably more commercial zones than residential so why not get smart with zoning and planning?  Is it possible to write into ordinances and make conditions of approval that not only include  these developers to improve the roads and infrastructure, but to kick in towards the preservation?  I mean seriously they have developers with huge, deep pockets like Brian O’Neill and Eli Kahn, right?

Both developers and their partners have made noises out here and elsewhere about how their developments add to the character of an area, so why not have them put their money where there mouths are on historic sites?  I would even say welcome them making corporate offices out of a historic structure in a commercial zone – we all know it is not going to go back to residential so why not encourage a developer to preserve the facade and do an adaptive reuse of the interior?

Paoli Battlefield and Battle of the Clouds are important, but why is it I see neighboring municipalities succeeding with preservation efforts? Historic Sugartown, Historic Goshenville, and even though sometimes I think they need to do more, Historic Yellow Springs?

DSC_0023I note that East Whiteland’s Historic Commission has openings, but I am a writer, not a board person.  I have little patience for boards where not much has changed in decades and trust me, they would not like my impatience.  I am doing them a favor by raising awareness, what I do not get is how they seem unable to think outside the box here.  Why not go to their supervisors and ask for more public and private partnerships?  After all, Chester County has great wealth in it, and it is win-win for those who have those beautiful estates and properties to have what lies around them look nice too.  Preservation and adaptive reuse can do that.

Also to be commented upon is that I sent out my initial post to historical groups who keep records of the black soldiers who served in the Civil War and others interested in local history and preservation and not one acknowledged receipt of the e-mail or commented on the post.  I also sent to media outlets and did not hear anything.  But that part doesn’t surprise me because history, crumbling history, and historic preservation aren’t sexy to the masses that feed off local and regional media.  I will remind the print and t.v. media that you used to cover stuff like this.

DSC_0027So on Palm Sunday I offer you photos of Ebeneezer AME, or should I say her ruins in Frazer.  This church meant a lot to a lot of people for a lot of years, right?  Is this how we honor her dead buried in her church yard, or what was her church yard?  I wondered as I took my photos yesterday if descendants of the dead buried there even know they have people in this old abandoned churchyard?

DSC_0078I have no idea who owns this, maybe the state, but I know from paying attention to other cases involving abandoned churches and grave yards, local municipalities like East Whiteland can take them over.  And seriously what would it cost to put a little fence and marker up and to cut the weeds?  You could probably interest more boy scout troops  and archeological types to help right the graves.  All it would take would be a little effort on the part of say, East Whiteland Historical Society.

EWTHC I have started something here for you, am happy to share my photos.  Am happy to volunteer in as much as trying to raise awareness and take photos of preservation efforts should they actually occur.    But you have to actually want to care about this stuff and again, not trying to be mean, it is a little hard to decide what it is you care about – on East Whiteland’s website there are no current agendas or meeting minutes since 2009.