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.