About carla

Writer, blogger, photographer, breast cancer survivor. I write about whatever strikes my fancy as I meander through life.

old paoli at risk in tredyffrin and what’s up in mt. pleasant?

Sadly, these are the four “Seven Sisters” houses on Chestnut Road slated for demolition to make way for a multi-story apartment building. ~Pattye Benson Community Matters Photo

Sadly, these are the four “Seven Sisters” houses on Chestnut Road in Paoli slated for demolition to make way for a multi-story apartment building. ~Pattye Benson Community Matters Photo

My friend Pattye ended her post today with a sentence I would have led with:

Please do not misunderstand; I support economic redevelopment if thoughtful and well-planned.

 

I concur, but the sad truth is we rarely see thoughtful and well-planned redevelopment or infill development (are you listening or hearing anyone yet Brian O’Leary and Chester County Planning Commission???)

So the other day I wrote a post about more bad development planned for Tredyffrin Township. My main focus was Benson’s plan for Howellville (he’s the guy who said he would restore Linden Hall in East Whiteland if he was allowed to build townhomes, but all he did was sell his approved plans to Pulte who is still cramming them in on Lancaster Ave in Frazer ….And yes everything is Malvern now much like everything further west is Chester Springs even if it isn’t, but I digress.)

Anyway, there were a couple of other things on Tredyffrin Planning, including a cram plan for shoehorning in an apartment building on Chestnut Road in Paoli.

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Wonder where this is?  Here is a Google aerial view to help:

chestnut-aerial

Paoli, as a village, was larger but similar to places like Ardmore with residential neighborhoods which were planned and existed off Lancaster Pike (Lancaster Ave).  People still live in them today, and on Chestnut there are quite a few restored houses.

Tredyffrin like East Whiteland has no historic preservation ordinance in place and in spite of near losses like that of the Covered Wagon Inn (which if it wasn’t for my friend Pattye would be a pile of rubble), there seems to be no discernible forward movement in this area.

I wonder, is Murph Wysocki listening?  I seem to remember what he said when running for supervisor around 2013:

…My vision for the future of TredyffrinTownship is to preserve again what we have here that’s all good –our neighborhoods, our open spaces….

Chestnut Road in Paoli is still a neighborhood even if you also find mixed use and commercial in and around it. So what about these neighborhoods? Not fancy enough to save? What happens when all the inventory of starter homes and downsizing homes are gone?

This is why I have several philosophical differences with those who run and govern Tredyffrin and neighboring townships like East Whiteland.  The zeal for development and ratables combined with a lack of real community planning that communities actually want mixed with a disregard for historic preservation is just a big problem.

Paoli’s orginal roots were 18th century and Joshua Evans’ Inn – General Paoli’s Tavern – named after a Corsican General Pasquale Paoli. General Paoli also inspired the American Sons of Liberty.  Paoli is also famous for the Battle of Paoli/Paoli Massacre  (battlefields stretch into Malvern as we all know).

Where we are talking about is not 18th century Paoli, but 19th century Paoli.  19th century Paoli grew out of the railroad. First the village grew with the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad, which became the Pennsylvania Railroad and their famous “Main Line” which ended at Paoli….you know why we still say the Main Line ENDS at Paoli? Paoli was the western terminus.

Paoli has quite a few small neighborhoods like this and it terrifies me that they could all just cease to exist through a lack of historic preservation and proper planning.

And the most terrifying thing of all?  THESE PROPERTIES ARE ALREADY UNDER ONE OWNER which means unless stopped, this plan could move FAST!

This is where I let Pattye’s post take over, and I will join you for a last word about continuing issues in Tredyffrin’s panhandle adjacent to Radnor Township.

Trading in four 19th century houses in Paoli for a new multi-story apartment building … is this progress?

The four houses to be demolished are individually included in the 2003 Tredyffrin Township Historic Resource Survey book.  For the township’s survey, the houses were surveyed and photographed. The historic consultant described their architectural style as “gable-end Colonial Revival cottage” and dated the properties to 1895.

Through local history, the neighborhood of the seven 19th century homes on the east side of Chestnut Road was known as Paoli’s “Seven Sisters”.  Now one hundred and twenty-two years later and four of the ‘sisters’ are on the brink of demolition. Single family homes of the 19th century to be replaced by 21st century multi-family apartment building. Destruction of local history in the name of progress …?

Although the four 19th century homes are included in the township’s historic resource book, the identification is meaningless as Tredyffrin remains a municipality without a historic preservation ordinance of protection.  Without historic protection and the property’s inclusion in the Town Center zoning district, the proposed apartments are a permitted use. Chestnut Road Apartments will join the other new apartment plan in Paoli – Station Square on the corner of N. Valley and West Central.

Close-up of Colonial Revival cottage, c.1895 house on Chestnut Road that will come down for the proposed new apartment building.

Close-up of Colonial Revival cottage, c.1895 house on Chestnut Road in Paoli that will come down for the proposed new apartment building.

