ask not for whom the bell “tolls” west vincent….

toll brothers

So, what a difference a couple of years makes, right? A friend sent me this photo the other day.  Toll Brothers at their finest. Guess this is the next phase of Byers station or whatever, right? Because nothing says Chester County like the smell of plastic siding roasting in a treeless sky, right?

I know you can’t save every old house, but what is being done in places like West Vincent is almost criminal. Can you imagine if THIS above is what happens to Bryn Coed which sits not only in West Vincent but a neighboring township? That estate is like what? One and a half times the size of Chesterbrook when it was created? Can you imagine what Bryn Coed land would resemble if stripped bare like this?

Here is a photo of the same house that I took in June of 2013:

June 2013

Now for those who live in West Vincent, the thing to remember is when KenOCrat Supervisor Roadmaster Farmer Miller sends his ladies in waiting forth to invite themselves into your homes to say what a fabulous job he has one, how he is all about preservation, the environment and so on, remember these photos or the next one….which is another for whom the bell “Tolls” over at Eagle Farms/Chester Springs Road (also sent to me ):

toll brothers1

Now they naysayers and cheerleaders will try to tell you how Mike Schneider who is running for Supervisor against Ken Miller is not the guy for the job and heck come on it is all the same tired rhetoric from when John Jacobs won and well John is doing an awesome job isn’t he?   The bottom line is Ken Miller got booted by his own political party so in desperation he was a write-in fake Democrat. (How embarrassing that the Chester County Democrats have a horse in this race and it is a veritable Trojan Horse, right?)

Ken Miller’s supporters (because you NEVER hear from Ken personally do you?) will tell you how Ken is “fiscally conservative” into “conservation and environmental protection” and oh yes “good planning” and “road maintenance”.   If he was Pinocchio he would be using a Toll Brothers wielded chain saw to slice off his ever growing nose.

This man voted in favor of eminent domain for private gain when they tried and failed to take Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show. His supporters will try to explain that away “It was for the good of the horse show”, “it was to protect the land” , “it really wasn’t eminent domain for private gain.”

Yes. It. Was.

That crappy Ludwig’s Corner Overlay Plan? What do you think that was about? Tea and scones? Moving pony club? And they could have seized the land, sort of twiddled their thumbs for a couple of years, sold some to a developer to build that crappy overlay plan and what would that be? Tea and scones?  moving pony club? The answer is still eminent domain and it is private gain because well these overlay plans aren’t public purpose and a municipality as tiny as West Vincent isn’t going to develop these big honking plans themselves are they? Miller can barely take care of the roads, and not very well, correct? So that all leads back to what class? Eminent domain for private gain.

And then there are the current developments. Aren’t there enough? And what about Fawlty Towers over there behind the horse show? Remember how bitterly disputed they were?  Ken Miller didn’t exactly fight to preserve the land over there did he? The Daily Local described him basically as akin to a mute during the process, didn’t they?  And FYI the nickname preferred for Stone Rise is what? Miller Towers. (It’s a shame Malvern Borough wasn’t paying attention before Eastside Flats went up, right?)

Basically it is the same pool of developers all over.  In every community they tell the same tale as how they want to “help” the communities they wish to destroy with new development. But God only loves those developers who help themselves (to higher profit margins) and the occasional politician, right? (Sorry it’s called opinion and I am entitled to it.)

At the end of the day people, local elections matter. And if West Vincent residents don’t wake up in November or are afraid to vote intelligently, well scarred naked landscapes is what will replace the beautiful fields and forest and winding country roads.

And that ladies and gentleman is what I will never get about Farmer Supervisor Roadmaster KenOCrat Miller. He’s a farmer. Farmers are supposed to love the land right? So how is all the bad development out there loving the land?

Be wary Chester County. Ask not for whom the bell “Tolls”. It “Tolls” for all of us if we don’t slow down development everywhere.

Thanks for stopping by (and keep those bad development photos coming.)

rotting in downingtown

  These photos were sent to me by a reader named Kathy. They came with this message:

“This eyesore in Downingtown at Boot Rd & 322 lingers on. Will it ever be cleaned up and developed or is it forever stuck in the cycle of red tape and paperwork? I thought the bicycle trail was supposed to continue on through this area but who knows if it will happen. All of the first floor windows and doors of these homes have been boarded up and an endless number of No Trespassing/Danger signs have been posted.”

So when we last spoke of the Borough of Downingtown, the rather young mayor was all gung ho over a giant development project where an RFP was put out for a garage on borough owned land, correct? Does he not see these rotting houses? And developer Eli Kahn bought HOW many acres in Downingtown from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia?

