west whiteland: development and crumbling history?

Along S. Whitford Road. I have photographed this before. It continues to deteriorate.

Meanwhile, turn the corner onto Creamery Way I think it is and you see:

It’s like in West Whiteland there is a race to develop every square inch into homogeneous Tyvec wrapped insanity…while history rots.

Surely Chester County deserves better?

pickles and pine cones

I have a vintage ornament problem. As in I love them.  Among my favorites are pinecones.

I have in my ornaments that I have collected mercury glass pinecones that are Ukrainian, Russian, German, Czechoslovakian, and from the United States. I even have some mid century Japan-made pinecones.

I buy them for how they look to me and their color and often their size. I like to have a range of sizes because if you look in nature pinecones on a tree come in a range of sizes.

Above are three vintage ones I bought recently. Below are some others I acquired recently along with acorns and other shapes:

Pine cones are something my late father always put on the Christmas tree along with mercury glass birds. As I have written before, he always did silver and gold Christmas trees so his most hung mercury glass pinecones were in those colors.

After my father died when my mother gave me some of the ornaments she actually gave me a box of blue mercury glass pinecones both large and small. I love the bright aqua color, and they now go on my tree every year along with his other pine cones. And they look brand new because he never used them!

On my own I have collected mercury glass pine cones of every color except white. I have been on the hunt lately for the green mercury glass pine cones but I find them hard to come by. As a matter of fact, it seems like vintage pinecone ornaments have become quite collectible in general because when I do find them I often pass them over because I think they are just too expensive.

What else goes on my tree besides glass birds and pine cones? A couple of mercury glass pickles among other things!

Hanging the glass pickle ornament on a Christmas tree is a custom that some say stems from people hiding one one their tree on Christmas Eve and the child who found the pickle first got an extra present or getting to open the first present. Others attribute hanging a glass pickle on your Christmas tree as being a symbol of good luck. 

People attribute hanging the Christmas pickle on your tree as being a German tradition. Except article after article I have read says they’re actually isn’t such a tradition in Germany and a lot of people think it was an age old marketing ploy when glass German ornaments started being imported into this country!

And F.W. Woolworth was credited with being the American retailer who started importing German glass ornaments around 1880. And people continue to write about German-made pickle ornaments being created for the export market, not necessarily the Christmas trees of native Germans.

So sadly it seems the tales of Weihnachtsgurke is just a 19th century advertising ploy that took off. But I don’t care. I love my Christmas pickles anyway! I have German, American, and Ukrainian mercury glass Christmas pickle ornaments.

I recently purchased a new old mercury glass pickle. Made in the Ukraine. Mid-century is what I was told as far as the age goes. I also purchased two more for a friend of mine who liked my new old pickle.

What ornaments will you be hanging on your Christmas tree this year?

holiday rambling: harman’s cheese and country store in sugar hill, nh

Many, many, many, many years ago my family would go to Vermont some years for vacation. A friend of my late father’s had a house in Bondville, Vermont which was half-way up one of the access roads to Stratton Mountain.

We weren’t skiers, we would go in the “off-season” or summer. Bondville is a little spit of a town and the house was nestled in the middle of nowhere in the woods. You would see all sorts of nature go by, and not many people. It was a big ski house, so we would bring friends and my parents would bring friends.

One year, one of my then best friends came with us. It was long before anyone was married except for my sister, or had kids. My friend and I would wander and explore on our own. She had come with me also because there was a special side trip I agreed to take with her to New Hampshire. She wanted to pay her respects at the grave site of a friend of hers who had passed away. Her friend had died under sad circumstances and I am not sure why he was buried in Sugar Hill Cemetery (also known as Sunnyside Cemetery), but that’s where his family placed him.

This was the time of only old school maps and asking for directions. There was no Google maps or Waze. We got lost several times en route to the cemetery. This was the trip when I also went barn picking for the first time.

After we visited the cemetery and my friend left her letter for her departed friend, we went exploring.

One of the first things we discovered down a windy country road in New Hampshire was an old farmer with a couple of barns. One of these barns (and it was huge, one of the biggest barns I have ever been in) was chock full of antiques and collectibles. It was a dirty and dusty old barn and was like an episode of American Pickers, before there ever was American Pickers. I dickered with the owner for some pink porcelain tea cups for my friend.

We discovered many other places that day including a wonderfully beautiful old small hotel with a lovely golf course called Sunset Hill House. Not too far from Sunset Hill House we discovered Harman’s Cheese and Country Store for the first time.