…The proposed Howellville Road townhouse plan returned to the Planning Commission. No Tredyffrin resident spoke in favor of the project and several in the audience voiced opposition……Neighbors spoke about the existing traffic issues on Howellville Road and the negative impact of this proposed townhouse on the community. Others, including myself, spoke of the historic significance of the village (and the old winding country road) and the changes the project will mean to the character of the area…..These proposed townhouses should not be marketed as a downsizing option – we were told each unit is 3,000 sq. ft.!  (READ MORE BY CLICKING HERE)

A reminder, this is the way Howellville could look:

howellville-road-townhome-plans
This is what it looks like now:
Pattye Benson photo

Howellville today. Pattye Benson photo

Tredyffrin, like neighboring East Whiteland needs to slow their development roll.  George Washington sure wouldn’t want to sleep there today, would he?

Now the last word.  Historic Mount Pleasant.

Mt. Pleasant is a historically important part of Tredyffrin adjacent to Radnor Township in Tredyffrin’s “pan handle”.

Because Tredyffrin also did not deal with student rentals for so long, this is also where student housing slumlords have set up quite the slumlord student rental shop, and well suffice it to say, the college students who rent there have historically treated an entire historic area like animal house.

I have a friend who lives there and the stories over the years have been appalling.  Things like urinating on children’s toys in some someone’s yard. Beer cans and party debris littering the streets. Out of control parties. Residents being shall we say, intimidated?

As my friend said around 2009:

I would like Tredyffrin to take a look at the historic value of Mount Pleasant.

The Carr House on the corner of Upper Gulph and Radnor Street Road was built c. 1774. The Carr School was built in 1833. My house, according to the deed was built around 1789. 961 Mt. Pleasant Avenue was built around 1810. 941 Mt. Pleasant was built around 1860.

And what about the significance of Mount Pleasant over the past 100 years as a historically african-american neighborhood?

As was said in 2010:

The Mount Pleasant neighborhood is located on the north side of Upper Gulph Road, across from St. Davids Golf Club…. several unsettling changes taking place in their neighborhood – the influx of investors converting family homes into student housing, and developers buying and razing properties to build new housing…..

Another issue troubling many in Mount Pleasant is the amount of land that has been snatched up in the past few years by developers. The demolition of homes and clear-cutting of land are viewed as detracting from the history and character of this predominately African-American community.

One developer reportedly clear-cut trees and shrubs despite a development plan that spared mature trees. In the process, some private property was cleared without the homeowners’ permission. Another developer demolished a house at 958 Mount Pleasant Rd., leaving the lot debris, trash and weed-filled, attracting rodents. This mess has sat unattended for over a year.

Maisie B Hall house 210 – Photo courtesy http://www.ttdems.com

The property under development at the foot of Henry Avenue appeared recently tidied and covered with erosion-control netting. However, at least three homes marked for demolition at this site continue to sit abandoned and a danger to neighborhood children. One is the century-old home (shown left) of revered community leader and civil rights activist, Mazie B. Hall.

 

Now this where I have always been puzzled about Tredyffrin.  They have bragging rights to Mazie Hall since she lived in Mt. Pleasant. I think they named a park after her. So why not honor her 103 years on this earth by trying to preserve the community she fought for and called home? Every time I hear anything about Mt. Pleasant I feel like they are trying to erase it.

Here is what Ryan Richards, who used to write for the Suburban, wrote about Mazie Hall upon her death in 2005:

Obituary: Civil-rights activist and educator Mazie Hall dies at 103 Date: 2005
Suburban and Wayne Times

By Ryan Richards

Mazie B. Hall – educator, mentor, civil-rights activist, community leader and friend to many – passed away Sunday evening at age 103.

She was affectionately known simply as “Miss Mazie,” and until only recently she called the Mt. Pleasant section of Tredyffrin her home since her birth in 1902. According to those who knew her, Miss Hall left a legacy of caring and compassion.

“She lived her life and she lived it greatly,” remarked Kevin Stroman, a native of Mt. Pleasant and close friend of Miss Hall. “She was just a living legend; her legacy was how many lives that she touched, not just through education but personally.”

“She was an inspiration and beacon to us all through educational, civic, horticultural contributions to the Main Line community, and especially her beloved Wayne,” said Mrs. Arnelia Hollinger, a Wayne resident of nearly 35 years and former chair of Radnor Township’s Community Awareness Committee…..Yet, according to Rector, she was humble, not “stuffy,” and modestly talked about her life. She fondly recalled her luncheon visits to her Mt. Pleasant home, where Miss Hall was a genteel host. She baked a special dessert, Sally Lunn cake, a slightly sweetened teacake, reminisced Rector, serving it with the proper silverware and glasses. The gracious host also took her guest on a tour of the grounds.

“She showed me trees that her father had planted,” she remembered.

Miss Hall graduated from the former Tredyffrin-Easttown High School and then graduated from West Chester Normal School (West Chester University). Until her death, she was the university’s oldest graduate. The school maintains a scholarship fund in her honor.

