loch aerie compare and contrast: 1963/2016

George W. Pyle Jr photo. 1963

George W. Pyle, Jr. took the above photo in 1963. Next is same room, taken by me in 2016.

Next is another photo taken by George W. Pyle Jr. in 1963. The little dots are basically age spots on the 1963 negatives. What follows is a photo of the same room that I took in 2017.

the witch house of exton…a/k/a what was the whelen/ferrell/meredith farm

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Photo by Andrea M. Moore found on Flickr. Taken on July 3, 2011. “Exton Witch House”

One of THE most talked about houses that languishes in Chester County, PA is known literally far and wide as the Exton Witch House. It’s on/off Gordon Drive.

It was even in The San Francisco Globe in 2015.  That article also has the Abandoned Steve video embedded:

I will note that the video refers to “vandals” having the headstones. Mmmm, do they mean these headstones (and thank you Lee Wisdom for the photos!!):

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Let’s just say those poor headstones are in municipal protective custody to preserve them. They were removed so people did not steal them.

This house is a YouTube star. Seriously, people film it again and again and again.  Here is another one from 2016:

Here is a video that was posted recently. Not sure of the date.  Maybe 2017?

Why I look at the videos is it shows the progression of deterioration. And the progression of the vandals who graffiti the poor house and decorate it with profanities.  Note to graffiti practitioners here: you all deserve to be haunted for tagging old farmhouses, and if you believe in that sort of thing, maybe you are?

I have never gone back there as of yet, because it’s private property and I have not been invited.  People say it is haunted. Now maybe it’s just that the spirits can’t rest because too many thrill seekers tromp back there?

This house is in Uwchlan Township.

When I asked Lee Wisdom who contacted me about the house about the grave stones this is what she said:

They are not graves but markers. No one is sure why they were there. I think they could have been grave stones for a burial on the property and when the land was developed they were moved. Another person I talked to had another theory but now I can’t remember what it was! So no one buried under those that we know of. They were placed like stones for a path, so no room for a grave.

So when people run out here to photograph and ghost video this house, perhaps some of these things might start reverting to facts versus urban legend.

As per what I found on the University of Pennsylvania online archives:

Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries, the area now known as Uwchlan Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania was occupied by the Leni-Lenape (Delaware) and Iroquoian-speaking Susquehanuck peoples. The first Europeans in the area were Swedish explorers in 1637-1638, although the first permanent settlement was not established until the 1700s.

Welsh Quakers were the main group to settle in Uwchlan, requesting their own meeting in 1712, which is the same year that Uwchlan Township was founded. An additional tract was added to the eastern portion of the township in 1726, likely at the behest of prominent resident and large landholder David Lloyd. In 1858 the upper part of Uwchlan Township split from Uwchlan to form Upper Uwchlan Township.

Uwchlan was a primarily rural farming community until World War II, when post-war suburbanization resulted in rapid development. The population increased has increased dramatically from about 500 in 1920 to over 6,000 in the 1970s and upwards of 18,000 at the beginning of the 21st century.

Lee Wisdom is one of the volunteers on the Uwchlan Historic Commission. (They can be found HERE on their township website  and also HERE on their super fun Facebook page.)  With regard to this house she tells me:

The Merediths lived here before they moved to Taylor Rd . It was called Richmere Farm by them. They are my step family. I think the progression was Whelen, Ferrell, Meredith (not sure if there were owners in between).

The headstones in protective custody were those of the Ferrells. Where they were located and rescued from are not believed to be where they may have been  buried. I don’t know where theses graves truly are, and whatever they succumbed to all in a similar time frame was likely a disease, or an influenza. Not witchcraft.

This property is kept after by whomever owns the property.  Some commercial real estate concern is my guess.  They keep boarding it up when people break in and they keep grass cut.  If I had the opportunity to go back there with the Uwchlan Historic Commission I would.  I would love to photograph back there. But even though I know where it is, it is a far different situation than the farmhouse at Main Street at Exton which is out in completely plain view.

