Chester County, like her neighboring counties used to be a farming seat. Acres and acres of fields as far as the eyes could see. Cows, horses, sheep. The landscape dotted with old barns and farmhouses. Sounds of fields, being plowed, or crops being brought in, and more.
Dairy farms were a big part of Chester County. Now all we have for the most part are memories of the farms that used to exist before development and before developers drove up land prices, making farmers unable to keep their land for future generations, like their fathers and grandfathers before them.
Now, for the most part, the memories we have are of those great dairy farms large and small are old glass milk bottles. I have little pint sized ones on my kitchen windowsill. I use them to root plants and hold flowers.
I really don’t think that government and politicians no matter what political persuasion really value farming anymore. Just like in Pennsylvania I don’t think they value the way we want our communities to look, as opposed to being stampeded and trampled by new development that feels like it arrives every minute of the day.
What once was hangs on in little memories like when you come across the little bottles. Here’s hoping people eventually wake up before all is lost. Yes, we do need some development, like it, or not for us to move forward. But there is simply too much of it. It has become a problem. It is destroying us.
Remember those fresh vegetables you love do not grow on the roof of Whole Foods in Exton, nor do cows and horses and sheep and goats and more graze there.
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.”
I have written about both houses before and they are neighbors. First is the Joseph Price House at 401 Clover Mill Road in Exton. It’s on the corner of S. Whitford Rd.
Supposedly it has a caretaker, but there seem to be so many holes in the house as it sits and rots, that you have to wonder if it’s safe. There are constant rumors that the guys who own it have sold it, but it never seems any sales go through, so are they just a pair of house hoarders? (You can look up the owners, it’s public record.)
Then there is the neighboring and equally rotting old farmhouse at 105 S. Whitford Road in Exton. It’s an old tenant farm from what was the Oaklands estate once upon a time. Supposedly dates from 1750 and this is the respect it gets? (Again, you can look this house up, it’s public record.)
Yes fuzzy photos taken in the rain as a passenger in a car yesterday and there was traffic, so not the best photos.
I don’t really have much more to add. I’ve written about these properties before. And it always gets me when you go up S.Whitford Road that these two historic properties are so close to each other. I will note that the white farmhouse looks like something is going on to the side- the right side when driving by to meet Route 30.
Both of these houses in my opinion are demolition by neglect. What is happening to both of these houses is criminal. The Joseph Price house in particular will shortly reach the point of no return if someone can’t convince those owners to sell to preservation minded people. I don’t think there’s any hope for the beautiful old farmhouse and My guess is that will be torn down. I predict with both these houses someday we will all say to one another “Do you remember those really cool houses?”
I really hope that the West Whiteland Historic Commission is able to fully document these properties inside and out before it’s too late.
Well dayyyyyuummm people, now there’s a headline. Kirkwood Farm AKA the Jackson/Rockefeller farm in Willistown appears to have been sold to M. Knight Shyamalan? So this means Shyamalan accomplished what preservationists in Willistown failed to do? Because as you know this is yet another large land parcel with no conservation easements pre-existing, right? I think people would be surprised by the list of whose big properties do not have conservation easements other than Rock Hill Farm. But hey that is a story for another day.
by Kevin Riordan and Frank Kummer Published Mar 24, 2023
A company traced to an address used by M. Night Shyamalan, writer and director of The Sixth Sense and Knock at the Cabin, has paid $24 million for a 210-acre Chester County property that was associated with generations of the Rockefeller family.
Public records show that Woodkirk LLC sold the Kirkwood Farm on Providence Road in Willistown Township to 944 Providence Road LLC for $24 million on March 14.
The registered address for 944 Providence LLC is on Campus Boulevard in Newtown Square. That is the same address used by the M. Night Shyamalan Foundation Inc., the famed director’s charitable organization.
Shyamalan, who grew up in suburban Philadelphia, could not be reached for comment. He and his family live in Willistown on an estate called Ravenwood.
Conservationists who had feared hundreds of houses would be developed on the Willistown Township site known as Kirkwood Farm are relieved.
