the end of the decade, new year’s eve 2019

Lovely Loch Aerie, Frazer, PA

It has been a crazy decade chock-full of so much. I wasn’t sure what my last post of the year was going to look like until I started looking at some of my photos of houses that had captured my interest and fancy in the past decade.

So in all of the houses I have looked at in this decade I have decided to remain true to Chester County today and give you my three favorites.

Ironically my three house picks for the decade are not traditional 18th century Chester County Farmhouses, but three 19th-century stone houses of a certain era.

You see the first house above. My ultimate old house love, beautiful and lovely Loch Aerie mansion. I have written about her enough that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel and restate her history.

Loch Aerie on Lancaster Avenue in Frazer in East Whiteland Township enters the next decade with a guaranteed and brilliant new lease on life. She is being restored to her former glory, and will have an adaptive reuse that will ensure her place in architectural history for decades to come.

Old stone house Francis Ave, Berwyn, Easttown.

Next on my list is a house I was reminded of this morning. I know nothing of her pedigree. It is the great stone house on Francis Avenue in Berwyn.

My great friend (and Chester County historian and artist) Catherine Quillman and I stumbled upon this beauty in 2016 one fall afternoon.

We took a wrong turn somewhere after leaving Jenkins Arboretum and all of a sudden we were on Francis Avenue in front of this house. And before anyone flips out, we did not trespass. I had a camera with a zoom lens with me and I took photos from the street. This house captured my fancy for a number of reasons, including the fact that the stonework reminded me a lot of Loch Aerie.

I know absolutely nothing of the history of this house other than its 19th century and in Easttown Township . I think it probably has a name (possibly according to a 1912 atlas it appears it was maybe called “Rhydlyn” home of James G. Francis, whose sister in law I believe was famed local photographer Lucy Sampson according to census records from the early 20th century and according to the census she lived there for a while!) I don’t know if it is listed on any national registries or even a state or local registry. I couldn’t find it listed anywhere. (I am told it is mentioned HERE.)

It strikes me as a similar vintage to Loch Aerie. I also do not know the current ownership of the home but I am told it is being preserved as part of some kind of a development. I am also told that the glorious slate roof is no longer which I can’t say surprises me because old slate roofs are incredibly expensive to maintain and it’s a lost art of the craftsmanship of roof building. There are very few slaters left.

My last house which captured my fancy a great deal in this last decade is the Joseph Price house in West Whiteland Township.

This house is on S.Whitford and Clover Mill Roads in Exton. The Joseph Price House in West Whiteland Township.

Here is a wonderful little slide show presentation on prezi. This house is historically listed. It was built in 1878 and altered in 1894 by the house namesake inhabitant at the time. It was altered from a Gothic style to a Queen Anne style.

I was also told in the 1990s it was separate apartments inside and there were also cottages around it which were rented out as well.

In the 1950s and 60s there was a large barn there that was a sale barn for cattle run by Bayard Taylor —a blog reader told me that. He knew because his mother did bookkeeping for that business while she was in college.

This house is not completely deserted I am told there is a caretaker who still lives there. However, this house has an uncertain future at best and nobody seems to know what will happen to it. Which is a shame because it’s very cool.

So as we lift a glass one last time to toast a crazy tumultuous decade everywhere, let us think of our future and historic preservation. There are so many cool houses like this throughout Chester County from all eras of time.

Less development. More land and structure preservation and adaptive reuse. That’s my final wish for Chester County for 2019.

Please do not trespass on these properties. Either get permission to wander around or look from the street.

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve!

Joseph Price House. West Whiteland Township.

looking back, looking forward

Sometimes if you want to go find great old photos or mementos of this area, just put the town name into eBay. I did this a little while ago when decided I wanted to write this post.

Berwyn as a town has once again become a ground zero of potential development. Someone sent me this letter the other day:

So. It’s not like this was unexpected. If we’re honest, people just forgot about it right? It’s not that people are so sentimentally attached to old dilapidated business sites. To me, or in my opinion at least, it’s more about why does ALL progress today have to mean so much density? Sometimes less is more.

