requiem for a farmhouse

There she sits like a ghost on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, East Whiteland Township. I I have photographed her in varying stages of decay over the past few years.

Her end is near, she lived a hard life, not sure it was a good life or not.

It is a crying shame no one loved her enough to keep her. She will be bulldozed soon to make way for McMansions. Because we all need more McMansions in Chester County, apparently.

Pennsylvania is a private property rights state, and it is just pathetic that the commonwealth isn’t a little more preservation minded.

freedom of speech upheld by superior court

Image result for first amendment

As of a few short days ago, Pennsylvania’s Superior Court dismissed  the SLAPP suit I have been a named resident in for quite some time. It has been over the Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland Malvern/Frazer. The original suit was filed June 27, 2017 in the Court of Common Pleas in Chester County by the site developer.

In August of 2017, Judge Sommers, the judge who presided over the case in Chester County dismissed the suit.  After that, an appeal was filed by the developer’s attorneys in Superior Court.

I have no idea if there will be an appeal by the plaintiff up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  Almost a year ago the Superior Court appeal was filed.  It was filed right around the time PA State Senator Larry Farnese held a press conference I could not attend on anti-SLAPP legislation. I sent in a statement. Here is part of what I said then (in italics):

As children we are taught how the founding fathers of this great nation fought, bled,
and died for our rights and freedoms. Yet today, in a modern world, it feels like we still
must fight against injustice and for our very freedoms and, in my opinion, freedom of
speech and expression is particularly threatened. As a native of Philadelphia, the
birthplace of our American freedoms, I find that deeply troubling.

As a blogger, I have been aware of SLAPP suits for years. This year, I became embroiled in one, in Chester County, where I live. The suit is over the potential development of an old factory site in Malvern, East Whiteland Township known as Bishop Tube. I am a  resident of East Whiteland Township.

I had written about the Bishop Tube site on my blog. I am not the only one who has
ever written about it or ever has had questions about it. The site has also been written
about in newspaper articles off and on for many years. According to the Pennsylvania
Department of Environmental Protection (“PA DEP”), there is TCE contamination on
this site. (Reference the PA DEP website’s Bishop Tube page).

I am a breast cancer survivor who underwent breast cancer treatment and, as a
survivor, a site like this should be a concern in my opinion. As a resident I should also
be able to express my opinions and/or ask questions. SLAPP suits are an invasive, fearsome kind of thing. Finding oneself in the middle of something like this feels like you are being bullied and harassed. It can also be unbearably costly. Frequently the suit bringer hopes this is what will defeat you.

Mostly, it makes you wonder about the good and honor of human kind.

Caring about where you live is not wrong, it is democracy in action. When people take
an interest in where they live, it is a powerful force. It is rarely easy for the residents
involved, and I think it does take great courage.

Our American freedoms are a real thing, not just lofty ideals tucked away in a 200+ year-old vault.  Think about that as we are also on the eve of 9/11.  Never forget September 11, 2001.  This is yet another date in the annals of U.S. history which will live in infamy.  Remember all those souls and first responders who lost their lives. They lost their lives because of our American ideals and freedoms even if they were not lives specifically lost on a battlefield in combat.

I can’t believe tomorrow it is 17 years already since 9/11.

I will close with saying thank you to Maya van Rossum and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and their amazing lawyers, Mark L. Freed and Jordan B. Yeager of Curtin & Heefner LLP. I will also thank my own attorney, Samuel Stretton of West Chester.

Our inalienable rights as Americans exist for good reason.  Hopefully this issue is now at a close, but again, who knows? We live in strange times.

Here is the media coverage thus far along with what the Delaware Riverkeeper has said:

PENNSYLVANIA
State court ruling favors Chesco residents protesting brownfield development
by Vinny Vella, Philadelphia Inquirer

State Impact PA SEPTEMBER 07, 2018 | 05:48 PM
Court rejects developer’s effort to block protest against town homes plan
Delaware Riverkeeper Network says suit tried to silence its right to free speech
by Jon Hurdle

Daily Local News: Lawsuit denied concerning Bishop Tube site
Digital First Media Sep 7, 2018

Law360: Pa. Developer’s Defamation Suit Against Enviros Stays Nixed
By Matt Fair

Delaware Riverkeeper Network: SLAPP Suit Filed By Developer Against Environmental & Community Opposition Struck Down by PA Superior Court

the serious acreage of greystone in west chester bites the dust as development begins….

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Found on the internet

Long before I moved to Chester County I had heard of Greystone Hall.  Probably because the Jerrahian family live on the Main Line.  At least some of them do. In 2001 they were subjected to an attempted eminent domain taking from the West Chester school district. Yes, shades of Stoneleigh.

West Chester Daily Local Jerrehian owner condemns district
Kevin Plunkett Oct 15, 2001 Comments

“Before taking such and extreme step, the school district should go out of its way to be careful, fair and beyond reproach,” said Dean Jerrehian in a statement sent to area newspapers Sunday. “It is bad enough for the government to take someone’s property, but it is even worse to take it on a few days notice …and especially if they are not even sure they really want it.”

