#savestoneleigh (and photos from the opening)

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On May 8th and May 10th I wrote posts on Stoneleigh in Villanova.  A little far afield from Chester County but so important. I am a supporter and believer in Natural Lands, and then there is a more personal bent.  You see, one of my high school classmates grew up on Stoneleigh. His parents, John and Chara Haas, put the property into a conservation easement in 1996.

The 1996 conservation easement was with Natural Lands. The express wish of Mr. and Mrs. Haas was that the property be preserved for future generations to enjoy. Open space, gardens, and so on.  Now today is Mother’s Day and yesterday at the members preview on Stoneleigh, people were speaking of when Mr. and Mrs. Haas would open up the property on Mother’s Day for people to enjoy.

Here is a photo array to see before continuing with the post here – it takes a while to load – a lot of photos:

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After Mr. and Mrs. Haas passed away, their children decided to donate the property to Natural Lands, and that happened in 2016.  The conservation easement remains very much in place today, but is now under the stewardship of the Lower Merion Conservancy. Lower Merion Conservancy now is responsible for the annual monitoring.

I think Lower Merion School District is already starting damage control with their eminent domain B.S. given this overly verbose don’t hate us because we are big jerks press release currently on their website. I am more than a little disappointed by former 6ABC  reporter Amy Buckman already. Her predecessor’s press releases were much easier to follow and didn’t word wander, but I digress.

With regard to what is on their website, it is the full on poor pitiful Pearl routine where among other things they say that “LMSD is now the fastest-growing District in Pennsylvania by total number of students over the past eight years and enrollment could surpass 9,500 students in the next ten years.

But do they tell you WHY the district is growing so fast? Do they mention all of the development they have never, ever questioned? And yet, they are making a play for Stoneleigh based on future assumptions, or a possibility?  Call me crazy but they seem to want land for a future not a present need? And why are their needs the problem of Natural Lands and Stoneleigh? Just because it is there?

I have permission from Natural Lands to share some of the history of Stoneleigh so here’s an excerpt:

Stoneleigh’s history dates back to 1877 when Edmund Smith, a rising executive with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, purchased 65 acres of land in Villanova and constructed a residence there. To shape the grounds, Smith hired landscape gardener Charles H. Miller, who trained at Kew Gardens in England and later served as chief gardener for Fairmount Park.

At the turn of the 20th century, Samuel Bodine, head of United Gas Improvement Company, acquired the property. In addition to building the Tudor Revival style building that exists today, Bodine hired New York landscape architecture firm Pentecost and Vitale to radically redesign the gardens in a more formal, or “Beaux Arts,” style.

Evidently, Bodine was not pleased with the results. In 1908, he retained the Olmsted Brothers of Massachusetts—sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, and the most prestigious landscape architecture firm in the country—to “guide him in the gradual transformation of the place.” Over the next 50 years, the Olmsted Brothers firm returned periodically to Stoneleigh to plan vistas and pathways, establish gardens and terraces, reroute points of entry, select plant species, and transplant trees.

Following Samuel Bodine’s death in 1932, Stoneleigh was subdivided and sold. Otto Haas, entrepreneur and co-founder of Rohm and Haas Company, purchased the southwestern portion of the estate, launching a more than 80-year tenure of careful stewardship by the Haas family. Otto and Phoebe’s son, John, and his wife, Chara, acquired the property in 1964 and lived there for the next five decades.

Yesterday, Stoneleigh was packed. Natural Lands members turned out from everywhere to tour the house and the grounds.  It was lovely and bucolic, and I would like to think what the Haas family had hoped for.  Family members were on site yesterday.  I am sure it was also a little bit hard for all of them. This was their home, after all.   Now it’s an achingly beautiful public garden space and although this is the path set forth by their lovely parents, it just has to be bittersweet. And then to learn that Lower Merion School District is seemingly proceeding on a path of land stealing? Well, I can only imagine.

