Here is the pileated woodpecker that has taken up residence in the woods. I know this is blurry, but he goes way high up in the trees!
I called the Main Line home for most of my life. It was a fun place to grow up, and well the Main Line of the past is certainly not the Main Line of today. Ironically, a lot of people I grew up with and enjoyed as people now call Chester County home.
But yesterday was like fun x 2 = Main Line Problems.
And it makes me ever so grateful to not be there any longer.
First up let’s visit Radnor Township. Radnor almost became a true victim of back room Delco politics until former Township Manager Dave Bashore got his and Radnor’s dirty laundry aired in public. A lot of this public airing was because of a few brave individuals including a woman I respect a great deal named Christina Perrone.
When Bashore got fired as Radnor’s Township Manager a lot of things swirled into motion. Commissioners who were problematic ran away, Radnor’s solicitor at the time evaporated (and eventually resurfaced as innkeeper/owner of a bed and breakfast in the New York finger lakes district), a few supervisory and managerial types from the Bashore regime ended up as employees in some Chester County municipalities, and a few even ended up at other Chester County businesses. It was like a political bubble burst and they scattered like raindrops. (Or ants leaving the picnic, whichever you prefer.)
However, not all of the politicians of this era disappeared. There is one, who has been entrenched for easily 30 years. He is like a cat with nine lives and then some. His name is Bill Spingler, and he is the subject of the first ethics hearing in years on the Main Line this week in Radnor.
One would think Spingler would just retire. But people in Radnor say he is waiting for pet projects to go through. You might think his ethics hearing had to do with is 2013 campaign shenanigans ( see what got him into hot water here, here, here – all copied by Radnor employees on the taxpayer clock.)
Or maybe it would be the eternal question of where this guy really lives? After all the deeds don’t lie and this guy has purchased a new pad in Tredyffrin at Paoli Pointe, right? So that is a neat trick if he can be a Radnor commissioner by day and commute home whenever to Chester County, right?
But no, apparently it is his “work” at Villanova basketball games and something about pay to play at little league games. And once again, it is brave Christina Perrone who has stepped forward to do the right thing. Truly, you can’t make this stuff up:
By Linda Stein Main Line Media News
email@example.com Published: Monday, April 21, 2014
An ethics complaint filed against Radnor Township Commissioner John Spingler over his work at Villanova’s home basketball games has been amended again prior to a hearing set for April 24.
….“These admissions by Commissioner Spingler cannot be construed as anything other than business transactions,” Perrone wrote in her amended complaint. These “statements demonstrate that Commissioner Spingler is even more conflicted on Villanova University issues, including the CICD, than previously believed, due to the applicability of Radnor Code Section 39-5[A].”
That section states: “No elected or appointed official of the township…shall solicit or accept directly or indirectly any gift, favor, service, commission or other consideration that might reasonably tend to influence that official or employee in the discharge of the duties of office.”…
Of course where this gets even more interesting is now people have learned that the current township solicitor, John Rice, will be representing this politician? How is it the township solicitor is working for other than the good of the residents of Radnor? Does the solicitor in fact not work for the people, but just for the politicians? Doesn’t Commissioner Spingler know any more lawyers? (Asking a quasi- redundant question.)
And oh yes, this open meeting scheduled for April 24th at 6 pm (this Thursday) is now possibly going to be held as a secret, non-public meeting? I know the lawyer representing Christina Perrone. His name is Dan Sherry and he is very bright.
If this old politician had any style left he would simply resign and retire. but then again if the ethics charges stick, it could keep him from then retiring and moving onto Chester County politics, right? But the thing is this: is the whole system in Radnor rigged in a nice Main Line way?
And now for the news that really makes me glad I am off the Main Line: two graduates of The Haverford School for boys have been arrested for masterminding a drug ring that can only be described as “Breaking Bad” meets “Weeds”. One guy was living on Barrett Avenue in Haverford. That is a lovely street with lots of children. He is like 25 or 26. The other ringleader is just 18 years old and lives with his parents in Villanova. How do you put your family at risk like that?