Jerrehian, one of the members of the Jerrehian Partnership, which owns the 400-plus acre property in West Goshen, was referring to an announcement made last week that the West Chester school board intends to discuss possible acquisition of a portion of the property for its proposed new high school.

He raised several objections to the possible move, including that it may not be the best site for the school, that its cost is uncertain, and that the district “has not fully explored all feasible alternatives.”

Jerrehian also said Sunday that by making its announcement on the heels of the Jerrehian Partnership’s application to create an Agricultural Secuirty Area for the property, which he referred to as his family’s farm …..The district said the action was taken because the Jerrehian owners recently filed an application with West Goshen to create an Agricultural Security Area protection. If that application is granted, the district could have a more difficult, lengthy and costly road to eventually buying the land through eminent domain.

Explaining his family’s decision to set the agricultural district up, Jerrehian said corn and “other field crops” are being grown on parts of the property. He did not know how many acres were under cultivation, however……All that was mentioned was that the district is interested in roughly 108 acres near the Greenhill Road and Route 100 intersection, he said.

Mind you that was not the only property at that time the WCASD tried to take. There as also the Singer Farm.  Unrelated, but the same time frame would have been the Saha Farm in Coatesville.

During at least a month or better in the winter of 2001, The Daily Local wrote a series of articles on eminent domain that I thought were quite powerful.  Here is an excerpt from one of the 2001 articles:

….America’s frontier has been closed for well over a century now. Its citizens, though, still need roads, schools and utilities. Its leaders develop plans for land improvements and economic revitalization. And the two groups face potentially bitter conflicts, here in Chester County and across the nation, over the locations of these projects on the one-time frontier and over the means by which those in charge carry out their plans…..In Valley, more than half of Dick and Nancy Saha’s 45-acre farm is under threat. The city of Coatesville, in an effort to revitalize its economy, is attempting to take the land for a recreation center and 18-hole golf course. The Sahas, vowing to fight the city’s condemnation to the Supreme Court, are seeking allies among public officials and the public. The Valley board of supervisors has joined their cause.

In East Bradford, the West Chester Area School District’s proposal for a new high school led to rushed efforts to take 102 acres of Philadelphia real-estate developer Michael Singer’s 172-acre farm on Route 322. Singer and his attorneys successfully fought off the school district’s plans earlier this year, with an assist from East Bradford officials who opposed the location of a large high school on the land.

Yes, I digress. But a point is coming. I have no clue what happened to Michael Singer’s 172 acres after they beat back the West Chester Area School District in 2001:

“In an opinion issued Tuesday, Court of Common Pleas Judge William Mahon ruled that the school district’s April 6, 2000 meeting — at which it voted to acquire 105 acres of Michael Singer’s 172-acre farm to build a new high school and athletic fields — was “void and of no effect” because it violated state “sunshine,” or open meeting, laws.”

I remember cheering the Jerrehian family’s victory over the West Chester Area School District.  But when I saw their plans for Greystone years later filed in West Goshen Township, I almost regretted cheering them on because I wondered for what did we cheer? So they could develop hundreds of ticky tacky new construction boxes? (Greystone-NID-Plan-Presentation-11.3.17-rev._2)

In late 2017, Bill Rettew wrote about this Greystone Development:

598 homes to be built in West Goshen
By Bill Rettew Jr. brettew@dailylocal.com Oct 11, 2017 Comments

WEST GOSHEN >> A development project to construct 598 homes at the 433-acre Jerrehian property is shovel ready.

The township has approved the project, Woodlands at Greystone, at the former Sharpless Estate, with the potential developer still seeking an OK from supervisors to establish a Neighborhood Improvement District.

The property stretches from Phoenixville Pike on the southeast, the Route 322 Bypass to the south, near Pottstown Pike on the northwest and Greenhill Road to the north.

Through the NID, future homeowners would foot the bill for 30 years to pay off a bond issue financing almost $21 million of infrastructure improvements…..Greystone Manor will continue to operate on its own 35 acre lot.

The article quotes West Goshen Supervisors. Specifically FORMER Supervisor  Ray Halverson and still existing Supervisor Chris Pielli.  I will be honest that I think West Goshen is one of the more problematic Chester County municipalities and are part of the lovely Mariner II pipeline ground zero as it were.  Them approving this is sheer lunacy and am I alone in this opinion? And yes, I understand all too well the realities of development but when will more municipalities in PA do what is right for residents?

I had put Greystone out of my head until up popped an article this week in the Philadelphia Business Journal by Natalie Kostelni.

The week before the September 5th Philadelphia Business Journal article, there was also an article in the Daily Local on August 29 about construction starting. It featured  heart wrenching photos of construction equipment digging up the earth.

