The Village of Howellville is one of Tredyffrin’s earliest villages. So historic and it was easily accessible by the farms of the Great Valley. According to Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society it started with a tavern around 1712:
Howellville, one of Tredyffrin’s earliest villages, grew in an area convenient to the farms of the Great Valley. A tavern was often the start of a town, and the first one here was built about 1712. By the early 1700s, sawmills and gristmills had appeared. Nearest to the center of town was the sawmill on Crabby Creek. Several of the early farms had their own limestone kilns. The first school opened about 1720. A factory of some kind belonging to the Workizer family is listed on the 1798 Direct Tax. [Note 1] By the late 18th century, a shoemaker and a wheelwright had set up shop.
More industry developed in the 19th century, including a woolen mill owned by Samuel Wood. There was at least one blacksmith. By the middle of the century there was a store and the Chester Valley Railroad, and by the late 1800s Howellville was a thriving industrial town. The limestone quarries became big business and Italian immigrants arrived to work at them. Other nationalities followed, but were never as numerous or as prosperous as the Italians.
By the early part of the 20th century, Howellville had become a close-knit community-a bit naughty, with lots of drinking and gambling. Then came the Depression which dealt rather harshly with the village. Having lost their jobs, and with no place to go, the quarry workers lived hand-to-mouth. In 1934 Frances Ligget, later a member of the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club, marshalled the help of the Valley Forge Farm and Garden Club to clean up the town and help the unemployed workers and their families. Free seeds were given for gardens. The state provided medical assistance as well as sewing, knitting, and cooking classes, and a nursery school. Weaving was taught by Lettie Esherick, wife of the artist Wharton Esherick.
In 1681 land in the center of Tredyffrin Township that would eventually become most of Howellville belonged to William Mordaunt and John Hort Each owned 500 acres. They were Welsh Tract brokers-they bought the land from William Penn but never lived on it. In 1711 Mordaunt’s sons sold their 500 acres to John Evans, who had previously been Governor of Pennsylvania. Just to the east lay 1340 acres that David Meredith sold to William Powell in 1706. They were also Welsh Tract brokers.
Llewellyn David, a Welshman and one of the early settlers, bought 300 acres in 1708. The name David (later changed to Davis) was the biggest name in Howellville for the next two centuries.
The area sat at the bottom of a natural bowl where three hilly roads met to form a triangle. Swedesford Road, forming the north side of the triangle, came into existence about 1720, very early in the settlement of the Great Chester Valley. It led from the vicinity of Randall Malin’s house in East Whiteland to the Swede’s Ford at the Schuylkill River, near present day Norristown, and gave settlers in the interior access to Philadelphia.
Bear Hill Road, which formed the southeast side of the triangle, connected the Valley with the Black Bear Tavern at the top of the South Valley Hill near the Lancaster Road and today’s village of Paoli.
The southwest side of the triangle was Howellville Road, until a traffic light was installed at the corner about 1960. Then it became part of Swedesford Road and the north side of the triangle was made one-way. It was this way until most of Howellville’s buildings were torn down and Route 202 was completed and dedicated in 1971.
The triangle at the bottom of these roads was a convenient place for horses and wagons to stop and rest, and in 1745 a license was granted to establish the first tavern. When David Howell settled in the area and became the second innkeeper of the tavern, about 1765, it was called Howell’s Tavern. The village that grew up around it became Howellville. When the old inn was razed in 1921, the only house in the triangle was the little house described by Henry Darling later in this article.
The triangle disappeared in 1967 when Route 252 was widened and Route 202 was built.
The history of Howellville is fascinating and rich. Most people just think of Howellville Road today…not that it was a historically important crossroads village. It is an integral part of the history of Tredyffrin and was discussed in Tredyffrin’s 2009 Historic Preservation Plan.
Last time I was on Howellville Road was in the fall when I was noodling around and found myself on that road. It has long fascinated me and I lament the loss of one crossroads village after the other as time progresses.
