new life comes to historic yellow springs

I have loved the historic village of Yellow Springs down Art School Road in Chester Springs for years and years. I was first introduced to the village by my late father. He loved the art show and the antique show the village no longer hosts in the fall (but should.)

We would come out to the village, attend the art show or antique show and have lunch at the now closed Yellow Springs Inn. At first the restaurant was in the building known today as “The Washington”, then it moved to the Jenny Lind House.

I don’t remember who exactly was in the Jenny Lind House before the Yellow Springs Inn went to live there. But I knew a little bit of the history and that it was a boarding house. Run (and built) by a woman named Margaret Holman.

Truthfully the history of Yellow Springs Village is so very interesting. As a related aside, Margaret Holman is but one of many women who played important and pivotal roles in this village over time and throughout its history. Now we add my friend Meg Veno to that list of historically important ladies. With her renovation of the Jenny Lind house and the amazing adaptive reuse that still nods to the past in process, she is bringing new life and a fresh set of ideas to Yellow Springs Village.

Restoring Jenny Lind is so positive for this magical village. And I was so glad to see people out enjoying the art show and picking up their box lunches from at the Jenny Lind today!

The restoration is not complete there are still at least a couple more months of solid work ahead of them. But today I had the privilege and honor to see the progress and how the renovation was coming along. I was literally almost reduced to tears. I had no idea that once upon a time at a Life’s Patina Barn Sale when Meg mentioned to me that she was looking for another project, and I happened to tell her that the Jenny Lind house was in bank foreclosure and the restaurant gone, that this would happen.

I was thinking today when you mention to people that a great historic asset is for sale you never know if anything will ever happen. A lot of times it doesn’t. And this time it has. And the transformation is as magical as it has been watching Loch Aerie come back to life. Completely different periods of history and styles of architecture but both have these spots in my heart.

Oh and the lunches sold are a preview of what we can expect in the cafe to be? Amazing! And it was all environmentally friendly packaging down to the disposable wooden utensils.

I am including photos I took a few years ago of the Jenny Lind when it was the restaurant so you can fully appreciate the remarkable and painstakingly gorgeous restoration. The Victorian decor of the former Yellow Springs Inn was never right for the structure although for years the restaurant was quite good.

Life’s Patina Mercantile & Cafe at the Jenny Lind House is going to be perfection.

Read more about it on Meg’s blog:

The Jenny Lind House Renovation ~ She is Finding Her Voice Again

Behind the Scenes at Life’s Patina

Design Inspiration for the New Life’s Patina Mercantile & Cafe

oh you are going to want to make reservations…

The Ship Inn in Exton on Lancaster Avenue or Lincoln Highway is beloved to so many. Recently they got a television show makeover courtesy of Chef Robert Irvine and Restaurant Impossible.

I have to say well done! It’s wonderful!

Fabulous actually.

Yes they are essentially getting a rave from me. I loved every minute!

There is new life breathed into main room and the awful little booths are gone. Those booths were super uncomfortable and for a big room it was dark, it wasn’t airy.

Dark room no more. Clean and light and a design that so appeals to me because of the simplicity and execution of the design.

You are greeted crisp white walls with touches of maritime inspired brass rails, white bead board, and “sails” and a singular and fabulous ship cut out. It is this simple ship that is carried through on the tops of the menus and on the wait staff shirts.

At one end is the exposed stone wall with what looks like a semi-gloss clear seal. I love that look anyway and I think it looks fabulous.

The chairs are mid century inspired and SUPER comfortable with great back support while not looking clunky. The tables are very different but I think they will be a lot easier to maintain and they have a very clean look to them. Everything is very well spaced in the dining room it is not cramped.

They have some new cocktails. I chose the cranberry mimosa, which had just the right balance of everything. I enjoyed it. And I don’t drink very much so that’s saying something.

Ordering off the special prix fix menu is slightly rigid but I think post makeover they are getting their sea legs.

I ordered the surf and turf and wanted to substitute shrimp cocktail to start and waitress told me it was too expensive to do that. However I never said I would NOT pay for the up charge substitute, I would expect it. So I ordered shrimp cocktail separately and split it with my family. I love a good shrimp cocktail and it didn’t disappoint. And the cocktail sauce itself was fresh and had just the right bite.