All of this comes on the heels of Crebilly in Westtown news from Mindy which I will share :
*******************************************

Dear Friends,

Crebilly Farm/Toll Brothers Conditional Use appeal court date is quickly approaching and I hope you are planning to attend:
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 17TH, 1PM, Chester County Justice Center, 201 West Market Street, West Chester  COURTROOM #1 (Not #15).
We are coming upon what could be the final moments of what will set the tone for a long time to come.  Our national history is in jeopardy and all of us will pay a dear price in traffic congestion and environmental damages if the Judge grants this appeal.
 
Last week, I attended the Chester County Commissioners Meeting and asked the Commissioners ‘What can the public do between now and the court appeal to keep this fresh in the minds of others?  Can we write letters to the Judge?’  I learned this is an option and it is up to the discretion of each judge whether they will read them or not.
 
FRIENDS, THIS IS A CALL TO ACTION– for each and everyone of us; all those reading this message and all those you can share this message with.  I am calling on everyone for a new letter writing campaign- ASAP!   Please send a mailed letter in opposition of the proposed development via snail mail- yes, snail mail– one to the Judge and one to the Commissioners!  Please be polite.  If it’s too much to write a letter, that’s okay, then just write a sentence- and please mail it snail mail.  If it’s too much to write a sentence, that’s okay too, then please mail an empty envelope with the following message on the front at the bottom:   
PLEASE PRESERVE OUR NATIONAL HISTORY ON CREBILLY FARM!
*Every letter/sentence/envelope needs to have written on the front of the envelope at the bottom: 
PLEASE PRESERVE OUR NATIONAL HISTORY ON CREBILLY FARM!  
We need to flood the Judge and Commissioners’ mailboxes, office and desks with letters from all over West Chester, the county, the state and the country!  Make copies of the same letter and send numerous copies to both.  Flood them like the Brandywine River last week!  Whether the letters are opened or not, I think our message on the front of the envelopes will be pretty hard to miss and talked about by all.
SEND YOUR SNAIL MAIL TO:
The Honorable Judge Tunnell
Justice Center
201 W. Market Street
West Chester, PA  19380
*Remember to include on the front of each envelope at the bottom:
PLEASE PRESERVE OUR NATIONAL HISTORY ON CREBILLY FARM
 
Chester County Commissioners
313 W. Market Street
Suite 6202
West Chester, PA  19380
*Remember to include on the front of the each envelope at the bottom:
PLEASE PRESERVE OUR NATIONAL HISTORY ON CREBILLY FARM
Friends, this is MASSIVE PUBLIC OUTCRY.  And I promise- it’s now or never.  I thought it one of the silliest ideas ever to ride my horse through the nearby neighborhoods of Crebilly Farm almost two years ago to raise awareness, but it was all I could think to do at the time.  To my surprise, it woke people up.  And then together, we woke up the Westtown Township BOS.  And they heard us.  And they voted ‘NO.’  Time to wake up the Judge and Commissioners before it is too late.
If not you, then who?
Sincerely,
Mindy Rhodes

******************************************

So back to Greystone. It is over 400 acres, right? And it has how many homes ultimately planned? 598 houses? So even if this development is built in stages, it is the same school district as Crebilly, so if Crebilly goes through where is West Chester Area School District going to go to get more land now?  How will THAT school district handle all of these new district families?

Kind of ironic, and bitterly so, isn’t it? The Jerrehian family saves their property from eminent domain via a school district to turn around and sell to a developer? Makes you wonder if this is the ultimate FU to a school district, doesn’t it?

But it’s not just the school district which will suffer, is it?

Chester County collectively needs to seriously wake the hell up.  And that includes that misbegotten Chester County Planning Commission headed by a Lower Merion Township Resident, doesn’t it? Pick a school district. Pick a municipality.  All the land is going under developers’ collective shovels and I am still asking how this insanity is sustainable?

What about the farm land that was on Greystone property?

Now for the history.  My dear friend Sara’s grandfather was the architect Charles Barton Keen . Mr. Keen was the architect on Greystone Hall built for Philip M. Sharples.  I found some great history on a blog called Hackberry Hill:

HOUSE HISTORY
PHILIP SHARPLES’ GREYSTONE HALL
OCTOBER 26, 2016

Philip M. Sharples (who often went by P.M.) was a fourth-generation Pennsylvanian and from an influential Quaker family in Chester County. Not surprising that one of Sharples predecessors was the first mayor of our town.  In 1881 Sharples established the Sharples Separator Works Company with plants in Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Canada and Germany.  At its peak, Sharples Separator Works was the largest industrial company in our town, employing 600 workers and turning out an average of 3700 separators a year (West Chester University Archives).  He was clearly a big deal.

Sharples 5

The company did exceedingly well for over 30 years and Sharples became a rich man.  In 1907, he finished construction on Greystone Hall, an incredible house that sits just north of town designed by architect Charles Barton Keene.  Coincidentally, just after looking at the Sharples’ city house, I attended a lecture at Greystone Hall, not initially realizing that this was a Sharples’ house as well.  I am not sure P.M. lived in or owned the city house though – it was possibly a relative. There are a lot of Philip Sharples in the family tree!  I need to look into that further.  In any case, by 1907 P.M. Sharples was living quite grandly at Greystone Hall with his wife and three children.

