malvern borough have you learned nothing since eastside flats?

Development is a funny thing. I see all of these amazing adaptive reuse and other projects everywhere but in the area we call home. Chester County is overrun with bad and/or inappropriate plans. And yes there is one that concerns me in Malvern Borough. But first we need to talk about the last development which caused me concern there before due to it’s hulking nature: Eastside Flats.

And at the end of the day one of the biggest problems STILL with Eastside Flats is lack of human scale and inappropriate design for the area.  They tower over everything and citify a small town in a way that is architecturally inappropriate. And I would still like to know how fire trucks can navigate this site completely in the event of fire? 

Eastside Flats still is in my opinion, architecturally unimaginative and looks like hulky, looming Lego buildings that created a canyon effect in tiny Malvern. That is NOT a reflection on the businesses there which I love and patronize. Nothing about these buildings ties into the quaint Borough of Malvern or it’s history. I said this in 2013 and I still think that.

Empty lot that used to be old store fronts

And again, this has NOTHING to do with the businesses. It’s the aesthetics, lack of human scale and even the crappy scored-to-look-like-brick-concrete-sidewalks which are a slip and fall and trip hazard. And the fact there is STILL no curb cut from the public parking lot so you don’t have to walk over MULCH. I mean how many years will it take to correct that? And there is little room for delivery trucks, so it’s not uncommon to find UPS and other trucks blocking a pedestrian’s path from parking lot to sidewalk. The finishes on the facade of the buildings are also already showing wear.

Eastside flats being built.

The consequences of Eastside Flats caused an election upheaval in 2013. Yet, Malvern Borough is still facing inappropriate development that will be completely out of scale again, in my opinion, if built. And no, I don’t have a horse in this race. I will merely be around to say I told you so if it gets built the way it looks now in the plans.

Here are the documents you can peruse that were sent to me by concerned residents in Malvern Borough (screenshots below are from these documents – it shows the evolution of proposed plans and note it doesn’t look like it’s Malvern at all):

What the resident said to me (in part):

So much local development that happens before people are aware of it, and then the only thing people can do it complain after the fact. It would be great to get public input on this before it’s an inevitability.

The residents who attended the last PC meeting raising the several concerns about this project are:
* Height – it will be out of scale and character with the surrounding buildings and neighborhood behind. They are requesting a variance for height.
* Traffic – The proposed design will have people entering leaving at the intersection of King and Bridge, adding to our current rush hour traffic woes.
* Construction – How are they going to stage this kind of construction on our overcrowded streets. They are refusing to consider another entrance off of Woodland, which would make this easier. To get the Woodland entrance they would need to purchase 2 parking spaces from the current owner.
* Aesthetics – This is a gateway to Malvern. Do we really want a corporate monolith looming above the street as our welcome to Malvern?

Another resident said:

“I think the applicant should turn his building 90 degrees on its eastern axis nearest Woodland. The short side of the structure takes up only half the King St. frontage of the current proposal. Run the remainder of the building back to the property’s 160′ depth, ending up with the same size building. Plenty of window light all around because the Woodland and King neighbor is small and not deep anyway (which the applicant should buy if possible, anyway). A now 65′ wide frontage (by 43′ high) is far more compatible with the current scale on King.
Now, what do you do with the remaining half of the lot to the west? You put in a beautiful hardscape (cobblestones, bricks, maybe even pervious, etc) all the way to the property depth, studded with lots of trees (diminishing a couple or three parking spaces, for sure, but that’s all, and don’t forget, trees reduce bare ground temperature by 30%). Maybe the drive comes in from Bridge or maybe it goes in from Woodland, but that doesn’t matter to the concept. (Woodland is clearly better for traffic, though.)
Office parking on the hardscape during business hours. The Borough gets the parking in the evening, without security concerns because no one has to go through the off-limits parking under building.On special occasions we would have a new park-like hardscape area for public events. And most critically, we all enjoy the view from Bridge, seeing lots of trees and openness at Our Town’s last main entrance.”
It’s a creative solution instead of a box building that checks all of the bureaucratic boxes. In Malvern it seems we use our ordinances to justify buildings that no one wants. “

I am told that developer folks are asking for like 4 variances: height relief, parking relief, buffer relief (going from 20 ft. to 5 ft.), relief from having to install some kind of parking island? So, if these variances are granted without conditions, such as making them subject to PC recommendations based on SALDO issues, there will be very little the Borough can do to require changes to the plan, right?

