chester county ghost town of fricks locks

DSC_7305Imagine it as the tour guides knew it growing up: a little village of charming gardens and close knit neighbors.  Children running on summer days from house to house, picking fruit where they knew it to be growing (berries, black cherries, apples, peaches).

A bull in a fenced in orchard named “bossy”.’

Double daring each other to be on top of the bridge when the locomotive went under.

Walking to school in the snow.

Hoboes arriving each summer via the freight train cars and their mother would set up a card table, feed them, and tell them about God.

The old lady across the street who gave them birthday cards and made them sweet treats.

DSC_7139This was Fricks Locks.

And then…they were all told to leave. Progress was at their door.

A little history courtesy of Preservation PA circa 2009:

The Girard Reach of Schuylkill Canal was constructed circa carry coal from the Anthracitic region to markets in Reading and Philadelphia. The two Locks 54 and 55 were constructed in the village to provide a lift of 18 feet. To guide traffic, a canal right-of-way,towpath, canal basin and aqueduct were constructed. A lock tender’s residence was also built on site. The small village— comprised of vernacular Federal style residential properties,agricultural properties, and retail structures—expanded to support
the booming transportation route. The extant Canal features and many of the associated properties contribute to the Fricks Lock National Register Historic District.

Today a friend of mine and I made the pilgrimage to the other side of the county from us, to East Coventry to go on a Fricks Locks tour. The tours run in pleasant weather months and will be open Saturdays in early fall — September 8th and 22nd, October 13th and 27th.  The tour times are 10 am, 11:15 am, 12:30 pm.  If they have to cancel, it is posted on the East Coventry website after 12 noon on the Friday prior to the scheduled tour.

Today we were joined by a little fawn I hope doesn’t get locked in the village without it’s mama:

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Lee Ann Embrey photo

The volunteer tour guides are a bit strict, and slightly inflexible at times. And although you ‘may take photographs’ you aren’t allowed to stop and are instructed to keep moving. I mean REALLY instructed to keep moving. You also may not deviate from the path or go on the grass except where they expressly tell you to. And if you aren’t keeping up and are trying to get that perfect photo, be warned, you will be scolded.  One of the guides in particular reminded me of an old fashioned school librarian watching her watch, and tour takers for infractions.  The hideous and destructive spotted lantern flies were allowed wherever they pleased, however.

Although I see Fricks Locks videos all over You Tube, you are not allowed to take videos.  That was a real bummer because the history of the village we learned on the tour was super interesting and it would have helped to have been able to record it.

DSC_7151The Limerick Power Plant looms in the background the entire tour it is that close.  However, we were told repeatedly that it and the old train station which is now some grungy warehouse property was not part of the tour.  I beg to differ for the simple fact that they are very much part of the history.

It is this crazy feeling as you drive down Fricks Locks Road off of Sanatoga Road.  All of a sudden, while following the signs to Fricks Locks, there you are facing an abandoned village frozen in time.

As you stare at the houses and structures, in your mind’s eye (or maybe just my vivid imagination) I could swear as the tour guides spoke, I could hear the distant sounds of life as it once was in this sleepy little village.

While some buildings date from the American Revolutionary War era, the village name was a result of the “Schuylkill Navigation” canal. The canal required construction, in the early 1820s, of a set of locks at that point along the Schuylkill River.

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Locks #54 and #55 were built on farmland acquired from John Frick and the village became known as Frick’s Locks/Fricks Locks. The village thrived due to the economic stimulus of the canal. Eventually the commercial canal traffic declined toward the turn of the century and gave way to the railroad.

Fricks Locks had become the singular Frick’s Lock after the Pennsylvania Schuylkill Valley Railroad arrived and built a station with the latter name. The canal was filled in starting in 1942. While the railroad eventually declined after Conrail was formed on April 1, 1976, the village remained inhabited until near the end of the 20th century.

In the 1960s, the then Philadelphia Electric Company began Limerick Nuclear Power Station immediately across the river from Frick’s Lock. The station went on line in 1985.

PECO acquired all the land around the station site, which included Fricks Locks. There are possibly conflicting stories as to how the residents were bought out and relocated.  All of the buildings were vacated and simply boarded up.

Fricks Locks was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 21, 2003. In February 2011, East Coventry Township partnered with Exelon Corporation to preserve and protect the historic site.  A lot of this preservation occurred because of a gentleman named Paul S. Frick who died in 2014. I will also note that State Senator Andy Dinniman has been instrumental in getting the preservation of this very cool place this far.