“The sale is going to have a conservation-minded outcome,” said Kate Etherington, executive director of the Willistown Conservation Trust. “Kirkwood Farm is not being sold to a developer. And we’re thrilled.”….
A rolling landscape of fields and woods in the center of Willistown — an 18-square mile community of 11,000 — the Kirkwood Farm was listed for $29.9 million, sales agent Lavinia Smerconish said.
Advertisements by Compass real estate described a property that was available “for the first time in 90 years” and offered “endless views” punctuated only by “five charming residences, two barns, a pond, a stream, and spring house.”
Smerconish said the property was sold by descendants of William Rockefeller Jr. who along with his brother, John D. Rockefeller, founded the Standard Oil company in 1870. The farm has belonged to generations of the Rockefeller family and in recent years has been used by members of a hunting club. The farmhouses have been rented to tenants, and two remain occupied, she said.
Public records show the property was associated with Almira R. Scott, daughter of William G. Rockefeller, once treasurer of Standard Oil. Notably, it was also associated with Hardie Scott, a former Republican U.S. representative who married into the Rockefeller family. Scott died in 1999 and appointed M. Roy Jackson, also a scion of the Rockefellers, and the Glenmede Trust Co., as executors. Jackson was a grandson of William Rockefeller Jr., who died in 1922.
Goodness the Inquirer sure scooped the rest of the media, didn’t they? And two of my favorite writers. Riordan and Kummer seem to be writing the stories that matter, the ones that people want to read. With the oddness that is print and television journalism these days, Chester County doesn’t get the same coverage it used to. Of course I remember when The Philadelphia Inquirer had a Chester County Bureau in West Chester, and The Daily Local News had a whole fleet of reporters covering Chester County from all angles. But the state of print journalism is an entirely separate conversation as well. But the only other people to cover it was Philadelphia Business Journal. Of course when they shared it on their Facebook page lots of comments ensued:
Heavy sigh. I am always amazed at what people don’t know about how government works either on a local level or state level. Yes I agree wholeheartedly that we need to have less development but people have no idea what has to happen to make that happen.
Local development is ruled by The Municipalities Planning Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania AKA the “MPC.” The MPC requires an act of the State Constitution to comprehensively change and update it. It has not been comprehensively updated since I think either 1968 or 1969. Interesting to note for Chester County residents the gargantuan development known as Chesterbrook was allowed to be built because of this code, correct public officials? For a little background on Chesterbrook read THIS.)
When the MPC was created, suburbs and exurbs looked different and were defined differently. But because this is the Bible that guides all the local zoning in the state, when elected officials literally tell you they can’t do things a lot of the time it’s because they can’t do things a lot of the time. But your state elected officials can indeed do things like enact an act of the state constitution and update the MPC. If they actually did that then we could have better and more meaningful historic preservation, land preservation, land conservation and possibly even some restrictions on development and as far as how much we have to have and what communities can say no to.
As it stands, property owners don’t (IMHO) have that much that makes historic preservation and land conservation appealing. If it was more appealing and if there were more tax breaks then maybe more would conserve and preserve. No maybe these are just my opinions but I don’t think so. All you have to do is literally look at the parcels of land in Willistown (and elwhich are not under conservation easements. One of the comments mentioned a place called Sweetwater farm. I didn’t even know that was for sale I thought that had sold a while back. (According to RedFin in 2021.)
So back to 944 Providence Rd in Willistown. So if M. Night Shyamalan has bought it, he achieved what no one else could and beat out developers. I remember when this place got listed it went under agreement I thought fairly quickly and then I never heard anything else about it. So I had forgotten about this, truthfully. Wonder what the fence protesters of Willistown think of him now?
It isn’t a pretty fence, but M. Night Shyamalan gets to keep it!
A judge in Chester County, Penn. has ruled that the “Sixth Sense” director can keep his 123-acre property wrapped in this yucky 8-foot high green mesh — much to the horror of his neighbors. I see pissed-off people!