Sharples 2Sharples 4

…..P.M. and his wife moved in and a mere four years later his wife passed away leaving Sharples and his three children alone. He later remarried and had 3 more children.  His second wife and 6 children lived at Greystone until 1935.

Sharples fell victim to the Depression and ended up losing Greystone to foreclosure in the early years of World War II. Greystone was pledged as collateral on loans and about half of the original nearly 1000 acres of land were sold off in small parcels starting in the late 1930s.  Sharples relocated his family to Pasadena where he lived for 9 years before passing away in 1944 (www.greystonehall.com).

You can read more about the history of Greystone in detail and the family who has owned the house since 1942 here.  The house sits on an incredible 500 acres. Still.

Pennsylvania is a private property rights state. It is what helped defend Greystone from eminent domain, after all, wasn’t it?

But where do we draw the line on developers and politicians and their visions for where we call home?  When did the rest of our collective private property rights as extended community stop mattering?

Chester County is literally disappearing and soon you won’t be able to tell if you are in Chester County, or say some bland subdivision in Oklahoma.

Today an Inquirer article by Vinny Vella made me pause and decide to write something about this.  It’s not like we can stop it. The plan is approved and the construction has begun. 

While I was researching and hunting for the old articles on the eminent domain play which occurred, I also came across this thing from Temple University about restoring the Greystone lands I guess. (Haven’t read through it all but have also uploaded MLArch 2015_Greystone Hall 2_Web here.)

Here is one page from that PDF showing the trees on Greystone:

plants

Greystone was mentioned in another post I wrote in 2017 about the still missing Toni Lee Sharpless . 

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I think this development will create havoc. It will overwhelm infrastructure, a school district, and so on, won’t it? Can you imagine the traffic when all of the houses are built? I was told that land that was probably undevelopable was given to West Goshen Township for parkland or something? Hopefully that saves a good chunk of the forest, right? There is supposed to be some road cut through the development.  Friends say it will be a narrow windy 25 MPH road?

Sign me sad. I am glad the mansion is staying, but am totally bummed that all those acres will become plastic houses.  For any number of reasons. Hope the ratables were worth it, West Goshen. In the Philadelphia Business Journal, West Goshen’s Manager was quoted:

West Goshen has been dealing with developer interest in Greystone for years. “We couldn’t stop the development but we could manage it,” said Casey LaLonde, township manager of West Goshen.

I had to laugh because Casey LaLonde? Y’all GOT managed versus managing anything didn’t you?

Other interesting tidbits from the Philadelphia Business Journal article include:

…Other developments Reiser was involved with include Atwater, Muir Wood in Newtown Square and Carriage Hill in Doylestown……As it did with those projects and will do with Woodlands at Greystone, Reiser will serve as the master developer and has partnered with NVR, which builds under Ryan Homes and other brands, to construct the houses. Under that arrangement, Reiser plans to prepare the lots for development, install the infrastructure and then sell them to NVR on a scheduled basis over the next six years.

Atwater? It’s in East Whiteland, right? Large and kind of unattractive?  Hmmm isn’t that the development which has already caused some elementary school redistricting within Great Valley School District?

Here is the Inquirer article:
PENNSYLVANIA Philadelphia Inquirer
In Chester County, hundreds of homes to rise near historic Greystone Hall
by Vinny Vella, Updated: 21 hours ago

More than 400 acres of land, the largest remaining undeveloped tract in West Goshen Township, Chester County, were sold last month to make way for hundreds of houses in a deal that was a decade in the making.

But the origin of the $38 million sale of land surrounding the historic Greystone Hall traces to the 1950s, when the Jerrehian family, its owners, first started courting developers.

Their vision was finally realized Aug. 23, when half of the property surrounding the mansion was sold to Reiser Land Development. The other half, according to Drew Reiser, a managing partner at the company, is expected to be sold in a separate deal, the details of which, he said, are private.

Reiser’s plan for the Woodlands at Greystone calls for the construction of 598 homes….The Jerrehian family has owned the land, once the property of West Chester manufacturer Philip M. Sharples, for nearly 80 years. The main building, Greystone Hall, frequently used for corporate retreats and wedding receptions, will remain under their ownership and will not be part of the subdivision.

Sharples, who built Greystone Hall in 1907, founded the Sharples Separator Co. but lost his money during the Great Depression. The Jerrehian family, which immigrated to the United States from Turkey in the early 1900s, bought it in 1942.

Read the entire article.  It is informative and interesting.

Bah Humbug. I am glad the mansion is surviving but why all the houses? I will never understand. Kind of disappointed in the Jerrehians on this, have to be honest. I don’t know what I thought they would eventually do with all of the land, but it wasn’t this.

 

remains of the day…on bacton hill

Bacton Hill Farm house March 2013

Bacton Hill Road Farmhouse March, 2013

The other day I wrote one my last big post on Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, PA. I told you my faithful readers and local history buffs why I was giving up, and there is no need to re-hash that.  Nothing has changed.

