over-development coming to radnor on dodo hamilton’s property?

218 Strafford Ave

A Radnor Township friend called this morning about this:

New housing in works for Wayne estate of Campbell Soup heiress Dodo Hamilton
By Linda Stein lstein@21st-centurymedia.com @lsteinreporter on Twitter Jan 13, 2020 Updated Jan 13, 2020

New housing in works for Wayne estate of Campbell Soup heiress Dodo Hamilton

RADNOR — Although no plans have been filed with the township, word is getting around that a developer has set his sights on the Wayne property of the late Dorrance “Dodo” Hamilton, who was one of the Main Line’s iconic grande dames….Hamilton, a billionaire who grew up in New York and Newport, R.I., where she also kept a home, was a generous philanthropist who gave millions to various institutions in the Philadelphia area….Radnor Township Board of Commissioners President Jack Larkin, who represents Ward 1, has written about the pending development at Eagle and Strafford roads in his newsletters to residents. When asked to comment, Larkin referred a reporter to those missives.

“The developer has shown me two concept sketches for the lots; the first is purportedly a by-right plan, and includes approximately 40 homes,” Larkin wrote in his newsletter. “This is, to me, an unattractive plan: Because the units are, by right, single family dwellings, cramming 40 homes onto the two lots means filling them with houses without space for buffers, open space, or stormwater recharge areas.”

Larkin continued, “The second plan would require a conditional use approval by the township, and would put approximately 50 homes into the two lots —41 town homes on the western lot, and nine single-family dwellings onto the eastern lot. Because the homes on the western lot are town homes, they leave a lot of space for the things that are absent in the by-right plan: Stormwater management, sidewalks, buffers, and open space. The density is problematic for me, but with that in mind, it is a good plan.”…Meanwhile, about 40 nearby neighbors sent this statement to Larkin: “We understand and appreciate the developer’s rights to develop the property, and our goal as a neighborhood is not to squash any development, but to mitigate any negative changes to the neighborhood and keep its current character. For those of us who have lived here many years, we have seen the negative effects of cutting down trees on the Hamilton’s property and the building of just four homes on the corner of Strafford and Eagle Road. Despite the assurances of the engineers, developers, and other experts, our neighborhood has been substantially damaged and our lives negatively affected by ‘tiny’ changes to the Hamilton’s property. There are approximately 40 neighbors on Strafford, Hedgerow, Grant, Forrest, Fairfield, and Old Eagle School who will attest to being harmed financially by the improper regulation of storm water runoff in the past.

“The character of the neighborhood will be drastically changed by the proposed development. Haverford Properties is seeking to double the number of homes within our small community. Our current neighborhood contains 35 acres and 64 homes, approximately two homes per acre. The developers plan to build 50 homes will result in 114 homes, for over three homes per acre….Meanwhile, the developer, Charles Houder, with Haverford Properties Inc., declined comment, saying that he wants to meet with the neighbors first.

Is dear Dodo turning in her grave yet? Do we think the esteemed and philanthropic Dodo would have wanted this for her beloved home?  I mean isn’t the family raking in the cash already? They made what, like $9 million off of the sale of the Newport, Rhode Island property in 2018 according to Town & Country Magazine:

“Judge Judy” Scheindlin and husband Jerry have made the move to Newport, Rhode Island, with the purchase of a $9 million mansion. The iconic home, known as the ‘Bird House” and previously owned by Campbell Soup heiress Dorrance “Dodo” Hamilton, sits atop one of the highest points in all of Newport

And then there were the auctions of antiques and stuff, right? There was one at Bunch in Chadds Ford I remember. And the millions from the auctions held by Freeman’s right? (One was written up in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Freeman’s also auctioned off some of her very spectacular jewelry, didn’t they? (Forbes even mentioned the jewelry, and Philadelphia Magazine had an article too at the time.)