With my entrée, I had the beet salad. Great vinaigrette, lovely greens, and I love beets anyway. The beets were chopped and I would’ve preferred a very thin slice to a little square, but that’s not really a criticism that’s just a personal preference on my part because I love beets. And they were red and yellow beets which are so pretty on a plate.

One thing I found surprising about the show makeover was the ladies room. The ladies room was surprisingly not refreshed. I think it would lend to the cohesiveness of the room makeover. It’s not that the ladies room is bad because it never has been, but I would suggest for the future that they take the design of the redone room and translate it simply into the ladies room. White bead board and white paint with a couple brass accents in that ladies room will really make a difference.

Now let’s talk about the lighting fixtures in the makeover room. Totally TERRIFIC lighting fixtures!! So many places fall short when it comes to lighting fixtures and the lighting fixtures are clean with a classic design that works so well with the room. And the lighting fixtures make you feel like you are on an old-fashioned teak yacht don’t know how else to explain it and I know that might sound weird but they’re great fixtures. The devil is in the details and they are spot on.

All of our main courses were amazing. We had crabcakes, Dan Dan noodles, surf and turf, and the ribeye. Compliments to the chef and our waitress for getting the meat temperature literally perfect.

We had various things for dessert. I had the sticky toffee pudding which I couldn’t finish, so half of it is in my refrigerator. But it was amazing. And sticky toffee pudding as one of those things that if it’s done right it’s just the best.

I went out of my way to take photos when people really weren’t around because I wanted you to see the room versus the people. They had a good crowd inside and out.

The wait staff as always is really nice, and I loved our waitress. She is one of those waitresses that is just perfect giving you the right amount of attention and not being intrusive or overly solicitous. And she’s genuinely nice. And that’s the thing— I always found the wait staff there pleasant and you can’t say that about a lot of places. The staff all seem to be working really well together and things were well-timed coming out of the kitchen and in the beginning our drinks were gotten to us quickly and our water, etc.

It was a fabulous experience as a guest, and we weren’t left hanging —- I don’t know how else to describe it. But you know what I mean sometimes when you go into a restaurant, and you feel like you are almost abandoned. Not tonight at The Ship Inn. They went out of their way to make guests feel special and I appreciate that.

I am so happy to see the new life in the old girl known as The Ship Inn and I wish them continued success from the bottom of my heart and I can’t wait to go back!

Make a reservation and check it out! Thanks for stopping by!

what is in a name: bacton hill in frazer, east whiteland

The screenshot is from a photo posted on the East Whiteland Fire Co. website.
It says Bacton Hill Road?

Someone a while back asked me about Bacton Hill. I don’t remember who exactly so I’m putting this in a post and putting it out there.

When we think of Bacton Hill, we think of Bacton Hill Road. But it actually used to be more than just the name of the road. It was an entire community.

Historically speaking, it was a significant an early free black settlement in Chester County. Which is why in my opinion along with Ebeneezer AME it should have always been in a historic district.

In 2017 I wrote about a gift of history sent to me by way of South Dakota. It was concerning Hiram Woodyard. He was a freed slave and Black Civil War Soldier who resided in the village of Bacton, “Bacton Hisotric District”, AKA “Bacton African American Community”.

In 1991, Jane Davidson, the then Chester County Historic Preservation Officer certified that one of the houses attributed to him on Conestoga Road as a “County Historic Resource”. She said “The events and activities that have occurred in and around the site form a chronological record of past knowledge that portrays a history of the area.”

The historical information listed in some of the paperwork states:

This resource is part of the Bacton Historic District which is a post-Civil War, Afro-American community. This resource is also connected with Hiram Woodyard who was a prominent member of this community….Due to previous development there is an eminent potential to widen Rte. 401,this threat would negatively impact the integrity of this resource.

In other paperwork, the same author continues:

Hiram Woodyard, one of two leaders in the Bacton African-American community, has become a local folk hero in recent years. While part of the timber industry as a fence maker, he also commanded a great deal of respect for his leadership ability, not only in the community, but also in the Union army.