She taught school for many years in New Jersey’s Camden School District. Her career as an educator also included serving one year as principal at the former Mt. Pleasant School in Tredyffrin in the 1930s. When schools in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District became segregated, she was involved in the movement for desegregation.

She teamed up with long-time friend Margaret Collins to crusade for fair-housing practices on the Main Line during the 1950s. Their efforts influenced the formation of the Pennsylvania Fair Housing Act, the basis for federal fair-housing laws.

READ THE REST HERE

Now I knew Miss Collins as I called her. I used to wait on her when I worked at Bryn Mawr Feed & Seed a million years ago. She loved to garden.  She would show up in her crazy beat up old station wagon and I was the one who would wait on her.  I worked there at that nursery after I stopped working in New York. I was totally disenchanted at that time by the financial services industry and decided to explore my passion for gardening professionally. (Suffice it to say working for the widow who inherited and eventually shuttered the business almost killed my joy of gardening for a while, but that is a story for another day.)

Miss Collins, by the time I met her was a very old lady like her friend Mazie Hall.  But what a career they had.   Read about some of what they did on the website Housing Equality Center of PA.  Also the papers of Mazie Hall are curated and archived by Temple University, while her friend Margaret Collins’ papers are at Swarthmore College.

So sorry for going off on a tangent, but when I think of Mazie Hall and all that she accomplished, I think of Miss Collins.  And when I think of Mt. Pleasant, I think of Mazie Hall.

Back to Mt. Pleasant.  It still suffers from off campus student housing and now it also apparently suffers from developers who get away with crazy stuff.  Like this photo I am about to show you:

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Mt. Pleasant has been photographed in the past HERE and HERE. I am wondering if it needs to be photographed again? (Residents can feel free to message the blog’s Facebook page with any photos they care to share)

If you lived in a neighborhood of small homes, would you want this thing next to you? And how is that garage a basement?

Tredyffrin has zoning and development issues.  They are hardly alone in Chester County with this as I have mentioned before. Developer driven zoning and zoning overlays eats communities one road at a time like an army of Pac-Men.  Community input should actually be taken into consideration, not just paid lip service to.  And these smaller neighborhoods like you see in Paoli being threatened are often representative of a community’s more affordable housing.

I am sorry but not sorry in my thought that people do not move to Chester County to live crammed in like lemmings in overpriced squished together townhouses and apartments.

Here’s hoping townships like Tredyffrin and East Whiteland which share borders, history, and apparently developers learn to hit the pause button before what makes each of these municipalities special is eradicated one bad plan at a time.

#SlowDownChesterCountyPADevelopment

converse auctions

I was going to antiques shows before I could spell “antique”. It was something in particular my late father loved to do, and for years my mother was a volunteer for the Philadelphia Antiques Show, and even I volunteered for a couple of years in the 90s.

Antiques shows and sales and auctions are just things I love. Even if most of the time I am just looking and not buying.

Many many years ago before there was a Public Storage at 55 Lancaster Ave. in Malvern, there was a local auction house – Josie Narcisi Auctions. I remember they used to run ads for “absolute auctions every Friday!”

Anyway I first bid at an auction at Josie Narcisi’s. When I was much younger (as in still living with my parents) my elderly neighbor and his housekeeper took me to my first auction. My neighbor was a real and serious collector of beautiful antiques and taught me how to bid at my first auction.  I still remember what it was I bid on – it was a box a lot of mixed items for $25.

Today it was like coming full circle when I went to pick up a small porcelain box I won in an auction at Converse Auctions….at 57 Lancaster Avenue in Malvern.

Converse Auctions is the business of Todd Converse, whose father is Gordon Converse of Antiques Roadshow fame.

I stumbled across the notice for the recent online auction somehow – Facebook maybe – and decided to register.

I never in a million years thought I would win anything because most of everything that was in the auction was out of my price range. But there was one little tea caddy box that I thought was lovely so I bid on it and for $60 it became mine. That is the fun thing about auctions: you just never know.

Anyway it was a totally fun experience, and for those looking for places to consign better antique items, they accept consignments for future auctions!  And every Tuesday they offer free appraisals during   business hours – just contact them for details.

Find Converse on the web at http://www.converseauctions.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ConverseAuctions

And while we are talking shows and auctions one of my favorite shows is coming up – The Chester County Antiques Show!

The Chester County Historical Society (CCHS) is widely respected as one of the Commonwealth’s premier history museums and educational centers, playing an important role in history education, cultural diversity and economic impact for the Southeastern Pennsylvania region. In its 35th year, the Chester County Antiques Show is CCHS’s largest community and fundraising event.

Chaired by Francis “Fran” B. Jacobs II. and Chuck & June Piola, the show will be held from April 7-9, 2017 at the Phelps School. The Phelps School in Malvern is a unique facility which features accessibility, spaciousness, and natural light that will create the perfect setting for the vendors and all of their antique items.