However, my friend and I came down Bacton Hill on our way back from Fricks Locks.  As she was driving, I was able to snap a few photos.  I think it is important to record it now, because as soon as those development houses go up next to Ebenezer and the Malvern Courts mobile home park, what is left of old Bacton Hill will cease to exist for sure.

It’s almost gone, now. This farmhouse I have photographed should be some sort of historic asset, but it is not.  It has been rotting and will be demolished so the land can be cleared for part of this development that is coming.

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Bacton Hill Road  Farmhouse in Frazer August 26, 2018. This farmhouse was built in 1840, just a few years after Ebenezer AME was built. It was a four bedroom farmhouse and was undoubtedly purchased for it’s 2 acres of land. I think this may have been called the Benjamin Smith House but am not certain.

Bacton Hill has serious historic significance, but it doesn’t matter. Only progress and development seem to matter. The park East Whiteland is planning up the road towards where the road meets Swedesford will carry the name Bacton Hill, but give it 10 years more and no one will remember what Bacton Hill was.

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Alice Gassaway’s grave August 25, 2018. The only grave you can now see at all through the brush and weeds.  She is buried closest to the road.

Bacton Hill is a region in East Whiteland that was an early village (and one of the largest early settlements) in Chester County settled by and for African Americans. The Ebenezer AME Church and cemetery is a sacred space where at least three Civil War soldiers are buried.

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Alice Gassaway’s grave in 2016

The AME Church grew out of the Free African Society in the late 1700s, but the church became it’s own entity founded in Philadelphia around 1816.  So you can see given the age of Ebenezer AME in East Whiteland, Chester County, PA that it is truly part of the early days of a church and religion founded in Philadelphia.  Bishop Richard Allen died in 1831, just months before Ebenezer came to be after Joseph Malin deeded the land.

Hiram Woodyard was a Township resident and former slave who served in the Union Army as a teamster. He was a leader in the African American community and is buried at the Ebenezer AME Church. His home still stands on Congestoga Road. Other homes he built still stand. He was an inhabitant of Bacton Hill.

Soon all that will be left of the area will be my blog posts including this one from 2017 which is an oral history complete with some really cool photos courtesy of Claude Bernadin, or this one from 2015, this one from 2016, this one from 2017, the ceremony November 2016, a post from October 2016, another one from October 2016, when for  brief moment people stopped to visit the old souls now covered by weeds and brush once more, 2015 post which had links to earlier posts. Also will be the occasional newspaper article from every newspaper reporter who tried to raise awareness to this area and to Ebenezer.

Once upon a time people tried to get a Bacton Hill Historic District or something like that. It’s a shame it never happened.  Because at least then there would have been a more organized history of the place.

We can’t keep developing away our history, or can we?

I will leave you with that for now.

 

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Ebenezer AME August 25, 2018.  Once again swallowed by weeds and brush.

giving up on ebenezer

This photo is from 2016, but I drove past Ebenezer today and essentially, this is what it looks like..AGAIN.

In February, 2018 I wrote a post titled will 2018 mark the year of history at risk at the ruins of ebenezer on bacton hill road, frazer in east whiteland?

Well I am back to tell you sadly, I think I am right.  Ebenezer looks like hell. Again. I am done with trying to get people to pay attention and preserve and save this site.  It is pointless.

I drove past Ebenezer today and the photo above is from 2016, but essentially that is exactly the way it looks now. Perhaps worse. I couldn’t stop and take a photo as there was traffic.  Ebenezer has been swallowed by the green death of weeds.  The old farmhouse across the street is pending the wrecking ball as the development which alarmed me due to it’s proximity to Ebenezer was apparently approved?

These houses are going to be right next to  Ebenezer on one side.  A  concern I still have is a lot of us have always wondered if there were more graves on each side of the fences (See blue arrows). A new development right on top of this site of ANY size puts this historic site at risk, in my humble opinion. Which is why a lot of the conversations concerning any development anywhere has to also include protecting  historic sites, right? And this site is fragile so what will the vibrations of earth moving construction equipment do? My guess is nothing good.

This is a historic site that East Whiteland has never seemingly wanted to deal with (except for the historic commission as they have wanted it better preserved only how do we get there?), and the AME Church always seemingly wants to pretend it never exists. (I mean remember that promise Bishop Ingram made the Inquirer reporter Kristen Holmes to check this all out quite a while ago, right? And what do you bet he never, ever did? (Sorry I don’t see slick city bishop walking through the mud at Ebenezer, do you?)

Anyway….I am repeating myself (sorry.)

But my post in February was noticed by a lady named  Patricia J. Henry who was doing Quaker research on the Malin family (and it was James Malin who deeded the land in 1831 to the then fairly new AME Church.) She was researching East Whiteland Malins in connection with “some individuals connected with Valley Meeting burial ground as well as Tredyffrin area residents.” (I have a couple of emails I am quoting from.)

