what ever happened to plans for farmers and mechanics building?

So whatever happened to the hotel plans for this building?

You can tell work is being done on it, or has been done on it, but boutique hotel it’s not is it?

Anyway I love this building in downtown West Chester so if anyone knows any updates, please post in the comments.

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the master’s baker

I have not been happy with a lot of the bakery made birthday cakes we have gotten over the past few years so we decided to go to The Master’s Baker in West Chester. I wanted a special 18th birthday cake for my stepson.

People forget that they aren’t just solely for weddings – they are a specialty bakery that can handle any of your needs. Being a specialty bakery means that you order and you pick up and there is no street traffic – it’s not retail in other words.

We ordered the most amazing birthday cake from them. Their flavors are clean and their cake texture is perfect – not dry just moist enough and flavorful. And that has been the problem with a lot of the bakery cakes we have bought over the past few years — the cake textures left much to be desired and in most cases the frostings were just dense and sweet they didn’t really have a stand out flavor of their own.

The Master’s Baker is next to St. Agnes in the Borough of West Chester.

Next time you need a specialty cake or other delightful baked goods for a special event (hint: also check out things like their canoli and French Macarons!)

The cake we chose was red velvet with a chocolate buttercream filling and a vanilla buttercream frosting in case you were wondering 😊

The photo I will end this post with is the lovely room where our cake was waiting for us to be picked up. And the staff couldn’t be nicer and something which I think is totally key considering how horrible parking can be in West Chester Borough is the fact that they have off street parking in front of their business!

I will end with my standard disclaimer – I am not being compensated in any way for my opinion of this local business. I am a happy customer.

restaurant rave: mino in malvern


Mino in Malvern on Lancaster Avenue is marvelous!  We had never eaten there and decided to try it this evening.

Hands down, the best sushi around.  I have enjoyed other sushi places, but this is the best. Friends of mine have been telling me for years it’s the best, and now I must say I concur wholeheartedly.

The fish is super fresh, and other things like the dumplings are divine. They also have a house blend matcha green tea that has this nutty note to it because I believe it is also brewed with roasted  brown rice if I understood the waitress correctly.

And also the staff – they have an amazing waitstaff at Mino. So nice and so knowledgeable about their own menu.

If you have never been, you should definitely check it out. Extraordinary menu, reasonably priced. It also has a super nice atmosphere with their new interior makeover.

Mino – 321 Lancaster Avenue, Malvern, PA 19355. 610-651-8756.

when is whole foods opening in exton?


So….Whole Foods? Exton? When?

(Note a friend drove by this morning at around 11:00 a.m. and there weren’t any cars…or trucks…or anyone..or anything.)

Local speculation is this project is in trouble? So if no Whole Foods, Trader Joes or Mom’s Organic Market anyone???

Anyone have updates? It seems kind of deserted…beautiful new building and….no signs of life.

saving history through salvage

Pattye Benson photo

When you love history and historic preservation, there are things that make your heart beat faster.

Preservation is a balancing act. Not everything can be saved in perpetuity. Such was the case of Fritz Lumber in Berwyn. But now I have learned from my dear friend and Preservation  Wonder Woman, Pattye Benson, that Fritz’s beautiful big old red barn as it is deconstructed, will be going to the restoration of the Jones Log Barn!  

Here is what Pattye wrote:

 

The final phase of the rebuilding of the Jones Log Barn is finally underway! With the generous help of Stacey Holmes Ballard and Eadeh Enterprises, the Trust is now able to complete the Jones Log Barn at Duportail House. Scott Walker of Axe Handle Timber is the contractor for the project. 

 The Barn Saver of Lancaster County is deconstructing the large red barn at Fritz Lumber — the materials from the red barn will help complete the Jones Log Barn. How wonderful that a part of the of the Fritz Lumberyard Development project will also include the rebuilding of the 18th century Jones Log Barn.

For all of those who support historic preservation, we are asking you to ‘like’ the Rebuilding the Jones Log Barn Facebook site and follow the progress of the project. The Living History Center at Duportail will be a win-win for the community!

This is what it is all about: all these different people coming together with true generosity of spirit to save history, salvage history, and pay it forward! Bravo!

demolishing part of memory lane on the main line

Sometimes in those moments between waking and sleeping, memories of childhood come floating back.  This morning I awoke to memories of a pink stucco house with blueberry bushes beyond the pool, a pool where my little sister first learned to swim. The house was located at 134 Cheswold Lane in Haverford.

So, no this is not a post about Chester County. This post is about memories.

In the early 1970s, my parents were starting to think about moving from Society Hill to the Main Line. Somehow they were connected to lovely people named John and Jean Markel and they agreed to house sit for the entire summer. My sister and I were fairly little, and this was a strange idea for us because summer usually meant the beach, but this house was magical with a secret pool tucked into the back and lovely gardens to explore. Immediately adjacent to The Merion Cricket Club we could hear every day the pop pop sound of tennis balls when they hit the racquets-  and an added bonus when the tennis balls sailed over the pink stucco garden walls for us to collect.