These guys had a network and had minions working for them at Haverford School, Haverford College, Harriton High School, Lower Merion High School, Conestoga High School, Radnor High School, Lafayette College and I think even Gettysburg.
By SCOTT CALVERT
April 21, 2014 7:29 p.m. ET
Prosecutors said Monday they had broken up a marijuana and cocaine trafficking ring allegedly run by two graduates of a suburban Philadelphia prep school and centered on the affluent area known as the Main Line.
Authorities announced charges against nine adults and two juveniles as part of an investigation that resulted in the seizure of drugs and three guns.
The two alleged leaders referred to the distribution ring as the “Main Line take over project,” according to court records, which quoted text messages in which they discussed plans to dominate marijuana sales at schools in the Philadelphia suburbs.
“They tried to infiltrate our schools, not for educational purposes, but to make money and to drag others into the downward spiral that their lives had become,” Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman said in a statement. The seizure of guns and a variety of drugs showed that the operation posed a “significant danger” to the community, she said.
The two alleged leaders—25-year-old Neil Scott of Haverford, Pa., and 18-year-old Timothy Brooks of Villanova—are graduates of the private Haverford School, where both played lacrosse, according to an affidavit of probable cause. This year’s upper school tuition is $34,800.
“We’re appalled and shocked and horrified,” said Haverford School Headmaster John Nagl, adding that the all-boys school was “determined to learn from this and build a better school and a better community that understands the risks to boys and helps them make better choices.”
I have to feel sorry for the headmaster quoted above. John Nagl is the new headmaster and these guys arrested came up through this elite private school under the former headmaster Joseph Cox.
To be honest, I have not much positive to say about the Haverford School of today. I lived for years in one of the neighborhoods that had the misfortune to call this school a neighbor. They treated their neighbors poorly and it was a top down approach starting with the now former headmaster. I found him to be a huge jerk.
Throughout the years I have had many friends who graduated from Haverford School. As did their fathers and uncles and brothers. They weren’t this kind of graduate. I also know people who have kids in lower school, middle school, upper school, and those who have graduated. A lot of these people basically indenture themselves so their boys can have the advantages of going to a school like that. It’s just crazy.
These dealers are young. They have tanked their lives, and to what end? A misplaced sense of entitlement and easy cash? And the effect their selfish actions will have on all of their families is another sad thing to comprehend. After all, it’s the Main Line so people might stop talking to your face about what your kid did, but the whispers will never go away.
I keep thinking how bright these young men must be and how different their lives could have been if they just worked for things legitimately. It is a sad commentary on the culture of the Main Line today. The whole culture of misplaced sense of entitlement.
I sound like an old fart, and I don’t mean to. This just is blowing the mind of everyone I know who not only grew up on the Main Line but who went to one of these schools. Not that drugs and the Main Line have never been uttered in the same sentence. As one friend of mine said : “Both public and private schools are involved in this. And it’s not like this situation is new, it’s been happening in these schools for decades. Choose your decade, choose your drug of choice.”
This however, is pretty big. And it is scary. We can educate our children and try to steer them to make the right choices, yet things can go wrong, majorly wrong.
Makes me glad I am not on the Main Line any longer. These problems are everywhere, don’t misunderstand me, its just that this is the situation which will destroy lives and families. And for what? Being able to keep up with the Main Line Jones more easily? Sad.
By Richard Ilgenfritz, firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED: 04/21/14, 12:45 PM EDT | UPDATED: 10 HRS AGO
Prosecutors say two former Main Line students at the Haverford School set up an elaborate drug ring in an attempt to take over the Main Line drug trade at several area schools and colleges. The schools included some of the most privileged public and private schools in the region.
Authorities announced Monday the arrests of Neil K. Scott, 25, of Barrett Avenue in Haverford and Timothy Brooks, 18, of Cedar Lane in Villanova as the main suppliers.