Apparently Lower Merion School District is having a tour on May 18th? Allow me to quote them again:

Due to a need for additional field space, Superintendent Copeland has stated that the District would like to pursue the 6.9 developable acres of Stoneleigh no matter whether or where a new middle school site is acquired. The District is hopeful an amicable accommodation can be reached.
As part of their continuing due diligence, and especially now in light of the possibility of the Class 1 designations on two of the potential sites, District representatives in April requested a walk-through of the entire Stoneleigh property for May 18, 2018.

Amicable is school district speak for give us what we want NOW.

Here is an excerpt of what WHYY wrote in an article May 12th:

WHYY: Conservancy mobilizes as Lower Merion looks to Stoneleigh garden for school use
By Laura Benshoff   May 12, 2018

To combat overcrowding, Lower Merion School District has proposed buying — or seizing through eminent domain — 6.9 acres of the Stoneleigh estate and historic garden in Villanova.

In response, Natural Lands, the conservation trust overseeing the property, has launched a public advocacy campaign called “Save Stoneleigh,” urging the district to drop its bid…

At Stoneleigh, gardeners and conservators have been doing their own planning, preparing the picturesque 42-acre estate that once belonged to the Haas family to open to the public, starting Sunday….

Lower Merion School Board will ultimately weigh every option before deciding whether to invoke eminent domain.

“It’s not the district’s first choice to do that,” said Roos. “But it just can’t be taken off the table as an option.”

Thugs. That is a good descriptive adjective don’t you think?  I am all for what lawyer Arthur Wolk wants at this point: removal of the entire school board. To that I add the removal of autocratic school Superintendent Robert Copeland.  To THAT I add Lower Merion Commissioners and township staff who have been ever so gung ho over development for YEARS and years.  Just clean house.  

Legal battles aside, that is exactly what needs to happen to prevent this B.S. in the future.

Savvy Main Line has a lovely write up about Stoneleigh on their website. Check it out.

And now that Stoneleigh has opened, visit. It will take your breath away. And once you are there and experience the magic of the place, you will understand why oh so many of us are so passionate about it. It is magical. Simply magical.

I hope you have enjoyed the photos I shared.

Please see Save Stoneleigh for more information.  Please consider signing the petition . Please write a letter, speak at upcoming meetings, and keep spreading the word.  Open Space should not be threatened like this. And at the end of the day, if the Lower Merion School District is unwilling and unable to respect the legacy of the Haas family, it is our duty to see that they are taught respect, don’t you think?

#SaveSoneleigh (pass it on.)

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

philadelphia mansions

Ahh this gem of a book is finally out!

I am so honored to have had this amazing book dedicated to myself and renown Philadelphia Artist (and family friend) Noel Miles by author (and friend) Thom Nickels.

This is such a treasure of a book because Thom tells the stories of these homes and their people.

Included in  his book are many homes I find amazing and two in particular.  La Ronda and Loch Aerie. I also provided photographs I took of those two incredible homes.

La Ronda. October, 2009

La Ronda, which once stood in Bryn Mawr in Lower Merion Township, stands no more. She was demolished in 2009.

Loch Aerie under restoration. 2018.in the fall of 2009.

One of the darkest weeks in historic preservation was watching La Ronda (Addison Mizner, architect) come down stone by stone, floor by floor not because she had to be torn down, but because someone could just destroy her.

Others will note the wonderful chapter on Frazer’s Grande Dame, Loch Aerie (Addison Hutton, architect),  who is being saved and restored to new life and a new use. Loch Aerie will live to see more stories happen between her walls.

There are many stories and many homes in this book.

Hear about historic Strawberry Mansion’s rise and fall and the sad life of architect Thomas Nevell who designed one of Philadelphia’s greatest mansions, Mount Pleasant.

Hear about Germantown’s mysterious Ebenezer Maxwell and his famous house that became the inspiration for theexterior of the popular Addams Family house.

You can buy the book on Amazon and support Thom’s hard work and his beautiful gift of storytelling. Yu can also purchase directly from the publisher.