It disturbs me that people seem to think they can graffiti tag these old properties. And I think the profanities routinely tagged here add to the property’s spooky reputation.  Is the property REALLY haunted?  Well the place is what? 200 years old give or take? It has seen a lot of life, and death.

I would love to know more about the families who lived here, so if you know please comment.

Now enjoy a whole slew of photos courtesy of Lee Wisdom:

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A post script to this post which may finally debunk the four buried witches urban legend and the curse of everyone dying at once comes from one of the local genealogy buffs that send in information from time to time named Tina. She messaged me this morning the following:

Hi
I just did a quick search. I think someone bought a new stone for the Farrells. They are in Fairview Cemetery. Also Jesse’s daughter Mary A married a Richard Meredith.

So now we know how it came to be a Meredith farm,right? And Fairview Cemetery is where? Coatesville?

loch aerie 1963 photos and some of a more recent vintage.

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George Pyle sent me more photos.  This morning I have lined up his 1963 photos with my more recent vintage photos taken over the past couple of years.

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unnamed (1)I do not know what of the ornate plaster work will survive the adaptive reuse in progress, but I imagine what can be saved, will be. It was so badly deteriorated in spots, and in other spots just plain missing.

But it is so cool to see the rooms as they once were. Add to that the juxtaposition in time of when my photos were taken, decades later – 53 years later give or take.

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MORE loch aerie 1963 photos!!

Loch Aerie, 1963
George W. Pyle, Jr courtesy photo

Yes MORE photos!! How cool is this? (Oh and on SCRIBD you can read the Historic American Buildings Survey of Loch Aerie in the 1960s!)

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

I always wanted to see more into Loch Aerie when inhabited by the Lockwoods. My friend author Thom Nickels was someone who as a boy got to interview the aged Lockwood sisters and has told me stories of kids trying to sneak through the then woods around Loch Aerie (now Home Depot).  In his book Philadelphia Mansions: Stories and Characters Behind the Walls, Thom brings the Lockwood family and the era in which they lived to light.

One thing Thom speaks of on page 177-178 of his book  was a painting which apparently now hangs in the Valley Forge Memorial Chapel called Washington after the Battle of Trenton by Christian Schussele.

And guess what? Thanks to my new friend Mr. Pyle, I can see how the painting hung in Loch Aerie!

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr. – Large painting is Washington after the Battle of Trenton by Christian Schussele.

My friend Thom in his book , speaks of Miss Edith Lockwood and I think I would have liked her.  In Philadelphia Mansions: Stories and Characters Behind the Walls he has a photograph of Edith with her dogs on the back porch.  She had terriers, and they look to have been Scotties.  She was also a gardener, and Miss Edith was an integral part of the Church Farm School’s floriculture program and had quite a hand in the running of the greenhouses, “and a large peony field from which 60,000 to 70,000 flowers were cut and sold annually.”

Now the gardener in me of course wonders if Church Farm School has any of Miss Edith’s peonies left?

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

According to Thom Nickels’ research the things in the house were auctioned off. Makes you wonder where everything ended up.

It is so cool to have access to these photos.  It is so interesting to see what it was like inside when lived in!

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

loch aerie in 1963

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

I received a note form this nice man asking if I wanted to see photos he took in 1963 of Loch Aerie in Malvern/Frazer (I say Frazer, but others say Malvern.)

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

He lived here when he was young and his name is George W. Pyle, Jr.

This is what he had to say about the photos, some of which he sent overnight:

417bn+C2kIL._SL500_SX382_BO1,204,203,200_

My personal copy of the book – affordable and easily found on Amazon

These and all of the photos to follow were taken by me around 1963.  I found the Loch Aerie Mansion, LLC Facebook page.  It is quite interesting.  I saw a picture of the new owner (?) with Eugene DiOrio.  Mr. DiOrio has a very nice section on Loch Aerie in his book, “Chester County. A Travler’s Album”  I believe that book is out of print but I was able to find an excellent copy, #51, signed by Mr. DiOrio, in 1991 at Baldwin’s Book Barn.