Residents of Willistown Township complained that the plastic netting was an eyesore, but local officials ultimately sided with the filmmaker, who argued it was the only way to keep deer from decimating a network of floral gardens on the property he purchased in September 2006.
Hopefully they just thank M. Night Shyamalan and leave him alone this time, but pro-tip to him: it’s Willistown so don’t try to have a flower farm and avoid conversations about sewer sales and miles of concrete sidewalks…..
Willistown, Willistown, Willistown it’s always entertaining to learn your news.
The long strange tale of a bed-and-breakfast inn located in Wayne, PA in Radnor Township is drawing to a close. The charming and impeccably restored B&B located at 211 Strafford Avenue in Wayne seems like she is to meet the wrecking ball.
This beautiful house, which was lovingly restored, getting bulldozed, is a waste, and it should be a crime. It’s so funny I remember quite clearly when they started discussing having a Wayne bed-and-breakfast. I remember all the meetings at Radnor Township, because some of the neighbors were so weird about it. They thought they would be bringing in criminals and lowlifes into town. They should be careful what they wish for because now they’re getting development.
When I went by this morning, there were big construction things in the backyard and it looks like they took down a whole bunch of trees which is yet another waste. And that contributes to the crappy environmental changes we all experience now.
We can’t save every old house. I am a realist. But what totally gets to me is this place had been beautifully restored and could’ve been an adaptive reuse into a couple of condos within this new development. I don’t even think they’re saving the pool, which is so lovely. And the gardens. Half looked like they were bulldozed away today already.
I’m also somewhat appalled that it seems like the Radnor Historical Society said and did nothing. Makes you wonder why they gave them a historical marker a few years ago, right?
Kevin Riordan of The Philadelphia Inquirer has this brand new article out. About development in Swarthmore. Swarthmore one of the last places with beautiful trees and not overtaken by ugly development…until now. And the players include the guy who went from zoning and planning dude in West Goshen Township to Swarthmore Borough Manager (William Webb) and the former Borough Mayor of Swarthmore and developer/builder, Bill Cumby.
I will start with not a big fan of West Goshen and West Goshen employee refugees because West Goshen just always has issues. And then there is this once a politician always a politician former mayor of Swarthmore and how can he really want to build something so out of character and out of scale in a small main street oriented community that is also home to lovely homes with terrific gardens and street trees, Swarthmore College, and Scott Arboretum? Political/personal gain? I mean you don’t want to think that, but this plan? It’s like all the bad plans for Ardmore, PA mated with Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough and The Elm in Narberth, and had an alien love child.
This proposed plan? One word: HIDEOUS.
No Swarthmore is not in Chester County. It’s in Delaware County. And Swarthmore and Media are two of my favorite Main Street small town feel towns. So yes, I am expressing my dismay. Honest, heart-felt dismay.
A local developer’s proposed condominium complex in Swarthmore would offer ready access to a SEPTA Regional Rail station as well as to shops, restaurants, and cultural amenities in the heart of the Delaware County borough.
Called 110 Park, the $30 million, five-story building would increase the town center’s population and provide Swarthmore empty-nesters an opportunity to downsize in their community. The proposal also includes 1,250 square feet of retail space and preservation of the facade and front section of the Celia Building, a Park Avenue landmark….a significant number of Swarthmore residents, including architects, preservationists, and businesspeople, say 110 Park would dwarf its low-rise surroundings, cast a literal and figurative shadow over the town center, and erode the borough’s distinctive character.
They also oppose the pending demolition of two vintage buildings and see the proposed 40-space parking garage at the complex as a potential threat to pedestrian and vehicular traffic safety….Ever since the developer, 110 Park LLC, submitted the first iteration of the proposal for review in 2021, public concerns have focused on the impact of replacing a small-town expanse of Park Avenue streetscape that includes green space with a residential building more appropriate for a city block…..The council is expected to vote on the measure on March 13.
Melanie Rodbart, one of the founders of a nonprofit called Save Our Swarthmore….is not opposed to town center development, including on Park Avenue.