Here are these documents again:

Bacton Hill is fascinating and rapidly disappearing. That is why it would’ve been important to have had this preserved decades ago as it’s own little historic district.

Anyway people always have many things to say when it comes to how an area gets it’s name. And my friend historian an artist and author Catherine Quillman gave me some answers, I would like to share:

📌”Hey, finally got into the Chester County History Center. Bacton was formerly known as Valley View.

In 1871, a branch of the Reading Rail Co. was proposed and a stockbroker complained it was an unnecessary expense (though the rail line would connect to west Chester and Phoenixville). He complained it would just go through “back towns”.

I think Anselma was on that run, and that had a large creamery so it could hardly be a “back town” and the name stuck for Valley View – it officially became Bacton when the little post office which was once there opened in 1887.”📌

So Bacton came out of “back town“ and not “black town” which someone wrote to me once upon a time that I found a little bit offensive, but almost would’ve been understandable for certain times a century and longer ago.

Catherine also reminded me that this area also may have probably seen activity during the Revolutionary War. After all part of the Battle of the Clouds took place near where they have that “Ship Road Park” (West Whiteland), and other battles and encampments occurred close enough by in other municipalities which border East Whiteland like Tredyffrin.

The African American community at Bacton Hill was definitely significant once upon a time. They worked in the local quarries and worked for the railroad and even farmed where they could (A lot of the land there as you know is both scrubby, wet, rocky.)

So yes the little post office back then was renamed Bacton from Valley View. But people also speak of Pickering Valley railroad, but I am told it didn’t climb the “hill” of Bacton Hill. The story of conductor saying “Blacktown” instead of Bacton is probably more local lore and misremembering than fact.

Another aspect of this area that has never really been adequately studied was its relationship to the Underground Railroad. Because there was one, as some homeowners of historic homes alone 401 can attest.

Anyway that is what I have to share with all of you today about this fascinating topic and I do think it’s fascinating. If any of you have other recollections of the area of Bacton Hill or Ebenezer, I love to hear about these things so leave me a comment and write into the blog. I am also always happy to share old photos of the area.

Someone said to me that the greater Philadelphia region spends an inordinate amount of time focusing on the Revolutionary War and not other parts of our region’s history. To an extent, that is true. I think that’s why things like Duffy’s Cut got buried forever as well. It’s not fun for a lot of people to talk about the inconvenient or even uncomfortable aspects of our own history. And I think as complete a picture as it’s available helps all of us.

I was close with what the screenshot is you see at the top of this post. While I was looking for my things on Bacton Hill and Ebenezer I came across this marvelous photo that came out of the East Whiteland Fire Company archives. I don’t have an exact date, but it is always been common practice for fire companies to get their squad practice in by burning dilapidated structures. Is this Ebenezer? I want it to be. It’s just interesting to note that if hindsight was 20/20, would they have chosen to do that knowing the history of the area? I don’t think so.

A reader sent the next screenshot with the following note:

“This is Bacton Hill chapel. The fire was set to provide a drill for the Upper Main Line firefighters association. Summer 1961. My family attended Bacton Hill Chapel in the 1950’s. The new Bacton Hill Church was on Yellow Springs Road. I believe It was destroyed by fire in the late 60’s early 70’s.”

So was there another church or chapel on Bacton Hill Road
and if so where?

Thanks for stopping by! This chapel that looks like Ebenezer adds another layer to the community of Bacton Hill, doesn’t it?

spring has sprung at life’s patina!

One of my favorite things to do in Chester County is attend a Life’s Patina event. Meg Veno and her team of designing women have an amazing eye and flair for putting things together.

When you walk into the big barn, you are always greeted immediately by a lovely tableau in the center. You move from space to space within the barn which is two levels and quite large and your imagination just goes wild!

There is so much to see so many great ideas and every nook and cranny is filled with something you either know you need, you didn’t realize you needed but want, or would make a perfect gift for someone special in your life.

Spring event which started today with the preview my friend Amy and I attended this morning, was just lovely. After a long winter to go through those big barn doors into the magical scenes which unfolded for us every step we took, made even a gray and rainy day sunny!

