When my friend Pattye Benson told me about what was up for discussion at a recent Tredyffrin Township meeting, I thought I misunderstood her. I thought they could NOT possibly raze the old Covered Wagon Inn located in Strafford on the corner of Lancaster and Old Eagle School. After all, it is one of the most rcognized landmarks on that part of the upper end of the Main Line in Tredyffrin, Chester County. It also is an ongoing example of adaptive reuse. No matter who rents or owns the site, it endures.
But it is true. (check it out on Scribd)
As Pattye writes for Community Matters:
The last item in front of the Planning Commissioners tonight has personal interest – a land development application to demolish a building a construct a CVS Pharmacy and drive-thru. Summit Realty Advisors will present a plan for the 1-1/2 acre property located at 625/629 East Lancaster Ave. in Wayne. This property is located on the corner of Old Eagle School Road and Lancaster Ave – the Paddock Restaurant (previously John Harvards Brew House) property.
I have no issue with the redevelopment of this property, including the demolition of the ‘new addition’ located at 629 Lancaster, which housed the Paddock Restaurant. But … I have a real problem with demolition of 625 East Lancaster Ave, the historic building that currently houses Thos. Moser Furniture. According to Tredyffrin Township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey, the building was built about 1780 as a private resident. John Palmer owned a farm which included this structure in 1873, indicated on the 1881 atlas map. The structure was enlarged during the 20th century and was known as the Covered Wagon Inn. Well-known on the Main Line for fine dining and dancing, in its heyday the Covered Wagon Inn featured big name bands and performing artists such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington and their orchestras.
I personally also have no issue with redevelopment per se (although I will admit I do not see the need of yet ANOTHER big box of a chain drug store or a big box store in general) but like Pattye I have a HUGE issue with razing this historic building. The old Covered Wagon Inn has stood for 250 years. It’s a local landmark in use currently, means something to the area, so why demolish it? Especially when the Summit Group ironically was involved with a very special adaptive reuse in Ambler, PA as Pattye continues:
In a review of the Summit Realty Advisors website, there are many, many CVS Pharmacy development projects, including a similar current project in Media. However, in the midst of their drug store building portfolio, I discovered a very special project by John Zaharchuk, owner/developer with Summit Realty Advisors. Zaharchuk oversaw the redevelopment of Ambler Boiler House, the 19th century power plant of an abandoned asbestos factory. Working with historic architectural firm, Heckendorn-Shiles (a former historic house tour sponsor) of Wayne, the project redesigned the circa 1897 brick building, preserving its architectural integrity and recycled it into a clean-and-green office development.
Now…what to do with this? You see a major stumbling block is Tredyffrin, like many Chester County municipalities, historic structures are NOT protected (you know like Linden Hall and Loch Aerie in East Whiteland for two other examples?)
So what can we do? Quite simply raise awareness and try to change the developer’s mind. Can we do it Chester County and beyond? The answer is we can darn well try! The building is in good shape and occupied and has been basically continually throughout the course of time.
Yesterday we put our heads together as the blizzard swirled around us and we started a Save The Covered Wagon Inn, Strafford Pa page on Facebook, launched a petition on Change.org http://tinyurl.com/SaveCoveredWagonInn .
In less than 24 hours we have just shy of 500 signatures already on the petition (and growing!) and well OVER 1000 Facebook page likes and growing. Thank you to those who have joined us already and here is an invitation for any of you out there wherever you are to join us!
#ThisPlaceMatters so we have shared our early efforts with The National Trust For Historic Preservation too! In addition to the petition and Facebook page we invite anyone who is preservation minded especially when it comes the the old Covered Wagon Inn to take a photo outside the building with a simple hand lettered sign on a pie of copy paper that says #THISPLACEMATTERS and either post it on the Save The Covered Wagon Inn Facebook Page or post it on Twitter to @SavingPlaces @tredyffrin @TredyffrinTwp .
Also we are looking for photos of the Old a Covered a Wagon Inn throughout the years. You can send them to Pattye Benson directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on or message them to the Facebook page.
One thing that has come out of this since we launched the Facebook page is people sharing memories of The Old Covered Wagon Inn throughout the years. My friends and I in our early 20s danced many a night away at the then “Main Lion” . Here are some of the other memories:
“My parents met at the Covered Wagon! It was a family favorite…..for so many reasons.”
“I have a personal connection, it was the site of my wedding reception. More long term, my family, Davis’, have a long history in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County ,dating back to the 1600’s as shown by Graves in the Valley Baptist Church off Valley Forge Rd, Devon. Please preserve and protect the history of this area and this building in particular.”
“My mother took me to see Harry James at the Covered Wagon. She convinced me to go backstage to get his autograph. He must have been in his 70s but he could really play. Nicest guy you’d ever want to meet.”
“They can’t do it!!! Our Saint Katharine of Siena eighth grade graduation celebration was there!! It’s like tearing down Independence Hall, or Betsy Ross’s house. Buildings that involved very very important people and/or events MUST be preserved, cherished and maintained.”
“I remember the 70’s when Mt. Zion AME Church Devon had many Fashion Shows at The Old Covered Wagon Inn. It was gorgeous. So much history. Hopefully it will be restored.”
“The Old Covered Wagon was a frequent advertiser in the Radnor Historical Society Bulletin years ago; feel free to use this ad if you wish to post it.”
There is also another post on Community Matters you should read:
Well that is all from me on this snowy Sunday morning. Thanks for stopping by. We hope you will sign and share the petition. As an extended community our history matters.