Here is the history compiled by East Coventry:

Before European settlement, the lands of Fricks Locks Village were rolling hills covered primarily with mature woodlands of white and black oak, hickory and chestnut trees. The level lands were mainly floodplain areas extending along the Schuylkill River. The Schuylkill River was reported as having an abundant supply of herring, sturgeon and shad. The Lenni Lenape Indians of the Delaware tribe inhabited the region and trapped beaver along the river for their pelts as a valuable trading product. The advent of change in land use can be attributed to King Charles II of England awarding the lands of the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to William Penn in 1682.

The lands of Fricks Locks Village were additions to the neighboring Grumbacher farm in land grant parcels and land purchases of 1749 and 1764. The original 117 acres of the Grumbacher farm consisted of a long narrow parcel, located to the southeast of the two parcels that contained the village area. The lands were primarily agricultural served by the river and the wagon road (theorized as the Old Schuylkill Road alignments). Historical records indicated that farmsteads usually kept a portion of their property as woodlot. Historic tax records indicate the extent of lands, buildings and livestock of the property.

The first known building in the Frick Locks Village district was the 1757 farmhouse built by the Grumbacher-Engel household on the 119-acre parcel, purchased in 1749. Presumably a barn and outbuildings were also constructed at this time. Access to this residence was presumably from the Old Schuylkill Road via a primitive dirt road eventually becoming the alignment of Fricks Locks Road.

John Frick married Catherine Grumbacher in 1781. And shortly thereafter they moved to the Gruambacher property. Through marriage and bequethment upon the death of Catharina Grumbacher-Engel, John Frick acquired the lands of the future Village. John Frick died in 1822, three years before the canal system was completed and open to travel.

The Schuylkill Navigation Company was chartered in 1815 following the March 8th authorization by the Pennsylvania Legislature to “incorporate a company to make a lock navigation on the river Schuylkill”. Roads were rough and primitive during this era and open river navigation was plagued by falls, shallow areas, and fishermen’s weirs. The Schuylkill River navigation canal was originally intended to bring anthracite coal from the deposits above Pottsville into Philadelphia.

After a ten-year construction period, the navigation system was completed for approximately 110 miles and at a cost of about three million dollars. The entire system was composed of 63 miles of canals with 34 dams and 109 locks. The section of canal through Fricks Locks Village was located about 100 feet north of the 1757 farmhouse. The double lock was located about 250 feet west of the farmhouse. The canal contributed to the growth of Fricks Locks Village as it did with all its stopover points and trading locations.

John Frick’s heirs chose to see his lands at a public auction in the spring of 1826. Jacob Frick, the eldest son purchased a portion of those lands that contained the village district. Upon his death in 1852, the village district was divided among different heirs. Over the next hundred years, the immediate area of the Village had minor “improvements” added, mostly associated with the owner’s farming operations.

In 1832, the depth and width of the canals were increased to accommodate larger boats. (The original canal dimensions had not been followed per specifications.) The new supply of coal enabled more industrial operations along the river. The coal cost seven dollars a ton and was the cheapest fuel available. Canal boats could carry up to 80 tons of coals. The locks in Fricks Locks were an important stopping place in the areas. The village hosted a “convenience” store that stayed open 24 hours a day to supply the needs of the boatmen. Passengers on packet boats stopped in Fricks Locks to go ashore for dinner or stay overnight for a stagecoach connection. The Village became an important trade center. In 1849, a covered toll bridge, the Lawrenceville Bridge, was the area’s first dry crossing of the river. This improved connection (competing with the ferry service) to Montgomery County increased the trading opportunities and growth associated with the canal and the Village.

In the 1880s, the Pennsylvania Railroad located a station in Fricks Locks and the US government established a Fricks Locks post office in the 1890s.

The canal was drained and closed permanently sometime in the mid 1920s. Improved railroad service, better roadways and trolley systems contributed to the demise of the canal by providing faster, smoother and more efficient transportation services. Without the vitality of the canal stopover/trading function, the importance of Fricks Locks Village changed to isolated farming activities.