“There’s a way to develop that site without razing everything on it,” said Rodbart, a structural engineer and owner of a company that specializes in historic preservation….
Incorporated in 1893 and best known as the home of Swarthmore College, the borough is an inner-ring commuter suburb of Philadelphia. It has about 6,500 residents in its 1.4 square miles and features comfortable homes on tree-lined streets named after universities.
The Cumby family has been a part of Swarthmore for generations, and Bill Cumby, a former borough mayor who owns W.S. Cumby, a Delaware County construction firm, is a partner in developing 110 Park….Prices would range from $600,000 for some one-bedrooms to $1 million and above for three-bedroom units….The controversy has alerted Swarthmore residents to what some describe as shortcomings in the borough’s development regulations. Although none of the buildings to be demolished or altered as part of the 110 Park project are on registries of historic places, the 100 block of Park Avenue is eligible to be declared a historic district but has not been proposed as such.
So Bill, Will, Willy, whatever you go by Webb are you actually LISTENING to your Swarthmore residents, the people whose taxes pay your salary? Because if you were listening you would know what the temperature is on this project.
Now Swarthmore has a big old page on their website devoted to this hideous project: CLICK HERE.
Some company called Bernardon has design plan things on their website: CLICK HERE.
Developer and former mayor guy has a website for his proposed project: CLICK HERE. He is heavy on the hype to get monster Lego land approved in my humble opinion.
Residents have banded together. Their group is SOS or Save Our Swarthmore. They seemed to have one of my favorite land use lawyers and former Lower Merion Commissioners assisting them. Phillip Rosenzweig, Esq. (Now for those of you reading, yes indeed this is indeed one of the land use lawyers I talk about as being AMAZING. He is also the guy that wrote that piece of fabulousness that ended eminent domain for private gain in Ardmore, PA when he first became a commissioner. And no, he is not a commissioner now, which is a shame for Lower Merion.) Here’s something off the SOS site he penned regarding this hot mess of a proposal for Swarthmore:
Swarthmorians fight for your town. Human scale matters. Fitting the existing landscape matters. You have an old school main street oriented town. It should be a historic district. Learn from the mistakes of other towns. Preserve what you have. I find it completely appalling that someone who once was an elected official and lives in Swarthmore thinks this is right for the character of your town. I am allowed to have that opinion. I feel for you guys. I applaud your efforts.
Lionville Station Road is just fields and 2 empty farmhouses butting up against Milky Way Farm. I’m sure they aren’t happy about this with all the water and air pollution this will cause them and their animals. Can’t imagine my back road to home having 300+ tractor trailers coming and going on it.
~ LOCAL RESIDENT
I think I should state that I have NOT heard about this before today. AND Milky Way Farm is staying put and not going anywhere from what I am told, but they might turn into a farm island as a result of this right? Also Gardner’s Landscape is NOT going anywhere, so can’t imagine what they think of this, other than abject horror like residents, right?
Another BIG HUGE QUESTION is ARE THEY SURE AMAZON IS COMING? Read today’s article about Amazon slowing it’s roll in the Washington Post. Article is gifted so follow
The residents are up in arms. I would be. And when I zoomed in on the plan thing above? I saw my friend’s house! I mean can you even imagine waking up for years to loveliness and now be threatened with the ass end of a warehouse as your view???
Poor Ebenezer. Historically significant as quite literally perhaps the second oldest AME site in the country, except for Mother Bethel AME in Philadelphia. And I believe Mother Bethel’s current Pastor Mark Kelly Tyler knows this as he was in West Chester prior to Philadelphia.
Everything the engineer told me a few years ago now that I passed along to East Whiteland Township and East Whitehead Historical Commission is sadly happening. The walls have never been shored up, and the development going along around it is taking a toll. Time, weather, and circumstances are not friends to this site.
This is so sad. Quite literally an important historical asset, including as part of black history in Chester County. This was part of Bacton Hill. I have been told Bacton Hill was one of the early black settlements and well, most of the history has been bulldozed away, hasn’t it?