Someone said in a local group that:

“…Density is controlled by a developer balancing zoning requirements, cost of a project and income it could generate….The changes in zoning were in fact meant to take advantage of a transit oriented development and both Berwyn Square and Fritz are doing just that. There are very few large parcels or clusters of parcels where this can happen in Berwyn. We also happen to need apartments in our community. We need alternate living arrangements to single family homes, twins and townhomes. Not everyone wants to buy or have the responsibilities associated with that type of living situation. If you want to look at a flop of a development then consider that at the Waterloo site in Devon we ended up not with a downtown with shops, restaurants and easy access for residents to use the train we got a suburban parking lot. Yuck. Not creative or the highest and best use of the property. Such a shame.

We can make Berwyn a destination or leave as it is and just change the name to “Blahwyn”.”

Ok that is their opinion and they can have it, right? Even if some of us find it offensive, right?

But is it a case of “We” don’t need more unaffordable apartments, developers want them. Discernible difference, sadly.

They (including politicians and paid planners here too ) basically assume the public is stupid. Transit oriented development in my opinion is a great myth. I watched it destroy Ardmore.

And charming Berwyn was just fine with a great history until developers came along. It doesn’t need to be a perpetual Disneyesque development from one end to the other. That won’t make it “Blahwyn” if it doesn’t happen, maybe by some sheer stroke of luck some of it’s character and history might remain.

And to denigrate where you live and call it “Blahwyn” is kind of offensive I think.

Developer speak drives me bananas. These people are always falling back on catch phrases like they want to see a “vibrant downtown.” Berwyn is a village by it’s history so how is cramming it full of Tyvec wrapped monstrosities creating vibrancy? This isn’t development that breeds inclusiveness or community is it?

Developers and those supporting development (like property owners who wish to have said gloms of density) like you to hear buzz words and catch phrases like “game changer”. In my humble opinion a true “game changer” would be plans with less density and more historic authenticity from an architectural perspective.

Let’s talk affordable housing for a minute. Is any of what is being proposed truly that? No it’s not.

Some who own certain properties will always benefit from development right? So they want us all to love development right? It’s kind of the way it has always been. Time in memoriam/ temps immémorial.

But it’s ok if we think our communities deserve better than what is being proposed. It’s ok if we think super amounts of density is wrong.

But those who love development or who will profit from it will tell us there is something wrong with us or we really don’t care about our communities.

But is that true? I don’t think so.

if you actually want peace on earth start by looking inward

Oh yes. Peace on earth and goodwill towards men. But when you say it do you mean it?

The other day someone I know who I think very highly of normally decided to post something on a social media page that I found deliberately inflammatory.

It was one of those “don’t hate me because I voted for X” posts. Of course the immediate result was everyone up in arms. Those who found the post deliberately inflammatory were then immediately accused of “hastily making assumptions based on [a] false belief system.” Some are further told their behavior objecting to this is “socially unacceptable.”

Mind you this was said by a person who claimed they hadn’t watched TV or the news since 1983. Yet there they are on social media getting their information. It’s ludicrous. And how are they to judge who has a false belief system or not? Or who is socially acceptable or not? It’s just nuts.

Now the person that posted this thing originally is probably angry at the outcome of the most recent, more local elections. But when this is the kind of thing that you post why do you think people are up in arms and getting out to vote different types of people into office? Sorry not sorry, this is exactly why. You are fomenting the hate and you know you’re doing it. What does political goose stepping accomplish?

Answer: NOTHING good.

Then how can these same people as human beings then turn around and spout peace on earth good will towards men? The short answer is they really can’t. Because all they’re doing is antagonizing the other side from their side and what’s the point of that? Is there always this game of one upsmanship? It’s hypocritical.

Something my grandmother said a lot when I was little least said soonest mended.

Totally applies here.