Philadelphia Mansions: Stories and Characters Behind the Walls (Landmarks) by Thom Nickels

Buy on Amazon here:  https://tinyurl.com/PhilaMansions

Buy it directly from Arcadia/History Press here: https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781625859518

And on April 10th there will be a wonderful event and discussion of the book at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.  You can buy tickets HERE for that special event. They are only $10.

In the fall of 2018, the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust will also be featuring a special event with this book.  Details will be forthcoming soon on that event!

rose valley’s beloved hedgerow theatre company is turning 95 march 23!

Not about Chester County, but a neighbor.  The arts are such an important thing in our lives, and The Hedgerow Theatre Company in Rose Valley (adjacent to Media) is America’s longest serving professional resident theater founded in 1923 by Jasper Deeter as a haven for cutting edge artists of the early 20th century. And Hedgerow is turning 95!!! Join them for their Belle of the Ball benefit on March 23rd!

Hedgerow quickly gained a national and international reputation as a proving ground for era defining artists such as Susan Glaspell, Eugene O’Neill, Countee Cullen, Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, Theodore Dreiser and Wharton Esherick.  Today, the company consists of seven resident actors and an extended company of 10. Hedgerow Theatre seeks to connect and enrich the lives of company, patrons, and community in the shared experience of ensemble theatre, through performance and theatre education of the highest quality.

Hedgerow is inextricably entwined with the legacy of the Rose Valley Arts and Craft Movement. A movement that defines itself by independent thinkers resisting the wave of industrialization rushing over society. Founding Artistic Director, Jasper Deeter, recognized in this movement a kindred spirit after visiting his sister and watching her perform at what was Guild Hall. He saw here was the place to create an independent theater and transformed Guild Hall into Hedgerow Theatre.

Beginning in 1923, Hedgerow launched the first resident repertory theatre that, over its 94 years, has become a magnet for many national theatre personalities, from Richard Basehart to Edward Albee; from Ann Harding to Susan Glaspell; to—more recently—Keanu Reeves and Austin Pendleton.

Hedgerow Theatre Company, America’s oldest professional resident theater company is celebrating its 95th Anniversary with a benefit honoring Penelope Reed for her lifetime of work.  Reed is not only the 2017 Barrymore Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient, but she is also the heart and soul of Hedgerow and its Director Emeritus.

Hedgerow Theatre Company’s Belle of the Ball Benefit will be co-chaired by Board Members Jane McNeil, Hedegrow and Richard Taxin and will be held Friday March 23rd from 6:30-10:00 pm at the Old Mill, 9 Old Mill Lane, Rose Valley, PA 19063.  Tickets start at $95 per person and include an open bar and buffet dinner.  The Benefit will start with a cocktail hour from 6:30-7:30.  At 7:30 pm, students from the Hedgerow Theater School will invite guests into dinner and the presentation through song.  All monies raised at the event will be dedicated to The Penelope Reed Education Fund to preserve the theatre’s educational programming for underserved youth and The Jewel Box Theatre Campaign dedicated to the refurbishing and preservation of Hegerow’s theatre dating from 1840.

The evening’s honoree, Penelope Reed, is known throughout the theater community as a visionary leader.  Her work has been a vital part of not only the Philadelphia theatre community but nationally.  Her work and dedication to the world of repertoire theater has made the community richer and she has, through her performances and her leadership, influenced generations of artists, audiences and companies.

Please consider this wonderful event.  You can purchase tickets by following this hyperlink to Hedgerow’s website

Again, Hedgerow is located outside Philadelphia at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley, PA (near Media). For more information on Hedgerow Theatre and its current company and productions visit www.hedgerowtheatre.org.    For more information on The Belle of The Ball contact Patrick Derrickson, Director of Development at  pderrickson@hedgerowtheatre.org

 

save the date for a delightful day in kennett square

On a snowy afternoon this is an awesome thing to receive in the mail! Save the date for the 2018 Bayard Taylor Home and Garden Tour!

Saturday, June 2, 2018 won’t come soon enough!

This is probably the best home and garden tour I’ve ever taken. Different kinds of homes and gardens, all interesting. If you’re looking for inspiration in your own home garden this is the perfect opportunity to find inspiration. And I will note that a lot of these gardeners tend to their gardens themselves.