I think the summer of ’73 because I remember it was the summer they tore down the Haverford Hotel and Mrs. Sharpe’s carriage house doors with the large heavy metal (iron?)  lion heads with rings in their mouths jutted out to the sidewalk on Haverford Station Road. I have distinct memories of walking along Haverford Station Road with my father and how large the lions heads and rings seemed, and the carriage house doors imposing.  I also remember before they demolished the Haverford Hotel they sold a lot of things off, like furniture and fixtures. At one point, the sweeping lawns of this old hotel had rows upon rows of mattresses lined up in the summer sun like corpses.

I have looked and looked for photos of the old hotel, and the only one I can find is from an old edition of the Main Line Times:

ML History: Recapping the summer of ’73 archives By Kathy O’Loughlin Aug 11, 2010

 

I also found reference to the hotel and Mrs. Sharpe on the Lower Merion Historical Society website:

Catherine H. Dixon Sharpe bequeathed her home and a 2 1/2-acre property at Montgomery Avenue and Haverford Station Road to the township for a bird sanctuary. In 1978 her house was razed, and fencing and trails for walking through the wooded area were added…..A Haverford landmark for sixty years was the Haverford Hotel, built of brick in 1913 at the corner of Grays Lane and Montgomery Avenue. Its stately white columns supported the roof over a wide and gracious porch entrance. Fifty rooms were decorated with Chippendale desks, Chinese screen paintings, mahogany china cabinets, brass sconces, and sparkling chandeliers. Many wedding receptions, including that of President Eisenhower’s granddaughter, balls, other parties, and meetings were held there, but in 1973 the hotel was demolished, and Gray’s Lane House, an apartment condominium designed by Vincent Kling, now occupies the site.

It was a lovely summer. My school friend Paula’s aunt I think it was, lived close by so I would see her and I remember visiting other people my parents knew on Elbow Lane, and other nearby roads and lanes in Haverford and Bryn Mawr.

My father’s job was in the city, so I remember a lot of the time he stayed in our house in Society Hill during the week, and took the Paoli Local to Haverford Station on the weekends.

The Markels house was a magical house, and there are details I remember to this day inside. A lovely wood paneled library with floor to ceiling books, a piano, a Butler’s Pantry loaded with the most beautiful and feminine sets of china and flatware.  I think it was that summer I fell in love with English and French porcelain. 

There were stools in the kitchen which was large and sunny. I remember watching television sitting on a stool – there was a tiny black and white television on one of the expansive kitchen counters.

Outside were what were to me at the time the best secret gardens ever. The gardens were so beautiful and there was also a  lovely pool. I remember the Markels had inside and outside staff who would come take care of things during the week.

Ironically this was the summer I also remember seeing Loch Aerie for the first time because I remember my parents exploring way past the borders of the Main Line.  I remember driving out Lancaster Avenue into Chester County for movies and antique stores.  I remember that there were also drive in movie theaters in Chester County at that time, but I digress.

The Markels house was old school Main Line beauty. The house was large and gracious, but just beautiful and subtle inside. It was also a very livable house.  I think it was because of this summer that a few years later my parents eventually settled in Haverford after a year in Gladwyne.

According to Montgomery County public property records, the people whom eventually bought this lovely house from the Markels sold it to Merion Cricket Club more than a few years ago for a little over $1.5 million:


Unless you lived back on those streets, you really weren’t paying attention to who was selling and who was buying.  I remember before I left the Main Line talks of Merion Cricket Club amassing neighboring properties so they could expand.  I just didn’t pay much attention to it. I was never a member, only ever a guest.

Recently, someone sent me a Zoning notice from Lower Merion Township:

Wow, so now we know why Merion was buying all the properties over the past years, right? They want to become a land locked Main Line Country Club? Forget that the history of the club, and the traditions of the club do not lend themselves to this, that there already are swim clubs and country clubs on the Main Line.  

But given the nouveau Main Line, I completely expect all of these lovely houses Merion Cricket has amassed in these still lovely neighborhoods will fall to the wrecking ball with hardly a whimper.

These are beautiful homes. They are also part of an increasing history of the Main Line no one cares about, or they find it is acceptable to just sacrifice these established and lovely neighborhoods.  This is a change that will impact this area.  For those of us with childhood memories it is sad and / or bittersweet.  I am guessing my own personal memories of a magical childhood summer have surfaced because of this news.

Here is a recent article on the topic:

LM Zoning: Merion Cricket Club seeks demo of club-owned historic homes Viability of club’s future addressed in plan
By Richard Ilgenfritz rilgenfritz@21st-centurymedia.com @rpilgenfritz on Twitter Apr 21, 2017 Updated Apr 21, 2017

Citing the need to attract additional members, officials from the Merion Cricket Club are seeking Lower Merion Township zoning approval of a plan to demolish seven historic homes in Haverford, including those built by famed architect Walter Durham, and repurpose others.