To continue…this Patricia emailed Bertha Jackmon the historian at the uber historic Mt.Zion AME in Devon, PA. (I will digress for a moment and wonder aloud about Mt. Zion as it looked like it needed a lot of love when I drove by earlier this summer. I have heard like many other old historic churches they have an aging and dwindling congregation?)

Back to my topic at hand: Ebenezer.

This Patricia asked them if they were familiar with Ebenezer.  Bertha replied yes. (I laughed to myself reading the e-mail chain because when I started my Ebenezer odyssey years ago I went to the Pastor of Mt. Zion April Martin. Pastor Martin was super interesting and inspiring to speak with, but nothing ever happened back then with Ebenezer via Pastor Martin.)

From this email I learned that as according to Bertha that Ebenezer was “originally known as Bethel AME Church as stated in the Deed. A/K/A Bethel Bacton Hill AMEC and names.”

Aha, I thought, quite the light bulb going off.  Another link to the AME Church that seems more tangible, no? As in Mother Bethel in Philadelphia from whence the Mothership of the AME Church was born? As I have always suspected? (You see I have never been able to find definitive proof that the AME church ever divested itself of Ebenezer. It was more like over time, they just ignored it as they have ignored so many other sites across the country, right?)

Then there was discussion of me and this blog.  That always amuses me when these things get forwarded.  Mostly what was said was really flattering. This Patricia lady thanked Bertha and said that “this should give me plenty to follow up with.” ( I never heard from this Patricia, although not sure I was supposed to.)

Bertha next contacted Steve Brown at East Whiteland Township and eventually me as well. Apparently with Steve from East Whiteland they discussed East Whiteland and this Bacton Hill development site. Steve also gave Bertha the court reporter information for the zoning hearing on the Bacton Hill development plan I guess it was.

So then Bertha and Pastor April reached out to me again.  We had a nice phone call back on February 20.  I will admit being snippy at first because well, they were among the first I reached out to years ago when I started this odyssey. And back then they made me feel like the teenage girl dumped at the high school dance – they just evaporated at the time. Or at least that was my perception….

Amusingly enough, apparently East Whiteland  really did not notify the AME church of this plan because well, the non-existent mailing address for Ebenezer was (as in decades ago, right?)  RD1 Malvern Pa, and ummmm… hey now it’s been a long time since there were any RD rural delivery addresses around these parts due to all the freaking development, hmmm?

East Whiteland should know the address of the church was/is  97 Bacton Hill Road.  East Whiteland should have maybe tried contacting the corporate offices of the AME Church or Mother Bethel in Philadelphia, right? But government is government and if something appears abandoned, how far do you go on the notification process? Especially when no one has really stepped forward to say Ebenezer is their responsibility, right?

So I did then have a conversation with Bertha and Pastor April back in February.  At that time there was limited time for the AME Church to file a zoning appeal if they wanted to go that route.  I do not know whatever happened, because I had no standing in the zoning matter and zero involvement because I knew I had no standing (I don’t live over there on Bacton Hill Road and I am not on the East Whiteland Historic Commission), even if I worry about the history of Ebenezer. You need standing in zoning matters.

The AME Church had they chosen to get involved with their history on Bacton Hill could have possibly sought an appeal based on ground vibrations or perhaps the impact to a historic site and also perhaps for the basic fact they did not receive good notice of a zoning hearing and should have if they are admitting the AME Church still owns the Ebenezer site, so is that what the AME Church was contemplating admitting here? Since I do not think an appeal was ever filed would that be part of why they didn’t appeal? Because then they would have to admit they let their own historic site rot and go to hell in a hand basket?

Anyway, to the best of my knowledge the development of those houses is going to happen and Ebenzer is SO overgrown  that no construction crew is even going to notice what is there except a seemingly empty lot.  But I am done. If the AME Church doesn’t care about preserving it’s early history, why should I care? It’s not my Church, after all. I did not expect this development plan to stop, but I was hoping that for once the AME Church would at least act to see Ebenezer’s ruins were stabilized and preserved.

Yes, I am really done.

I have ridden this pony as far as it can go.  My last hope was the late Al Terrell. But he is dead more than a year and no one is stepping into his shoes to get the site cleaned up.  And that is not anyone’s job truthfully other than the blasted AME Church. And they do not seem to care.

So why should I?

Some day, I predict, in the not too distant future the only records of what was Ebenezer AME will be what I have saved on this blog.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

I am tired of expecting different results.  I will post news as I get it, but I am divorcing myself from this.  It’s too aggravating to care about a place that no one else, let alone the church that apparently still owns it, cares about.

History is important, but time is fleeting.  I am sorry to the old souls buried at Ebenezer. I tried. 

But I am done.

 

 

pondering main line revisionist history…in ardmore

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“Lake Ardmore” sent to me today by Ardmore Shutterbug

The other day I wrote about Viking Pastries, one of the last remaining old school old Ardmore businesses closing.  Yesterday, Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Vinny Vella reported on it.