In 2008 Philadelphia Magazine wrote an article on Mrs. Hamilton:

The Last Great Lady
Campbell Soup heiress Dorrance “Dodo” Hamilton has enjoyed a life of wealth and glamour: a debutante coming-out splashed in the “New York Times”, summers in Newport, and years as the face (and hat!) of the Main Line. In the waning days of Philly high society, we need “Mrs. H.” more than ever.

by AMY KORMAN· 10/21/2008, 10:02 a.m.

Matt Hamilton already knew that his mother was one of your more independent billionaire heiresses…. (When you’re a billionairess, people call you “Mrs.”) With her elegant suits and trademark wide-brimmed hats, she might look the part of the classic old-school socialite, but Dorrance Hill Hamilton (“Dodo” was a nickname inherited from her mother) puts her own stamp on everything she does. This past summer, her clan joined her in Newport, Rhode Island, to celebrate her 80th birthday at a full-on ball at the Newport Country Club — just around the corner from her summer estate, a splendid 1901 mansion called Wildacre — that featured, among other things, face-painting and an ice sculpture in the shape of a dodo bird. Along with her blue satin dress and emeralds, the guest of honor wore a tiny red hat in the shape of a birthday cake….Dorrance Hamilton was born to the role of socialite, of course — she is, famously, the granddaughter of Dr. John T. Dorrance, who invented the condensing process for soup and became the president of the Campbell Soup company in 1914. But while she has led a rarefied life, she is much more invested in carefully distributing her wealth, making sure that the money she bestows so generously is working properly. Recent gifts include $25 million to Thomas Jefferson Hospital; $5 million to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; $5 million to the Kimmel Center; $1 million to the costume collection at the Art Museum’s Perelman Building; and quietly dispersed millions to education causes all over the city, including several parochial schools in West Philly. In essence, she is CEO of what might be called Dorrance Hamilton, Inc., juggling businesses, charities, real estate projects and foundations.

So given what the late Mrs. Hamilton was about, would she be about having a cram plan of her estate whose driveway is on Strafford Avenue in Wayne, adjacent to the Eagle Village Shops ? You know where The Little House Shop and Valley Forge Flowers and more are?

This is the furthermost edge of Radnor Township and will also IMHO drastically affect Tredyffrin Residents won’t it? Traffic is already a nightmare there regularly, and what of Radnor Township School District?  This morning I had parents with kids in Radnor schools express serious concerns off the record.  Apparently the schools like many other schools and school districts are bursting at the seams.  More development doesn’t alleviate this issue. Also back there is a mess when it really rains, so what about storm water management?

Here is what Delaware County has about the real estate parcels. The commercial parcel is Eagle Village and all those stores:

 

Whether it’s the by right plan or the one which would require zoning approvals, why is this what they want to do with the property? I get that the heirs probably have their own ideas about what should happen, but is this what Mrs. Hamilton would have wanted?

For example, Mrs. Hamilton was an avid gardener. I have a Clivia plant that I bought decades ago at St. David’s Fair. It had been grown in Mrs. Hamilton’s greenhouses.  I almost lost this plant a few years ago when I accidentally left it out in too much sun.

And do people know here how she restored the famous Frederick Law Olmstead Jr’s Blue Garden in Newport, RI??  She was a fixture literally at the Philadelphia Flower Show for decades.

Does anyone here much know that she founded the Swiss Village Foundation also up in Newport, Rhode Island. SVF is a nonprofit that along with Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine  is dedicated to preserving heritage breeds of livestock. One of the animals they study and protect are the Dutch Belted Cattle which many in Chester County recognize as the “Oreo” cows. Mrs. Hamilton was mourned throughout New England when she died  for all she did.

She gave millions away to charity and seriously, are her heirs suddenly destitute or something? I mean I could get not wanting to be responsible for all of the land but why overly dense development?  Why not have at least part of the property become something like an arboretum like Jenkins, or even go under the umbrella of PHS (you know like  Meadowbrook Farm?)

I find this all to be incredibly sad. And it’s truly so disappointing that her family is considering this. I mean do they need the money that badly? I wish they would consider something else.  But in the end, will they care enough? Who knows. This sad saga is just beginning.  And I predict the surrounding residents will not just go quietly into the night over this. Nor should they.

218 Straf

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