Ok so I wrote about the site in 2015 when the original buildings were coming down. I felt back then that although I understood there probably there was no way to save the 19th century storefront and other structures given the decrepit buildings they was attached to. But this is the kind of waste that makes me crazy because someone had seemingly sat on this land for the better part of what? A decade or better?

Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives October 1961 Volume 11 Number 4, Pages 88–93 . The history of Malvern by Cherri Quann

From the UpHome Facebook page years ago.

Still lost? Remember where the lovely store UpHome had their first home? Across King from The Flying Pig? What was reported to have been Malvern’s last 19th century store front? There.

So Malvern Borough, you got rid of Malvern Victorian Christmas for something not quite as memorable, although nice. Are you slowly going to be overtaken by things too large and hulking for a small Main Street oriented town? Please consider better.

And Malvern Borough residents? Some of you will send me nasty comments or post them because I am expressing concern here. That’s on you. You can be ostriches or you can get involved with your borough again.

Your choice.

If I lived and paid taxes in the Borough of Malvern I would want better for my community. I would want new construction to fit and reflected the character of the borough. So ask your borough folks when meeting will occur for this plan. Or not. Again, it’s up to you. I am merely expressing my opinion and concern.

a juneteenth visit to ebenezer on bacton hill road in east whiteland

Ebenezer on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer (East Whiteland) is a sacred and historic place. It’s no secret I have written about this place for years.

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.

Without active preservation there will come a time that all which 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 what will survive 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.

So this Juneteenth, I was thinking of Ebenezer again and here are a few new photos scattered throughout this post. I remember the black civil war soldiers here and elsewhere throughout Chester County. I share again the oral history of one resident (CLICK HERE). I think of all of the people who have shared what they have discovered about Ebenezer over the years.

Juneteenth (on June 19) is know as Emancipation Day and also as Freedom Day, Jubilation Day, and Liberation Day. I never learned about this important day in any history class I took in school. Which is something I think needs to be rectified because it’s part of our history of this country.

Although Juneteenth is celebrating the end of slavery in the United States, it was still legal and practiced in two states – Delaware and Kentucky – until December 6, 1865, when ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished non-penal slavery nationwide.

We don’t know when exactly Hiram Woodyard was emancipated or freed, do we? His house is supposed to be a historic resource too isn’t it?

On Fold3, there exist some records of Hiram, including voluntary army enlistment. These photos aren’t the best but here they are:

Someone has been cutting the grass again at Ebenezer. I don’t know if it is the developer who will be building houses all around it or someone else. It’s not the AME church. They need to become involved as we believe that this is STILL their land, but will they?

I am but a middle-aged white woman. I am not black and won’t pretend I understand the black experience. I try to learn and respect it. But given the state of racism in this country and the need for all Americans to learn more of this country’s history good and bad, to me, this also means we need to SAVE sites like Ebenezer and preserve their history.

So I am calling on officials state, local, county, federal, and from the AME church to save Ebenezer. The church is too far gone to save BUT capping and preservation of the church ruin is possible. We need a study including with that sonar stuff like they use for Duffy’s Cut to map out where all of the graves are and what stones may lie beneath the dirt.

Officials also need to remember and properly notate the Bacton Hill area because it was a well settled free black community once upon a time. This needs to be done because otherwise this will all sink as a footnote to history that will be forgotten.

Thanks for stopping by.

another restoration in progress?

Reader submitted photo received today. The Exton Witch House is getting long overdue love.

Another old house that people in Chester County are obsessed with is known as the Exton witch house. I wrote about it before in 2018 I think it was.

The house is in Uwchlan Township. It was actually the Whelan/Ferrell/Meredith farm once upon a time. It is of historical importance.

Yesterday one of my readers sent me a note:

✍🏻”Do you have any idea who’s fixing up The Witch House on Gordon Drive in Exton? Drove by last week and it really looks nice!”✍🏻

So I put a post out on the blog Facebook page and a very nice man messaged me that he had driven by and saw the work. He noted that the site has been secured and cleaned up and whoever is doing the restoration is doing a beautiful job. His photo was taken from some distance away, but you can see if you zoom in on the photo it looks wonderful!