  So, I have to ask: if they did not let homes like pictured in this post rot, maybe a lot of country towns would have housing that more fit the history and flavor of the area?

  This is yet another reason why people in Chester County need to hold local governments and state level elected officials accountable for all the crazy development carving up communities one land parcel at a time.


bird in a twisted, gilded cage.

millbrook lane

When we were growing up, she was one of my sister’s friends. She lived over on Millbrook Lane (number 773 if memory serves) on the Haverford College and Delaware County side of Haverford. In 1973 her father committed suicide.

As kids you are sort of aware and sort of oblivious at the same time to the tragedies of other kids. It was before the age of the Internet and adults still spoke in hushed tones of “certain things”. Her name was Amy Whittlesey, and perhaps the subtitle of this post should be Defending Amy (once a newspaper headline read Judging Amy and it never sat well with me.)

I remember her as a teenager only a little because there were three years between my sister and I ….and once you hit high school, that’s an ocean. I remember her as soft spoken with an almost shy smile. I remembered at the time that her mother was a politician. I wasn’t even sure what that really entailed at the time and well, it was someone unimportant to a teenage girl. When I first met her we were all at Shipley.

Her mother was indeed quite the politician. A State Representative, Delaware County Council, and she ran in the Late 1970s for Lieutenant Governor (but lost). Then Ronald Reagan became president, and her mother, Faith Ryan Whittlesey, became Ambassador to Switzerland.

Her mother, Ambassador Whittlesey, is more than a little bit terrifying on paper. Like a modern Catherine de’ Medici sort of, if I can say that out loud without a case of “off with her head” , that is?  I can’t recall ever meeting her, I just remember Amy. Her mother is perhaps in some senses more driven and disciplined than Hillary Clinton ever will be.  Hillary truthfully could take a page or two out of Ambassador Whittlesey’s  book.  She has always to me represented the ultimate female politician and political survivor meets public saint. So yes, scary. She came up in a political climate of more subterfuge and in many senses, more brutal because women just weren’t doing much of  politics, then. So it was an era of politics that were rather medieval. And it was Delaware County where she got her start. Very tough. Crazily so.


PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 3— For Faith Ryan Whittlesey, who is often described here as the most powerful woman in Pennsylvania politics, life has become a little more hectic than usual since her nomination early last month as Ambassador to Switzerland.

There was, of course, her swearing-in last Wednesday at the State Department in Washington, but that was only one of the many details to be handled by the new Ambassador, a widow with three children, who has a law office to close, a local political career to pack away in mothballs, a household to move and shopping to do….Mrs. Whittlesey, who has been a supporter of President Reagan since 1976, was co-chairman of his defense and foreign policy committee in 1980 and presented the defense plank at the Republican National Convention.

Two of Mrs. Wittlesey’s children, Amy, 14, and William, 8, will accompany her to Switzerland, but her eldest son, Henry, 15, will continue at St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H.

But you have to wonder about those saints, right?

When her mom became ambassador, Amy appeared to be thrust into this whirlwind jet set glamorous kind of life. But was it? As an adult, in retrospect, maybe not so much. I kind of think she was like a bird in a gilded cage…a twisted, gilded cage. In retrospect, she lived a Victorian girl’s life in a modern world. It was modern all around her, but she wasn’t really ever free. Ever.

In 1989 on a Sunday in the New York Times there was a wedding announcement:


I remember it because at that point in time I had a few friends who had married and I thought they were nuts because everyone was so young, and she was like at least 3 years younger than I. And I also remembered wondering because her husband was so old was she like some sacrificial virgin married off in some Elizabethan drama? How many goats, horses, casks of wine,  and estates was she worth?

Then she faded from many of our memories as she went on living her married life.  If you did not swim in those social oceans, and it was quite the stratosphere with rarified air, well, you are young, people fade from memory and life goes on.

Then BAM! It’s the millennium and in January 2000 this shocking article appears in Vanity Fair by writer Lisa DePaulo hits the newsstands.  It’s called Irreconcilable Rockefellers .  I re-read it again recently and it is still quite the stunning tale of how rotten a fairy tale can get. It was quite the talk of the Main Line and beyond when it was published and all those pretending it was so awful a series of events to be aired in public, were pouring through the many pages of the article in private.

And that is the thing of it, isn’t it? We sit here with our ordinary lives sometimes envying what appears to be a rather fancy life of someone we know or have known. You wonder what would it be like? Would we do fabulous things, meet fabulous people, and would life sparkle more? Well after reading about the life of someone who was a contemporary of my younger sister and seeing it splashed across media outlets in one headline after the other, wow, be grateful for the magic of more ordinary days.

