the end of the decade, new year’s eve 2019

Lovely Loch Aerie, Frazer, PA

It has been a crazy decade chock-full of so much. I wasn’t sure what my last post of the year was going to look like until I started looking at some of my photos of houses that had captured my interest and fancy in the past decade.

So in all of the houses I have looked at in this decade I have decided to remain true to Chester County today and give you my three favorites.

Ironically my three house picks for the decade are not traditional 18th century Chester County Farmhouses, but three 19th-century stone houses of a certain era.

You see the first house above. My ultimate old house love, beautiful and lovely Loch Aerie mansion. I have written about her enough that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel and restate her history.

Loch Aerie on Lancaster Avenue in Frazer in East Whiteland Township enters the next decade with a guaranteed and brilliant new lease on life. She is being restored to her former glory, and will have an adaptive reuse that will ensure her place in architectural history for decades to come.

Old stone house Francis Ave, Berwyn, Easttown.

Next on my list is a house I was reminded of this morning. I know nothing of her pedigree. It is the great stone house on Francis Avenue in Berwyn.

My great friend (and Chester County historian and artist) Catherine Quillman and I stumbled upon this beauty in 2016 one fall afternoon.

We took a wrong turn somewhere after leaving Jenkins Arboretum and all of a sudden we were on Francis Avenue in front of this house. And before anyone flips out, we did not trespass. I had a camera with a zoom lens with me and I took photos from the street. This house captured my fancy for a number of reasons, including the fact that the stonework reminded me a lot of Loch Aerie.

I know absolutely nothing of the history of this house other than its 19th century and in Easttown Township . I think it probably has a name (possibly according to a 1912 atlas it appears it was maybe called “Rhydlyn” home of James G. Francis, whose sister in law I believe was famed local photographer Lucy Sampson according to census records from the early 20th century and according to the census she lived there for a while!) I don’t know if it is listed on any national registries or even a state or local registry. I couldn’t find it listed anywhere. (I am told it is mentioned HERE.)

It strikes me as a similar vintage to Loch Aerie. I also do not know the current ownership of the home but I am told it is being preserved as part of some kind of a development. I am also told that the glorious slate roof is no longer which I can’t say surprises me because old slate roofs are incredibly expensive to maintain and it’s a lost art of the craftsmanship of roof building. There are very few slaters left.

My last house which captured my fancy a great deal in this last decade is the Joseph Price house in West Whiteland Township.

This house is on S.Whitford and Clover Mill Roads in Exton. The Joseph Price House in West Whiteland Township.

Here is a wonderful little slide show presentation on prezi. This house is historically listed. It was built in 1878 and altered in 1894 by the house namesake inhabitant at the time. It was altered from a Gothic style to a Queen Anne style.

I was also told in the 1990s it was separate apartments inside and there were also cottages around it which were rented out as well.

In the 1950s and 60s there was a large barn there that was a sale barn for cattle run by Bayard Taylor —a blog reader told me that. He knew because his mother did bookkeeping for that business while she was in college.

This house is not completely deserted I am told there is a caretaker who still lives there. However, this house has an uncertain future at best and nobody seems to know what will happen to it. Which is a shame because it’s very cool.

So as we lift a glass one last time to toast a crazy tumultuous decade everywhere, let us think of our future and historic preservation. There are so many cool houses like this throughout Chester County from all eras of time.

Less development. More land and structure preservation and adaptive reuse. That’s my final wish for Chester County for 2019.

Please do not trespass on these properties. Either get permission to wander around or look from the street.

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve!

Joseph Price House. West Whiteland Township.

december demolition

39 East Montgomery Avenue, 41 East Montgomery Avenue and 108 Glenn Road – all on the Montgomery Avenue side of the Suburban Square neighborhood in North Ardmore.

(Here is an interior tour of one of the homes demolished.)

I remember all of these houses. I used to walk my dogs past them when I lived on the Main Line. This is in Lower Merion Township (see page 29 if you click on hyperlink.) This plan has been around a few years as per a Main Line Media News article from November, 2018.

One of my readers from the Main Line sent me these photos.

Two of these homes were converted into apartments many, many years ago.

These three homes all were built between 1900-1920. These homes housed about 10 residents prior to this demolition from what I was told.

Once upon a time I knew some of the people who lived here. Hardwood floors, amazing woodwork, and architectural details that withstood the test of time. These homes, although rentals, still had gardens. Lovely, established gardens.