Daniel McGrath, 18, of Glenolden; John Rosemann, 20, of Weston, Conn.; Christian Euler, 23, of Villanova; Garrett Johnson, 18, of New York; Reid Cohen, 18, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey; Willow Lynn Ore, 22, of Philadelphia; Domenic Curcio, 29 of Philadelphia and the two juveniles have been identified as the sub-dealers.
…..So far eight adults have been taken into custody while another adult is being sought for arrest. Two juveniles, one a student at Lower Merion and the other a student at Radnor, have also been charged….Information from the Main Line Times, www.mainlinemedianews.com
Note to the Main Line of today: you reap what you so and how sad is that? You see it’s not all grand houses, fancy cars, and designer clothes. With affluence (or an affluent society) there should come a sense of greater good and doing the right thing. But unfortunately, that was the Main Line of years ago, wasn’t it?
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 decided to put a photo I took recently 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. It is the Benjamin Jacobs House .
I had noticed it has had a realtor sign outside and I thought was being listed by those folks formerly known as Prudential and now Berkshire Hathaway (their new signs are supposed to stand out as per their ads but I find the color scheme makes them not particularly remarkable).
The area in which the house sits is one that contains a lot of land being cherry picked for development (has been that way for decades at this point) …or if you go down Swedesford there I think it is you see a row of cute little houses abandoned by time and man and getting more vine-covered by the year. I believe this parcel is listed by some commercial firm and well people have to make a living and feed their family, but still, I somewhat disappointed to find familiar names on commercial real estate signs for parcels of land that will kill more open space in Chester County, but that is the reaction I tend to have when I see beautiful land being opened up for development like this. Every time I go by this stretch of houses as a passenger in a car I don’t have a camera with me.
Seriously? Go check out this PECO link to available land in Chester County. It is a sobering list of available land parcels and isn’t all of Chester County out there for sale. (Again see PECO Land Database Chester County )
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.
The Benjamin Jacobs House circa 1790 posted on the National Register of Historic Places for its unique architectural details. Surrounded by Chester County Park grounds the 2.6 acre setting is truly beautiful with 100+ year old trees and views of the Great Valley. This wonderful estate offers many potential uses as permitted by the zoning code including; Guesthouse, Inn, Cultural Studio, Eating/Drinking Establishment, Professional Office and many more. Though in need of renovation the solid stonestructure presents; a dramatic front to back foyer, two large formal rooms with marble fireplaces, a step down family room with an angular bay seating area, spacious kitchen, study and a main level laundry room. The upper floors include 2 bedrooms with fireplaces plus 3-5 additional bedrooms and 2 baths. Other important features include covered porches, arched windows, two staircases, deep window sills, hardwood flooring, period trim and many historic details throughout. Come see this awesome piece of history and appreciate all of its potential. Call today for your personal appointment
Read more on REALTOR.com: 375 N Ship Rd, Exton, PA 19341 – Home For Sale and Real Estate Listing – realtor.com®
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It is all those “wonderful” zoning possibilities that makes me worry. Just because something is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Circa 1984 see Benjamin Jacobs House West Whiteland ) , it doesn’t make it bulletproof. Take for example another listing close by belonging to same realty office I think.
613 E Swedesford Road Exton, PA 19341 (Once known as the Fox Chase Inn and put on the National Register of Historic Places also in 1984.) The photo I will use of the front is a Wikipedia Commons File. I have one of it somewhere in photos I took but can’t lay my hands on it right now.
This house is not faring as well as the Benjamin Jacobs House. As are evidenced in the interior photos this realtor has on this listing (and here is the description):
Fox Chase Inn, listed on the National Historic Register, Circa 1765, the first true licensed Tavern in West Whiteland Township. This wonderful piece of history offers many possible uses including; Cultural studio, Guesthouse, Inn, Eating/Drinking establishment, Professional business offices, Home office and many other permissible opportunities. The sale includes a historic circa 1823 stone barn 74′ x 44′ plus a large 72′ x33′ addition. Offering 2500+ sf. the Inn includes; a welcoming front porch, a historic full wall cooking fireplace, deep stone window sills as well as period trim and details. Ready for renovation this prime 2.6 acre location offers high exposure on Swedesford Road that is surrounded by acres of dedicated park grounds and open space. This property is being sold As is Please do not walk the site without an appointment
Read more on REALTOR.com: 613 E Swedesford Rd, Exton, PA 19341 – Home For Sale and Real Estate Listing – realtor.com®
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The problems with these listings is my preservationists heart is reading a sub-text. Maybe the sub-text isn’t there but what I feel is that people wouldn’t blink if these buildings weren’t there, or if their interiors were to become truly modern commercial without the proper nods to restoration and preservation of the periods in which they were constructed.