When I would read the articles, and even today as I re-read them again I am still struck with the same thought: why the hell did her mother sacrifice her? Power? Politics? Social ambition? Money? Mothers can be ambitious for their daughters, yes, but wow, right?

So the media dies off as Amy gets divorced and once again people go about their lives. In 2012 her mother makes local papers about her biography (she moved years ago and I assume still lives in Florida) . (Reference Main Line Media News October, 2012)

Keeping Faith: Former Haverford politician is the focus of new biography

From the time the former Haverford resident entered the political arena as state representative for the 166th District in 1973 until she entered the West Wing of the White House as President Ronald Reagan’s public liaison in 1983, the “Kennedy Democrat”-turned-Republican made headlines in her old hometown.

Along the way, the mother of three suffered the loss of her husband to an apparent suicide, became Delaware County’s first female county council chairman, was appointed ambassador to Switzerland and survived a congressional investigation into her management of the embassy and its link to the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages deal supervised by fired National Security Council aide Oliver North.

I became reconnected to Amy via social media and have been enjoying getting to know the adult I only knew in the most peripheral of ways as a kid.  (Face it our lives are all filled with people who are friends of other people, that touch our lives in different stages, and then the scene shifts and there are other people.)

mother and son

Amy as an adult is amazingly creative and writes this achingly beautiful poetry. She lost her beloved brother Henry in 2012 and wrote about him so lovingly and eloquently. She is incredibly kind and sensitive.

She loves her kids, she lives for her kids. Her youngest child, a boy whom she had post-divorce drama, is with her in Cambridge MA. Or should I say was because as I write this post, he has been removed from her quite literally.

And yes, I told Amy I was writing this post. I felt almost compelled to because since I have come to be a small part of her circle I have not been able to escape the horrible thought that this woman, this nice gracious and gentle woman is still a pawn in the chess games of life of others.

You don’t reach the age of 50 and beyond without hearing the horror stories of divorce and child custody…and the explosions when those related to the affluent and powerful step away from the shadows of control and into the light on their own. And I am sorry, but Grace Metalious and her fictitious Peyton Place have nothing on things rooted in the Philadelphia area. It’s no wonder Agnes Nixon had decades of things to write about , right?

I think Amy deserves to be free and happy. She is a good woman. The rest can be told in these screen shots I am posting. They are public, and again, I told her I was writing this.  My heart breaks for her right now.  People we love can often be quite cruel. It is a lesson you wish on no one.

Amy, stay strong. People care.















back to abandoned churches: ebenezer a.m.e. in frazer on bacton hill road

Well since Malvern Patch once again featured my favorite abandoned church (Malvern Historical Photo Location Revealed. Do you know this old Malvern building?) I figured it was time to share the above.

ebenezer ameA friend of mine and I met recently with another Chester County lady interested in preserving the ruins of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church on Bacton Hill Road.

reasonShe gave us this fascinating report written in 1989 by another Eagle Scout named Daniel P. Baker.  Eagle Scout Mathew Nehring also adopted this site in 2010 and documented graves and did a clean up. I find it interesting that even with clear interest in this site throughout the years, that no one from the A.M.E. Church to East Whiteland Township Historical Commission, to East Whiteland Township, or any other of the non-profits nationally and locally one would think would be interested in this site have done anything.

And isn’t it past time to preserve this site? (Check out photos I took a couple of years aliceago here) I wrote to Justin Heinze the latest Patch reporter to mention the church (Pete Kennedy had already done it in 2012), but never heard back.  He may not have cared for my corrections.  I suggested he clarify that the location is Frazer. On Bacton Hill Road in East Whiteland Township. (I would’ve hoped that the East Whiteland Historical Society would’ve pointed that out. )

We do have our own identity everything is not “Malvern” and to say Malvern should even have clarity because Malvern is not just a borough, it is a town in multiple municipalities in addition to the borough.

I asked if he knew at least one freed slave is buried there? Or an African American Civil War Soldier? I also asked if East Whiteland Historical Commission was doing anything about this.joshua

ann brownI got back nothing and I am sure my mentioning East Whiteland Historical Commission will elicit more comments on this blog from them but the truth is they have to be more than seat warmers (a friend describes them something akin to that).