I still remember the visit like it was yesterday. A real old school country general store. Wood floors that creaked underfoot and all. The people running the store couldn’t have been nicer. We bought amazing white cheddar cheese, maple sugar candy, and maple syrup. And I signed up for a mailing list I have now kept my name on for decades.

Harman’s still sells the best cheddar cheese ever. Their cheese is my absolute favorite and they also sell my second runner up favorite, Grafton Village a Cheese from Grafton, Vermont. Grafton’s cheese store at that time was accessed via a dirt country road. Grafton’s cheddar is my mother’s favorite, but I still like Harman’s best. And still today, Harman’s cheese can only be ordered from them versus Grafton’s cheese which shows up at specialty cheese sections even around here.

But one of the things that keeps me ordering from Harman’s is their old school tiny paper catalog that gets mailed in a little envelope with an annual letter from the owner. It’s a throwback to the letters most people used to send with Christmas cards. I love that!

Some day I hope to get back to visit Harman’s in person. They are part of my annual holiday traditions. You can find them in person in Sugar Hill, NH, on their website, and on Facebook.

I know we have many fine cheese makers here in Chester County, but Harman’s Cheese and Country Store is a delightful small business with wonderful products. We don’t have many of these businesses left, no matter where the location.

Thanks for stopping by.

a christmas moose

Isn’t he cool? A friend of mine’s aunt makes these imaginative Christmas creatures. I have some of her reindeer and I have a couple of her Santas and now I have a moose.

He’s just a stuffed little guy he’s about 12 inches tall and he’ll hang out at Christmas.

I blame Hallmark and the other channels running Christmas movies. But it’s a happy thing in the midst of a country that seems perpetually miserable at this point given the political climate.

More Christmas, less politics. Pass it on.

happy days farm under contract to a developer?

Months ago I wrote that Vanguard was selling Happy Days Farm. I had expressed my opinion that they waited for Mr. Bogle to die.

Happy Days Farm was once home to the Supplee Family in modern times (I think from some point in the 1940s.)  Mildred and Warren Supplee were well-loved by their community and were married for 75 years.

Happy Days Farm is STILL actively farmed by tenant farmers who are WONDERFUL people.

Just now I learned Happy Days Farms is under contract to a developer? And that means that if they don’t buy it for some reason there are undoubtedly other developers right behind them, correct?

Vista Today has the story and allow me to quote (and note they republish things from other sources in this case the Philadelphia Business Journal.)

Here is an excerpt of what Vista Today said:

Happy Days Farm, a 246-acre property in Exton that is currently owned by Vanguard, has been put under contract by Audubon Land Development, writes Natalie Kostelni for the Philadelphia Business Journal.

The property near the Downingtown Interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike was put up for sale by Vanguard in March after the investment giant kept it for two decades as a possible expansion site.

Thanks to its excellent location that can attract traffic from a large demographic area, the property was expected to receive significant interest from developers.

For the love of all that’s holy, IT IS STILL A WORKING FARM!

Now Audubon Land Development, who are they? From their “about” section of their website:

ABOUT US

Audubon Land Development Corporation is a family owned and operated business with over 50 years of development, building and management experience. Audubon Land affiliates have built over 3,000 homes in eastern Pennsylvania, as well as many commercial facilities including apartment complexes, the Audubon Square Shopping Center, The Hilton Homewood Suites in Audubon, the 422 Business Center, The Hilton Garden Inn at Oaks, the Marketplace at Oaks, including Target, Lowe’s and Regal Cinemas and the Greater Philadelphia Expo in Oaks. Audubon also has under development, the 2,500 unit Shannondell Retirement Community, with 1,000 units completed.

Oaks. That hideous complex that always seems dirty? The Philadelphia Expo Center? Have you been there? It’s part of the long stretch of 422 development hell, isn’t it?

I have no issue with Shannondell as their rehab center does a lot of good but don’t we already have a lot of warehouses for seniors out here? And let’s be honest, is a place like Shannondell affordable for your average senior citizen?

Maybe a lot of you aren’t familiar with the whole other side of Montgomery County that is Audubon and Oaks and up Egypt Road and 422? I actually am because our son went to a charter school that pulls from these areas and a lot of friends lived over in this direction.

