I just posted about the Oaklands Estate Tenant Farm House after driving by a couple of days ago. I said in that post, I feared it would just be torn down. I didn’t know. Now I know that it’s actually true I am going to say that out loud.
A bit after I posted my post, some of the family that used to live in that beautiful farmhouse posted some photos. Of a pool refurbished in 2021 and things like that. The house had huge beautiful gardens and a wonderful library in the house. It was a home, a much loved home.
Some McIlvaine family members were living on site until they had to leave after the sale. They have been kind enough to give me these photos to show all of you.
I get that a car dealership probably doesn’t care about an old farmhouse but we in Chester County should care about our old farmhouses, and I want the memories to survive through photos. The descriptions on the photos have been provided by a family member and I would like to thank Shane McIlvaine in for sharing his precious memories. And these are precious memories for these people.
But when estates have to be settled and there are a bunch of relatives involved, properties sometimes have to be sold. And given the absolute insanity of the real estate market and how developers on a quest to play PAC MAN and gobble up land all over, it makes it hard for individuals to compete to try to save these properties, let alone family members who want to hang on to familial homesteads and be able to afford to buy out other family members.
So when someone else asked Shane McIlvaine about the situation, we all learned some interesting information and the reality of the damage overdevelopment does over time:
“I moved out last year when we sold it to Exton Nissan. The chimney never caught on fire…it was an electrical fire from a poor stucco job exposing a wire…Even though I had just recently refinished the pool, the property was slowly sinking into the wetlands because of surrounding development. It needed hundreds of thousands in repairs. Decided it was time to go when yellow jackets were discovered within the entire back wall of the home. In the 70’s it never flooded and it had a useable pasture for farm animals.…Brand new pool put in 2021. It does make me a bit sad since it had been in the family since the 1700’s. My grandmother lived in the guest house and was the owner. When she recently passed her estate was divided, and I couldn’t afford to buy everyone out of their share of the acreage.”
The house and/or the spring house is sinking slowly into wetlands because of surrounding development. That old phrase you hear about water seeking it’s own level strikes me as apropos in a sad way. This is a real cost of over-development, which sadly is somethings the West Whiteland corridor has plenty of. Water no longer has anywhere to go because of all of the development. And with climate change and increasingly obnoxious weather patterns, where we never had flooding, we have flooding.
And if there was more open space, water would have a place to go. They can engineer stormwater basins and whatnot all they want, but it doesn’t really replace old fashioned open space with room for water to go.
Back to death of a farmhouse….
So Shane McIlvaine is the nephew of former State Representative Barbara McIlvaine Smith who was also Vice President of West Chester Borough Council once upon a time. Shane’s father was her older brother. His dad passed away in 2012, so his aunt became the Executrix.
Other information: Shane McIlvaine has the original deed, William Penn land grant paperwork, and some pictures of the farm workers from long ago.
Let that sink in: this is yet another property that was a William Penn land grant being destroyed for development. (Yes, that is my opinion that too much land, too many farmhouses, farms, open space, etc are being destroyed.) Lloyd Farm in Caln is also crumbling by the minute, was a William Penn land grant. Our history of Chester County, of Pennsylvania, of this very country is lbeing destroyed and for what?
If you look at other countries like the one we spring from originally, England, they value their heritage. In this country, it’s super sad but we do not. Not all of us, but too many decision makers for sure in Harrisburg, for example.
So maybe, just maybe if state representatives and state senators could get off their collective political asses in Harrisburg and do their jobs, which includes updating the Municipalities Planning Code comprehensively to protect the constituency they are supposed to serve as opposed to special interests, that would be awesome. And it’s not all of the state representatives and state senators, but there are so many that are in with all sorts of obvious that they forget whom they’re there to serve.
So hypothetically, speaking, maybe if the Municipalities Planning Code had been updated, there might not be so much development in West Whiteland, and this farmhouse and William Penn Land grant remainder would be worth maybe saving?
We all need to do better. We can’t keep standing idly by as our very history disappears.
Here in Chester County we keep losing what makes this county special. Farms, land, open space, history. We loose it with every devil of a development project we don’t really need – you know like that warehouse development project being discussed at present in Uwchlan Township? Or any of the apartment and townhouse developments we don’t actually need more of in a county once known for farms and open space. It’s all bullshit being shoved at residents as the latest and greatest until it’s not. And it’s not.
I don’t think any bells can be unrung here with this historic farmhouse that’s part of a historic William Penn land grant. That actually upsets me. To follow in screenshots is all the West Whiteland stuff talking about the demolition execution timeline.
One last comment from Shane McIlvaine about all of this development. It makes me sad. He literally has been someone in a farming family who has grown up watching farms disappear. Imagine what he has seen. Chester County has lost so much. When will it stop?
“ It is sad. In the early 90’s when my Grandad and his brothers sold the 300 or so acres between Whitford and Rt100 (becoming Waterloo Blvd and a bunch of condos), I knew it was all downhill for Exton as peaceful farmland. A few yrs later Waterloo gardens sold to a developer when the matriarch of the Le’Bouttlier family passed and that property had to be split between siblings. So will go every other last chunk of Chester County land. Honey Brook is the next target for developers. Our other family farm called Springton Manor towards that direction was sold as well but partially preserved luckily.”