Friends of mine and I have for the past couple of years try to get in touch with people that we think would be interested in saving this church – the structure is basically gone and needs to be secured as a ruin, but the graves represent extraordinary historical significance for the area. My research indicates that the AME national church still owns the land.  I tried writing them different times over the past two years about the site and they never even acknowledged that I contacted them. (Anymore than this latest Patch reporter.)

another graveSince I moved out here from the Main Line I have heard stories of Civil War soldiers and Revolutionary war soldiers  sort of just getting paved under with progress. (one of the supposed paved over locations of Revolutionary War Soldiers was around Bacton Hill and Swedesford Roads but I have no documentation.)

I think the site deserve some sort of recognition and preservation. Which was why a friend of mine and I were so thrilled to have coffee with another lady of a similar mind set. She brought with her the document above and another cool book that I knew of because I know  the author, Catherine Quillman.





That photo of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church is one of the only ones I have ever seen of the church when it was whole. I tried looking for minutes and any reports by the East Whiteland Historical Commission. The last time they had anything posted on the East Whiteland website appears to have been 2009! Yes, 2009. What. A. Joke.

Here is an excerpt of the document at the opening of the post. History of The Ebenezer A.M.E. Church from 1989:

A stone building, dilapidated and crumbling from the outside in, still stands on Bacton Hill Road….The gravestones which surround the building clearly show that it was a church.  Nearly all the headstones have fallen downhill and lie, face up crumbling from the wind and rain.

Records show that this church, formerly named the Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, was built in 1832 on what was originally known as the Yellow Springs Road.  A celebrated gospel church, it was regularly attended by Negroes who lived and worked on Bacton Hill. Very few of the lives of these people, who were once a great part of the history of East Whiteland, have ever been chronicled.

Early tax records for Chester County show a listing of “free men”. Actually these “free men” were colored slaves who had been given their freedom from bondage when they reached the age of 38.  Later on, the age of freedom was lowered to 23 years of age and finally a state law granted that any person born in the state of Pennsylvania was a guaranteed free man.

The farmers of Valley Hills would often give these free men, after their term of bondage was up, a small plot of land for their own upon the hills in Bacton.  On these, the former slaves built small log cabins or stone buildings.  Many ran small farms while still working during the day timbering the summit of Bacton Hill and carting lumber down to the Great Valley for the lime kilns.

In or around 1832 these free men who lived and worked around Bacton Hill built a church, and eventually a stone building was built. Gravestones date back to that era, I have seen them and photographed them. In 1989 when the paper was written, 80 graves were documented. When the next Eagle Scout documented graves, I believe he only documented 26. When I photographed the site a couple of years ago now, I did not even see that many. The graves are disappearing. Sinking into the murky and often swampy land (several springs underneath apparently), and it would not surprise me if other headstones had simply been removed. Yes, people steal from the dead and that includes headstones.

Anyway, riots and “disturbances” between 1848 and 1870 caused the church to not be used as much and it apparently fell to ruin the first time. But in 1872 the old church was brought back to life and reopened December 8th 1872.  “:Important” clergymen were reported as having been present, and in June of 1873 the church was re-dedicated as Ebenezer African American Methodist Church.

At this point the church remained in use until 1910.  Then the church may not have been used again until the 1940s. In the 1940s it was reported to have been some sort of a big the church to celebrate it’s history. It was said people from all over Chester County gathered with “prominent” members of the A.M.E. Church.  It is believed that is when the church was electrified.  After that, the church stopped being used, and the woods and swampy marsh grass grew up around it, and a mobile home ended up next to it.

Bacton Hill Road is a hodge podge today. Occasional houses, a couple down long, long driveways we can’t even see. It also has a mobile home/ trailer park, a couple corn fields, and industrial buildings. Where it meets Swedesford is an office park and part of the Chester County Trail System.

May 30th of this year was my most recent post on the church and graveyard. I love the history of this area, and to me, this site, the church, and the deceased buried so long ago are important pieces of history. So why is it in Chester Couty many remember the part this county played in the Underground Railroad, yet no one can preserve this site, let alone formerly remember it?

When all the schools speak of African American History Month every year, does anyone look to our local history? Or care? On the website for Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) I found a suggested theme for Black History Month 2016. Remarkably they say it may be “2016 – Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memory”. ASALH was founded in 1915 by Dr. Carter G.Woodson.

Anyway, if East Whiteland Historical Commission is going to continue essentially sitting on their collective hands while history like this rots, maybe the people of Chester County and beyond can help? Ebenezer A.M.E. is important.  How can we save it? It deserves to be saved and have a secure and recognized place in history.

Thanks for stopping by.

john boehner is quitting


So news broke today that John Boehner, Republican House Speaker is calling it quits, pretty much effective immediately. Even he who has survived the cesspool of politics in Washington DC since 1990, has had enough.

