along charlestown road

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Charlestown Road is one of those crazy, twisty, meandering, yet beautiful Chester County Roads. It used to be such a country road.  It still is even if it is a traffic nightmare cut through road at times now too.

I see it as another beautiful series of vistas potentially at risk.

Why at risk?   Simple, start with the intersection of Phoenixville Pike and Charlestown Road. It’s called “Pickering Crossing“. Another cram plan community of “carriage homes” or the current trendy word for townhouses.

DSC_5291While I will admit the design of these houses actually shows taste and some actual design, it’s 76 more houses.  3 and 4 bedrooms, and NOT a retirement community. It’s just another Stepford Village. You can’t even have a real garden in most of these communities.

So, that being said, time for a segue: Hey Great Valley School District are you paying attention YET to all of the development, or when the time comes will you behave like Lower Merion School District and just try to take someone’s land somewhere to expand?

Sorry, not sorry but given the pace of development in the Great Valley School District will it end up someday like Downingtown, which when I was in high school was just “Downingtown”, there was no Downingtown East and Downingtown West.

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And it’s not just the school districts which suffer from over-development.  We all are affected.  It affects infrastructure, municipal services, storm water management, traffic. It means less open space, fewer farms.

People, our food around here is not grown on the roof of Whole Foods, even if you can take a Yoga class there.

Development is an agriculture killer. Now granted, this country doesn’t respect farms and farmers the way they used to, and farming is not a business for the faint of heart.  It’s hard.  But we should support our local agriculture, not let it get developed away.

One of the beautiful things about Charlestown Road is there still is some farming left. It’s lovely.

DSC_5305BUT…..Another thing that worries me before I share the farm love is located at 124 Charlestown Road. This is the mysterious property known as Swiss Pines.

Swiss Pines is a 19 acre arboretum and Japanese garden . It USED to be open several days a week between spring and fall. BUT not so much since around 2013 (I think.)

Swiss Pines was established by Arnold Bartschi (born 1903- died 1996), born in Switzerland and by the mid-1930s, owner of the J. Edwards Shoe Company. In 1957, he purchased the 200 acres of the former Llewellyn estate, and during the next 30 years he developed the Swiss Pines site.

Swiss Pines became a nonprofit foundation in 1960- The Bartschi Foundation. The last IRS form 990 I can find is from 2016 –Bartschi Foundation 990 2016 – I do not even know if at this point there is still a non-profit. Guidestar and Charity Navigator seem conflicted in reporting and there are a few old IRS form 990s and that is about it. The last time the Bartschi Foundation or Swiss Pines was in the news was 2016 over a land dispute law suit.  Swiss Pines was mentioned briefly in May at a recent Charlestown Township HARB Meeting :

There was also discussion about the Great Valley Nature Center. Negotiations are underway to resolve issues in connection of the deed of the Bartschi Foundation that require this facility be used for educational and nature purposes. The condition of Swiss Pines was brought up. Since it is part of the Historical District, it is regulated by those ordinances but there was concern about the deterioration of the property. A suggestion was made that HARB could apply for a Keystone grant and obtain matching funds from the township to be used in maintenance of the Revolutionary Cemetery.

Once upon a time (check out this slide show from 2010 on Flickr) Swiss Pines had a Japanese tea house and garden, a stone garden, statuary, stone lanterns, and bridges set among amazing natural gardens. Plant collections include the Glendale Azalea Garden (150 varieties); the herb garden (100 species), the ground cover garden (28 varieties), and the pinetum (over 200 types of conifers).

Public interest has always been high for this property as a natural destination.  The Philadelphia Inquirer has written several times about the property, most recently in blog blip in 2010:

Living — Kiss the Earth
Swiss Pines
Updated: OCTOBER 20, 2010 — 10:32 AM EDT by Virginia A. Smith

Swiss Pines is a strange name for a place that calls itself a Japanese garden, but here you go – 19 planted acres (out of 200) along Charlestown Road in Malvern, just down the street from the Great Valley corporate wonderland.

It was built by the late Arnold Bartschi, who was of Swiss ancestry and owned five factories in Pennsylvania that made children’s orthopaedic shoes. When he bought the former Llewellyn estate in 1957, it came with an English-style garden, four Asian pieces that caught his fancy – one sculpted Chinese lion, 2 Korean dogs and a bench – and 40 Swiss stone pines.

So, according to Carl Shindle, who’s taken care of the garden since 1962, Bartschi named the property Swiss Pines, studied up on Japanese design (and at one time hired a Japanese designer), and created this unusual garden. 

Sadly, Carl Shindle died in June, 2016 I am told. Henriette Bumeder, the manager, still lives there.  I worry for her and the property also because of periodic reports of vandalism to the property over the years (reference this article from 2007, for example.)