The theme of this year’s event is Botany. The show attracts visitors and collectors every year to view its variety of items and furniture. We invite you to support the 35th annual show by becoming a sponsor of this one-of-a-kind Chester County tradition.

Friday, April 7 – Preview Party – 5pm early admission ($200 per person)
6pm regular admission ($140 per person)
Saturday, April 8 – General Admission from 10am to 6pm – $15.00 per person (Lectures included)
Sunday, April 9 – General Admission from 11am – 5pm – $15.00 per person. Children 10 and under FREE.

ccas

cooking up sunday “gravy” memories

My father’s mother, my paternal grandmother was not an easy woman. She was incredibly strong, the oldest breast cancer survivor I ever knew (savage mastectomy in the 1940s, lived into her 90s), and her relationships, including with all of us was a complicated relationship at best.

She and my father had periods of detente and I know they loved each other but there were many years were they just didn’t get along, especially after my grandfather died. I still remember the night as a little girl when my father came home after seeing his mother after Pop Pop had died. 

My paternal grandmother, whom I called Grandmom, in a photo taken by either my uncle or one of my cousins. She would’ve looked like this when I was a teenager.

Anyway, I remember creeping down the steps to see him, and stopping in the doorway to the living room and silently going back upstairs. I will never forget the visual of him sitting next to a single lit lamp in the living room on 4th street smoking cigarette after cigarette, staring off at I don’t know what.. At his feet were boxes of his childhood – books and what not. 

I loved my paternal grandmother, but some times growing up I didn’t like her very much. She is a woman who was truthfully better with adults than children, and she had a closer affinity for my aunt and uncle’s children because they were closer to her than my father was. Truthfully my aunt and uncle and cousins seemed to resent having to share her with my immediate family at any time, it was like they felt they had proprietary rights to her or something.

And that was OK with me. I understood it even when I was little and really didn’t understand it, if you know what I mean. They just needed her more for whatever reason. 

 But sometimes the relationship was more normal with Grandmom and she would do things like come out to our house and babysit us while my father traveled on business when mother had to accompany him.
That is where my memories of her Sunday pasta sauce, which she (Grandmom) and my great aunts called gravy, came from.

I remember being a teenager and younger with the smells wafting up the stairs to my bedroom circling the rooms like a comfortable quilt. The smells were intertwined and co-mingled: fresh coffee perking and onion and garlic cooking. There she would be, at the stove with a big wooden spoon stirring the sauce in an apron she made – she made great aprons – I still have one somewhere.

Me as a little girl with my grandmom and the German Shepherd my father hated named Lily Marlene who eventually went to live with my Uncle Jack.

So much like the smell of Christmas cookies baking in the oven, or Thanksgiving dinner aromas filling the air, the smell of pasta sauce being made on a Sunday morning is very much a feeling of home and family for me.

She would start with the onion and garlic and if there were peppers or mushrooms, those as well. They would meld together in olive oil with salt in the bottom of a crazy heavy cast aluminum pot that had a wooden handle and the wooden knob on the lid. My mother whom she gave this pot, still uses this pot to this day. I use my vintage Dansk Dutch oven.

If she was making meatballs or sausage she would brown her meat in a frying pan. I don’t do that anymore, I cook everything in the oven and drain off the grease. My grandmother always had lamb or pork neck bones to add to the sauce. The lamb and particular adds a level of flavor that I still find amazing and prefer to this day. But it’s often hard to find these little neck bones as there are fewer and fewer real butchers out there.

To the vegetables in olive oil in the pot once they were cooked down almost to the point of caramelization at times, she would add tomatoes, tomato purée, and tomato paste. When I was little I also remember going through this ritual at my great aunts with the tomatoes that came out of my Aunt Rose”s garden that my Aunt Josie would put up at the end of every growing season.

The tomatoes were canned in the basement kitchen that my great aunt had for this purpose. I still to this day can see in my mind’s eye how beautiful all the jars of pickles and tomatoes were lined up next to one and other like little rows of soldiers.

Me at Easter as a baby with my mother and my maternal grandmother whom I called mumma

My great Aunt Rose and her husband my Uncle Carl, lived in the “country” as it was referred to by the others. They had moved to Collegeville after they were married and build a house on a large plot of land next to a farm that had horses. Of course today, what was their house, sits set back off of busy Ridge Pike in the midst of commercial and residential development. But I will always remember it with the memory of a child: next to a farm and lots of apple trees and a big kitchen garden and a sort of gruff German Shepherd named Lancelot.

The thing about all of my great aunts, and the reason I write about them so often, is because the memories I have with them in particular are very, very happy. They did not get into the middle of the battles between my father and his mother and his siblings.  

Mind you, I never really blamed my father for any of this because I don’t care for my aunt and uncle, and as an adult after we buried my father, I pretty much decided right or wrong I was finished with those familial relationships. I remember something my father used to say when I was little and it was “sometimes, guilt is just wasted.”