And who can blame him? Look at the trickledown effect as we feel it on the most local of levels. American Politics is in a shambles of lying, cheating, stealing, back-stabbing extremism. Our country is living the fallout of extremism in politics. It’s embarrassing. (Even that fool Ted Cruz managed to embarrass the US during the Papal visit which is happening now. But Cruz is a curious fool who notices the preciousness of human life when it is about a woman’s right to choose, but very amusingly not so much when it comes to the death penalty. And he has made an ass out of himself ever since Pope Francis, mentioned his objections to the death penalty when he addressed Congress.)


Anyway, I have actually met and spoken to the tan man from Ohio. August 12, 2010 I was invited to a high rollers reception for then Congressman Jim Gerlach in Conshohocken at the Marriott (interesting to note that somehow KenOCrat Miller was not there, guess he really wasn’t so important even back then, but I digress.)

So anyway, I was taking a few photos and had gone outside for some air.  High Roller political events are all about a select set jockeying for position and favor with the politicians there.  It’s exhausting to be around these people seeking to curry political favor with a large check. Outside was John Boehner with his security detail and staff. He also had needed air.  It was me, the car park guy, Boehner, his staff, and security detail.

Boehner asked me not to take his photo while outside. You see, much like many others in the courtyard he was enjoying a  glass of wine…and a cigarette.

If I had taken his photo holding a glass of red wine and a cigarette it probably would not have been the best thing. So I said sure and we had a couple minute conversation.  Not about politics. About how he was enjoying his visit and where he lived in Ohio. I was struck at that point of time how he essentially was a small town Midwestern guy from the state of small towns. He was a truthfully very pleasant person to speak to. I have met enough politicians who play on the national stage. (Some of my friends and I also spent the afternoon with James Sensenbrenner when he met with myself and others in Ardmore PA in February 2006 after he had proposed H.B. 4128 in Washington, DC to protect private property rights against eminent domain. I was also a media relations volunteer during the RNC2000 which was an amazing experience.)

But nice Midwestern guy or not, John Boehner is a seasoned politician and if he is calling it quits that says something indeed about the American political process.

NBC/MSNBC House Speaker Boehner on His Resignation: ‘This Isn’t About Me’

Washington Post: What John Boehner told me the night before he said he was quitting The Debrief: An occasional series offering a reporter’s insights

Philadelphia Inquirer: Why Boehner is quitting



when life gives you LOTS of apples…make apple cake


Fall means a bounty of fresh apples. Fall also means apple cake. So I made one today. I did not give it enough minutes to cool, so I did have to put the cake back together ever so slightly.  It happens. Still looks delicious and will taste even better.

Here is how I made it:


    • 6 cups peeled thinly sliced apples (today I used giant Golden delicious from IMG_4357a friend’s tree)
    • ¾ cup turbinado or white sugar
    • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
    • 1 teaspoon cardamom
    • 3 cups flour
    • 1 hearty tablespoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 1/2 cup light brown sugarIMG_4356
    • 1 cup oil
    • 1/2 cup orange juice
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
    • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • 1 cup pecan pieces
    • 2/3 cup seedless black raisins
    • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

How to mix up and bake:

  1. Mix apple slices with cinnamon and ¾ cup turbinado or white sugar and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar in a bowl and put to side.
  2. Combine dry ingredients including nutmeg and cardamom in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Beat eggs with 1 1/2 light brown sugar.
  4. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the oil to the wet ingredients, then add theIMG_4358 orange juice and lastly the vanilla and beat for 1 minute. (batter will be rather thick)
  5. Pour 1/3rd of the batter into a greased and floured tube or Bundt pan
  6. Layer  1/3rd of the apple slices, raisins, and nuts over the batter.
  7. Repeat with layer of batter, then apples, raisins, and nuts, then batter, then final layer of apples, raisins, and nuts.
  8. Drizzle the cake with a bit of the remaining cinnamon-sugar goop from the apple bowl.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and about 20 minutes or until tester comes out  clean.
  10. Allow cake to cool in pan on wire rack for 25 – 35 minutes, then turn cake out onto wire rack to cool completely.
  11. Dust top with confectioner’s sugar



malvern borough…

  I understand The probably there was no way to save the 19 century storefront given the decrepit buildings it was attached to. But this is the kind of waste that makes me crazy because someone has sat on this land for the better part of what? A decade or better?

  This is a clear case of demolition by neglect because the buildings were just pretty much left to rot.

  I am told this was Malvern Borough’s last 19th century storefront.

Oh well.