In 1969 and 1970, PECO obtained the separate parcels that encompassed the current Fricks Locks Village area as part of their property acquisition under federal regulations for nuclear generating stations. At the time of property acquisition, most of the buildings were boarded up and vacated. The federal regulations governing the operations of a nuclear generating station exclude certain uses (including residential) within a 2,500 foot radius of the nuclear facility. The recombination of parcels under single ownership along with restrictions on possible residential use and desirable land use has contributed significantly to preserving the integrity of the Fricks Locks historic area. Its isolation from major roadway and new development affords the potential to present a highly unique example of an extant canal-ear village in context with the agricultural activities of the Schuylkill River corridors’ past history.

Here are some old Fricks Locks photos I found mostly on Pinterest:

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Here is a video from You Tube of  a 1941 train accident  at Fricks Locks:

I had heard about this place but today was my first time visiting. A recent Philadelphia Inquirer article brought the village to life and made me want to visit.

Philadelphia Inquirer PENNSYLVANIA NEWS
A Chester County village was vacated for a nuclear power plant. Today, it’s a ghost town.
by Katie Park, Updated: August 3, 2018

Also on the topic:

Daily Local News: The abandoned town of Frick’s Lock tells story
Gene Pisasale Jan 1, 2012

Exelon honored for renovations to Frick’s Locks
The energy company has spent $2.3 million to preserve and restore the village.WRITTEN BY HOLLY HERMAN

Tour of Frick’s Lock Village showcases history
By Stephen Harris sharris@pottsmerc.com Jul 22, 2014

I will note that a problem here has been trespassing and vandalism over the years.  The local police can and will arrest you. (Read about one account here.)  People, there are tours. It is being preserved.  Take a tour. Don’t be a tool and trespass. Respect the efforts of the folks trying to preserve this place.

We loved our time in this historic village today. It was fascinating. It was also so oddly almost unnaturally still.  I wonder what all of the people who once called this place home over the course of time would think now?

I hope that the restoration continues.  I hope they will bring school tours in.  It is not suitable for small children in my opinion, but older kids should be fine.

Fricks Locks is also featured on the Iron & Steel Heritage website.

I wonder. I wonder if where some of us call home today, will end up like Fricks Locks tomorrow abandoned and all but forgotten for whatever reason?

If you go…bring bug spray. Wear a hat. Bring water. Wear closed toe shoes. I saw flip flops today even on some of the guides and this is definitely a closed-toe tour.

Enjoy my photos.

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are you ready for the best tredyffrin historic preservation trust house tour yet?

I love old and historic house tours almost as much as I love garden tours. And my friend Pattye Benson, proprietress of the Great Valley House of Valley Forge  is also President of the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust.   She also is the woman who makes the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust  Historic House Tour come to life year after year. Every year is better than the year before, and not one year has disappointed.  My husband and I are Patron Sponsors of the tour, and proudly so.

The Jones Log Barn. July, 2018 photo courtesy of Pattye Benson

Travel back in time this year on Saturday September 29, 2018 from 10 AM to 5 PM.  If you love history and architecture, you will not want to miss the much-anticipated 14th Annual Historic House Tour.

‘The Culver House’, c.1860 ~Pattye Benson photo

To celebrate historic preservation, the public is invited to attend ’Jazz it Up’ the 14th Annual Historic House Tour Preview Party on Sunday, September 16, 6 PM – 9 PM  at the historic Duportail House in Chesterbrook.  An evening of fun with live music, food and drinks, join us to celebrate the homeowners and the homes featured on the tour.  Classical jazz music provided by the award-winning ’Jazz Mavericks’ from the Center for Performing & Fine Arts of West Chester. In addition to the historic homeowners, the preview party is a lovely thank you thank the generous individual and corporate sponsors who make the annual tour possible. Attendees also get a sneak preview of the beautiful homes featured on the 14th Annual Historic House Tour!

Wayne Bed & Breakfast, c.1885
~Pattye Benson photo

The annual historic house tour would not be possible without the generosity of individual and corporate sponsors.  Click 2018 House Tour Sponsor Packet for information about how you can be a sponsor and receive complimentary tickets to the house tour and the preview party.

To Purchase Tickets for 14th Annual Historic House Tour & ‘Party for Preservation’ Preview Party CLICK HERE 

NOTE:  Tickets for the Preview Party and/or the 14th Annual Historic House Tour are nonrefundable.

The Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust is a small nonprofit 501c3 organization and your ticket purchase is tax-deductible as the government allows.

  • You will receive a confirmation (via email) of your house tour ticket(s) purchase prior to the house tour day.
  • The house tour ticket pick-up location for 2017 is Tredyffrin Library, 582 Upper Gulph Road, Strafford, PA, starting at 11 AM on Saturday, Sept. 23.