Black History Month starts when? February 1st? I would say maybe this February 1st someone will care about the history of Ebenezer and Bacton Hill, but really does it ever happen enough to make a difference? Sadly, no. So all I can ever do is point out further deterioration and prior posts over the years.
Before COVID hit, there was a lady from the National Trust for Historic Places I had connected with who seemed interested. Her name was Lawana Holland-Moore. I have tried following up since, but nothing, not even a reply. (Sigh.) Who knows? Maybe she will see this post and renew her former interest. There are so many historic places and structures at risk, but I just wish this place would matter for more than just an occasional minute.
I also hope that someday the East Whiteland Historical Commission really gets a fire lit under them. I have kind of given up there, I find little point in trying to connect with them at this point. Their chair is very nice, but they have never really been comfortable with me or interested in what I have to say.
At one point I had wanted to volunteer for the commission, but political road blocks came up and COVID happened. I’m not welcome there, and why should I keep trying? At one point I even offered to donate my time to help them photograph historic assets and I helped the former members who updated the History of East Whiteland Book, but they cycled off the commission. Hell, when I contacted a member of the commission last June looking for an update on Ebenezer I never even got a reply from them or anyone so I can take a hint.
But, I still need to remind people that #ThisPlaceMatters . Ebenezer and Bacton Hill are disappearing.
One was whomever had wanted to build apartments at The Exton Square Mall no longer wants to. That is not to say that couldn’t ever be proposed again, but for now it’s a dead plan.
But the other tidbit really made me listen: apparently the people who bought the Benjamin Pennypacker House contacted Justin Smiley and asked if West Whiteland wanted it back? Mind you I am paraphrasing, we will have to wait for the meeting recording for the exact verbiage.
Now I know the current owners who bought it from Church Farm School don’t live there. So I do not know what they had intended for the home. Was it too much of a money pit? Well, to be fair the years West Whiteland owned it (2006-2022) it was pretty much let go, and then given back to Church Farm School, who then sold it for $400,000 in April 2022…..
Everyone knew it was in beyond rough shape and I think it needed pretty much everything. The current owners have indeed been working on it. The house looks tremendously better.
BUT we have to file this under curious and curiouser.
Below is the post I wrote ironically a year ago this time, give or take a few days.
Never a dull moment in Chester County, that’s for sure. Here’s hoping this poor house continues to survive.
It was weird in a way going back now as a veritable stranger to a place I spent so much time in for so many years. So much has changed and I don’t necessarily feel it has changed for the better.
Ardmore needs more….love. And positive municipal attention.
In my prior post, I wrote about the condition of the sidewalks and streets in Ardmore, and the roads in general throughout Lower Merion Township. The roads are in deplorable condition. It’s like they are growing orange highway cones as a cash crop in places, and in other places, holes and what not are just waiting to trip people up. And when I asked a couple of people about it, they all say the same thing that they report these things to the township but nothing happens. It makes you wonder what former West Chester Borough Manager and current Lower Merion Township Manager Ernie McNeely does besides fall asleep at meetings, where they are talking about the police, right?
And when it comes to managers, I wasn’t necessarily a huge fan of the manager who proceeded Ernie McNeely, but somehow Lower Merion seems worse than when I moved? I remember when my friends from West Chester heard that McNeely was going to Lower Merion and they just laughed and laughed and laughed and said “good luck to them!”
I guess now I know why, because Lower Merion looks like crap in their business districts. There might be tons of new places to eat, but nobody leaves their lights on much anymore except for stores that have been there long enough to know it makes a difference, the streets are dirty and broken up. There’s a lot of trash. Especially in Ardmore.
Ardmore used to be different and you could feel an energy. And most importantly, people knew one another. You would hear people saying hello to each other going past each other on the street. last night for the first time on a Saturday night, I didn’t hear that. And I also noticed that in spite of all the dining choices it’s like people go early to eat, and they just leave. By like 9 o’clock-ish when we left the restaurant, it was a ghost town.