Vandalism plagues Swiss Pines trustee
By Brian McCarthy
POSTED: 10/24/07, 12:01 AM EDT | UPDATED: ON 10/24/2007

Manager and trustee of Swiss Pines, Bumeder has owned her 190-acre property at 20 Tree Lane since 1985. She opens the Swiss Pines Japanese Garden to visitors on the weekend, and operates her property (with caretaker Carl Schindle, who has worked on the land for 42 years), as a wildlife preserve for the copious amounts of deer, geese and other animals inhabiting the area……a chain of vandalism, each incident more serious than the last, beginning in January 2006, when two dead Christmas trees were dumped on Bumeder’s driveway. In March of that year, her street sign was ripped off of its pole and soon afterwards her mailboxes were knocked over twice.

In August 2006, Bumeder was driving when she noticed she was being followed….

Swiss Pines is deteriorating.  There is a blog post about it on a blog called Scooter Kitten from 2010.

I found screen shots of two other Philadelphia Inquirer articles from 1966 and 1973, respectively (there is an article from 1985 that I also found screen shots for and actually tried to buy the article off of the Inquirer archives, but the archive site sucks and I hope I do not get charged for content never received):

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img (1) 1985img 2 1985

Related to Swiss Pines and also future unknown is the Great Valley Nature Center. Arnold Bartschi (as in founded Swiss Pines) gave the land and start-up funds to establish the nature center. That was in the 1970s.

The Great Valley Nature Center fell on hard times.  It is currently closed. They still have a phone, but their birds of prey have been relocated and no fun camps for kids this year.  Here is the update from January 2018 off a new website (old one is no more) and their blog:

update gvnc

If you can help the Great Valley Nature Center, you can contact them through the newer website.  I think they need an angel with very, very deep pockets. I do not know what happens when a conservancy goes belly up, and that is my impression of what happened (right or wrong, and if that is wrong, by all means correct me.)

I found this old video on Patch from 2012 so you all can see why the Great Valley Nature Center is so special:

Now the farm I love to watch along Charlestown Road is Charlestown Farm.  Located at 2565 Charlestown Road. You see them at the wonderful Phoenixville Farmers’ Markets and they have a CSA. This farm is owned by the same family that owns neighboring Broadwater Farm .

When I see working farms and open space, it makes me so happy.  It’s what makes Chester County so magical.  We need MORE of that.

Anyway, enjoy some of the photos I took of Charlestown Road recently:

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adventures of a meandering gardener

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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I saw that on a bench yesterday at Jenkins Arboretum.

I also fell in love with an oak tree named Quercus montana, the chestnut oak. I am going to add it to my woods. Jenkins had no seedlings available, so I will source elsewhere.

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 Quercus montana, the chestnut oak. 

As a gardener, I like to learn. Part of the learning is opening your eyes and heart to the experience of local arboretums. Jenkins Arboretum is my personal favorite. I belong to it and it is so easy to join – and the fees are quite modest!

I joined Jenkins because of my current garden. This is a spectacular natural property.  The history is as equally lovely.  It was created as a love story, and because of that love, became a public garden:

The home and twenty acres on which the Arboretum was first planned were formerly the property of H. Lawrence and Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins, given to them in 1928 as a wedding gift by Mrs. Jenkins’ father, B. Pemberton Phillippe.

The groundwork for Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens was laid in 1965 when H. Lawrence Jenkins established the Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins Foundation forever preserving his property as a living memorial to his wife, an avid gardener and wildlife enthusiast…In 1972, Mrs. Louisa P. Browning, owner of the adjoining property, donated her 26 acres, expanding the size of the Arboretum to 46 acres. The Browning property, including a house designed by the renowned Main Line architect R. Brognard Okie, is currently in a private area of the Arboretum. The private areas will continue to be developed and may one day be open for public visitation.

(Another perk of membership is a lovely book about the history of Jenkins!)

But the plant addict in me loves something else at Jenkins: their garden shop!  Open daily 9 am to 4 pm it is a comprehensive selection of native beauties, many from their own gardens.  Sun and shade loving plants. I have purchased several of the Jenkins plants every year for the past few years.  I have planted some of their azaleas (some deciduous), discovered really fun perennials like Chelone or turtlehead.

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Garden Shop selections at Jenkins Arboretum

Jenkins is open to the public 8 A.M. to sunset. Plants are available for sale in season, and they have a marvelously curated gardening book shop inside the John J Willaman Education Center. Yesterday I treated myself to two books:

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I chose The Wild Garden Expanded Edition by William Robinson and Rick Darke because so much of my gardens bleed to the woods.  This book, remarkably, was first out in 1870. This new edition, contains the original text and modern chapters courtesy of Rick Darke. It was through this book shop I also discovered  David Culp’s The Layered Garden a few  years ago. They also sell Jenny Rose Carey’s Glorious Shade which I previously wrote about and think everyone should have who has any shade gardens or wants to learn.