Life’s Patina does NOT allow walk ins. You must have a reservation. Go to the Life’s Patina website to inquire about a time slot. I will warn you a lot of the slots are already sold out, but I am sure you can email to see if there is a wait list.

what’s up west whiteland?

Soooooo…do the folks in the upscale Malvern Hunt development know about this proposed Uber Cram Plan next door in West Whiteland?

Because if this development happens combined with the crammerific townhouse development next to East Whiteland‘s Bacton Hill Park, “Malvern Crossing”, it sure is going to impact their lives right? And everyone else around here? Wow, just imagine the traffic alone, right?

Would West Whiteland Township care to let us in on what’s specifically up with historic Pickwick, also known as the John Kent Kane Jr. House? Will that historic house be preserved?

But back to the meeting in September that went by with nary a sound and why? For real 344 houses? Adult in description, so essentially another Hershey’s Mill type project? Really “by right”?

That’s a lot of additional development for Swedesford considering the development already in either direction…..

https://www.westwhiteland.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_09152020-848

https://www.westwhiteland.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_09152020-849

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pickwick_(West_Whiteland_Township,_Pennsylvania)

And let’s think about all of the other development happening all over, okay? Lancaster Avenue in East Whiteland, West Whiteland, points west, points east.

For West Whiteland all the development coming to either side of SS Philip and James, either side of Ship Road and development just keeps marching west?

In Chester County east, west, north, or south- development. Think about it, are there any municipalities without development of some kind? I mean I am sure there are, only I can’t think of any.

But back to whatever this is that will replace the rotting ghost houses on Swedesford Road. That’s a LOT. A LOT more stress on infrastructure, first responders, hospitals, schools and so on and so forth.

Just putting it out there. It’s public record. Just pick a municipality. When does it end? When do residents in Chester County stand up and band together and say enough already to development? When do we even just hit a freaking pause ⏸ button?

Thanks for stopping by.

east or west, less development would be best

Last night I attended the virtual East Whiteland Historic Commission Meeting. One of the people presenting were representatives of the Great Valley School District.

You see, they are now faced with supersizing the elementary school campus. But nooooo of course it’s not due to wanton development in the area. Since the meeting occurred on St. Patrick’s Day I guess it was leprechauns just not being nice to them or something. Sorry not sorry for the deep sarcasm.

Anyway, the reason they were there as they want to tear things down and build new things and so on. But the district representatives did not like when I commented on the fact that school districts everywhere seem to do this following large swaths of new development in various communities. They will basically tell you it’s not true and everyone knows it’s true.

Of course I also commented that all those school districts are autonomous from municipalities, it’s still somewhat of a codependent relationship and I never for the life of me will understand why school districts won’t be honest and say “hey that’s too much development for us to handle.”

Again, sorry not sorry pointing out the truth.

I had to go out to Exton at the beginning of the week for a medical appointment. As I went up Route 30 from Malvern, I was again struck by the sheer volume of development I saw just there along that road. Every square inch that can be developed is being developed.

People are talking about the Ship Inn being for sale. Now that makes me sad because that is a very historic place. That used to be one of my landmarks years ago when I was going to a friend’s house further west. It was always this cheerful beacon on the road and so pretty and historic. Hopefully it survives.

But right where it’s located is at the vortex of a development tsunami. It’s West Whiteland and they are definitely one of the municipalities that can’t say yes fast enough to new development. Once upon a time I found these historic photos of Exton before all the development started. Night and day.

But it’s not just one municipality it’s more like pick a municipality. Look at East Whiteland. Do we really think the school district would be considering expansion if they weren’t out of room because of all the influx of people due to development? I mean come on let’s get real.

Go a little further east and you look at Tredyffrin and Eastown. Is the school district there not experiencing the same problems and need for expansion? It’s because of all the development, right? It doesn’t matter if it’s single-family McMansions, fake carriage houses, town houses, apartments, condos whatever you want to call them they are bringing people into our districts. The interesting thing is I still don’t necessarily believe that the economy is following the people so I wonder about the long-term sustainability but that’s another conversation for another day.

