who turns down the honor of a pennsylvania historical marker? devon horse show (apparently)

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Just when you think stupid can’t happen again at Devon Horse Show, up crops the news that much like Britney Spears oops they did it again (at Devon Horse Show). According to published media reports Devon Horse Show has committed the astoundingly unbelievable and ignorant gaffe of thus far (there is always hope they will come to their senses, right?)  turning down an amazingly approved  historical marker commemorating the history of the horse show!

Seriously???  It is an honor to be chosen for a historical marker in Pennsylvania. They do not just give them out like gold sticker stars to kindergarteners.  They are hard work, and it is super competitive.

How do I know? Because it takes a lot to get one approved and I have done that. (Wayne Natatorium, Wayne PA approval 2009, sign erected 2010)

When I read the press release in March from the state I was very excited (see excerpt):

The new markers, selected from 50 applications, will be added to the nearly 2,300 familiar blue-with-gold-lettering signs along roads and streets throughout Pennsylvania.

Since 1946 PHMC’s historical markers have chronicled the people, places and events that have affected the lives of Pennsylvanians over the centuries. The signs feature subjects such as Native Americans and settlers, government and politics, athletes, entertainers, artists, struggles for freedom and equality, factories and businesses and a multitude of noteworthy topics.

Nominations for historical markers may be submitted by any individual or organization and are evaluated by a panel of independent experts from throughout the state and approved by the agency’s commissioners.

More information on the Historical Marker Program, including application information, is available online at www.PAHistoricalMarkers.com…..Devon Horse Show, Devon, Chester County
Begun in 1896 and designated a Heritage Competition by the US Equestrian Federation (USEF), the Devon Horse show is the oldest and largest outdoor multi-breed competition in the nation.  It was a founding member of the American Horse Show Association, which became the USEF.

This awesome news came out just a little before the news of which Chester County historic sites were receiving grants.

And of course this latest news arrives on the heels of the article which was obviously placed in the Inquirer recently which heralded the new era at Devon Horse Show after a “year of tumult” which appeared March 30th:

Two months before thousands should stream into its grandstands, the Devon Horse Show has been on the receiving end of an unlikely question for an event in its 119th year:
Will the show go on?

Such inquiries stem from more than a year of turmoil at the storied Main Line institution, including the departures of staffers and board members, whiffs of scandal, and a regime change.

The nonprofit’s new leaders – who came to power just before Christmas – say the upheaval is behind them.

“At this point, there is no time or effort looking backwards,” chairman Wayne Grafton said. “All the effort and focus is looking forward.”

The Inquirer article discussed the booting out of Wade McDevitt and his relationship to the Devon Yard/Waterloo development site – which just had an unpopular seeming unveiling April 27th. The Daily Local covered this:

In a public meeting on April 27, Waterloo Devon L.P., Urban Outfitters, Inc. and Anthropologie, Inc., presented the proposed Devon Yard development to a standing-room only crowd at the Hilltop House in Devon….During the meeting Monday, the principals on the project repeatedly noted that no part of this application for development is on Devon Horse Show land, and that they are not addressing how it will impact parking or traffic during the show. Sarah Coxe Lange, who identified herself as a “life-long exhibitor at the Devon Horse Show and former president of the show,” encouraged the planning board to consider how it could impact the Devon Horse Show, ‘preserving a cultural phenomenon’ and the history of the location.

(It’s a really long article in The Daily Local so go read the whole thing and it still sounds ghastly doesn’t it?)

Anyway….apparently last year Michael Morrison the esteemed president of the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society was asked by then Devon Horse Show President Sarah Coxe Lange to help the Devon Horse Show get a historical marker.  Apparently others no longer part of the horse show also knew about this marker application.

And I believe that because I went through the process personally.  You need a sponsor, there is an in-depth application and so on. Basically, you can’t just wake up one morning and say “I am going to apply for a historical marker”  like it’s a manicure or hair appointment.   It is a long process and the sign itself if approved costs a couple thousand dollars.

Did I mention what an honor and BIG deal it is to be chosen? It is.

Now when I read the article in which TEHS Michael Morrison was quoted it piqued my interest.  He said (and I quote briefly from the article by Linda Stein in Main Line Media News):

“Once it was announced there was great joy at the horse show,” he said. “It’s a pretty big deal to get these markers. They are not easy to obtain.”…. “Somewhere between that week and a half and our meeting, things started to turn sour,” said Morrison. He said he learned that the new leadership, which took over after the board voted Lange out in January, didn’t want the historical marker.

Really? Good news and good publicity  is not wanted at Devon? They would rather continue the bad publicity (and this latest article already has over 40 mostly negative comments). They would rather continue air their dirty scandal ridden laundry?

How can the Devon nouveau be so blasted ignorant? Don’t they get this is not a punishment or impediment, but an honor? Getting a historic marker is a GOOD thing. It is also FREE GOOD publicity that money cannot buy (and by the way Devon Horse Show sure must be flush if they are paying for Phelps Media Group these days, right?)

Now according to this article apparently Devon nouveau are claiming they did not know. I find that extraordinarily hard to believe…again based upon my personal experience in obtaining a historical marker.

I called my contact at the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program Karen Galle today to ask her basically why a group would want to turn down such an honor. She is one of the people who shepherded me through the marker process. She is the nicest lady. She said she had received a call from from a local reporter and she really did not know the situation but  had responded to the  questions of basically whether a historical marker places restrictions upon a property. The answer of course is there are no restrictions  as the signs are informational and educational in nature. Often these signs are erected where something historic once was and no longer is – you know along the lines of “George Washington slept here.”

It’s not restrictive to the property and wow who else is fascinated that Devon nouveau would not know this? And be worried about it like they are getting ready to put a sale sign on Devon Horse Show?

These historical markers enhance an area. Goodness.  A marker is  CACHÉ….bragging rights. It enhances not detracts. I get that not everyone loves historic commemoration or preservation but one of the hallmarks of Devon Horse Show has always been its very history. Look at their own and published mission statement:

In 1896, the Devon Horse Show started as a one-day show. Now, years later, it has become the oldest and largest outdoor multi-breed competition in the United States. It is internationally recognized…..and one of the most exciting events to happen in our area. While it draws top competitors from around the world, the show continues to reflect the local traditions and lifestyles of the Philadelphia Main Line.

Can we say D’Oh  Devon? Wow if they were smart they would be planning an awesome ceremony centered around the sign dedication.  It’s a no brainer…. but these people continue to make a mess out of all things horse show, don’t they?

I will be skipping Devon Horse Show this year I think. I am but one person so it really doesn’t matter,   it’s just a personal decision.  What they did to Sarah Coxe Lange was distasteful enough, but to make this big, giant fuss in a negative way over something as positive as the honor of being approved for a historical marker?  Ehhh no thanks. Maybe next year…….

I really hope this horse show survives these people. I really do.

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One thought on “who turns down the honor of a pennsylvania historical marker? devon horse show (apparently)

  1. As a person who photo’s and transcribes these markers for the Historical Marker Database http://www.hmdb.org/ I am at a loss for words as to why you would not take pride in hosting a home for one of these markers…perhaps someone else along route #30 would like the honor…”1/4 mile from here is the Devon Horse Show grounds, where…” ~ WOW…

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