The first picture is a higher quality image of the one you already have.  The stairs were not carpeted.  There were area rugs in the entry way but bare floors on either side of the staircase.  Against the wall on the left was a large and heavy mirrored hat and coat rack with holders for canes or umbrellas on either side of a bench seat.

The second picture was taken standing about halfway up the stairs.  On the right side are the bell chimes that were used to call the upstairs or downstairs maid or housekeeper.  There is a note safety pinned to the back of the chair on the left.  There was a ribbon stretched across the arms at one time.  The note said the chair was valuable and shouldn’t be used.

Outside the front door was a mat that had a couple pair of large men’s boots on them.  Mrs. Reilly said they put them there to give the impression that men were there and not just two older women.

 

 

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

Mr. Pyle also tells me that in the photos, the dark spots are artifacts on the negatives from development.  The last two photos are one of his and one of mine.  Just to show everyone what time and neglect causes. Mr. Pyle’s photo was 1963.  Mine was 2016 from a similar angle.

I will post any others he might send.  Thanks for stopping by!

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

My photo. Taken March, 2016.

the historical stigma of mental illness: mary lum girard

Stephen Girard (1750 -1831) PA Historical Marker

The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission put up a marker to Colonial Financier Stephen Girard in 1993. It is in Girard Park in Philadelphia on West Shunk Street.

I remember him from history classes of long ago, but never knew about his wife Mary Lum Girard.  She was someone who suffered from mental illness and was committed to the mental ward of Pennsylvania Hospital around 1790, and there she stayed until she died in 1815.

Well, technically she is still there.  She is buried in an unmarked grave on the grounds of Pennsylvania Hospital.

I was born at Pennsylvania Hospital. I spent the first almost 12 years of my life in Society Hill.  My father was a perpetual student of Philadelphia history and yet I never heard of Mary until I started to read Thom Nickel’s Book Philadelphia Mansions: Stories and Characters Behind the Walls!

As I was reading, I was astounded that this woman still lies in an unmarked grave at Pennsylvania Hospital. The stigma of mental illness of essentially 200 years ago is so strong, that The University of Pennsylvania Health System (“Penn Medecine”) can continue to grow their empire but can’t mark her grave.  I am astounded.

Here are a couple of things I found on Ancestry.com:

I am NOT sure what biography or whose writings these are from as the were posted but not correctly attributed. On ancestry I also found something compiled by a woman named Barbara Samans.

Here is what Barbara Samans published on Ancestry: Mary Lum and husband Stephen.  Here are some excerpts (And I think it was from US History.org originally by the way- they had published something by Mike DiMeo, Girard College graduate (1939) and author of “The Stone Cocoon,” about the college):

In early 1785, the world around Stephen Girard began to crumble. With a suddenness that was alarming, his wife exhibited prolonged periods of uncontrolled emotional outbursts. Mental instability accompanied by violent rage over time led to a conclusion that Mary Girard was insane. They had been married but eight years.

Girard was devastated. For two years, he tried without success to have the medical community help her. But in 1787, Girard finally recognized that his marriage was ended. He took a mistress, Sally Bickham, into his home to replace the lost affections of his wife. At that time, there was no stigma associated with the practice of acquiring a mistress. Girard no longer had a wife with whom he could continue a peaceful and compatible relationship. Sally Bickham would fill the void….His concerns in those troubled times were compounded by the increasingly deteriorating condition of his wife, Mary. She had been insane for five years, and there appeared to be no hope for recovery. In August of 1790, Girard had his wife committed to Pennsylvania Hospital as an incurable lunatic. This was not done without total awareness of the enormity of his actions. Girard, sparing no expense, made certain that there be effort made to ease his wife’s discomfort; she was afforded every luxury possible. While confined, Mary Girard gave birth to a baby girl that died in infancy. There has never been conclusive proof that Stephen Girard fathered that child nor any proof to the contrary.