If you think King of Prussia is bad you have not seen anything until you’ve experienced this area. When you travel along places like Egypt Road and other areas back here in Audubon and Oaks you see strip mall after strip mall and development after development and in between you have these tiny pockets of humanity trying to survive in the midst of it.

This area actually reminds me of King of Prussia as the mall grew. And I say that because I am just old enough to remember when you were along 202 near the King of Prussia Mall years ago, there were still these cute little houses along 202 that people lived in.…until they gave up.

Is this the fate of Happy Days Farm?

I will note that Philadelphia Architects and Buildings  dates the farm as circa 1730 to 1780. They also have a 1995 site plan. I also discovered it is part of some Watershed H (Brandywine Creek, East Brandywine creek?) and there is an archeological and historical survey report.  And this abstract document from 1998 would also be of interest.

Also a few months ago, it took some digging but I did indeed find a 1998 PA Historic Resouces Survey Form. You can click HERE and I am uploading it here: H067961_67867_D. It’s fascinating and what did this survey lead me to? Oh yes, another Penn Land Grant and possibly part of Native American Hunting Grounds:

The origins of Happy Days Farm can be traced to two early land grants from William Penn, Proprietor of the Province of Pennsylvania. One tract of 1,000 acres was granted to James Claypoole in 1682. James Claypoole was an English investor who purchased several land grants in Pennsylvania, but never lived there. The other tract of 1,666 2/3 acres was granted to David Lloyd in 1703. David Lloyd was a land investor who owned a considerable portion of what became Uwchlan Township in 1712. In 1713, the heirs of James Claypoole sold 800 acres in Uwchlan to David Lloyd. In 1714, Lloyd sold to Joseph Phipps an 800 acre plantation that included parts of the two Penn grants.

The description on the 1714 deed of a “messuage, tenement plantation tract” indicates that there was already an established farm and dwelling house. Joseph Phipps was among the early Quaker settlers who requested the formation of their own meeting in Uwchlan Township in 1712. At the time, most of these Quakers were living on land owned by David Lloyd, so Joseph Phipps was probably living on the land he later purchased. Between 1712 and 1715, most of David Lloyd’s holdings in Uwchlan Township were deeded to early residents such as Phipps. The first tax records for Uwchlan Township occurred in 1715. Joseph Phipps was one of eighteen names recorded on that list and one of the greatest landowners. 280 years later, descendants of Joseph continue to live in Uwchlan Township.….For much of the eighteenth century, the Phipps family prospered. As Joseph’s children grew and married several houses were built on the family lands. Some farmland was divided, but the  “home farm” and approximately 400 acres remained intact through the nineteenth century. The nineteenth century witnessed the growth of a new agricultural industry – the dairy farm. Chester County became known for its dairy farms. By the 1880’s, 85 individually owned dairy farms prospered in Uwchlan Township. The Phipps families owned several. 

Happy Days Farm is the only farm property that remained in the Phipps family for more than two centuries. Members of the Phipps family were active in several area churches including Uwchlan Society of Friends and Windsor Baptist Church. Phipps participated in the organizing and prosperity of the Uwchlan Grange. Residents of this early farm accomplished their goals. They may not have been famous, but they were excellent examples of nineteenth century Pennsylvania farmers.

This is Uwchlan Township for Happy Days Farm, I believe. But what happens here doesn’t just affect the tenant farmers and the residents of Uwchlan Township, it affects all of us in Chester County.

It’s like we don’t matter anymore. Existing residents don’t matter anymore. It’s just all about the crazy race for development.

Like Lloyd Farm in Caln, Happy Days is part of an original Penn Land Grant, correct?

Why doesn’t that mean something anymore?

Chester County wasn’t founded for fields of Tyvek boxes and strip malls and apartment buildings.

And look at the stresses on our infrastructure now. And someone else said to me recently that people talk about the stresses on the roads and the first responders and the school districts but they don’t talk about things like the stress on the hospitals. They said:

….the strain is here and growing. I work in an ER and this week we have gone on pre-divert and divert status 3x. The hospital is full and people are being admitted but have to stay in the ER since we have no beds upstairs….several patients ask …why the wait is so long and I discuss with them the issue of the exponential population growth due to poor planning of high density housing all around the area. When I start listing the neighborhoods then they suddenly understand why we are facing a crisis.