I still remember when I first saw inside one of the houses. I was in awe. AMAZING. The tenants were house proud.

But like other cool old houses I have been enamored of in the township I used to call home, they have been demolished.

When completed, There will be 21 three bedroom residences and 42 parking spaces. This is what will replace three once graceful and beautiful homes as per the developer’s website:

The developer describes his project thusly:

Inspired by the stately and legendary architectural heritage of the iconic Main Line, 39 MONTGOMERY offers 21 private residences suited to the way people live today. Gracefully proportioned, the combination of limestone and brick façade harmoniously blends with both residential neighbors and commercial Suburban Square.

I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I just do not see any of that. I did see that description in the three places torn down. They were definitely gracefully proportioned. And well-maintained. Timeless. Elegant.

I have known quite a few people who lived on and around Glenn Road. I wonder what they think?

I remember hearing how the residents of these now torn down homes attended many meetings in Lower Merion Township. It made me so sad. Been there, done that.

Once upon a time when I lived not too far from where these homes stood, my then neighborhood also had a December demolition. I still haven’t forgotten those houses. They were in a “historic district”. December, 2008. Here is an image from that day:

I remember what it felt like that day in December long ago. It was so sad. Like watching a neighborhood get torn apart for someone else’s version / vision of “progress”.

This is what the Glenn Road house specifically looked like:

Maybe my thoughts on “progress” like this don’t matter. Riddle me this however: when does it matter what residents in municipalities facing all this infill development they really don’t want are feeling?

RIP to three really and truly lovely homes.

west whiteland: development and crumbling history?

Along S. Whitford Road. I have photographed this before. It continues to deteriorate.

Meanwhile, turn the corner onto Creamery Way I think it is and you see:

It’s like in West Whiteland there is a race to develop every square inch into homogeneous Tyvec wrapped insanity…while history rots.

Surely Chester County deserves better?

happy days farm under contract to a developer?

Months ago I wrote that Vanguard was selling Happy Days Farm. I had expressed my opinion that they waited for Mr. Bogle to die.

Happy Days Farm was once home to the Supplee Family in modern times (I think from some point in the 1940s.)  Mildred and Warren Supplee were well-loved by their community and were married for 75 years.

Happy Days Farm is STILL actively farmed by tenant farmers who are WONDERFUL people.

Just now I learned Happy Days Farms is under contract to a developer? And that means that if they don’t buy it for some reason there are undoubtedly other developers right behind them, correct?

Vista Today has the story and allow me to quote (and note they republish things from other sources in this case the Philadelphia Business Journal.)

Here is an excerpt of what Vista Today said:

Happy Days Farm, a 246-acre property in Exton that is currently owned by Vanguard, has been put under contract by Audubon Land Development, writes Natalie Kostelni for the Philadelphia Business Journal.

The property near the Downingtown Interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike was put up for sale by Vanguard in March after the investment giant kept it for two decades as a possible expansion site.

Thanks to its excellent location that can attract traffic from a large demographic area, the property was expected to receive significant interest from developers.

For the love of all that’s holy, IT IS STILL A WORKING FARM!

Now Audubon Land Development, who are they? From their “about” section of their website:

ABOUT US

Audubon Land Development Corporation is a family owned and operated business with over 50 years of development, building and management experience. Audubon Land affiliates have built over 3,000 homes in eastern Pennsylvania, as well as many commercial facilities including apartment complexes, the Audubon Square Shopping Center, The Hilton Homewood Suites in Audubon, the 422 Business Center, The Hilton Garden Inn at Oaks, the Marketplace at Oaks, including Target, Lowe’s and Regal Cinemas and the Greater Philadelphia Expo in Oaks. Audubon also has under development, the 2,500 unit Shannondell Retirement Community, with 1,000 units completed.

Oaks. That hideous complex that always seems dirty? The Philadelphia Expo Center? Have you been there? It’s part of the long stretch of 422 development hell, isn’t it?

I have no issue with Shannondell as their rehab center does a lot of good but don’t we already have a lot of warehouses for seniors out here? And let’s be honest, is a place like Shannondell affordable for your average senior citizen?

Maybe a lot of you aren’t familiar with the whole other side of Montgomery County that is Audubon and Oaks and up Egypt Road and 422? I actually am because our son went to a charter school that pulls from these areas and a lot of friends lived over in this direction.