As new apartments rise in Ardmore, two nearby businesses fall
Updated: AUGUST 13, 2018 — 4:44 PM EDT

by Vinny Vella, Staff Writer vvella@phillynews.com

Two well-known businesses in Ardmore have shuttered in recent weeks, and their owners cast at least some of the blame on a loss of parking to make way for new housing.

Viking Pastries, a 62-year-old sweet shop, and the Party Place — located around the corner from each other in the borough’s downtown — stood in the shadow of One Ardmore Place, a long-embattled residential project expected to open early next year. Work on another mixed-use complex, the Cricket Flats, is set to begin across the street.

While the owners acknowledged that the construction isn’t the sole reason for the downturn, they say it played a major role. Local commerce groups, however, contend that the majority of businesses in Ardmore have been thriving while the cranes tower overhead….In a twist of irony, Viking Pastries took part in a groundbreaking celebration for One Ardmore Place last June called “the Big Dig,” in which customers decorated cookies shaped like dump trucks…..Compounding the lack of parking was the sale of the building where she leased her storefront. Petrone said that she couldn’t afford the increased rent from her new landlord….

“A lot of times, people think the solution to parking is putting in more lots,” said Philip Green, the Main Street manager for Ardmore Initiative.

“People….expect to walk a few blocks past stores and other businesses that will interest them. Here, we have beautiful architecture and sidewalks. That’s the appeal of a historic downtown….Ardmore Initiative, a pro-development organization, has been working with Lower Merion Township and the borough’s business association to produce parking guides to assist visitors during construction. ….”

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Taken by me back when Clover Market was starting.  They left Ardmore too, didn’t they?

In Lower Merion this article has caused quite a kerfuffle and chatter on social media forums.  The article is not fair. Why didn’t the article mention other stores, it’s biased. Blah Blah Blah. Oh Yawn. After all these years, they can’t come up with anything more original?

In Ardmore, in Lower Merion Township, the faces of the cheerleaders may sometimes change but the cheerleaders in a sense remain exactly the same. Also amusing and sort of related was a Facebook group thread where comments were shut down that were felt to be negative about this project and parking (or lack thereof) and did that have anything to do with the fact that one of the group administrators sits on the board of the Ardmore Initiative? And another possible topic for another day while we are talking Ardmore is all of the nonsense keeping people up at night in North Ardmore, but I digress…and that is North Ardmore Civic‘s tale to tell.

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This is one of my most favorite photos I took myself.  Ardmore Initiative has gotten years and years of use out of it. They are welcome. Ironically once Godzilla is finished, you will never have this scene again.  Godzilla will be behind it.

The Inquirer article is neither biased or not comprehensive, as some in these Facebook forum comments are not so subtly suggesting . The reporter had ONE story to write about businesses which were closing. I wonder if any of these article critics actually know how reporting works? It wasn’t supposed to be yet another fluffy piece on Ardmore placed by publicists. There have been so many of those, after all….

Further and to the point, I was around and active long before most of them were on the scene, sadly.

Suffice it to say, the faces change,  yet the blind faith township cheerleaders down there  remain the same. Some throw that “we” word around rather liberally but sadly I do not remember them when Ardmore was fighting eminent domain? Or truly community volunteering? And then there are the ones who will tell you how much they did to champion Ardmore and how wrong you are, how bad you are not to share their opinion. (Mind you these are the types who never do or say anything unless they benefit somehow, but I digress.)   Maybe they fancy themselves local authorities and love to play the deflect blame game but let’s all not fall victim to revisionist history since there were way too many of us around who remember how it actually rolled. And went down.

Did Viking have money problems? Start with how many small businesses DO NOT have money problems from time to time? Especially when they have jacked up rents they have to meet monthly along with everything else?

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Ardmore Shutterbug photo. Is this really what “progress”  looks like? Are they sure it’s not really the Temple of Kermit the Frog? Sorry not sorry, but how is that in keeping with the size and scale of Ardmore? Why does suburbia have to look so urban?

Mark my words, more businesses will fail before this apartment Godzilla on the old movie theater lot is finished. So many of the cheerleaders think all this hideous infill development will pave the roads with gold bricks, but sadly, will it? I do not think so. And I never have.

Ardmore’s largest impediment will always be the fact that Lower Merion Township’s township seat and building are there. And some who are new will say things “How can you say things like that?” or “Never heard that before, why are you saying this?”

I say it because if you lived in Lower Merion Township long enough, you know it is the sad truth. Politics, deals, more politics, backroom boardroom dancing, and so much more go into being a First Class Township doesn’t it? Why do people think back in the day we flipped half of the board out of office? Because they were so resident-minded?

People also don’t like it when I take the Ardmore Initiative to task. If they were actually truly independent from the township, I probably wouldn’t. But at the end of the day, in my opinion, they are just another appendage of Lower Merion Township. I find what that Philip Green said  basically idiotic. He has obviously been in Ardmore about five minutes and is young, because he doesn’t get that small town centers without sufficient parking long term are small town centers which will continue to fail. Maybe not all in one week, one month, one year but the more urban it becomes in suburbia, will ultimately not be positive. And THAT is what we are seeing with Party Land and Viking Pastries closing now, and those who went before them.