A friend of mine took this photo a couple/few years ago:

So let’s put these photos side by side. It truly is exciting! To whomever is restoring this old house, thank you! I hope you will write in and tell us about your plans!

I will also remind anyone who reads this post that this is a private property and you cannot trespass. Now that somebody’s working on it, there is undoubtedly security.

This proves again that historic preservation is possible. This is why I hope places like Lloyd Farm in Caln is saved. It can’t be in worse shape than this place was and look at the difference!

Stay dry and safe on this rainy day!

Before and after. What a contrast!

the old hershey’s mill is getting a makeover of some sort…

From ChescoViews

One of my favorite places around here is Hershey’s Mill Rd. Such a cool place. So many great old farm houses, barns, and the road is an old country kind of road that meanders.

This weekend on Sunday we went up Hershey’s Mill to Greenhill Road. We had a car behind us so I couldn’t get a photo but it looked like the funky mill property (and I mean that in a good way not bad FYI) on the corner with the sort of “gate house” garage entrance into the property is being restored! It looks like it obviously changed hands. This is very exciting and I can’t wait to see what happens. I love historic preservation in action! It would be cool if someone like Jeff Devlin had a hand in the restoration, but I know nothing…but that is what I would do….

1034 Hershey Mill Road, West Chester, PA 19380 | Compass
Found on the Internet

I do not know who purchased it but all of the overgrown everything is gone and it has been stripped down and you can actually see the house for the first time (or the first time for me.) Compass the real estate company said it was a barn on their old listing…but this was a mill…. the Hershey’s Mill. How cool.

1034 Hershey Mill Road, West Chester, PA 19380 | Compass
Found on the Internet

I never knew who lived there. I remembered the last owner did not want East Goshen to mess with dam (now drained or breached or whatever the term is.) Sometimes it looks like East Goshen is working on it when you drive by, but mostly not. I guess it is supposed to end up some sort of nature preserve thing and they are dealing with the flooding?

Philadelphia Inquirer: Picturesque Chesco dam dry and in limbo
by Michaelle Bond, Staff Writer, Posted: January 25, 2016

Neil DeRiemer and his wife, Karen, used to look out their bedroom windows and see a waterfall cascading over a small dam just a few feet away.

Like their neighbors, they watched blue herons, white egrets, and black turtles wade in the seven-acre basin that made their East Goshen homes waterfront properties.

“It was like living in Longwood Gardens,” said DeRiemer, 70. “How many waterfalls are left in Chester County?”

Now Hershey’s Mill Dam is dry, its basin drained after it failed state safety inspections about nine years ago.


Hershey Mill - Chester Co. - Pennsylvania
From the website “Mill Pictures“. Photo by Jim Miller 1987.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Chesco town opts to breach two dams deemed dangerous
by Michaelle Bond, Staff Writer, Posted: June 28, 2016

A local official called it the toughest decision he had had to make in three decades, one that East Goshen Township, Chester County, has been confronting for several years.

Tuesday night, the board of supervisors voted to breach the town’s two dams, both deemed potentially dangerous by the state – choosing financial considerations over the fervor of some residents who wanted to preserve what they consider landmarks of their town.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said years ago that the recreational dams, which have been part of the town in various iterations for centuries, could fail during a major rainfall. Township supervisors had to decide how to meet new state standards.

Supervisors told the 80 or so people gathered at the Goshen Fire Company banquet hall that they had to make the best decision for all the township’s 18,000 residents.

I have never read a comprehensive history of Hershey’s Mill, but that community for seniors with a golf course has a brief history of Hershey’s Mill on a website. This place seems like it was empty for a couple of years which is a shame because I think it’s magical.

Found on Internet. Unknown as to where it came from

I know whomever bought it had to clear overgrown trees and what once were shrubs to restore the place. That is common sense. I just hope the garages (the covered entrance) are going to be saved and restored too. It’s all part of the charm.

Hershey Mill - Chester Co. - Pennsylvania
From the website “Mill Pictures“. Photo credit Jim Miller 1987

It’s nice to know that it is not getting torn down. I wonder if the mill wheel is still there? According to the Mill Pictures website someone named Dean Piece in 2008 wrote:

*Update: Hershey Mill was converted in the early 1960’s by a wealthy Californian. Lucille Ball came to one of the parties he held when the mill was newly renovated. He died soon after the renovation – enroute back to California. The Estate was in probate for years to figure out the ownership. The original wooden wheel was removed and reportedly put in pieces under the brick floor on the ground floor. The three car garage contained chauffeur’s quarters and two 1961 Imperials. The Paddock Pool was one of the first in-ground pools in the area.