If you think King of Prussia is bad you have not seen anything until you’ve experienced this area. When you travel along places like Egypt Road and other areas back here in Audubon and Oaks you see strip mall after strip mall and development after development and in between you have these tiny pockets of humanity trying to survive in the midst of it.

This area actually reminds me of King of Prussia as the mall grew. And I say that because I am just old enough to remember when you were along 202 near the King of Prussia Mall years ago, there were still these cute little houses along 202 that people lived in.…until they gave up.

Is this the fate of Happy Days Farm?

I will note that Philadelphia Architects and Buildings  dates the farm as circa 1730 to 1780. They also have a 1995 site plan. I also discovered it is part of some Watershed H (Brandywine Creek, East Brandywine creek?) and there is an archeological and historical survey report.  And this abstract document from 1998 would also be of interest.

Also a few months ago, it took some digging but I did indeed find a 1998 PA Historic Resouces Survey Form. You can click HERE and I am uploading it here: H067961_67867_D. It’s fascinating and what did this survey lead me to? Oh yes, another Penn Land Grant and possibly part of Native American Hunting Grounds:

The origins of Happy Days Farm can be traced to two early land grants from William Penn, Proprietor of the Province of Pennsylvania. One tract of 1,000 acres was granted to James Claypoole in 1682. James Claypoole was an English investor who purchased several land grants in Pennsylvania, but never lived there. The other tract of 1,666 2/3 acres was granted to David Lloyd in 1703. David Lloyd was a land investor who owned a considerable portion of what became Uwchlan Township in 1712. In 1713, the heirs of James Claypoole sold 800 acres in Uwchlan to David Lloyd. In 1714, Lloyd sold to Joseph Phipps an 800 acre plantation that included parts of the two Penn grants.

The description on the 1714 deed of a “messuage, tenement plantation tract” indicates that there was already an established farm and dwelling house. Joseph Phipps was among the early Quaker settlers who requested the formation of their own meeting in Uwchlan Township in 1712. At the time, most of these Quakers were living on land owned by David Lloyd, so Joseph Phipps was probably living on the land he later purchased. Between 1712 and 1715, most of David Lloyd’s holdings in Uwchlan Township were deeded to early residents such as Phipps. The first tax records for Uwchlan Township occurred in 1715. Joseph Phipps was one of eighteen names recorded on that list and one of the greatest landowners. 280 years later, descendants of Joseph continue to live in Uwchlan Township.….For much of the eighteenth century, the Phipps family prospered. As Joseph’s children grew and married several houses were built on the family lands. Some farmland was divided, but the  “home farm” and approximately 400 acres remained intact through the nineteenth century. The nineteenth century witnessed the growth of a new agricultural industry – the dairy farm. Chester County became known for its dairy farms. By the 1880’s, 85 individually owned dairy farms prospered in Uwchlan Township. The Phipps families owned several. 

Happy Days Farm is the only farm property that remained in the Phipps family for more than two centuries. Members of the Phipps family were active in several area churches including Uwchlan Society of Friends and Windsor Baptist Church. Phipps participated in the organizing and prosperity of the Uwchlan Grange. Residents of this early farm accomplished their goals. They may not have been famous, but they were excellent examples of nineteenth century Pennsylvania farmers.

This is Uwchlan Township for Happy Days Farm, I believe. But what happens here doesn’t just affect the tenant farmers and the residents of Uwchlan Township, it affects all of us in Chester County.

It’s like we don’t matter anymore. Existing residents don’t matter anymore. It’s just all about the crazy race for development.

Like Lloyd Farm in Caln, Happy Days is part of an original Penn Land Grant, correct?

Why doesn’t that mean something anymore?

Chester County wasn’t founded for fields of Tyvek boxes and strip malls and apartment buildings.

And look at the stresses on our infrastructure now. And someone else said to me recently that people talk about the stresses on the roads and the first responders and the school districts but they don’t talk about things like the stress on the hospitals. They said:

….the strain is here and growing. I work in an ER and this week we have gone on pre-divert and divert status 3x. The hospital is full and people are being admitted but have to stay in the ER since we have no beds upstairs….several patients ask …why the wait is so long and I discuss with them the issue of the exponential population growth due to poor planning of high density housing all around the area. When I start listing the neighborhoods then they suddenly understand why we are facing a crisis.