‘Foxmead’,Strafford, c.1911
~Pattye Benson photo

favorite places: brandywine view antiques

Located at 1244 Baltimore Pike in Chadds Ford, PA Brandywine View Antiques is just one of those places you have to visit…three floors of fabulously cool antiques, vintage items, garden and home accents.

I used to go visit them in their old location near The Gables at Chadds Ford. I had visited them at places like Clover Market, and had been to their barn markets, but amazingly enough I hadn’t been to their new home until today.

Oh my.

It was heavenly!

Lisa the owner has an amazing eye, and much like her old location, it’s a wonderland of stuff inside and out. But this new location is so terrific and the building is so much better and it has amazing flow.

Of special interest to me today because I am a self-professed garden fanatic, was all the great stuff owner Lisa has to make your garden look fabulous.

From vintage concrete benches and beautiful cast iron antique garden furniture to the perfect little fox or owl or angel or even gnome for your garden, there is a lot to choose from.

Things I found of particular interest were cast concrete edging made to look old and these darling little concrete obelisks that you could put in your garden beds. They also have cast concrete leaves that are flat that you could use as stepping stones in a garden which I really liked and it almost made me wish I hadn’t already put down a stone path on one side of my garden!

And gargoyles! I can’t forget their gargoyles which look like they just flew in from living on old Parisian rooftops!

A nice selection of concrete birdbaths, architectural salvage, great old doors and windows… even in this heat I could’ve stayed a lot longer than I did. And when you go inside there are all sorts of wonderful antiques and vintage items for the interior of your home as well. They have the best selection of antique and vintage mirrors I have seen in a while, and some interesting and reasonably priced vintage art throughout the building.

I will note that even Martha Stewart shops here when in town doing her QVC thing as evidenced by this recent photo courtesy of Brandywine View Antiques:

Anyway, it’s a feast for the eyes and visiting this business also gives you great ideas! I also love that there is so much diversity of merchandise. And I hate to say it but I’m really glad it’s not an antique store full of mid-century modern.

And their pricing is quite reasonable, and if there something you wonder if they can do better on – just ask. If they can, they will if they can’t they’ll tell you.

I will close with a photograph of all the fun stuff in the backyard that you can use to accent your garden with:

loch aerie 1963 photos and some of a more recent vintage.

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George Pyle sent me more photos.  This morning I have lined up his 1963 photos with my more recent vintage photos taken over the past couple of years.

unnamed (2)

 

unnamed (1)I do not know what of the ornate plaster work will survive the adaptive reuse in progress, but I imagine what can be saved, will be. It was so badly deteriorated in spots, and in other spots just plain missing.

But it is so cool to see the rooms as they once were. Add to that the juxtaposition in time of when my photos were taken, decades later – 53 years later give or take.

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is chester county’s ker-feal at risk?

Dr. Barnes’s country home, Ker-Feal, was featured on the December 1942 cover of House & Garden Magazine; Dr. Barnes and Barnes foundation instructor Violette de Mazia also wrote articles in the issue. This image right here specifically in my post is from the eBay listing for the magazine copy which I purchased.

Ker-Feal. The country home of Dr. Albert Barnes on 1081 Bodine Road off Yellow Springs Road in West Pikeland Township, Chester County. (And before people start to holler, I found the exact address on the Internet. It’s not a secret.)  It also houses a Barnes art collection. His American Art collection. And after what I read today in The Philadelphia Inquirer, I have to ask, is it at risk?

Barnes Foundation says St. Joe’s lease deal does not mean sales are in the works
Updated: MARCH 19, 2018 — 5:39 PM EDT

by Stephan Salisbury, Staff Writer @spsalisbury | ssalisbury@phillynews.com

….“Selling Merion is expressly disallowed” by the foundation’s charter documents, said Barnes president and chief executive Thomas Collins.

…..Joseph Neubauer, chair of the Barnes board of trustees, could not be reached for comment. No other board member would comment on future plans for Merion or Ker-Feal. A Barnes spokewoman said, “The board felt they don’t have anything to add to the information we’ve already shared with you.”

….“What I’d like to do is get through this assessment project and figure out what we have at Ker-Feal,” said Collins. “There’s no art there. It’s very different from the program that we offer here. So the question is … what pieces of that do we want to present? How do we present them? What kind of resources are there, and what can we do with them in terms of public access?”