Today I just finished reading a blog post by my friend Pattye Benson about a proposed development there. Oh and the developer is a name familiar to East Whiteland and Radnor residents: Benson Companies. Or you know, the townhouses without real trees crammed in at 115 Strafford Ave in Wayne and the eqully unctious cram plan that finally got approved at 124 Bloomingdale Ave in Radnor. And for East Whiteland? Linden Hall. You know the developer that said they would restore historic Linden Hall if they got approved for townhouses, only they haven’t done anything other than sell approved townhouse plan to Pulte who built the townhouses with a view of the cigar store, Route 30 and the still rotting Linden Hall? But is that all on Benson? What about the teaming up with O’Neill at super toxic Bishop Tube? And do not forget Kimberton Meadows, right?
Anyway….Benson is once again the proposed townhouse gift that keeps on giving:
You may recall the abandoned Jimmy Duffy property on Lancaster Avenue in Berwyn and the subsequent construction of Daylesford Crossing, an assisted living facility on the site. The approval for Daylesford Crossing was a long, drawn out redevelopment process in 2012 that required a text amendment to permit senior living facilities as a by-right use in C-1 (commercial) zoning.
Some argued at the time that the zoning change to permit senior living in C-1 was ‘spot-zoning’ to accommodate this specific project and others questioned what this would mean for future C-1 development in Tredyffrin Township. In 2015, the township expanded the C-1 District zoning to also include townhouses as a by-right use.
During the last few years, developers have flocked to the township with their assisted living and townhouse, apartment and condominium plans. Assisted living projects currently under construction or in the review process include Erickson Living at Atwater Crossing in Malvern (250 beds) and Brightview Senior Living on E. Conestoga in Devon (196 beds).
On the townhouse-apartment side in the township, there are many projects in the planning stages or under construction….Areas that were once farmland continue to be developed. Top ranking school district, T/E brings an influx of people to the area which means an influx of students, and the growing problem of finding a place to put them….. a new proposed land development plan in the works that is extremely troubling – townhouses on Howellville Road. The proposal is to wedge a cluster of 20 townhouses, in four buildings, between the village of Howellville and the shadow of the Refuge Pentecostal Church.
….The proposed land development plan on Howellville Road is not compatible with the character and appearance of the area. Beyond the impact of traffic on Howellville Road, the proposed development plan creates serious safety concerns. The steep narrow winding nature of Howellville Road makes entry and exit from the proposed dense townhouse project a dangerous situation.
Benson Company’s proposed townhouse project on Howellville Road will change the look and character of this community as well as place a greater burden on the narrow, winding road – and again more students for the school district!
John Benson of Benson Company has enthusiastically offered that his proposed Howellville Road townhouses will look like his Grey’s Lane townhouses on Lancaster Ave. A couple of things – (1) Grey’s Lane is on Rt. 30, a commercial 4-lane road vs. Howellville Road, a rural country road and (2) he squeezed 12 townhouses in at Grey’s Lane in 3 buildings where as this proposal is for 4 buildings with 20 townhouses….Areas that were once farmland continue to be developed. Between the assisted living communities and the townhouses and apartments, should the objective in Tredyffrin Township be to approve any and all land development projects regardless of the impact?
How awful this sounds and allow me to share two screen shots – one is Pattye’s photo of where the proposed townhouses will be stuffed in and perched like Jabba The Hut and all his children, and a rendering of the “Greys Lane” townhomes…another cram plan, and cheap looking to boot.
And from an aesthetic point of view, every time I see a staged interior of a “fabulous” Benson new construction piece of new construction dreck I am struck with the fact that every interior looks the same. If you want Barbie’s dream house, you are pretty much there. No character, predictable, mass produced, plastic.
Residents of Tredyffrin are soooo right!! How much of this does any one township want or need? And much like neighboring East Whiteland it seems like people are hell bent on developing every square inch of the township! Who needs King of Prussia? Soon Tredyffrin and East Whiteland will definitely resemble King of Prussia meets Bensalem.
Oh yes, one more thing? Tredyffrin residents need to get to the Planning Commission TOMORROW February 16th when this next great godforsaken plan makes it’s debut along with “Westlakes Hotel” and “Chestnut Road Apartments”.
Again I ask where the hell the Chester County Planning Commission and Brian O’Leary are? Lord above, Chester County is drowning, yes drowning in development plans.