Sadly, my father’s siblings made it easy for me to reach this decision as an adult. My aunt is just not someone I’m ever going to be close to, she just is who she is. I am somewhat ambivalent when it comes to her because I never really grew to love her as a child, felt her coldness, and as an adult she never really chose to know me. So after a while you just stop trying with people like that, even if they are family.

My uncle, however, is a very different story. When my grandmother was in her final decline before she had passed, she and my father had made their peace with each other. He was actually spending time with her almost regularly and I think it was good for him. But there was this one day when my father and I had gone to visit Grandmom in her nursing home and my uncle had driven down from Buffalo to see her.

My father with Aunt Josie before one of his Saint Joe’s Prep dances

There we were, all standing somewhat awkwardly around my grandmothers bed – her deathbed if we’re honest about what was going on. My uncle brings himself up to his full height (he was a little taller than my father – my father was 6 feet tall) and he looks at my father with righteous indignation and tells him how my father was a “bad son.”

 And it went on from there.

At first I was shocked. I couldn’t believe even with all the animosity he exhibited towards daddy over the years, that anyone would be so cruel as to do this over their mother’s death bed. Never shying away from anything (even when I probably should), I told my uncle off. Right there, right then, in that moment. The thing I will never forget about that is my grandmother did not say a word, but she looked at me from her pillow…..and smiled. 

When my father died, my aunt was there. I don’t remember if any of her kids were there but she was there. My uncle, my father’s only brother, wasn’t. He made some lame excuses how he was just “too busy” to come to the funeral. That was the moment I decided completely free of guilt, that I was done trying to pretend to care about and have a relationship with my uncle. And I pretty much sent him a letter telling him so.  

I did try, out of respect, to have a relationship with my aunt one last time after my father had passed, but I came to the sad realization that she didn’t really want a relationship with me, there was too much water I think under the familial bridge. I let that relationship just go. I think my sister hears from her occasionally, but I really don’t know and I don’t ask. 

 I have a memory of my father’s  sister from after my grandmother died, and I’m not sure if my father was still alive or not.  I had contacted her to ask for some of my father’s baby pictures, so I’m thinking he was no longer with us. And I received a box in the mail of photos of my father ripped out of family photo albums I never knew existed in the first place. It was really odd to go through the photos as I have never seen any of them before. Part of me wondered what the rest of the photo albums look like, and the other part of me realized I never would know.  I was grateful to receive the photos and thanked her properly, but it was still all a little odd.

Now that I let my aunt and uncle go the ones I stay in touch with the most are the cousins my father loved the most. The children of his beloved Aunt Helen. Much like my great aunts, they are just lovely people with hearts full of love. They don’t judge or criticize or critique, they are just happy to be family. I love them too.

It’s weird how the smells of cooking something in my adult kitchen can provoke so many memories. But when the memories bubble to the surface I like to write them down now. I want to remember all the memories and the happy feelings these people gave me as a child. And that’s not because I had some kind of an awful childhood, because I didn’t. These people are my roots.

Something I feel is really important are roots. So many people are rudderless today, and they never pay any homage to their roots. I might’ve spent a childhood that some people considered breathing rarefied air between Society Hill and the Main Line, but always more important than any of those experiences, were these old people in my life. 

And not just on my father’s side, but on my mother’s as well. Being from pure peasant stock is actually kind of cool. And I like to acknowledge it because I think it makes up who I am as an adult in my own right. I also acknowledge them because they always got me, which is something I appreciated in them even as a child.

My paternal grandparents on their wedding day.

I’m only sorry that these people aren’t around today to see my life, to see me happy with my own family. But somehow for every pot of Sunday gravy or sauce that I make I think they know.

I write these memories down because I have no daughters and I do not at this point have grandchildren, so a lot of these traditions passed me may eventually die with me, if I don’t write them down and try to pass them on. So I think if I write these things down, the traditions won’t be lost and someone, maybe someone I don’t even know will carry on these things I learned to cook in the kitchens of my great aunts and my parents.

And out of the older relatives, predominantly it was the women who made an impact on me as a girl growing up. All of these women were strong independent individuals in their own right. My memories of both my grandfathers and my Uncle Pat (P.J.) are more fuzzy and less defined because I was young when all of them passed away. I have photos of my maternal grandfather, but sadly I don’t have any photos of my paternal grandfather as he would’ve been when I was a little girl before he died. Nor do I have photos of P.J.

Now I’m going to go back to my own sauce- it’s time to add the herbs and spices and tomatoes. And when the sausage comes out of the oven it will go into the sauce and it will all simmer, filling my house with the smells and memories of my childhood.

Happy Sunday.

lost and found


I was rearranging my cookbooks and going through some older ones that were my mother’s at one point, and when I open one cookbook it was like opening Pandora’s box. Old photos and recipes. One recipe was hand typed by someone for my mother, and I remember her making this cake. I think this was a childhood friend’s  mother’s carrot cake recipe.

The other recipes were torn out of magazines and print publications. 

These are all from the late 1960s and early 1970s. I thought it would be fun to share.


will village of howellville get squeezed by development in tredyffrin?