So it was owned once upon a time by a wealthy Californian? And Lucille Ball coming here to a party makes sense with something else a neighbor who is a lifetime resident told me:

When I was a little girl, Grace Kelly and her family would come out from the city to spend time at the mill house as their country home! They vacationed in the summer in Ocean City, NJ but spent many days and weekends at Hershey’s Mill.

Google photo

Anyway…if anyone has history to share, I am all ears. I love this place and I hope it becomes a happy and vibrant home (with a garden) once again. This place is a local treasure.

I am also delighted to have something fun to write about versus the past three months.

Here is hoping East Goshen actually finishes the park or whatever they are supposed to create.

Thanks for stopping by.

Another Google photo of Hershey Mill. Those overgrown trees/shrubs on left side of photo are gone.

just wrong.

Things I cannot accept is like the above. This is the tomb of the unknown soldier and a monument to Washington in Washington Square Park in Philadelphia. This is destruction that’s divisive. This location was actually one of the five original ideas for public parks/spaces drawn up by William Penn in his plans for Philadelphia.

As per USHistory.org this park at first wasn’t used as a park. It was used as a potter’s field. This started around 1706 and apparently continued for many decades.

By 1778 Washington Square was one of the last barracks for the thousands of soldiers who died in Philadelphia. It has been remarked by historians that while a lot of battles did not take place within the city a lot of dying of soldiers did. And these are the soldiers who were fighting for the freedoms that we enjoy today including our rights to assemble and protest.

📌“Those wounded in nearby battles, or those sick with disease would be brought to Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Hospital and the Bettering House for the Poor filled quickly. Churches became ad-hoc hospitals. And during the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777, the Walnut Street Jail became a Dantesque vision of hell...In 1793, the square once again served as a mass graveyard — this time for wracked, malodorous victims of the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic. Philadelphia was literally decimated by this epidemic: about 5,000 of Philadelphia’s 50,000 residents were taken by the Aedes mosquito. 📌- USHistory.org

Into the 19th century, Washington Square stopped functioning as a cemetery and people started to look to make it what it was originally intended to be -a town square and park. 1825 it was renamed in the honor of George Washington who was the commander-in-chief of all those soldiers who laid buried underground in unmarked graves.

In 1954 a committee was formed for the betterment of Washington Square. apparently they did archaeological excavations and that is how they found their unknown soldier.

The tomb and monument were built and the statue of George Washington is a replica of Jean Antoine Houdon’s famous bronze sculpture of Washington. Sculpture was placed so that George Washington can forever gaze upon Independence Hall.

This memorial has many things carved into marble like “Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness”. There is an eternal flame, and on the tomb of the unknown soldier we were taught a school children what it said: “Beneath this stone rests a soldier of Washington’s army who died to give you liberty.

I was born in 1964 and this park was 10 years old at the time. I spent a lot of my young years going with my mother and my father and then my baby sister to this park. Lots of kids were in this park and we were all representative of different races, creeds, and colors. We respected the history of this hallowed ground.

When I was little they were always things going on in this park. There were amazing used book sales and plant sales. I remember my mother filling up our little grocery shopping cart with bags of books one year!

I have lots of very distinct memories throughout the years of this park. And I’ve always known and respected the history. Until this recent defacing of this monument and two I haven’t known anyone who didn’t respect the history.

There hasn’t been much talk of this getting defaced during all of these protests. There was a mention in the Philadelphia Inquirer which said 📌 “At Washington Square, the hallowed Tomb of the Unknown Solider of the American Revolution was defaced by spray paint. Vandals wrote Committed Genocide and ACAB — meaning, All Cops Are Bastards — on the granite wall behind Jean-Antoine Houdon’s bronze statue of Washington, the monument’s centerpiece.”📌

Not much more was said about this. I don’t recall Mayor Jim Kenney even talking about it. And that truly upsets me. It’s like it doesn’t matter that this happened there and it does matter a great deal. This is a location were soldiers who fought for our freedom as a young nation died and were laid to rest. It’s quite literally hallowed ground. My best guess is whoever did this will be haunted the rest of their lives. And the Park Service and Philadelphia need to put security cameras in there.