Again, also look at the school districts. Isn’t Great Valley looking to expand and build more schools? And what of Downingtown School District? Isn’t there a whisper of eminent domain floating around as they also need land to expand and build more schools? And hasn’t the West Chester Area School District got plans in place for yet another elementary school over near or in that Greystone development? And what about Tredyffrin? How long before they need more schools or need to expand?

Chester County, now more than ever, the agricultural and equine heritage and open space HAS to matter! Residents have to matter! The future has to matter!

We are literally in the midst of a development glut, right? So what happens when this developmental gold rush is over?

No one ever talks about that. I do not believe it is everyone will settle in and get along nicely. I think we are setting ourselves up as communities for decades of problems going forward because there is no balance or sane pace to development.

And this is why I don’t like development. And why I am not a fan of organizations like the Chester County Planning Commission and their Landscapes plans. In my humble opinion, which I am allowed, this “build it and they will come” attitude is problematic. What happens when all of “they” come? It looks pretty on schematics and diagrams and plans to be shown at municipal meetings, but what is the reality? My opinion is in reality we’re not going to be able to handle it because we can’t handle it now and how is that progress?

I don’t know what else to say other than if we can’t stop the madness, we need to stem the tide. This is getting crazy. And happy days farm just makes me sad. Especially because it is still a working farm and farmers matter.

I’m getting off my soapbox now. I really didn’t intend for this to be such a long post and there’s nothing I can do personally to stop this from happening but I can express how I feel about it. At least the First Amendment still gives me that right.

To Happy Days Farm and the generations and families who have farmed you, including the current family, I say my heart broke a little more over this news. I am so terribly sorry that as human beings we can’t do better to preserve what our founding fathers fought and bled for out here.

Chester County we have to do better.

remembering with love

Today is an anniversary of sorts in our family.

14 years to the day when we lost my father to cancer.

13 years to the day when we lost my cousin Suzy to cancer.

Both people who played a big part in my life.

But it’s a day to remember them with smiles and happy tears. I don’t think we should bury them in memories of sadness.

I have never actually really written about this before. And today it just seemed like time.

My late father was at times a complicated man, but well-loved by us all. He was often described as a Renaissance man by his friends, and there are a lot of things that I get in part from him. He taught me how to garden. He gave me my Christmas disease. He taught me how to go to antique shows to educate my eye and when I was very little he put me on top of his shoulders so I could see all of the Van Gogh paintings on exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. as an adult I would do things like go to estate sales with him.

I have lots of memories of my father like little Kodachrome snap shots in my head. The same with my cousin Suzy.

Suzy was my mother’s niece, goddaughter, and my first cousin. To me for most of my life she was also like the big sister I didn’t have because technically in my immediate family I was the big sister. As a little girl, I remember her sleeping over and spending the night on the sofa when we didn’t have a guest room – my parents were restoring an old house in Society Hill and for my younger childhood years a lot of the time it was like living in a construction site.

Suzy got married young, and my parents hosted her wedding. She got married out of our parish church – Old Saint Joseph’s on Willing’s Alley. The reception was at my parents’ house in Society Hill, by that time was put enough together at least on two floors that we were able to have the wedding.

Jimmy Duffy and Sons did the catering. They would in later years, cater my sister’s wedding, and mine as well. From my cousin Suzy’s wedding, I have a few distinct memories, including sitting with my cousin Carol on the steps to the back staircase off the breakfast room eating hors d’oeuvres. I remember we were specifically eating water chestnuts wrapped in bacon, which is why when I got married, they were added to the list of hors d’oeuvres we served.

From Suzy I got my love of junking and flea markets. She also was a Christmas fanatic (she would organize caroling parties every a Christmas season) and liked to go in and out of antique stores.

Suzy and her first husband raised their daughters in Newtown, Bucks County. She lived for her girls. I would spend a lot of weekends with them during those years and we would do things like get up at the crack of dawn and go to Rice’s Market in New Hope when it was really cool. We would spend days exploring small towns like New Hope and Lambertville and Pennington and other places along the river on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania side. I treasure those times and it was so much fun! I remember going into a store with her once on the New Jersey side that was all Russian nesting dolls and Fiestaware.

So much time has passed since they both left us and so much in all of our lives has happened. That’s the thing of life isn’t it? It goes on. And I think while we have to mourn the loss of loved ones, I also think we should celebrate them by trying to live our best lives.

Life is for the living and we shouldn’t squander it.

Anyway, that’s it from me this morning. Remembering with love, my father Peter and cousin Suzy.

Thanks for stopping by.