Pattye Benson Community Matters Photo

Pattye Benson Community Matters Photo

The Village of Howellville is one of Tredyffrin’s earliest villages. So historic and it was easily accessible by the farms of the Great Valley.  According to Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society it started with a tavern around 1712:

Howellville, one of Tredyffrin’s earliest villages, grew in an area convenient to the farms of the Great Valley. A tavern was often the start of a town, and the first one here was built about 1712. By the early 1700s, sawmills and gristmills had appeared. Nearest to the center of town was the sawmill on Crabby Creek. Several of the early farms had their own limestone kilns. The first school opened about 1720. A factory of some kind belonging to the Workizer family is listed on the 1798 Direct Tax. [Note 1] By the late 18th century, a shoemaker and a wheelwright had set up shop.

More industry developed in the 19th century, including a woolen mill owned by Samuel Wood. There was at least one blacksmith. By the middle of the century there was a store and the Chester Valley Railroad, and by the late 1800s Howellville was a thriving industrial town. The limestone quarries became big business and Italian immigrants arrived to work at them. Other nationalities followed, but were never as numerous or as prosperous as the Italians.

By the early part of the 20th century, Howellville had become a close-knit community-a bit naughty, with lots of drinking and gambling. Then came the Depression which dealt rather harshly with the village. Having lost their jobs, and with no place to go, the quarry workers lived hand-to-mouth. In 1934 Frances Ligget, later a member of the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club, marshalled the help of the Valley Forge Farm and Garden Club to clean up the town and help the unemployed workers and their families. Free seeds were given for gardens. The state provided medical assistance as well as sewing, knitting, and cooking classes, and a nursery school. Weaving was taught by Lettie Esherick, wife of the artist Wharton Esherick.

In 1681 land in the center of Tredyffrin Township that would eventually become most of Howellville belonged to William Mordaunt and John Hort Each owned 500 acres. They were Welsh Tract brokers-they bought the land from William Penn but never lived on it. In 1711 Mordaunt’s sons sold their 500 acres to John Evans, who had previously been Governor of Pennsylvania. Just to the east lay 1340 acres that David Meredith sold to William Powell in 1706. They were also Welsh Tract brokers.

Llewellyn David, a Welshman and one of the early settlers, bought 300 acres in 1708. The name David (later changed to Davis) was the biggest name in Howellville for the next two centuries.

The area sat at the bottom of a natural bowl where three hilly roads met to form a triangle. Swedesford Road, forming the north side of the triangle, came into existence about 1720, very early in the settlement of the Great Chester Valley. It led from the vicinity of Randall Malin’s house in East Whiteland to the Swede’s Ford at the Schuylkill River, near present day Norristown, and gave settlers in the interior access to Philadelphia.

Bear Hill Road, which formed the southeast side of the triangle, connected the Valley with the Black Bear Tavern at the top of the South Valley Hill near the Lancaster Road and today’s village of Paoli.

The southwest side of the triangle was Howellville Road, until a traffic light was installed at the corner about 1960. Then it became part of Swedesford Road and the north side of the triangle was made one-way. It was this way until most of Howellville’s buildings were torn down and Route 202 was completed and dedicated in 1971.

The triangle at the bottom of these roads was a convenient place for horses and wagons to stop and rest, and in 1745 a license was granted to establish the first tavern. When David Howell settled in the area and became the second innkeeper of the tavern, about 1765, it was called Howell’s Tavern. The village that grew up around it became Howellville. When the old inn was razed in 1921, the only house in the triangle was the little house described by Henry Darling later in this article.

The triangle disappeared in 1967 when Route 252 was widened and Route 202 was built.

READ THE ENTIRE HISTORY HERE

The history of Howellville is fascinating and rich.  Most people just think of Howellville Road today…not that it was a historically important crossroads village. It is an integral part of the history of Tredyffrin and was discussed in Tredyffrin’s 2009 Historic Preservation Plan.

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Last time I was on Howellville Road was in the fall  when I was noodling around and found myself on that road.  It has long fascinated me and I lament the loss of one crossroads village after the other as time progresses.

villa-straffordToday I just finished reading a blog post by my friend Pattye Benson about a proposed development there. Oh and the developer is a name familiar to East Whiteland and Radnor 6602889_0_jrbnqjresidents: Benson Companies. Or you know, the townhouses without real trees crammed in at 115 Strafford Ave in Wayne and the eqully unctious cram plan that finally got approved at 124 Bloomingdale Ave in Radnor. And for East Whiteland? Linden Hall. You know the developer that said they would restore historic Linden Hall if they got approved for townhouses, only they haven’t done anything other than sell approved 124-bloomingdaletownhouse plan  to Pulte who built the townhouses with a view of the cigar store, Route 30 and the still rotting Linden Hall? But is that all on Benson? What about the teaming up with O’Neill at super toxic Bishop Tube?  And do not forget Kimberton Meadows, right?27685291670_2d629ed33d_o

Anyway….Benson is once again the proposed townhouse gift that keeps on giving:

Community Matters: How many townhouses and assisted living communities does Tredyffrin Township need (or want)? Can the T/E School District accommodate the increase in student population?