Above you see what the monument looks like in better times. If you look at the monument with the graffiti you will notice something else. Did you notice that the eternal flame is extinguished?

Washington Square Park is a special place. Hallowed ground. And the people who defaced it? That was just destruction. That is an a message that we need positive change in an end to systemic racism in this country, that was just graffiti and destruction.

I will state it again: I have no problem with peaceful protests. I completely believe that we are in the grips of insidious systemic racism in this country. But I do not believe the destruction of things like this accomplish anything at all. Destruction is negative.

If people want protest to be perceived as positive and necessary destruction cannot follow it. And that is the other thing that is so sad about all of this. The people protesting social injustice and racial inequality aren’t the people that are destroying these properties.

We need to be better as a nation. We need elected officials who aren’t as divisive. Which is why I pray for house cleaning in Washington DC this November. as human beings in this country we have to be the change we want to see.

It’s because of sights like this that protesting right now has concerned me.

I believe in peaceful protests, I do not believe in destruction of property.

We are better than this. We have to be better than this. We have to get things changed in this country. I don’t know that we will ever be able to erase hate because hate is as old as the beginning of time.

Please be careful out there this weekend if you are taking part in protests. Please start to think about how we can also be the change we need to see outside of protesting, because we have to be able to keep moving forward. We need to be positive change.

Please don’t let the hate and anger and vitriol win.

radnor has some really ugly infill development in north wayne…is garrett hill next?

Coming to Radnor today to go to Penn Medicine, I took some back roads familiar to me and had to take pictures of what you see above. You’re driving on Plant Avenue in Wayne, and all of a sudden there is this hulking thing that looks like a jail basically.

What used to be there was a very ramshackle house. However at least the ramshackle house fit on the footprint of the property. I don’t understand how this thing was able to be built.

This thing is outsized, and the scale is so off for the little neighborhood it is in. I also wonder how down there where it floods when you blink your eyes during a little rain storm. I mean I’ve seen the flooding there when it happens it’s bad. The Gulph Creek shows no mercy.

And when I see a project like this it makes me fear for other areas where scale is very important like Garrett Hill. Because I have heard scuttlebutt that the current commissioner over there is all for changing the zoning. That’s nuts.

There’s nothing wrong with little neighborhoods remaining little neighborhoods. And this just makes me sad.

a note of thanks in uncertain times

Rev. Abigail from St. Peter’s in The Great Valley

One of our region’s oldest churches did something today that was really nice. They broadcast their service on Facebook Live.

Thank you Rev. Abigail and St. Peter’s in The Great Valley. I have to say it was a lovely service.

I am not Episcopalian by birth. I am Roman Catholic. I have never joined a Catholic Church since I came to Chester County because I have lost faith in the religion of my birth, sadly.

That is not to say I don’t have my faith and belief in a higher power because I do. I often think about maybe an Episcopalian church because among other things, my stepfather belongs to my first St. Peter’s, in Society Hill. (The Society Hill St. Peter’s will live streaming via Facebook live at 11 AM. ) I went to grade school at St. Peter’s at 3rd and Pine. It was founded in 1758.

St. Peter’s in the Great Valley pre-dates St. Peter’s in Society Hill by quite a few years. It was founded in 1704. It was originally I believe a missionary parish of the Church of England. It’s one of my favorite churches in Chester County, truthfully. Every time I have visited I have found it so peaceful.

Today St. Peter’s in The Great Valley had a lovely virtual service. Part of the reason I am writing this post is to say thank you to Rev. Abigail Crozier Nestlehutt. It was a nice, calming thing devoid of fire and brimstone. But it contained messages of community and hope. And an expression of faith that COVID-19 or coronavirus will not destroy us. I looked at her biography on the church’s website and she is a native New Englander. I think even I needed a nice calm dose of New England practicality this morning.

So Rev. Abigail, thank you. Also thank you because this was the first religious service that resonated with me in many years.

People it’s a beautiful day outside. Practice your social distancing and soak up some sun! Take good care and thanks for virtually stopping by.

the mystery of the rotting old country house on dorlan mill road, downingtown

Reader submitted photo – more recent



88985009_10159485267684148_8829502318673133568_n

Reader submitted photo from early 2000s when it was still lived in

 

I am completely out of my depth here. I do recall going past this abandoned farmhouse on Dorlan Mill Road.