Suburbia is not Manayunk and Passyunk Avenue. Whether they drive a Prius or a Range Rover, they want to drive their cars. They want convenient parking.  They don’t want hellacious  city- traffic. And what happens when they get any of the above? They shop and go elsewhere. Just ask the residents in Lower Merion who now avoid Ardmore like the plague. It’s not rocket science.

Building lots and lots of overpriced teeny boxy apartments is not going to bring people in droves. Look at all the housing stock up and down the Main Line, King of Prussia, Conshohocken, and out to Chester County where the same old mixed use fairy tale is unfolding as well.  Is everything filled to capacity? Are there NO empty store fronts?

Were the ratables worth it?

Take East Side Flats in Malvern Borough for example:

$60,000: East King Revitalization’s Impact on the Borough
The new apartments and businesses won’t be a windfall for the borough.
By Pete Kennedy, Patch Staff | Jun 27, 2012 8:34 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2012 3:38 am ET

During a discussion of the police services and budgeting at the of Malvern Borough Council, resident Joan Yeager asked a related question:

“Once the King Street project is completed, how much additional money is going to come into the borough? In taxes and all,” she said.

“Something in the neighborhood of $60,000 a year,” council president Woody Van Sciver said…”That’s it?” Yeager replied, expecting a bigger payoff from the several new businesses and hundreds of new residents that will be moving to the east end of the borough.

Some folks like to say the beginning of this part of Ardmore where Viking Pastries building sits was caused when Gillaine’s closed. Actually, it’s when that behemoth of a Godzilla apartment building was approved and is now rising behind where the former movie theater/public parking lot is now rising that has done this. That is my personal opinion, and many share that even if they won’t verbalize it. After all, during the days of eminent domain we learned the price of activism and doing the right thing, didn’t we?

Those of us who were the ORIGINAL Save Ardmore Coalition (we did all the heavy lifting for years before the last folks who assumed the mantle made the group look silly with litigation a decade too late IMHO) predicted things like this years ago. No parking, lots of construction issues, no real support of businesses from the township and this downtown is simply not sustainable.

After all for how many years did a very small band of volunteers led by Sherry Tillman put on First Friday Main Line? And that was done without any real help of the township every single month. All they tried to do was put up impediments and it was amazing free publicity of a positive kind that they literally couldn’t pay for that we provided.

And while they would provide some kind of insurance (I don’t remember which kind) under some umbrella with the township and all sorts of help for those Bryn Mawr twilight concerts, First Friday Main Line had to pay for everything on their own. I was just looking through photos of First Friday Main Line the other day looking for more photos of Viking Pastries.  First Friday Main Line inspired lots of other events on and off the Main Line.  It was amazing. And the events were not dependent on alcohol, either. People came for the art, music, and sense of community.

Why Ardmore has the issues it does can be laid right at the steps of the township building.

And people like to forget the days of eminent domain. And abuse we received at the hands of the township and their cheerleaders an even paid publicists.

When Lower Merion Township first started that eminent domain debacle it was the whole block from Pennywise down to the corner of Station Rd where Radio Shack was. They wanted EVERYTHING.

Then with the help of folks like the Institute for Justice we defeated that. But it was exhausting, debilitating, time consuming, and took years. However, that was worth it. Eminent domain for private gain is disgusting.

And does anyone remember from where Ardmore went off the rails to eminent domain in the first place? Some commissioners wanted a new train station.  Then other suggested improvement upon the idea of a train station and it morphed into a bloated ridiculous eminent domain-laden plan.

After eminent domain there was no rest for the weary, Lower Merion Township put Ardmore and township residents through the whole insanity of RFPs for development around the train station post-eminent domain (which included a new train station to this day no one has ever seen.) We sat through meeting after meeting for a couple of years and some of us (myself included) got roped into this phony blaoney “Ad Hoc Ardmore Committee”. I resigned from all of it in 2011 when I got my breast cancer diagnosis and I am so glad. Dealing with Lower Merion Township and trying to actually SAVE Ardmore from greed and stupidity was exhausting. And in retrospect, ultimately futile.

In the end there is NO new train station just that hideous Godzilla apartment tower and other bad infill development on the old movie theater side of Lancaster Ave. You see they also allowed poorly executed zoning overlays which in my opinion were essentially developed to give the developers more leeway at the expense of residents and businesses. In Ardmore it was called MUST or Mixed Use Special Transit. At the time we changed the acronym to mean More Unfair Special Treatment.

So again, if you want to talk about the beginning of the end, the beginning starts with Lower Merion Township and their elected and appointed officials.

I am glad I don’t live in Lower Merion any longer. It’s futile – IMHO they are screwing up the entire township not just poor Ardmore. This is also why I hate going to any township or borough meetings anywhere.

Enjoy the photos that are part of my memories of the Ardmore I loved so much once upon a time.  Thanks for the memories, Ardmore.

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