Deliberately poking the bear in a public forum so you can get the last word when NO ONE today can discuss politics civilly is just dumb. It is in fact (in my opinion) deliberately aimed at upsetting people. If you’re going to post it on your own social media timeline, that’s on you and that’s totally your right because it’s like your virtual house. But posting something that’s deliberately inflammatory or provocative in a public forum? And we’re talking national politics in a local forum? Why bother? Don’t we have more important things to discuss locally?

We all don’t have to share the same politics but basically everyone in this country is unable to discuss such matters with civility in a public forum at this point. So please explain why the divisiveness of politics needs to be discussed especially during the holidays? You do realize there were even cease-fires during wars during the holidays.

Seriously.

For example: The WWI Christmas truce (German: Weihnachtsfrieden; French: Trêve de Noël) was a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front of World War I around Christmas 1914.

It’s not a question of someone being a snowflake versus someone else not being a snowflake, it’s the simple thing of why do we always have to be at each other’s throat’s?

Do you seriously think these politicians you are defending until the death actually give a crap about you as an individual? They don’t. They don’t even know your name after they cash the donation check. But you keep on attacking your neighbors over their honor (politicians) and the perceived slights to their honor (politicians).

And then to watch someone else, a purported adult, completely troll someone else while calling them a troll? I would say that wasn’t so smart or so nice, but then again the person who did it is kind of fake and just wants to belong so maybe someone should just accept they are kind of a wannabe bobble head.

But it boggles the mind. Because this wasn’t in a place where there was some contentious local or national political drama going on they just posted it essentially to stir the pot and why? Does it make pain they are experiencing more palatable or something ?

None of these people in essence are capable at this point of having mature, respectful dialogue on any political issue. So maybe they should just leave the topic alone as keyboard tigers online?

Yes these people are your neighbors. Citing personal experience, I find it astounding the difference between online and in-person behaviors. And a holiday function I recently ran into someone who has literally eviscerated me more than once in social media forums. Completely holier than thou and nasty. Then I saw them face-to-face and in person. I realized what a nothing they were in person, almost invisible, which might be part of what drives her online? It’s sociologically fascinating.

I could have at that point really been kind of mean to this person publicly and it would’ve been completely justifiable given the way they have treated me in the past online. But what was the point really? So I let it go and I was socially pleasant because that’s the way I was raised. I don’t know how they were raised because they really couldn’t handle that, and that in and of itself was kind of funny.

If these people want to get down to it, what is “wrong” is deliberately stirring the pot and saying you’re not. I would probably respect you more if you just said “I’m going to stir the pot with this.”

The thing about these people to do these things as they really aren’t interested in your political perspective they just want you to accept theirs. And that is bunk.

If you really want peace on earth, then start acting like it beginning with your online behavior. And I am not saying my behavior is perfect. What I am saying is that as a collective of human beings we can do better.

National politics are ruining our local experience. We have the choice to stop that. I wish we would.

In 2020 let’s try to keep it real. Or be more real.

Pax.

life stories

I need to take the time to write down the stories I heard yesterday so I don’t forget. Given the anesthesia and everything that went on yesterday with my surgery I’ve probably forgotten some things already.

Yesterday was my second knee surgery. This time it was definitely gardener’s knee and it was my other leg. The surgery seemed to go well but I will admit today the pain is still somewhat not fun.

I had my husband just drop me off because there is such a lot of waiting before I actually go into surgery that I didn’t want him trapped at the hospital when he had a busy work day ahead.

I met a lovely couple in the waiting room who were in the bed and holding area immediately next to me as we both were given our marching orders before going up to the holding areas for surgery.

This couple had an amazing tale. A true love story that today in the morning after thinking about it really gets me a little choked up because it’s beautiful and so happy and it’s so the power of love over the ages.

They are in their 80s. They met when they were in college. Life took them in different directions and they were very happily married to other people for decades. Somehow they came together as widow and widower and the wife moved across the country where she had lived her life out west. So now they are married and live in the area. The husband has lived in this area for decades.