Now the Benjamin Jacobs House was a bit of a regional media sensation circa 1988 to 1990. This was when Willard Rouse was battling to develop adjacent land. The articles are from the Philadelphia Inquirer which at that time had a fabulous Chester County Bureau. Of course, that no longer exists today in the eviscerated version of a once great paper and it is out loss because there is so much not being told out here in Chester County because no newspaper has enough staff.
Here are excerpts:
(Article #1 Inquirer March 1988 )
Over 195 years, the Benjamin Jacobs House on Ship Road has been home to a judge, to farm families and to boarding students from the Church Farm School, which used the house as a dormitory.
The house would take on still another identity under plans by Rouse & Associates, which has proposed restoring the structure for use as project headquarters during the development of 1,325 acres adjacent to the Church Farm School….The first inhabitant of the house, built in 1793, was Benjamin Jacobs, a surveyor and lawyer who was an associate judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Chester County in the latter part of the 18th century.
(Article # 2 Inquirer March 1990 )
Posted: May 10, 1990
In 1715, there were 17 households in West Whiteland Township.
By 1730, the population had mushroomed to 130 – still less than 10 people a square mile.
Most lived on farms, spread around the countryside, with no real population center.
Among them was the Jacobs clan, a Quaker family that settled in the Perkiomen area and later bought several tracts of land that eventually became the core of the Church Farm School.
Today, the homes of John Jacobs and his sons Benjamin and John, and those of their early neighbors, are among the historic structures at 12 principal sites slated to become part of the controversial Churchill development, planned by the nationally known firm of Rouse & Associates for 1,500 acres of historic Chester County countryside.
Just how the sites will be used is not yet known. Rouse officials have said there will be “adaptative reuse” of the old properties. Their architectural consultants said the properties should be preserved along with a surrounding ”area of significance.”
But residents, fearing that increased traffic and new construction connected with the development will encroach on those properties, are taking a stand against Rouse’s plan – from a historical perspective….Sylvia Baker, chairwoman of the East Whiteland Historical Society, is expected to make a statement at tonight’s hearing in East Whiteland – the first public hearing to be held by the township supervisors on the proposed Churchill development…..In East Whiteland Township, Rouse has proposed changing 261 of the 315 acres of the Church Farm School tract located there by developing 62 acres for single-family homes, 40 acres for multifamily housing, 135 acres for light- industrial or warehouse use and 24 acres for commercial use…..”Our position is that we feel the zoning change as requested should be denied because we find no benefit at all to the historic resources if the zoning is changed,” said Diane Snyder, who heads the West Whiteland Historical Commission. “The potential for a negative impact is very, very large. We don’t see our properties gaining anything at all.”
I seem to remember from somewhere that this was a development battle that got really, really ugly. I think simple economics of the times also played a big role. But this battle for land out here was big enough that it was mentioned in obituaries too. Even Mr. Rouse’s.
I was much younger when this battle was playing out in Chester County. So I do not really know the outcome of the land battle and who in the end now owns the Benjamin Jacobs House. What I do know in spite of what this battle did dividing people and communities, is that you would be better off with someone like Willard Rouse in your community versus a lot of other developers who are still gobbling up chunks and chunks of Chester County with zero attempts at historic preservation. Today it is your basic rape and pillage of beautiful land.
So when I am told a really fascinating old house is “under contract” I hope for the best. After all both the Benjamin Jacobs House and the Fox Chase Inn play a vital part in local history.
