We all have that one building or place that makes us look at the world differently. That one inspiration that makes us realize we can’t just sit idly by as our history disappears building by building, acre by acre.
For me, it was Beechwood House in Bryn Mawr. Part of the Shipley Campus, it was designed by Addison Hutton, who was also the architect of beautiful Loch Aerie Mansion in Frazer, PA.
It was the 1990s. I had never even been to a meeting at my township building or spoken in front of everyone in a crowded room. But this place mattered to me and I joined The Friends to Save Beechwood. I guess I started going to meetings in the late 1990s about this. Below are embedded links to articles I purchased out of the newspaper archives:
Shipley wanted to tear Beechwood House down. This required professional mediation. Eventually Shipley said they would keep Beechwood if money was raised to save it by a certain deadline in 2001. To this day, I still think the school thought it would never happen. But it did. Heather Hillman was the main driving force along with Jean Wolf (Wolf Historic Preservation) a preservationist who has done amazing things. (The saving of Beechwood was kind of a big to do at the time. There were many articles about it in a few publications.)
As mentioned, I had never gone to a township meeting or spoken out in public. It got easier with time, but at first I was terrified. And in awe of these fierce women who did literally so much with a smile on their face and I don’t recall them raising their voices. I raised my voice, I was somewhat appalled by my alma mater when this started, and even when it was over – kind of like when they basked in the glory of the end result which was a successful restoration and adaptive reuse of a building we had to fight them to save because they didn’t think it was worth saving. (You can also read about Beechwood here.)
As a matter of fact around 2006 when we had our 25th class reunion, we were able to get Beechwood House for our reunion. A lot of my classmates had contributed to the fundraising and along with me were listed up on the brass plaque inside the building. The headmaster at the time was making the reunion party rounds and was talking about the restoration of Beechwood. He got heckled by one of my classmates because he didn’t mention me but mentioned almost everyone else on the Friends to Save Beechwood committee. But it was a penultimate example of we might not as well have been there.
But we were, and saving that structure still brings me joy every time we go by. Shipley can have the glory, what matters is it is saved. And loving Beechwood introduced me to Addison Hutton, which inspired me to write about another of his gems, Loch Aerie.
I guess my whole point of this post is find your passion. Be a voice in your community. Life is too short for regrets.
Thanks for stopping by.