I’m not sure what the husband did for a career, but the wife was a nurse her entire career, including an army nurse in years it must’ve been quite challenging. They were so happy and so in love and so positive. I think the wife sort of adopted me until I went to the pre-surgery line up and holding area because she knew I was not as much of a tough girl as I wanted to be waiting there by myself. And that was my decision. My husband would have sat there all day for me. I did not want him to.

One thing that lady and I talked about was ancestry.com. She had started an account not too long ago and showed me some really cool pictures of family members – her ancestors – that she never knew existed.

In the holding area as I waited my turn to go into the OR I met a bunch of amazing nurses. I can’t stress enough how wonderful every nurse I’ve ever met at Chester County Hospital is.

I had a great conversation with a nurse whose name of course has flown right out of my head because we when were talking they had just begun the sedation process with me. This nurse noticed the limb alert bracelet on my left hand. Because I have had breast cancer and had the sentinel node removed I can’t ever have anything in my left side that was the side the cancer and lymph node was removed from.

She apparently has worked with a lot of breast cancer patients and excuse me she was interesting to talk to. Also talking to her made me realize how lucky I’ve been with breast cancer.

From that point on everything was a bit of a blur. When I woke up in the postop (which is now called something else in the land of new speak) there were some patients and nurses and it was sort of a lie there and drool for a while because I was so out of it coming out of anesthesia.

As I woke up a little more I overheard a nurse comforting a patient to the left of me. The patient wasn’t right next to me, she was a couple of beds down. And the nurse was distracting a patient by telling her about a box of special Christmas ornaments that they get out every year. They sounded like they were old Shiny Broght ornaments. But what got to me was her describing whatever was written on the box from whomever used to own them in her family.

And those are the kind of little heartwarming stories around the holidays that always get to me and make me smile because I know how special it is to me when I pull out the old ornament boxes and see my father’s hand writing on top of these boxes that are totally falling apart but I just keep taping them up so I have his hand writing there to greet me every Christmas.

My post op nurse was younger than I and from Lancaster. She was so calm and soothing. We talked about Lancaster County which was fun because that is where my maternal grandmother was from who was Pennsylvania German.

Across the postop room for me was this awesome nurses aide who ended up taking me down to the first area I came into while my husband was on his way to pick me up. She is a lovely young woman who moved here from a big city elsewhere to give her kids a better life. And she was telling her coworkers about one of her children who apparently has been a straight “A” student their entire life and just got into their pick of colleges. Another happy life story.

I know not every day in the hospital you find happy and loving and just these really warm and wonderful vibes because of the nature of a hospital. But I always seem to have these experiences in Chester County Hospital.

The entire hospital had holiday trees everywhere which I thought was awesome because I love decorated trees.

For a day that was about surgery and kind of tough on me it was also a day I enjoyed because of the people I met. I guess my whole point to this meandering post is if you’re open to it you never know where you’re going to meet interesting people.

Here in Chester County we are lucky to have this hospital.

So now I rest and heal and then begin the process of rebuilding my leg at physical therapy.

I don’t know how much I will be writing between now and the new year, so I will take this time to wish everyone a happy healthy 2020.

Cheers!





greetings from post op

Knee surgery is done. The reason I am writing a slightly loopy post-op post is because I just wanted to say how awesome Chester County Hospital is.

The nurses are simply put, amazing. And so is everyone else I encountered today.

The pain is somewhat fantastical right now but I just wanted to say thank you to this amazing hospital.

Thank you Chester County Hospital and Penn Medicine.

the last christmas eve of the decade

Christmas Eve is here! Only it feels more like March today. I thought I would go traditional for my readers. May your Christmas be magical and may the blessings of the season extend all year long.

The Night Before Christmas/ A Visit from St. Nicholas By Clement C. Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds;

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,

Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,

When what to my wondering eyes did appear,

But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,

With a little old driver so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the housetop the coursers they flew

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly

That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”