We met at my friend Sherry’s store, Past*Present*Future. As well as being one of my most favorite and cherished friends, her store is always one of my favorite places to visit. And more people should discover the wonderful treasures inside. (hint to my lovely Savvy lady- have you ever interviewed her and visited?)
Past*Present*Future was one of the few non-food establishments with good lighting. The other was the Junior League Thrift Shop, which had some wonderful window displays as well. There was a salon that had some lights on with one guy sitting there inside. But these places being lit made an enormous difference, especially since the township has broken sidewalks and stuff in front of some of these places and bricks all up out of where the street trees are….and as much as anything else, keeping the stores lit, reduces the chance of somebody tripping and possibly falling.
The other thing about these two stores with lights is when we first got to Ardmore, these were the stores where people were actually looking in the windows of. And that’s the thing, people used to look in the windows more. You don’t have the people that stroll. Now it was cold last night, but it wasn’t unpleasant walking.
SEPTA also has moved a train platform to behind Past*Present*Future and Merion Art and Repro since I lived there. I guess it’s part of the station makeover? You can see a little SEPTA sign in my photos. So what I wonder is why haven’t they (SEPTA) paid to light that alley and parking lot people have to cross to get to platform better when it’s dark? And the configuration they created in the back for the platform affects the limited parking that a lot of Ardmore merchants desperately need on that side of Lancaster. It’s kind of surprising that SEPTA can’t do a better job around there, right? And after all Leslie Richards head of SEPTA is very familiar with Ardmore because she spent enough time campaigning during events when she wanted to be county commissioner, didn’t she?
And the trash. Can I talk about the trash on the sidewalks again? Or the trash cans that needed to be emptied that are Township trash cans? Does no one get that people notice these things? And I think one of the things about the trash is people in general have gotten worse since COVID. It started with all the disposable masks and even disposable gloves just chucked on the ground. I think people in general are just littering more and it doesn’t help when trashcans aren’t emptied enough in business districts and shopping centers. Gateway Shopping Center has trash issues too in Tredyffrin. (but I digress.)
Which brings me to the Ardmore Initiative. It’s a marvel they were renewed. They are supposed to be all about the business district and even their own front stoop looks like crap. If their job is to make Ardmore look good and help the business district why isn’t there attention paid to the little things that help businesses? I was thinking of Borough, and even West Chester Borough when I was in Ardmore last night. All of these main street oriented municipalities are struggling through the same economic uncertainties, yet Malvern and West Chester just seem so much more alive and Malvern doesn’t even have the number of stores or restaurants that Ardmore does!
Quite literally the Ardmore which the Ardmore Initiative features on their website doesn’t look like what I saw last night and it makes me sad.
It was like the lights under the bridge tunnel entering Ardmore? The tunnel was dark last night, so what happened to those expensive lights?
So if there’s this business district authority, and it costs people to belong to it whether they want to or not because it’s kind of like a tax /assessment thing, what are they doing for the businesses and people in Ardmore? The last Executive Director who took over when the one which preceded her who got sick, literally worked her ass off and no matter what you thought of the Ardmore Initiative, it showed. Not the same now at all.
I just looked up the Ardmore Initiative website today and they have MORE people working and what do they do? Ardmore has enough in the dining arena that it should have more vibrancy at night and it does not. And there also aren’t as many stores where you can look in the windows, which is pretty basic for a main street business district to make people want to stay and poke around.
But then again, people always said Ardmore’s biggest problem was that Lower Merion Township was headquartered in it. Also what ails Ardmore will not be solved by more infill development. You can’t artificially manufacture energy. Elbow grease and a certain mindset goes into that. Ardmore still deserves better.
Now where we went and where we ate, which was terrific, and why I think Ardmore deserves better once again. We started out at Matatawny Still Works Ardmore tasting room. We buy their whiskeys sometimes now, but I had never been to one of their tasting rooms. It is a really cool space and a fun vibe and they had great music on so a couple of people did a whiskey tasting and I had this amazing spiked apple cider, which was just the thing to warm you up on a chilly night. And the fun thing about this place is you can bring takeout dinners into there and eat while you do a whiskey tasting.