 

But there IS art at Ker-Feal, isn’t there? It is filled with Pennsylvania German/Pennsylvania Dutch folk art and such, isn’t it? Ker-Feal houses an American Collection, yes?  I guess the Barnes people today do not consider folk art/American art, art? What about the property?  At one time did people not say you could have an arboretum to rival Longwood?

Ker-Feal has been on the National Register of Historic Places since November 7, 2003.

It (as I have said and as I have read) houses an amazing art collection on its own. It’s 137 pristine acres. You do the math with greedy developers in Chester County as to what that could become, right?

This is something else the people who care about Chester County, folk art, architectural heritage, and open space need to be aware of and NOW.  If I had not read that Inquirer article (and been led to said aforementioned article by Vista Today) I would not have thought of Ker-Feal again.  Not unusual, most people forget it exists. Because The Barnes does nothing with it.

This was Dr. Barnes’ weekend and I presume guest retreat. It had been mentioned in his will and was supposed to be conserved and preserved but  can you trust The Barnes Foundation ?  Do we not remember all of the coverage of the breaking of the will and fighting with all of the neighbors? (Cue The Art of the Steal.)

As NPR wrote at the time:

What happened, in the film’s telling, is a plot hatched in the mid-’90s by local politicians and power brokers to break Barnes’ trust and move his collection to downtown Philadelphia, where they hope it will be a major tourist draw. In the film, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell calls the move a “no-brainer.”

“There isn’t a couple in the U.S., or Europe, or Asia who’s interested in arts and culture, who wouldn’t come to Philadelphia for at least a long weekend” — if only the Barnes collection came to the city, Rendell says.

“It’s fair to say there was a vast conspiracy to move the Barnes,” says author John Anderson.

Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight describes the move as a takeover:

“Foundations are nonprofit corporations,” Knight says. “We’re used to hearing about corporate takeovers with for-profit corporations. But this was a nonprofit corporate takeover.”

Another interesting story about this property, is in 2017, someone I know ended up going down the driveway of Ker-Feal.  I do not know how she ended up going down the driveway, it is easy to get lost where Ker-Feal is located.

As they were trying to get out of there, they were chased by a scary man who apparently is not a caretaker yet who sees the property as his own. This person I knew has a small child with her. No one has any idea who the man was.  The woman told me and I told her to call the Barnes Foundation so they knew, and she did.

Except for those who know the property is there it is mostly forgotten. And my biggest fear is The Barnes Foundation is going to sell this parcel off  and break up Dr. Barnes’ OTHER art collection. This land parcel could end up with a developer, couldn’t it?

I would love to photograph this property before anything else happens, but who the heck knows how you get permission to do that or if it safe given the woman I know’s experience in 2017.

On Wikemedia Commons, I found another image with a caption:

Ker Feal Chesco PA.JPG

Gatepost of “Ker-Feal” a house on the NRHP since November 7, 2003, at 1081 Bodine Road, Chester Springs, in West Pikeland Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Ker-Feal was a home of Albert Barnes, medical-pharma businessman, and founder of the Barnes Foundation. This rotten picture is all I could get because of no-trespassing restrictions.  Photo credit Smallbones 2011 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ker_Feal_Chesco_PA.JPG 

 

 

The Library of Congress has a marvelous collection of old photos of Ker-Feal. I also found the images on a site called picryl which says there are no restrictions, so here are a couple of photos:

                                            

dr as barnes ker feal residence in chester springs pennsylvania entrance facade

 

There was an extremely illuminating article in Main Line Today Magazine in 2007 about Ker-Fea (I can only post an excerpt so read every word on their website):

FRONTLINE: Neighborhood
Keeping Tabs on Ker-Feal
Barnes’ Chester Springs estate could be lost in the multibillion-dollar shuffle
BY J.F. PIRRO

To listen to Kimberly Camp tell the story, it’s all too reminiscent of the opening scene in the movie Titanic. A refined, elderly lady is holding a treasure, a model she once constructed of Ker-Feal, the rural Chester County estate of Dr. Albert C. Barnes. Found in a closet there, it sparks million-dollar memories as she offers a priceless oral history in exchange for the right to celebrate her 90th birthday inside the 18th-century farmhouse….Yet Ker-Feal may be the real—if remote—gem that gets lost in the bitter dispute. Built in 1775, it sits on 137 prime open acres along Bodine Road off Yellow Springs Road in Chester Springs. 