Thom Nickels also wrote about Mary Lum Girard for the Philadelphia Free Press:

Is Pennsylvania Hospital hiding ‘Shame’ of Mary Lum Girard?

While the City of Philadelphia may honor Stephen Girard, the founder of Girard College, and the primary financier of the War of 1812, not much is known about his wife, Mary Lum Girard.

Who was Mary Lum, and why has her name been undersold in a City that purports to honor its historic figures?

A clue can be found on the first floor of Pennsylvania Hospital. A large plaque honoring Stephen Girard’s contributions to the hospital also mentions that his wife, Mary Lum, lies buried somewhere near this spot.

Plaques of this size and stature don’t usually tell lies, and if Mary Lum is buried somewhere on the grounds of the hospital, where is she, and why isn’t her grave noted?

he question has irked Federal Government Signal Corps retiree Joe Vendetti for almost 25-years. Mr. Vendetti traces his interest to Mary Lum to his friendship with Girard College grads Charlie Roseman and Col. Bob Ross, two World War II-era pals, who spent a lot of time talking about their college days.

“When these two guys and I would get together they talked about their college days. When I retired in 1973, I took up research about Stephen Girard and I thought, ‘Oh my God, Stephen Girard’s wife has been forgotten and ignored.’”

Biographies of Stephen Girard indicate that during their marriage, Mary was committed to a mental ward in Pennsylvania Hospital (in 1790) until her death in 1825. Because of her special status as the wife of Stephen Girard, she was permitted to have a series of rooms and a parlor on the hospital’s first floor. Other mental patients had a much harder time of it, as they lived in what Dr. Benjamin Rush (who was responsible for committing Mary Lum) in rooms that were “cold and damp in the winter, hot in the summer, lacking ventilation, stuffy and malodorous…” Mary Lum’s status as a mental patient no doubt had everything to do with the fact that she is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere on hospital grounds. But for Charlie Roseman’s 1939 classmates, an unmarked grave was hardly acceptable, so they purchased a tombstone for Mary Lum and donated it to the hospital.

Mr. Vendetti says that the first gift of a tombstone, which occurred some twenty years ago, was not accepted by the hospital. He notes that Girard College wasn’t all that eager to help with the tombstone project, either. A shadow of embarrassment and shame seemed to cover Mary Lum’s legacy, proving that the stigma of mental illness, while far worse in the in the 19th century, still carried considerable weight in modern times.

Now in Philadelphia Mansions (page 38) is something I find so interesting (and odd):

“when asked about Mary Lum’s commitment at the hospital as a patient, Stacey Peeples, curator and lead archivist at UPHS, said she was not permitted to discuss any patient.” 

Umm ok, she is the wife of a historical figure from TWO CENTURIES ago, right? (You can contact Ms. Peeples HERE.)

It makes a body wonder what happened to Mary Lum Girard while in-patient in the late 18th to early 19th centuries , doesn’t it? And why can’t she be remembered with a simple plaque on hospital grounds since she spent a fair portion of her life there? And died there?

Dr. Marilyn Lambert wrote for Girard College’s Steel & Garnet about Mary. She also wrote about this in Stephen Girard Forgotten Patriot

Dr. Lambert wrote in Forgotten Patriot:

….Few know the extent of Girard’s accomplishments. Still fewer know the story of his marriage to Mary Lum,the  early years of their life together, the slow decline of Mary’s mental health, and the final difficult decision that necessitated her commitment to Pennsylvania Hospital.

