I had all these photos from Chester County Day this past October that I had never edited. Life got busy, along came the holidays, and here we are, months later.
But I do not know that now is a bad time to be editing. Actually, I think it is the perfect time given my recent posts on preservation. And Chester County Day is the perfect tour day to go around the county and see what makes where we live so magnificent, so special, so worth preserving and fighting for.
Our architecture ranges from the humble to the classic farmhouse to the fantastical. We need to preserve this. We can’t continue to allow the hum drum homogenous plasticity of dense developments to continue to run rough-shod over our county.
If elected, appointed, and county planning officials aren’t going to help, we have to seek alternative means. For example, when will we see these crazy developer driven zoning overlays that walk, talk, and smell of spot zoning go away?
It’s hard. We stand up in our communities and we become targets. Literally targets. For defending what we love.
This afternoon, the Philadelphia Inquirer landed a whale of an article for 5 PM release online (give or take, as far as time goes.) It speaks to what people are going through. The article is about Lloyd Farm in Caln. The article describes in great detail what people in Caln are going through. And they are, of course, but one municipality dealing with these issues.
The Lloyd farmhouse in Caln Township has a star-studded genealogy, a background that reads like a who’s who of American history.
William Penn himself sold the land it sits on to a wealthy family, a grant that paved the way for the creation of the state. A century later, it became an unofficial stop on the Underground Railroad, according to local histories of the pipeline to freedom. All the while, its caretakers maintained crops that state historians have described as an early example of the agriculture that would come to dominate the region.
But after years of deterioration and multiple owners, the 1757 building’s history is coming to a close, unless a frantic scramble by residents and local historians can stop it. They’ve embarked on a last-ditch effort to grant the farmhouse historic status, working against the demolition permit its owner has received from officials in this central Chester County community.
“The saddest part of this, from my perspective, is that all these historians from up and down the Main Line have contributed to this, and it’s had no effect,” said Cheryl Spaulding, who lives across the street. “I’m not surprised this is going to be developed, but other projects have kept these houses, incorporated them into their design and ultimately saved them.”
It’s a very long article. That is but a small excerpt. Read the whole thing. It’s beautifully written.
This article tells the tale that can be superimposed over many municipalities. East Goshen, West Chester, East Whiteland, West Whiteland, West Vincent, Upper Uwchlan, Westtown, Willistown, West Goshen, Caln…the list is as long as there are municipalities. Humble and affluent communities alike.
Going through these photos a few months later was like having fresh eyes. Some of my photos were of houses on the tour, others were of things I saw along the way. Things that break my heart like a development rising behind a corn field. It’s like a trick of the eye. It’s eerie.
Or what about the water in a fountain of a bucolic estate rising and falling in the fountain with an office park off in the background?
Where we used to see fields, we see development. Where we used to see fabulous 18th and 19th century Chester County farmhouses , we see development. Everywhere, we see development.
When I look at all the wonderful architecture that is representative of our county from the dawn of the American Revolution, to the industrial revolution, Victorian and Edwardian splendor, humble to fantastical and everything in between it is almost like you can’t breathe because it is SO spectacular. Then you can’t breath because every time you turn around something is being bulldozed and fields of cookie cutter samey same Tyvec wrapped homogenous architecture that won’t stand the test of time is rising up in its place. Have you ever visited one of these developments as they are being built? You can sometimes literally smell the plastic Lego Land of it all.
Our history and architectural heritage and open space can’t always belong to the bulldozer and the wrecking ball. Chester County deserves better.
Enjoy the photos. I sure did going through them again.
This is the irony of Chester County today: these were marvelous little houses that faculty and staff of Church Farms School lived in once upon a time.
Then came developers and now they rot. Day by day, month by moth, year by year. No one does anything except sometimes mow the grass. These houses just sit there and fall apart.
But they were tough, well made houses in their day so I am guessing they haven’t rotted fast enough?
But with all the butt ugly development, these houses would have been welcomed once upon a time by families looking to live in Chester County. But oh no, along came the developers.
And they rot. And no municipality seems to care. Someday they will be an office park or a townhouse development.
Yes…more life got in the way and I never posted these photos after Chester County Day in October and well…enjoy them now!
Gunkle Spring Mill is a very cool treasure in East Whiteland Township.
File under when life got in the way. Yes, the photos I was supposed to post in September. From the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust House Tour. Well I am in a #TBT kind of mood so enjoy:
The photo above has me in the center. Circa 1976- 1977. It has just been too long that sadly, I don’t remember the exact date.
Where am I? At one of my favorite historic sites on earth. Historic Harriton House in Bryn Mawr. I think technically, my friends and I at the time, beat Chef Walter Staib into the kitchen there by a few decades.
When we first moved to the Main Line from Society Hill, I missed the history and old houses of Society Hill. Yes, I was kind of obsessed by old houses even then. So neighbors introduced our family to historic Harriton House. And as a related sidenote, Historic Harriton House is a remarkable story of preservation. I urge everyone to take the time to go visit. The site is a little slice of heaven.
Before we moved from the city to suburbia, I also did something kind of historically minded for a kid.
At 11, I was probably the youngest volunteer tour guide the Park Service ever had in Society Hill. I gave tours of the Todd House and Bishop White House. In Colonial garb with a little mob cap.
But this is just something I have always loved since I was a kid. Our history, our architecture, our old houses.
I am not a new house person. I am a preserve the old house person. It’s just the way I am made. I am a realist and I don’t think every old house can be saved, but I think a lot more can be saved then are actually being saved.
Whenever I have these conversations with anyone about historic preservation, I go back to my childhood in Society Hill. And the reason is simple: that area was a total slum when people like my parents as newlyweds bought wrecks of old houses in Society Hill for peanuts from the redevelopment authority in Philadelphia.
My parents and their friends restored these houses with architectural details and hardware and windows and woodwork from houses that were too far gone to save. And as kids, a lot of the time we went with our parents when they were visiting these wrecks of houses to see what they could salvage out of them. And salvaging then wasn’t so much a big business as it was sort of a neighbor helping neighbor collaborative. People would give you the stuff out of the houses being torn down. It was a very different time.
It was through these expeditions that I learned about things like shutter dogs. Busybody mirrors. Box locks and more. The details of historical architecture which have traveled with me throughout my life.
This is where my love of old houses began. And it has been a lifelong affair.
A lot of people don’t like my opinions. And I’m sorry they don’t share my love of old houses and history. But as Americans we have a magnificent history. And we can’t just keep bulldozing it away.
Thanks for stopping by.
This old Chester County farmhouse was once considered historic. It was listed on a historic inventory too.
And it was demolished anyway for development. In 2018 in East Whiteland Township.
The house was on Bacton Hill Road across from the mobile home community and the ruins of Ebenezer AME Church and cemetery.
But hey, no biggie, just another dead and buried farmhouse in Chester County, right? After all, they are developing all of the farm land so who needs an old farmhouses right?