….Barnes filled Ker-Feal with rare American decorative arts….The botanical garden was developed by his wife, Laura Barnes, who died in 1967.

“The Impressionist collection is so seductive, it’s very easy to ignore his American collection,” says Camp…in November 1998, its board of trustees was unaware Barnes had specifically addressed Ker-Feal in his will. In fact, in the 1 1/2-page document that’s separate from the foundation’s charter or trust, Barnes made Ker-Feal and its contents part of his more heralded collection, and stipulated that the estate be turned into “a living museum of art and a botanical garden,” says Camp.

That uncovered, Camp converted four convergent grants in 2001, including $200,000 from West Pikeland Township, to stabilize and safeguard Ker-Feal. …. By late 2003, Ker-Feal was added to the National Register of Historic Places….In 2006, another Camp-initiated grant arrived from the state totaling $40,000, for grounds and green stock assessment. …The value of the 9,000 catalogued and databased pieces—which includes those at the gallery and Ker-Feal—is incalculable. Some estimates place it between $25 and $70 billion……At Ker-Feal, based upon a comparison of inventories over time, Camp says some—a number “less than 100”—of the 2,000 decorative items have already been stolen. Worse yet, they were actually strategically replaced with reproductions….

…..“It’s such a wonderful place,” Camp says. “In a way, it has more aesthetic and cultural integrity than the gallery, but it’s such a small snapshot compared to what’s at Merion.”….But Camp says that when she arrived, she was point-blank instructed to prepare Ker-Feal, the estate and its contents, for liquidation to help fund operations at Merion. “When I went out there, I said, ‘You can’t sell this. You’ve got to be kidding me!’ Camp remembers…..

In my humble opinion, this latest article in The Philadelphia Inquirer signals that Ker-Feal could really be at risk, and can’t you agree?  They have never really dealt with the property, and if it had not been for that Kimberly Camp, it would not have had anything done and mold and whatnot would have taken over.

I picture Ker-Feal like a beautiful time capsule.  I am certain the Barnes Foundation could save it and preserve it and open it up for tours or what not if the want to. But do they want to?

So Chester County, how do you feel about Ker-Feal? I think it is worth saving, don’t you?

Here are some other articles I found on Ker-Feal:

Philadelphia Business Journal: Barnes’ Ker-Feal country estate gets infusion

By Peter Van Allen
Feb 4, 2002, 12:00am

Life is never dull at the Barnes Foundation: Financial problems, battles with Lower Merion Township, board in-fighting, territorial neighbors.

In short, in three years as executive director of the world-famous-yet-notoriously private Barnes, Kimberly Camp has seen it all. With a $7 billion collection featuring work of Cezanne, Picasso, Renior, Van Gogh and Matisse, there’s a lot to fight over.

Camp, who has been tireless in invigorating the Barnes as an educational center for students and scholars, is now devoting energy to another campaign: turning the country estate of Dr. Albert Barnes in Chester County into a learning center.

Though it’s been strapped for cash, the Barnes Foundation has invested $7 million in the historic home, which Dr. Barnes bought in 1941…

Built in 1775, Ker-Feal, which sits on 137 acres, was always a country getaway for Barnes, never a primary residence. Yet Barnes filled it with goods nonetheless — Pennsylvania Dutch blanket chests, elaborate metal work, paintings and pottery.

The mildew was ruining the items, and the building needed a climate-control system, security, updated electric and costly mold remediation on the building and individual pieces — all 2,000 of them.

 

Daily Local News: Fund-raiser benefits Ker-Feal estate
By Jason Kotowski 3/28/2004

The West Pikeland Land Trust is holding the fund-raiser, said Chairwoman Eileen Juico, because the estate, which belonged to the late Albert Barnes, is one of the largest remaining pieces of open space in West Pikeland and houses a collection of 18th- and early 19th-century American decorative arts.

The Barnes Foundation, which owns the estate, has had financial difficulties in recent years and has proposed moving its gallery and art education program from Lower Merion to Philadelphia. But the foundation has received criticism for the proposal because the move would violate Barnes’ will.

Judge Stanley Ott has instructed Barnes officials to find out how much money could be raised through the sale of the estate instead of moving to Center City. The case will resume this summer.

Kimberly Camp, executive director of the Barnes Foundation, has said it often receives offers for the property, some as high as $12 million….

Ker-Feal is Breton Gaelic for “Fidel’s house,” in honor of Dr. Barnes’ dog, Fidel. Barnes died in 1951.