You may recall the abandoned Jimmy Duffy property on Lancaster Avenue in Berwyn and the subsequent construction of Daylesford Crossing, an assisted living facility on the site.  The approval for Daylesford Crossing was a long, drawn out redevelopment process in 2012 that required a text amendment to permit senior living facilities as a by-right use in C-1 (commercial) zoning.

Some argued at the time that the zoning change to permit senior living in C-1 was ‘spot-zoning’ to accommodate this specific project and others questioned what this would mean for future C-1 development in Tredyffrin Township. In 2015, the township expanded the C-1 District zoning to also include townhouses as a by-right use.

During the last few years, developers have flocked to the township with their assisted living and townhouse, apartment and condominium plans. Assisted living projects currently under construction or in the review process include Erickson Living at Atwater Crossing in Malvern (250 beds) and Brightview Senior Living on E. Conestoga in Devon (196 beds).

On the townhouse-apartment side in the township, there are many projects in the planning stages or under construction….Areas that were once farmland continue to be developed.  Top ranking school district, T/E brings an influx of people to the area which means an influx of students, and the growing problem of finding a place to put them….. a new proposed land development plan in the works that is extremely troubling – townhouses on Howellville Road. The proposal is to wedge a cluster of 20 townhouses, in four buildings, between the village of Howellville and the shadow of the Refuge Pentecostal Church.

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….The proposed land development plan on Howellville Road is not compatible with the character and appearance of the area.  Beyond the impact of traffic on Howellville Road, the proposed development plan creates serious safety concerns.  The steep narrow winding nature of Howellville Road makes entry and exit from the proposed dense townhouse project a dangerous situation.

Benson Company’s proposed townhouse project on Howellville Road will change the look and character of this community as well as place a greater burden on the narrow, winding road – and again more students for the school district!

John Benson of Benson Company has enthusiastically offered that his proposed Howellville Road townhouses will look like his Grey’s Lane townhouses on Lancaster Ave.  A couple of things – (1) Grey’s Lane is on Rt. 30, a commercial 4-lane road vs. Howellville Road, a rural country road and (2) he squeezed 12 townhouses in at Grey’s Lane in 3 buildings where as this proposal is for 4 buildings with 20 townhouses….Areas that were once farmland continue to be developed. Between the assisted living communities and the townhouses and apartments, should the objective in Tredyffrin Township be to approve any and all land development projects regardless of the impact?

How awful this sounds and allow me to share two screen shots – one is Pattye’s photo of where the proposed townhouses will be stuffed in and perched like Jabba The Hut and all his children, and a rendering of the “Greys Lane” townhomes…another cram plan, and cheap looking to boot.

And from an aesthetic point of view, every time I see a staged interior of a “fabulous” Benson new construction piece of new construction dreck I am struck with the fact that every interior looks the same. If you want Barbie’s dream house, you are pretty much there. No character, predictable, mass produced, plastic.

Photo by Pattye Benson Community Matters

Photo by Pattye Benson Community Matters

25 Greys Lane, Berwyn, PA:

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YUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Residents of Tredyffrin are soooo right!!  How much of this does any one township want or need? And much like neighboring East Whiteland it seems like people are hell bent on developing every square inch of the township! Who needs King of Prussia? Soon Tredyffrin and East Whiteland will definitely resemble King of Prussia meets Bensalem.

Oh yes, one more thing? Tredyffrin residents need to get to the Planning Commission TOMORROW February 16th when this next great godforsaken plan makes it’s debut along with “Westlakes Hotel” and “Chestnut Road Apartments”.

Again I ask where the hell the Chester County Planning Commission and Brian O’Leary are? Lord above, Chester County is drowning, yes drowning in development plans.

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sightlines and growing pains 

This morning when I arrived in Malvern Borough for a creative meeting with colleagues I could barely get into the municipal parking lot across King from the Buttery safely. There was a giant pick up truck with a flatbed trailer attached to it parking behind the spaces in the lot. It belonged to workmen working on the property on the other side of the fence.

I did not photograph the truck (because I bet they were just told to park there that it would be OK and they took someone’s word at face value) , but in photo above you can see where I am talking about and imagine for yourself how difficult it was to navigate that parking lot and parking spaces with something that took up easily three quarters of the length of the parking lot which is not particularly deep to begin with.

As I was getting parked someone came out to the truck which was an out of local vicinity  truck.  I saw the guy and I said “Hi, I hate to bother you but do you actually have permission from Malvern to park like this and leave your truck and trailer parked here?”

The guy responded “I think so?”

So I said “I’m not trying to give you a hard time but it was very difficult to park, so I hope you’re not offended if I call Malvern Borough and ask.”

As I was dialing Malvern Borough, they magically moved the truck out of the municipal parking lot. The person who answered the phone at the borough transferred me to the police so I asked the police if this truck had permission to park like this because it was really difficult to navigate the parking lot with it parked there. I also told whoever the man was (who did not identify himself nor did he ask me for any of my information) that as soon as I asked them if they had permission to park a construction vehicle there they got someone to move the truck and trailer.