We have learned the facts about the Girards’ early life together primarily through the correspondence between Stephen and his family. It began with a letter to his father stating, “I have taken a wife and with whom I live happily.”1 The naming of his first, solely owned, schooner Mary was the highest tribute the merchant/mariner could pay his
wife. Over the years, those early, happy, and productive days, have been forgotten, minimized, speculated about, and/or distorted. Those who failed to investigate evidence provided by Girard himself, led to and perpetuated misconceptions about the man and his marriage.

Even as Mary’s mental health deteriorated, one thing remained consistent – Girard’s effort to seek out and obtain the best treatment known at that time. That this gradual process took place over a period of five years is a testimony of his desire to restore Mary’s mental health and return to the happy days of their earlier life together. It also
demonstrates the character and compassion of the man as he struggled with the complexities that accompanied the impact of mental illness on his life. Yet, in his own words, he is able to show us his very human response to a situation that no one could have anticipated and few are prepared to
address: “the illness of this virtuous woman has so  so unsettledmy life…”

You can also read about this on another blog about Stephen Girard “Get to Know Stephen Girard.” And Philadelphia Magazine wrote an article on Stephen Girard which also sources Thom Nickels in 2016.

So you have this mammoth health system which has always put a lot into mental health medicine, right? (See Wikipedia on Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital or Pennsylvania Hospital for Mental and Nervous Diseases which was at  48th and Haverford from 1841 until 1997.)  So the Institute at Penn as it was called when I was growing up grew out of the overcrowding of the mental health wards at Pennsylvania Hospital, correct? Where Mary Lum Girard lived out her life after commitment? Ironically when Pennsylvania Hospital sold The Institute, they moved their mental health facilities back from when they came as in Pennsylvania Hospital? (Also see Asylum Projects on The Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital.)

But back to Mary Lum Girard. She is is a fascinating and ghostly figure of American history and Philadelphia history.  Compare to other mental patients of early America, she lived out her life somewhat luxuriously given the wealth of her husband, correct?  She was thought to have suffered from bipolar disorder or Schizophrenia, right?

Are we historical figure shaming (Stephen Girard) if too much is known about Mary Lum Girard? Why won’t Penn talk about a 200 year old woman? How can they say with a straight face that they are protecting a patient information?  She lived and died a couple of centuries ago and Penn Medicine did not even own Pennsylvania Hospital back then, did they?

So why is Penn Medicine being an obstructionist of history?  What is it people would learn if they disclosed historical data about her? Why can’t they even mark her grave simply? She is buried on the grounds of Pennsylvania Hospital and there are no records of her remains being moved, are there? Is the stigma of mental illness still so strong a 200 year old woman can’t have her grave marked?

It’s a veritable Nancy Drew mystery.  I suggest people buy Philadelphia Mansions for more of these amazing tales of our regional history.  It’s not just the houses, it’s the people who lived there.Thanks for stopping by.

Post Script: Received the below response from Penn Medicine. I asked them to tell me more precisely where the plaque is, because I find it odd that they would put up a plaque on the hospital grounds and not just tell people because it has been a bit of a controversy and not just via my blog post. I also did not receive a photo of this plaque. And to be honest, a plaque is not the same as a headstone. She lived the remainder of her life and died there, she didn’t just visit on a special occasion.

s.whitford and clover mill road, exton (again)

I was going by today and decided to take another photo of this old gem. An old gem that just rots day after day.

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.

Someone told me that someone might still live there, not sure how that is possible but who knows? I am guessing part of the house still has an apartment someone lives in. I don’t know if it’s a caretaker or whomever owns it.

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 recently. He knew because his mother did bookkeeping for that business while she was in college.

Every time I post about this house I get all sorts of comments. I am not the only one that notices this old house.

The house was built in 1878. It was altered in 1894 by its namesake inhabitants. Dr. Price. According to the West Whiteland Historical Society he altered it from a Gothic to a Queen Anne style.

This is just one of those houses that captures the imagination of almost everyone who drives by it. Maybe someday a preservation buyer will drive by it and it will be saved. Until then I just sort of falls apart.