I am told this house was owned by James and Elizabeth Dorlan who owned the neighboring paper mill. I think I took photos of this once upon a time myself but I can’t find them

I’m not sure what township this is in. It’s Downingtown and when you look at maps it looks like Upper Uwchlan. The address is 770 Dorlan Mill Road. Is it historically listed anywhere? Or is it just significant due to the family that owned the paper mill?

So this is near Struble Trail? It says so on Chesco Views.

Everyone keeps asking me what the deal is with this old house. People had hoped it would be preserved and become something like a nice little B&B or even a single-family home. But it’s just rotting isn’t it? I seem to recall a few years ago this location being in the paper. And people being upset. (See this old Marsh Creek Forum post)

So who knows what, including history of the area right there? Please leave a comment!

the joseph price house in exton is in really bad shape.

Yes again, I am writing about the Joseph Price house in West Whiteland Township. It’s really starting to deteriorate badly in my opinion. (And I say that from observing it across the street today- I have not been invited to be on the property so I would not presume.)

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 still 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.

There are so many amazing houses like this throughout Chester County from all eras of time.

I am told the house is owned by two people in Ambler. Chesco Views confirmed that today.

This afternoon I had some time so I pulled into the business parking lot across the road on Clover Mill Road. I took some photos from across the road and I just looked at the house. It has been historically listed since the 1980s. And yes I know I’m being repetitive, but it just blows my mind that these gorgeous houses that are historically listed not just locally but nationally rot like this.

Things are just crumbling and the property also seems to be quite the haven for dead car bodies.

Truly (and sadly), the house is becoming so decrepit, more decrepit. I really wish these owners would sell to somebody who could restore it.

It is just so crazy to me, as this could be the most fabulous property. It’s big enough and there is enough land left that it could be a great restaurant or even a boutique bed-and-breakfast which is not a stretch considering there is one up the road from it on South Whitford – the Duling-Kurtz House and Country Inn.

Anyway, I continue to be obsessed by this property which is not for sale. It’s just that this is a historically listed property (since 9/6/1984) and is this demolition by neglect? I really hope someone will save this place.

#thisplacematters

the end of the ball era?

I have remarked before on what society was in Philadelphia and what wants to be society today and the fact that it all seems to be going kerplunk. Well I think this article that broke news everywhere and I saw first in the Philadelphia Inquier is yet another example.

End of an era? The Academy of Music Anniversary Concert and Ball will go on hiatus.

by Peter Dobrin, Updated: February 14, 2020- 12:06 PM

The Oscar de la Renta and James Galanos gowns can take the year off. White-tie and tails may stay in the garment bag. Next season’s Academy of Music Anniversary Concert and Ball has been canceled, organizers say.

Instead, leaders of the Academy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, which owns the historic venue, will take a year off to rethink the concert and ball. It is not clear when, or if, the ball will be back in the format that made it the city’s premier society event for decades.

“We are going to take this pause and evaluate,” said Academy chair Caroline B. “Cackie” Rogers. “Our net and our gross have been going down, and ticket sales have gone down a bit, and costs, like everything else, have gone up.”

Also, Academy and orchestra leaders are aware of how philanthropic priorities have shifted toward social causes over pure arts and culture.

“The younger generation tends to be sticking a little bit more close to home in the suburbs and supporting their children’s school, which is fabulous, and supporting their community and hospital,” Rogers says. “So we have to make people understand what we are. The Academy is above all a community gathering place, a community center. We support education. And somehow we need to get this message out in a stronger format.”

Rogers said that a working committee would begin considering the ball’s future at a meeting in March. At this point, she said, she cannot say whether Philadelphia will see another Academy Ball.

I think this is indeed quite possibly the end of The Academy Ball. People have changed and the grande dames of society are growing older and so many have passed away. Truthfully there is my generation as one of the last generations to just remember what it was like, but real society doesn’t truly exist anymore in Philadelphia does it? (And many can plunk hats and fascinators on their carefully and not so carefully coiffed heads but does it make them society or just wannabes?)