Go to other areas in Chester County and look at other districts. The West Chester Area School District is a monster it’s so big now. Owen J Roberts is huge, and so is Downingtown. And when you get out to areas like Elverson the kids actually go to school in a dual county district . This school district is Twin Valley, and it services two counties and like seven municipalities.

If you go east out of Chester County down to the Main Line, look at Lower Merion School District. The nasty eminent domain battles and fights because why? Because there are so many people coming into that district they needed to build another middle school. Now that middle school is going to be right on the border of Radnor Township which also has development worries of its own and only has one high school which is pretty crowded from what I’m told these days.

Of course in the case of Lower Merion School District and the location of their new school I have to ask what volunteer fire company is going to be responsible for that big complex? Especially when fire companies are going to be faced with the ongoing super sizing of both Bryn Mawr and Ardmore? So will that necessitate an additional fire company being built? Where would that go? And maybe it’s time for all fire companies to consider more paid staff because I think the volunteers are spread a little thin don’t you?

When are municipalities going to wake the hell up and realize the songs and tales of the Pied Piper-like developers and the Emperor’s new clothes they strew about are ruining our communities?

These developers are marching through our communities leaving overcrowding in school districts and stressed municipal services and infrastructure in their wake. And the Municipalities Planning Code ( aka the MPC), the Bible on which local development and zoning is based, allows all of this. It also allows all of the crazy zoning overlay districts which allow developers to get more and more into our communities.

The MPC was created at the end of the 1960s and I think it was signed in to being in 1970. It contains the extraordinarily outdated definitions of suburbs and exurbs that are still fueling all of this development today. And it’s got to stop. There needs to be a comprehensive update. And that update needs to contain language that actually protects our communities from over development. It needs to contain language that has more meaningful historic preservation and land preservation.

No matter where we live we are drowning in crappy new construction. And people don’t like when I say that because you know they’re reading this post from their McMansion. Well talk to me in 20 years and see how your house endures time and wear. I mean look at all the people alone who have had to remediate stucco in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

These developers roll into communities, they make a lot of money, they offer municipal rabbits the tiny baby carrots of ratables and they just move onto the next project. Or they will say to a municipality that they really care about the community in which they want to over develop because they live there? What do they really care about: the community or how much money they’re making?

Oh wait? What is that I hear? Oh that would be the chorus of I hate all development coming from some of you reading this post. I don’t hate all development but I really dislike the volume and lack of quality of the development we are seeing today. Why on earth do developers think that here in bucolic Chester County we want to see things that look like fake industrial?

And then there are the developers who basically take the same design and apply it to projects in multiple municipalities. Do they really think the public is that stupid? I mean maybe the local politicians are but not necessarily the people that live in these municipalities. Do we really want to live in developer created Stepford Land?

I have seen development in other areas, even urban areas that are clever and they actually have architectural design to them. Or they’re wonderful examples of adaptive reuse. My favorite recent example is something in Philadelphia called The Gotham. It was originally The Gotham Silk Factory, as in stockings. This project is amazing. It pays homage to its past yet it’s modern and new. It’s really cool. It proves you can meld old with new and come up with a good product.

But people, we have to start taking back our communities. We need to hold elected officials accountable. And even if they tell us there is nothing that they can do we still hold them accountable. And we need to find better replacements from within our communities and move these people out.

If you change the face of who governs you you can start to enact change in communities. But if it’s just the same old people sitting there year after year we are just going to keep on getting more of what we don’t like where we call home. That’s not just with local municipalities that’s with state representatives and state senators as well. So far with regard to the newbies in office on the state level I’m not really impressed. And there are some who skated in for additional terms riding on the coattails of others and they never impress me at all.

These are our communities. We deserve more of a say. But in order to have more of a say we all have to become more proactive within our communities. that starts with attending meetings. While they are all virtual, it’s much easier, so please take advantage of it. Pick a meeting and participate.

Be the change you want for where you live.

Thanks for stopping by.

history, historic preservation, and community context

Lost Mansions of the Main Line Tickets, Wed, May 12, 2021 at 7:00 PM |  Eventbrite

Last evening, I attended a virtual zoom lecture via the Willows Park Preserve titled “Lost Mansions of the Main Line.” It was presented by Jeff Groff of Winterthur who is the Estate Historian there.