The response from this gentleman was polite but you could tell the last thing he wanted to do was speak to some woman trying to park in the municipal parking lot and having issues. 

He said to me that basically I needed to understand that they tried to cut local business people a break. And I said to him it wasn’t a local business person it was a very out of area truck and trailer parked in a municipal lot. And that they were not displaying anything that indicated they had permission to park there. (which prompted my phone call in the first place.)

He also told me well he didn’t have a problem with them offloading equipment and then moving the truck, which I actually agree with because it’s just being polite. BUT if I had not asked them if they had permission to park there all day I bet they would’ve left the truck there all day and that’s not fair to people who want to utilize a municipal parking lot in the first place is it?

The idea behind municipal parking lots anywhere especially in small towns is to get visitors’ vehicles off the streets and in a safe spot. That way residents have places to park their own cars and visitors can,well, enjoy their visits, right?

Since this part of Malvern Borough has been built up with Eastside Flats there are often issues with how people park. I always park where I am supposed to because I don’t want to inconvenience any business or resident.  But I find, shall we say commercial vehicles, aren’t so considerate. I have also taken photos of what it was like trying to get out of the parking lot and back onto King. 

There is always a perpetually parked UPS truck for Eastside Flats. For some reason they seem to always park right in front of the pedestrian crosswalks. The pedestrian crosswalks are lovely but people don’t get what they are and why they are there and they aren’t enforced, so crossing King there is still a bit of a game of chicken.

On the same side of the street as the municipal lot on the opposing corner was some kind of a clean out of another property. Two trucks. I have included another photo that shows where one of those trucks was parked which made it extraordinarily difficult to get out of there safely onto King because they were right on the corner.

Sightlines are supposed to be  clear, right? it’s a safety issue right? It’s something that planners are always supposed to take into consideration and see that they are done properly right?

I adore Malvern Borough but I humbly suggest that they revisit some of these trouble spots with parking and traffic before somebody gets in an accident and hurt.  

I’m chalking this up to growing pains. But it is something that this town needs to figure out as they grow and move forward into the future. It’s also what other towns should look at when they have giant developers who want to come build things on their Main Streets.

the anti-development valentine

This is what development does to open space, to farms. Taken from the air by a friend.

This is what development does to raw land. Given that some reporters are writing “elegies” for Crebilly and 6ABC’s coverage last night, I thought I would leave all of you with an anti-development valentine to ponder today.

It used to be if development was thoughtful, a community might be able to tolerate it. But when was the last time anyone anywhere saw a thoughtful, inclusive development that nodded towards the future while respecting the past?  When is the last time any developer who came into Chester County gave a crap about the agricultural and equine heritage of Chester County let alone open space?

Affectionately referred to as "Lake Pulte" - out near/in West Vincent. Reader submitted photo

Affectionately referred to as “Lake Pulte” – out near/in West Vincent. Reader submitted photo

Oh sure they say they will give you a trail and preserve the trees but is that fair compensation to communities that depended on farming for so many reasons let alone starting with growing our food? Is that fair compensation to the schools when they get overcrowded and taxpayers are forced to build new ones?  Is that fair compensation for the loss of history? Is it fair compensation for turning country roads into scenes from outside the King of Prussia Mall?  And in the end do they actually preserve the trees let alone preserve a way of life and the history that makes Chester County great?

This is “Liseter” in Newtown Square. It used to be known as Foxcatcher Farm. This is what Toll Brothers did there and it has almost the same number of plastic McMansions they want on Crebilly.

I don’t think so. And no one is doing anything too slow or even measure the pace of development. Brian O’Leary and the Chester County Planning Commission want to talk a good game but what do they actually do? Unless we all forget Mr. O’Leary learned how to talk a good game from the masters in Lower Merion Township where he lives and where he once served on that planning commission, right?

Our state and federal elected officials are all busy fighting each other over who was elected president, but what are they doing for us in as far as historical preservation, land conservation, environmental conservation, open space conservation? What are they doing to protect the future of farming and Chester County and across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?  Come to think of it since election day what has any elected official done for any of us in any capacity other than being a talking head?

Happy Valentine’s Day Chester County.  Here is hoping from one end of the county to the other people wake up before it’s too late and realize developers are no gift.

Also Toll Brothers. Was once the most glorious series of farm fields and beautiful woods. Little Conestoga Road, Upper Uwchlan. Went by there last week and what was different is there are a couple of “sample” houses on a barren stripped swath of land.

Notice the land and tree “preservation” at Foxcatcher? Be horrified, this is the future at Crebilly.

 

Not Toll Brothers but this was the old Quigley Farm on White Horse Road in Charlestown Township. The title of this photo is “death of a farm”

Another view of what used to be open space in Chester County…..

Even Malvern Borough can’t escape – used to be Gables Greenhouses….