Philadelphia Inquirer, 1970s – what the society page looked like

I remember when I noticed that Opening Night for the Philadelphia Orchestra was getting too “corporate” in nature. I remember when people started bringing in drinks in plastic cups into the boxes and the seats and that was never done before. When there was intermission, you mingled in the hallways of the Academy of Music and you got drinks from the bar but you didn’t bring things into the theater space like you were at a movie theater.

The world continued to change. Society reporters began to fade away, retire, move, die. Society photos changed to and suddenly it was acceptable to shove your way into a photo or say you wanted to be in a photo, versus waiting to be asked. And everything, even if it wasn’t, was suddenly called a “ball”.

I grew up with my parents attending the Academy Ball, and for a bunch of years my mother was on the committees. It has been too long to remember if it was for the program book committee , invitation committee, or whatever. But what I do remember is all the bustle surrounding my mother and her friends finding their perfect gowns and getting ready for the big event. I liked that part of it a lot. Visits to Nan Duskin, John Wanamaker’s, and elsewhere.

What I also liked is the years they were all in the program book (Academy Ball Book) with their friends. That program book for the Academy of Music Concert and Ball was awesome every year. It was a look book of Philadelphia society and fashion. I loved going through it. Somewhere I have a stack of them from my mother, I went to look for them when I was thinking about this post but I have not unearthed them yet. It was always a really big deal to be invited to be in an Academy Ball Book photo.

There was one year in particular my parents were in it that I remember distinctly. They were photographed in black tie on the steps of City Hall in Philadelphia. My mother had a different haircut for her and I think it was the 70s when she had this haircut, it was sort of pixie like for lack of a better description because my mother has very full hair. But I remember my mother had this amazing ball gown on and it was sweeping over the steps with my father at her side. (I really have to find that photo because it is one of my favorite photos of my parents together.)

Then around 1998, I had my turn to pose in a photograph in the Academy Ball Book. This mother of a friend of mine back then used to buy a page for their business as a donation in the program book. So this one year, I was invited to be in the photo. It was a lot of fun we got our hair done the morning of the shoot and professional make-up and then we went to Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Philadelphia where the shoot location was.

Doing that shoot, is still to this day, hands down one of the most fun things I ever did! (Of course it’s amusing that I am posing with a glass of red wine in my hand because I am very allergic to red wine.) I still have a tiny 3 or 4 inch black-and-white test photo of this shoot in a little frame. My friend and I were temporarily glamorous.

I did not ever actually go to the Academy Ball as an adult because I married later in life and it always has been a very ridiculously expensive ticket prospect if you were single. I did go a couple of times as a kid with my sister to the concerts because my parents wanted us to hear whatever the concert part of the ball was. One of the years was when Pavarotti played the concert of the 118th Academy Ball. I still remember that. My parents had a car and driver and someone who came to escort us down.

We sat stage left up in the second level or third level boxes on that side. I remember peering down and watching Pavarotti sing. It probably should have meant more to me at the time than it did, but I was a kid. However, it was so fun to get all dressed up and then look around the entire inside of the glittering and glowing Academy of Music and see all of the people in their white tie and tails and ballgowns.

Every year until a few years ago, truthfully I loved looking at the Academy Ball photos. As the crowd changed and a lot of the familiar faces faded away for whatever reason, it became less interesting to me. The past couple of years I have taken a cursory glance every now and again at the photos and there are people in the photos that wouldn’t have even received an invitation years ago, and then there are the people we just weren’t dressed correctly. There are even people with short dresses. This was a real actual ball which meant white tie and tails and ballgowns.

I took a peek at a program book in the last year or so and one of the things that surprised me is there was somebody that was in two photos in the same book. They never used to do that! They never had repeat people in photos in the same book during the same year.

It makes me sad that events like this are becoming nonprofit dinosaurs. But I guess too much is changing in the world around us, and it’s not going to stand still for events like this. So this event will either evolve and change, or remain mothballed. I am thinking mothballed.

But this was a big event for the Academy of Music’s benefit. So it had to give you pause if you think about it as to how they are going to make up the money that needs to be raised. The Academy of Music is a national historic landmark but I’m told it needs work. A lot of the titans of philanthropy that used to support the Academy are dead.

I have to wonder in the age of selfie sticks and Insta stories if there is enough interest to really see the Academy of Music into the future? Do people today really care about the arts in Philadelphia in the region? Or is what they care about more selective, more localized?

Time will tell.