The artwork collected at Ker-Feal consists of antique furniture from many regions of colonial America, Pennsylvania Dutch painted blanket chests, pewter, glass, wrought iron hinges and ceramics — redware, spongeware and English “Gaudy Dutch.” Ker-Feal is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Philadelphia Inquirer: Sizing up the plants at Barnes’ old place
Updated: MAY 2, 2008 — 3:01 AM EDT

by Virginia A. Smith, Inquirer Staff Writer vsmith@phillynews.com

A walk in the woods with Ernie Schuyler is like no other…

Schuyler, curator emeritus of botany at the Academy of Natural Sciences, prefers “Ernie” to his given name, Alfred…..Which is where you’ll find him these days: down to earth, literally, walking the grounds at Ker-Feal, the 138-acre retreat in Chester Springs that belonged to the late Albert and Laura Barnes….At the behest of the Barnes Foundation, Schuyler is doing a plant inventory at this once showy estate, which has lain fallow since Albert Barnes’ death on July 24, 1951…..

Four overgrown terraces barely hint of their magazine-quality gardens back in the day. Once-smooth lawns are tufted with dandelions. And the surrounding forest is so choked with invasive plants that much of the native flora is being squeezed out.

A caretaker lives atop the garage, in view of the 1775 fieldstone farmhouse, which is shuttered tight. The house still holds Albert Barnes’ collection of more than 2,000 pieces of early American decorative art and furniture, a fascination he once suggested derived from his Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother…..Imagine Albert on the porch, Fidèle at his feet, chatting with British actor Charles Laughton or philosopher John Dewey. Both were such frequent guests at Ker-Feal, they had their own bedrooms.

Imagine Laura’s summer terraces ablaze with roses, the botanical garden she fashioned from a quartz quarry and her unusual hand-picked trees and shrubs. She also had an orchard, a bamboo grove, a heath garden and a blueberry patch, of which little survives.

Today, in a place that once hosted classes in horticulture, botany and plant geography, Schuyler has cataloged 400 plant species and identified about 80 percent of them. 

 

I am a gardener.  I love Pennsylvania Folk Art and had a Pennsylvania German grandmother. To me this sounds like heaven inside and out. Huffington Post contributing writer Lee Rosenbaum wrote about Barnes and mentioned Ker-Feal in 2012.

In the book  Lost in the Museum: Buried Treasures and the Stories They Tell By Nancy Moses (preview on Google HERE)  there is an entire chapter on Ker-Feal

 

 

The above is but a tiny excerpt of the very in depth chapter on Ker-Feal in Lost in the Museum: Buried Treasures and the Stories They Tell By Nancy Moses.  You can pick up a used copy of the book inexpensively on Amazon . I actually found a copy that was hardbound for $5.50 on al libris.  (And if you are a person with a lot of books and need to sell some, you can sell them easily on al libris too.) Halfprice Books is also a good place to search for books, but I digress.

Because Barnes never really had time to do anything with Ker-Feal before his death a lot of this is still the great unknown, with the farmhouse in West Pikeland existing like a giant time capsule with once glorious gardens disappearing under brush and weeds. It is mentioned in other books like Art Held Hostage: The Battle over the Barnes Collection by John Anderson (2013), and some 2013 photos appeared on blog by Kellygreen  who apparently is (or was) a Barnes horticultural student:

Also, if you are wondering about the Barnes of it all and the famous 2004 court case, I found a copy of Ott’s Barnes Opinion on a Maryland Law web page.   I downloaded it, and have uploaded it to this blog for those who wish to peruse it. (Barnes opinion December 2004 ) Ker-Feal is discussed in this judicial opinion. (begins on page 4 and the discussion over appraisals of the Ker-Feal land is very interesting. And also see Friends of the Barnes website as well as this other thing on barneswatch.org.)

There was also a mention of Ker-Feal in a Patch article in 2017 having top do with Schuylkill River Heritage Area Awards grants. And found a student thesis from 2005. And a mention in ArtNet news recently.

So, that is all I have got.  It’s one of the great mysteries unless you have been there.  But wouldn’t it be great if it could survive and the gardens get restored and be able to see the folk art collections publicly?

Thanks for stopping by.

Ker-Feal, West Pikeland Township, Chester County, Pa

Image discovered on Pinterest. Date unknown. https://www.pinterest.dk/pin/270427152597517279/