“The club has seen its membership levels drop over a significant period. In order to address the long-term, continued viability of the club, the club has, over the years, acquired the adjoining parcels and has embarked on a master planning process to develop a vision for proposed improvements to the club’s facilities. By providing for improved facilities, the club’s objective is to allow the club to stabilize membership levels, and thereafter return to and sustain its previous membership levels,” according to the application submitted to the Lower Merion Zoning Hearing Board…..The Cricket Club has owned many of the properties for more than a decade and under the plans will demolish houses on Elbow Lane near Cheswold Lane and ones near Grays Lane to the rear of its historic property. Four homes in the center of the Elbow Lane to the rear of the club will be retained and repurposed for other uses.

The Lower Merion Conservancy placed the Durham homes that date back to the early and mid-1900s on its Historic Preservation Watch List last year due to concerns that they would be demolished.


Sometimes things done in the name of “progress” are painful. But I no longer live there, so I write about this as an observer memorializing memories of a summer long ago.

Enjoy the lovely day.

save thornbury farm!

Photo courtesy of Thornbury Farm

Today I learned I was the darling new topic of conversation of a talk radio host, and I thought well if they are going to talk about this blog, maybe they can talk about this blog wanting folks to help our farmers at Thornbury Farm, right? Maybe they can ask their listeners in Chester County and elsewhere to help Thornbury Farm or one can only hope, right? The media could really help these folks right now by talking this up, right?

Thornbury Farm is located on Route 926 and S. New Street on Thornbury Rd in West Chester. (you know a stone’s throw from where Toll Brothers wants to destroy Crebilly Farm?)

After the recent snow/ice/wind event, Thornbury Farm experienced some awful damage from the weather.  Their greenhouse/hoophouse collapsed because of the snow.  I have friends who own a very large nursery concern in Massachusetts and I am familiar with what they have to do during the winter to keep snow from collapsing their greenhouses.  Sometimes the timing is off and you do not get to things in time.  The result is the photo you see above and this is really expensive to rectify.

Friends of Thornbury Farm and the Spackman family have put up a GoFundMe page to help our neighbor farmers at Thornbury defray the costs, the seriously steep costs of correcting what Mother Nature has done here.

Please, they are an over 300 year old still working farm.  They are super nice people who do a lot for the community.  The weight of the snow was too much for the poor greenhouse. The snow has caused about $8,000 in damages and they have crops to be planted in the next three weeks, their heirloom tomatoes. This is literally live or die time.

One of the Thornbury chickens 🙂

Some folks have rolled up on Thornbury Farm’s Facebook Page and been downright mean to these people about the greenhouse.  It is a high tunnel greenhouse made by Farm Tek designed for this area’s snow load. This was an unusually heavy snow load. These are structures actually used in Alaska. It just did not hold. The weight was too great.

So all of you people out there near and far who love organic produce and locally produced produce? Please help these farmers save their farm and get a replacement greenhouse in time to get their crops started at the right time.  They depend on these crops to keep the farm going.

In Chester County our farmers support us every day with their goods and services.  Please help these farmers with a small donation – every little bit helps. Please pay it forward.

Save Thornbury Farm https://www.gofundme.com/save-thornbury-farm

If you prefer to call them and/or send a check or money order:

Thornbury Farm
1256 Thornbury Rd
West Chester, PA 19382
(610) 793-2933
Thornbury can be found on the web via their Facebook page and website.

Thornbury Farm was founded in 1709 with a stone house. The “main house” is the first quarried home in Pennsylvania and was built using the property’s own quarry. On this location, there stood a log cabin that was built in the 1600’s. The original owner was a blacksmith who used the abundant limestone to make flux in an old lime kilm.

The house was added to approximately every 80 years. The serpentine adition with its main stair case was used as the first public library in Chester County. In the mid 1800’s, a kitchen was added with a beehive oven. The oven doors still exist and this room eventually became a dining room. Finally, a modern kitchen was added in the 1940’s.

Over the years, other buildings were added including a large stone spring house, a bank barn in 1740 and another farm house in 1812. The 1812 house and the main house were later used as stops on the Underground Railroad.

The Farm is the site of the final troop engagement of the Battle of Brandywine, the largest land battle of the American Revolution. It was during this battle that our flag was displayed and fired upon by the British for the first time. All of the generals were visible to each other and each side suffered heavy losses and casualties.

During the battle, soldiers from the Continental Army had run up the farm’s stream to avoid a crushing pincer movement by the German Hessian soldiers. Instead, the Americans became trapped between the Hessians on South New Street and the English on the other side of the stream. So many Americans were shot and bayonneted, it was said the blood flowed over two miles to the Brandywine.

 

Another one of my Thornbury Farm photos. Love this place !