From there, since we already had a parking spot, we headed to Cricket Avenue for dinner. We passed Buena Vista which we go to in Lincoln Court Shopping Center which was packed in Ardmore and Maido the Japanese grocery store which is so cool.
Crossing Lancaster Ave there at Anderson Avenue in Ardmore has not improved since people still don’t pay attention to pedestrians crossing correctly at the lights. Oh, and people still blow that light headed east on Lancaster which begs the question of the police station is right there, so you would think traffic would be better, right? Especially if Lower Merion wants to persist in their pedestrian walkability fantasy?
So on Cricket Avenue I still miss MilkBoy Coffee on the corner. Sorry but pucciManuli doesn’t do it for me and I had a friend tell me recently that they wanted to go in there for a gift and had to be buzzed in, the door wasn’t just open during business hours. I tried to patronize them a bunch of years ago, even before they were at that location and I just found them overpriced. And I love handmade and better quality things, but their prices? Meh.
I will admit that I still think that 1 Ardmore Place is super ugly. For those of you who grew up around Ardmore, these apartments are on the parking lot that used to exist for the old movie theater, which also does not exist anymore . I still hate the design aesthetic of this building, and it totally doesn’t fit in with the area.
We had dinner at Nam Phuong Bistro on Cricket Avenue. They have really wonderful Vietnamese cuisine. It was a terrific meal and I would go back again. I will caution people they don’t have much staff so you have to be prepared to be patient but the people who work there couldn’t be nicer. Their spring rolls were awesome and they also do softshell crabs which is one of my favorite things and they were fabulous. The prices were good and it’s one of those places that I had such a good meal. I forgot to take pictures of the food!
That was the end of my Ardmore re-entry adventure and we headed our way back home to Chester County. Walking back up Cricket. I was glad to see McCloskey’s had a good crowd, and looked as cheerful as ever. One thing that bummed me out, though is there is no more Marjorie Schneider Antiquary. I loved that store and used to love looking in the windows from the time I was young. She had wonderful antiques!
Before we went home, we drove around Ardmore a little bit, and I hadn’t been down some of the streets I used to walk on regularly for years. I came to the conclusion, however, that as much as I miss a lot of my friends down there, I do not miss Lower Merion at all. I think it is probably because the area I grew up in still exists because a lot of the buildings and people are still there, but it has lost so much of what made it very special. It has lost a feeling.
And seeing Ardmore with finally new restaurant destinations but no foot traffic and vibrancy on a Saturday night made me just shake my head. As I said earlier, Ardmore was one of those places where people would say hello to each other on the street as they passed by. Now there is this more transient nature, and a lot of that I think has to do with the infill development. The rental price points, like many other places, are off the charts, so people come, but they don’t stay.
I know this is kind of a mixed review of a visit to a place that I just loved so much once upon a time, but it just really disappoints me that Lower Merion Township just doesn’t really seem to give a crap about the Ardmore Historic Business District, even worse than before. What did we save Ardmore from when we stopped eminent domain for private gain years ago?
Small businesses need a lot of local love. If you are from outside Lower Merion, show Ardmore some love.
If we don’t support small businesses, they cease to exist and we are stuck with homogeneous box stores and chains. And if you live in Lower Merion Township still, I encourage people to stand up and not only demand a better police department but better township management and elected officials. What I saw last night wasn’t “first class” it was “We don’t care, just shut up and pay your taxes.”
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it starts with baby steps and standing up and caring. Use social media to show why Lower Merion needs to do better on so many fronts. It’s also time to question why the Ardmore Initiative exists. They obviously aren’t living up to their mission statement which of course also begs the question of do they deserve their non-profit status?
Discover something new in Main Street towns like Ardmore, and even West Chester and Malvern Borough. Discover what makes them tick. And if you don’t like something a municipality would be responsible for, hold local government accountable, don’t take it out on the small businesses.