this is progress?

Ann Pugh Farm todayIt was marketed as a “Main Line Classic”. A “Historic Estate Property.”  Only in the end it was just another demolition in the march of new development in Chester County.

It was the Ann Pugh Farm

pugh farm then

And then it wasn’t.

pugh

The property was idyllic. And updated. It was in short, amazing.  But although historic, there was nothing in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County to protect it. I wrote about it twice, Tredyffrin Community Matters wrote about it.  At the time both blogs took an enormous amount of guff for doing so.  We were being mean and unfair and so on and so forth.

A quote from one of comment leavers on Commuity Matters at the time:

You are losing sight of the issue, is it preservation, or is it simply opposition to new construction?

I thought Pattye Benson summed up everyone’s thoughts who were distraught at what we felt was wanton destruction when she replied:

Not opposed to new construction — just support the preservation of our community’s historic resources.

 

And that is the truth.  You can’t save every old mansion, house, farm, barn, and storefront.  But we need to preserve more in our communities than we are.  We need balance between the old and the new and progress should not erase our history. (Speaking of preservation, check out Savvy Main Line’s shout out for a preservation buyer for Chester County’s La Ronda known as Loch Aerie in this week’s column and news round up.)

The friend who sent me the photo of the Ann Pugh replacement today remarked that whomever built the house might still have their former home on Pugh for sale? I have no way of knowing, and do not really care but what I will never understand is living down the street from something that was as beautiful as Ann Pugh Farm and then tearing it down to make your mark on the landscape, can you?

The other thing I find so sad with all of this is the fact that in the two years between Ann Pugh coming tumbling down and today, Tredyffrin has not changed the way they protect historic assets in their township.  After all, if they had, perhaps the Old Covered Wagon Inn in Strafford would not be at risk for demolition, right?

And the thing is that Tredyffrin Township is home to some amazing historic preservationists that are active and visible in the community.  But when zoning and planning and ordinances don’t match up and the Municipalities Planning Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania do not match with a community’s desire to protect at least some of their history and architectural heritage what can you do? (The short answer is not much and you have to get lucky.)

I keep hoping East Whiteland will wake up before it’s too late.  As a municipality they are facing essentially wanton commercial and residential development, and it is not necessarily what the majority of residents want but does that matter? The East Whiteland Historical Commission has made a couple of public utterances lately, but what exactly is there to back up what they are saying?  Do they have a game plan? Or are they just beating their chests because they were awoken from their relatively inactive slumber?

Or they love their history and work to preserve it actively like East Goshen and Willistown? Like the beautiful and historic homes lovingly preserved in the Boroughs of West Chester and Kennett Square? Wouldn’t you love more preservation like Historic Sugartown, Goshenville, and Yellow Springs Village?

West Vincent is another municipality in the throes of development. There residents are worried this once idyllic township is disappearing one development at a time and where you used to smell the smells of crops and live stock, on a sunny day if you are close enough, you smell plastic. The new plastic smell of tract houses and development with no soul. In West Vincent residents are wondering what it would take to get the zoning found in Willistown and Charesltown townships and other places in Chester County where they wisely added lot size requirements to their codes in an effort to at least retain some of the open space if they can’t save the old houses and farms.

People in West Vincent are terrified over huge tracts of land like Bryn Coed.  Bryn Coed is roughly twice the size Chesterbrook was amassed to be before original development, correct?  And it is an estate in more than one municipality, right? So what happens if Bryn Coed gets developed? Or is it more like when? It is a huge amount of land for people to be caretakers over in today’s economy, so I am just being practical as I do not see it surviving and neither do most people. But what will it become? The new Chesterbook? A Bensalem lite?

And that is the problem throughout Chester County: there is not enough to save the history and barely enough to hang on to some of the open space.  If we all do not come together in this county, what we love about Chester County will literally cease to exist.  And what of the farming? What happens when you develop away all of the farms? Or add chemical plants where they once stood?

It’s a lot to think about, but we must. We have an opportunity in a Presidential Election Year to demand more transparency from candidates for every level of office when it comes to open space preservation, land conservation, environmental conservation, farming, development, historic preservation.  Ask the candidates. Whether running for a local supervisor to Congress, to State House to State and U.S. Senate it doesn’t matter who you are, ask the candidates the tough questions and make them earn their votes.

It’s time to #SaveChesterCounty before what we love is all gone.

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