Here’s hoping they stand a better chance than Loch Aerie and Linden Hall which are both sitting like ghosts of their former selves on Route 30 in Frazer. At least Loch Aerie has a caretaker living there, Linden Hall is just rotting and although I can’t say for sure, from the photos I have taken it sure looks like the building envelope has been pierced by vines and such. And then there is the Ebenezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road.
A lot of people don’t realize that Exton didn’t used to be one big development like the King of Prussia area. And I hope by pointing out gems like the Benjamin Jacobs House and the Fox Chase Inn, people wake up to that again.
I find a common recurring theme in my own writing: the preservation of Chester County before it’s too late. Pick a municipality, all seem to have something going on. I am not trying to deliberately pick on certain municipalities, but some of them talk about historic preservation and land preservation and that is it. I also hope that by writing about these preservation issues it will spur those who can afford to be really generous to become champions of the land once again.
I know that people everywhere are worried about large land parcels in Chester County, and the more rural they go, the less is known about what will happen. I had one person say to me recently about land I guess towards the northwest quadrant of the county where they said the land was the “perfect storm” for a developer: open farmland and glorious woods and no wetlands to speak of.
Can we save every old house and every old farm? I wish, but the realist in me says no. It is just so darn concerning that a county known for agriculture and beauty just seems to be growing piles of Lego-like structures wrapped in Tyvec without a thought as to our future.
The moral of this long-winded fable is simple: wherever you are in the county, please support land and historic preservation efforts. They are so crucial.
Thanks for stopping by
I was reminded once again how many critters we have close by in our woods. This is one of the yearlings. She is completely unfazed by humans. I do not feed the deer, but this was NOT taken with a zoom lens. I was just that close. truthfully it was kind of a cool, peaceful experience.
Of course this made me think of Sunoco Logistics again too. Our wildlife deserves to be protected from them and their pipelines, fracking, and drilling too. Please contact your elected representatives today, gubernatorial candidates in Pennsylvania, and the Public Utility Commmission.
Patience is a virtue every gardener must have. But right now I am feeling a garden of frustration. So much seems missing after the winter.
Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. ~Henry David Thoreau
As I wander around my garden I am thrilled by all the daffodils. I see some tendrils of ferns unraveling and the pink and purples of bleeding hearts and a couple of the peonies as they start to emerge.
And mint, the mint will be coming in with a vengeance. May it grow tall and strangle out the bishop’s week which nothing seems to kill.
Some hostas are emerging. So are some of the day lilies. But tradescantia is nowhere to be seen and my specimen hydrangeas are somewhat decimated after the winter. And I seem to be missing so many hostas.
Remarkably the roses are leaf budding already and I see some daisies coming back and the garden phlox.
“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.” ~Gertrude Jekyll
But so much is missing. I am hoping these plants are not really missing, just still sleeping. Like all my coneflowers and remarkably a very old and established buddleia and all my species of monarda. And where are the Lillie’s of the valley? They should be poking up their little heads!
In the back garden I am so distressed about the wonderful shrubs I planted to break up the pachysandra ponds in the back. But I think I am going to loose a lot of them. The winter was just too hard.
Hence my garden of frustration.
It is so hard when you work so hard on your garden and then along comes Mother Nature to redefine and redecorate. So today I just stood and looked. And looked. And wondered.
The more one gardens, the more one learns; And the more one learns, the more one realizes how little one knows. –Vita Sackville-West
Now I wait. It is early for some things, but I think I have a LOT of digging in the dirt ahead of me.
Mind you it isn’t all bad. The lilacs are beginning to bud and the forsythia are happy and vigorous, with their graceful yellow arms bobbing in the breeze.
My Japanese maple is getting ready to start to leaf as is my weeping willow. And I love Japanese maples. I think I need to have more of those in my woods.
But right now in spite of what brings me delight, I am admittedly frustrated over what may have been lost. Sigh….only time will tell how my garden will grow!
Sorry folks, it’s that time of year when I dream in verdant greens and plan new planting beds in my head…..and start to dig in the dirt!
“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”
~A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young