Now, I bought the Great Gardens of the Philadelphia Region Adam Levine, Rob Cardillo on a whim, and am glad I did. It is a great guide to go garden exploring with!

Plants I bought yesterday at Jenkins were several cultivars of Mountain Mint – great in dappled to shady areas, natives…and deer do not like things in the mint family so it helps protect my gardens. I also bought a couple different kinds of sedges – Ssersucker and Silver Sedge. They are also fun natives that add interest and have a lovely mounding habit.

(Did I mention that as a member you get a 10% discount on already reasonably priced plants??)

Jenkins Arboretum is a happy place for me.  A lot of people use their trails for exercise too.  But it is a marvelous property to meander and I see something new every time I am there.  They have been quite inspirational to me with planting my current garden, too.  Every time I go, I find ideas and inspiration. My one wish for them is I wish they sold more tree seedlings. They have the most amazing trees!

If you have small children there are also things to do all summer long – check their calendars and Facebook events for events and story times! (Pre-registration is required for a lot of things.)

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While I was garden meandering I did also visit the Barn at Valley Forge Flowers.  They are selling among other things, my favorite garden spade – the spear headed spade – in several sizes!  They are totally worth having.  They cut through a lot and make dividing and digging in difficult areas a breeze!

Happy Gardening!

AWESOME! conservation easement placed on dr. barnes’ ker-feal!

Dr. Barnes’s country home, Ker-Feal, was featured on the December 1942 cover of House & Garden Magazine; Dr. Barnes and Barnes foundation instructor Violette de Mazia also wrote articles in the issue. This image right here specifically in my post is from the magazine copy which I purchased.

On March 26, 2018 I wrote a post about Ker-Feal. The country home of Dr. Albert Barnes on 1081 Bodine Road off Yellow Springs Road in West Pikeland Township, Chester County. (And before people start to holler, I found the exact address on the Internet. It’s not a secret.)  It also houses a Barnes art collection. His American Art collection.

Today I learned that my favorite land conservation white hats, Natural Lands, has a conservation easement now on the property.

Now I will be honest, as per the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Stephen Salisbury, this agreement is creating four preserved parcels.

Ker-Feal August 1942. Library of Congress photo 

This broke in the Philadelphia Inquirer May 10th, and sadly I missed the news of this until I received an email from Natural Lands.

Open space restrictions will keep Barnes Foundation Chester County estate free from development
Updated: MAY 10, 2018 — 3:25 PM EDT

by Stephan Salisbury, Staff Writer @spsalisbury | ssalisbury@phillynews.com

Ker-Feal, the 137-acre Chester County property used by art collector Albert C. Barnes as a country retreat, and owned since his 1951 death by the Barnes Foundation, will have conservation easements placed on it, keeping the land open even if it is sold.

Although there are no plans to sell the property, which is in West Pikeland Township, the Barnes Foundation has worked with Natural Lands, a land conservancy based in Media, to work out an arrangement that allows for subdivision of the property into four permanently protected parcels.

Thomas Collins, head of the Barnes, said in a statement Wednesday that the purpose of the easement was to “preserve the open space and rural character of Ker-Feal in perpetuity.”

….In October, Natural Lands and the Barnes applied to West Pikeland for permission to subdivide Ker-Feal into the four parcels….In addition to the open-land restrictions, the agreement formalizes and protects the route of the Horse-Shoe Trail, a horseback riding and hiking trail that runs through Ker-Feal and on toward Harrisburg.

 

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Also part of the U.S. Library of Congress’s Gottscho-Schleisner Collection (Library of Congress). August 1942.

What the article and conservation easement do NOT cover as per my understanding of the article, is what happens to the art collection housed there.

I found photos of Ker-Feal on the Library of Congress website.

So anyway, I wanted to share this update because it is preservation progress. At least it appears the Barnes Foundation is NOT interested in selling at this point.  But since they broke Dr. Barnes’ Trust, who knows what the future might hold, right?

The house should be a museum in it’s own right.

But safe for now is a win, and I am happy about the news.

life’s patina summer barn sale

I love Life’s Patina at Willowbrook Farm in Malvern.

Their summer barn sale is going on and runs through Sunday June 3.

The hours for Saturday June 2 are 9 AM to 5 PM.

The hours for Sunday June 3 are 10 AM to 4 PM.

Willowbrook Farm
1750 N. Valley Rd
Malvern, 19355 United States

Phone:
610-952-2254

Website:
www.lifespatina.com

I found this little quote card there (see screenshot at bottom). It seemed fitting for the day today. Today is the 7th anniversary of my being breast cancer free.

Thanks for stopping by.

#savestoneleigh : the school board meeting and more questions

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As I mentioned last evening, hundreds showed up for Stoneleigh last evening at Lower Merion School District.