It was like opening the Pandora’s Box of history. It was fabulous. I wished the program had been longer. The program was primarily mansions and houses which no longer exist. Some that still exist in a mostly adaptive reuse capacity.

So I grabbed some screenshots:

I posted the screenshots to show people the coolness of the lecture and the response was amazing. So many people had memories of some of the properties, like my weird connection to the Cassatt Estate in Haverford which was discussed.

My great grandmother, Rebecca Nesbitt Gallen, who was in service back then, was the summer housekeeper to the Cassatt Family. My grandfather and one of his brothers found pieces of old bicycles in old stables or perhaps a garage and built their own ramshackle bikes out of parts and learned to ride bikes on Grays Lane. When he was in his 80s and my parents had moved us to the north side of Haverford (late 1970s), I wonder what he thought about his daughter and her family living but a minute from where his mother had been in service during the summers?

And I have another weird Cassatt connection, or my husband does. His late mother was one of the many, many Tredyffrin residents years ago who tried for years in vain to stop the development known as Chesterbrook that completely changed the face of not only the Main Line, but part of Chester County. (see this history as compiled by TEHistory.) The Cassatts’ Chesterbrook Farm

So anyway, sharing about this lecture and the response led to other things. People interested in Bloomfield (the Radnor Township estate on S. Ithan Ave that burned in the spring of 2012) and as always, La Ronda which was demolished October, 2009 in Lower Merion Township.)

I have photos of both Bloomfield and La Ronda. I chose to document both with a camera back then. La Ronda over the last few months she stood, and Bloomfield after the fire.

What I also found startling are all of the people who vaguely recall the names of some of these places, but have no idea of the history. Or locations. Or the families that lived there.

We live in such a transient world that the very context of history of an area, and the history itself is getting lost. It goes hand in hand with people don’t know what the “Main Line” is, where the name came from and where it ends ( Name came from the days of the Pennsylvania Railroad for the “Main Line of Philadelphia” or “Pennsylvania Main Line”, ends as Paoli, not Malvern or points west.) It also goes hand in hand for realtors and developers who want to call Malvern and points west “Main Line” or things properly in Downingtown “Chester Springs” or something sitting on Route 3 “Radnor Hunt.”

The history matters. The facts and people and places give said history context. Maybe it’s me, but how can you want to put down roots in a community and not have a clue as to how that community came to exist? Or what are area traditions and beloved celebrations and why? Why certain non-profits have specific fundraisers?

Now more than ever, our history is important, along with the context that goes with it. COVID19 has seriously stressed out especially the smaller non-profits. Big non-profit machines will survive the economic fall-out of COVID19, but our small non-profits need our support. Here’s my list of some I think we all should show the love to and whom I am supportive of:

Jenkins Arboretum

Willows Park Preserve

Chester County Historical Society

Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society

Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust

Chadds Ford Historical Society

Valley Forge Park Alliance

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Historic Sugartown

Historic Yellow Springs

The Mill at Anselma

I will note that the Jeff Groff Lost Mansions of the Main Line lecture will be given via zoom and the Chester County Historical Society on May 12th. It’s free, but if you are not a member a small donation would be nice.

Also, there is a Lost Gardens of the Main Line lecture which will be given via zoom and Jenkins Arboretum on March 18th. It is also a Jeff Groff lecture (and I can’t wait!) Also a free event, but if you don’t already support Jenkins, consider a small donation.

All of the institutions I named are wonderful, and offer very reasonable memberships. There are many more I didn’t name, these are just some of my favorites.

Pay it forward.

Thanks for stopping by.

Capitalism by Gaslight: The Shadow Economies of 19th-Century America  (Redistributing Wealth)

ghost houses of swedesford road: more photos

The other day I wrote another post about the ghost houses Swedesford Road and how they continue to deteriorate .

A reader sent me photos. Looks like late fall or winter before snow. And I thought I should be clear that these USED to be owned by Church Farms School but now? Some developer or commercial real estate entity. No clue who.

Is this demolition by neglect? Well what do you think? Sure isn’t preservation is it? Wouldn’t you think West Whiteland would want these structures secured?

It is a shame that they’ve been allowed to rot. Now what?