Again, also look at the school districts. Isn’t Great Valley looking to expand and build more schools? And what of Downingtown School District? Isn’t there a whisper of eminent domain floating around as they also need land to expand and build more schools? And hasn’t the West Chester Area School District got plans in place for yet another elementary school over near or in that Greystone development? And what about Tredyffrin? How long before they need more schools or need to expand?

Chester County, now more than ever, the agricultural and equine heritage and open space HAS to matter! Residents have to matter! The future has to matter!

We are literally in the midst of a development glut, right? So what happens when this developmental gold rush is over?

No one ever talks about that. I do not believe it is everyone will settle in and get along nicely. I think we are setting ourselves up as communities for decades of problems going forward because there is no balance or sane pace to development.

And this is why I don’t like development. And why I am not a fan of organizations like the Chester County Planning Commission and their Landscapes plans. In my humble opinion, which I am allowed, this “build it and they will come” attitude is problematic. What happens when all of “they” come? It looks pretty on schematics and diagrams and plans to be shown at municipal meetings, but what is the reality? My opinion is in reality we’re not going to be able to handle it because we can’t handle it now and how is that progress?

I don’t know what else to say other than if we can’t stop the madness, we need to stem the tide. This is getting crazy. And happy days farm just makes me sad. Especially because it is still a working farm and farmers matter.

I’m getting off my soapbox now. I really didn’t intend for this to be such a long post and there’s nothing I can do personally to stop this from happening but I can express how I feel about it. At least the First Amendment still gives me that right.

To Happy Days Farm and the generations and families who have farmed you, including the current family, I say my heart broke a little more over this news. I am so terribly sorry that as human beings we can’t do better to preserve what our founding fathers fought and bled for out here.

Chester County we have to do better.

scenes of west chester before the leaves came down

DSC_0954

I took these photos back in September the weekend of the Barclay Friends Secret Gardens Tour.

West Chester is a cool place to explore and I love the houses and the gardens and the park spaces.  Enjoy!

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lochiel farm, exton

Someone sent me these photos and I am told that this property is near Ship Road SS Philip and James. The location is 755 Livingston Lane Exton.

There are two different structures on the same property it looks like. I haven’t been there so I can’t tell you anything more than that.

This is Lochiel Farm, right? The site the developer Bentley is developing?

I was also told this might be on some kind of American Revolutionary War list?

Lochiel Farm is a listed historic home and was built about 1800. It consists of a large, two-story, double pile stone central section with two flanking wings in the Georgian / Federal style. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. I don’t know the precise history of the frame house which is the first photo in this post.

I have been told that these properties are NOT being razed they are being preserved.

Information sent to me:

FRAME HOUSE:

This 2 1⁄2-story frame structure served as a tenant house for Lochiel Farm. The site includes the mansion house and carriage shed (341), a tenant house (339) and a tenant house and harness shop (340). It was acquired by Church Farm School and used as dormitories. The property was once owned by Max Livingston, Master of the Whitelands Hunt. It was a proposed site for the Whiteland Village development and now stands empty.

MAIN HOUSE:

Class 1 – Listed on National Register

Built c. 1814 by Griffith Lewis, a descendant of one of Township’s earliest Welsh Quaker families. Example of Great Valley Gentleman’s farmhouse. Remodeled and added to in early 1900’s. Acqured by Church Farm School, now a dormitory.

I will note that I am not sure if the harness shop or a carriage house still exist on the property. Apparently this has been vacant for many many years.

That’s the thing about living in Chester County —you turn a corner on the road and there’s a land parcel. Only you don’t really know how big or how small the land parcel is. Or exactly necessarily what is on it until some developer gets their paws on it and it shows up at some township meeting as a proposal for development

I do mourn the fact that this site means more development literally in a Township (West Whiteland) that is turning into development Ground Zero, a distinction that it seems to go back-and-forth with its neighbor, East Whiteland. Everything is approved there’s nothing to fight this is just commentary and some of the history that we know of.

For these things already approved, we have to remember the history.

But I fear I will we will have soon in Chester County are photos, some haphazard oral and written histories, and so much MORE development that our heads will explode.

I have also said before that I think it’s a giant mistake all this development is going to occur in and around Ship Road. Add that to the pipeline nonsense and as time progresses it will just be more and more a recipe for disaster.

This Lochiel Farm site will be about 140 townhouses and the historic structures single family.

While I am glad the two beautiful historic structures supposedly will get a second chance at life, I just still wish for the future less development in Chester County.