Now is it just ME or are others in the know wondering why Lower Merion School District shoved people into small rooms with crappy air-conditioning instead of the auditorium? Was the auditorium actually booked for the same time frame? People I know who were there found that information confusing since all they saw was the auditorium was locked up and dark and that is not very hospitable if true, is it?

It is my opinion, if this is true, that the Lower Merion School Board and Lower Merion School District wanted to make supporters of Stoneleigh as uncomfortable as possible. After all people do all sorts of nasty tricks to psych out people on the other side of an issue, right?

We all know where I stand on Stoneleigh and yes that was my column in the Sunday Inquirer and running  in the Delco Times.

As I said in my editorial, and have said many times before, eminent domain is an ugly business. It is defined as the right of a government to take private property for public use by virtue of the superior dominion of the sovereign power over all lands within its jurisdiction.

As a community activist, I was one of many who successfully stopped an attempted eminent domain for private gain taking in Ardmore years ago.  This would not be eminent domain for private gain at Stoneleigh; it would be eminent domain for public purpose, except Stoneleigh already has a public purpose.

Stoneleigh’s public purpose is preserved open space.

My next question may seem strange but  is the Democratic party of Lower Merion and Democratic Party of Montgomery County FOR eminent domain here? I have not fallen and hit my head, the question is prompted by an on camera interview given to 6ABC and reporter Annie McCormick last night:

marie beresford“While I appreciate how precious Stoneleigh is, I believe really strongly in a public education and that we provide the kids with the facilities they need,” said Lower Merion Parent Marie Beresford.

So, the reason I am confused is was Ms. Beresford speaking solely for herself, or in her positions (plural) within the Democratic party? Yes, she holds a position on the Lower Merion Democratic Party as Regional Vice Chair – Central Region (Wards 3, 4, 5, 8 and Narberth) and as First Vice Chair of said aforementioned party in Montgomery County?

Now  I knew Ms. Beresford back in the day (and she and Dr. Gilbert were always tight as ticks, weren’t they?), and liked her immensely…enough even to give (not sell) her furniture (including an antique 3/4 bed) when one of her kids needed a bed and they had just moved into a new house in Ardmore. (But I digress)

But sadly, I guess I do  NOT really know either her or Dr. Melissa Gilbert any longer, and check this out from the Inquirer in the letters to the editor:

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Now Dr. Gilbert has risen in her world. (Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities at Temple University no less?) She was just starting out when I met her years ago, and again, I liked her very much.  Sadly, I liked her enough to try to help get her elected to the Lower Merion School Board in the first place. Her letter co-scribbled with Dr. Robert Copeland the Autocrat in Chief of Lower Merion School District just doesn’t sit right, does it?

Dare I say it that they sound like communists here?  Why does it also sound like they are shaming the memory of Mr. Haas because he was successful in business? Are they even aware of all of the philanthropic deeds he and his wife performed? That their children continue to perform? So their pretzel logic is such that because Mr. Haas did well and had a large property, it should just be available to Lower Merion School District for the taking? I swear that sounds like communist and “take for the state” doesn’t it???

And they refer to being “rebuffed” at their attempt in the fall of 2017 to steal Ashbridge Park? It is a park. A park with deed restrictions and oh yeah some other generous person’s final wishes that went along with it too, right? Ashbridge Park wasn’t Lower Merion School District’s to take, was it???? Allow me to quote an article written by a friend of mine, Cheryl Allison in 2014 for Main Line Media News:

The 29-acre Ashbridge Memorial Park, including the 1769 stone farmhouse, was left to Lower Merion Township by Emily Ashbridge on her death in 1940 to be dedicated for passive recreation. The grounds include a number of specimen trees that the Ashbridge family intended to serve as living memorials to World War I soldiers from the community. Later, the Rosemont-Villanova Civic Association installed the first walking trail as a tribute to those who served in World War II.

Is this to be a recurring theme? Someone dies in Lower Merion Township and the Lower Merion School District thinks they can just take land? The precedence this would set would be dangerous.  People would cease all land and historic preservation efforts and land conservation efforts in my humble opinion because why donate, why preserve if some greedy school district or other entity wants to take it?

And let’s talk about the private school property, shall we? As in Friends Central on 228 Old Gulph Road in Wynnewood? They do not wish to sell to Lower Merion School District and well one educational institution cannot take another educational institution via eminent domain, can they?

Seriously, this whole thing gives me a headache.  The meeting went until nearly midnight and supposedly Lower Merion School District has not announced eminent domain as in starting  a formal taking yet.  But can it be said many of us still believe it is in the offing?

The Lower Merion School District is out of control.  And must be stopped legally.  I think lawyer Arthur Wolk is right. Lower Merion School Board should be removed. And Dr. Robert Copeland.

Sign me disgusted with these people.