In the fall I love Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s Historic House Tour, and Chester County Hospital’s Chester County Day, but once spring is here? This is one of the things I can’t wait for!

This event raises money to fund the children’s programs and adult literacy programs as well.

Planning for this event starts in early fall when the committee selects a variety of homes and gardens in a particular area of southern Chester County.

The self- guided tour showcases unique homes representing a mix of styles from historic homes and estates to charming cottages to sleek modern residences. Gardens range from large, lush professionally maintained to pocket sized patches of brilliant flowers some with sculptural accents, from the simple, but endearing, to the elaborate and extravagant.

Every detail is attended to, leading to a beautiful, carefree day of explorations into homes and neighborhoods seldom seen by the public. Thanks to the generosity of homeowners, local merchants and artists and especially the visitors, over $600,000 has been raised since the tour’s inception. These funds have greatly enhanced and enriched the experiences and lives of Kennett Square area children.

If you have never made time for this tour, make 2018 your year to attend this event!

I will note for the record I purchase tickets for this event like any other attendee. I am not compensated in any way, shape, or form by the home and garden tour committee for suggesting this event to the general public. I suggest this event because it’s marvelous.

The photos I have posted are mine from one of their garden tours, and I asked permission before taking photos outside only.

Stay safe in the winter weather this evening and dream of spring! 😊

preservation party with a purpose

When you go to a party at Duportail it’s alway fabulous. But it’s especially fun when it is a Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust event.

This evening was the preview party for the TPT Historic House Tour which is Saturday, September 23. (You can still buy tickets and it’s so awesome a day!)

This event is courtesy of my dear friend Pattye Benson who is President of the Trust and Innkeeper at The Great Valley House of Valley Forge.

The preview party was terrific and as always wonderful food and gracious company.

And the music. The music was fabulous! We had the pleasure of listening to the CPFA Jazz Mavericks from the Center for Performing and Fine Arts in West Chester. These young musicians were incredible!

A wonderful evening and all about historic preservation. All proceeds benefit the Living History Center at Duportail.

Remember you can still sign up for the house tour! It’s going to be amazing and there will be a stop at another favorite place – Life’s Patina at Williwbrook Farm! (It’s their fall sale weekend)

announcing the 13th annual tredyffrin historic house tour on september 23rd!

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Travel back in time … If you love history and architecture, you will not want to miss the much-anticipated 13th Annual Historic House Tour. The beautiful homes and gardens of seven historic homes featured on the 2017 Historic House Tour will be open from 12 Noon – 5 PM on Saturday, September 23 rain or shine.

Truthfully, I make absolutely NO secret of my delight and love of this September event put on by my dear friend Pattye Benson and the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust 

With regard to this tour, and I am a Patron Sponsor. I also photographed the houses on the tour for Pattye for a few years. This tour is quite exclusive, and it is a manageable number of houses and historic structures, so you can indeed see everything!

 Party for Preservation’ Preview Party ~ Sunday, September 17, 2017  6 – 9 PM

13th Annual Historic House Tour ~ Saturday, September 23,  2017 – Noon – 5 PM

CLICK HERE TO RESERVE YOUR TICKETS TODAY!

 

The 2017 house tour features historic homes and gardens in Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships. As an added bonus, the Main Line Antiques Showis generously providing two tickets ($30 value) for its show on October 7 and 8, with each historic house tour ticket purchased. The only antiques show on Philadelphia’s Main Line, all proceeds benefit Surrey Services, which helps older adults to live with independence and dignity and to continue as active members of the community.

To celebrate historic preservation, the public is invited to attend Party for Preservation, the 13th Annual Historic House Tour Preview Party on Sunday, September 17, 6 PM – 9 PM  at the historic Duportail House in Chesterbrook.  An evening of fun with live music, food and drinks, join us to celebrate the homeowners and the homes featured on the tour and allow us to thank the generous individual and corporate sponsors who make the annual tour possible. Attendees will get a sneak preview of the beautiful homes featured on the 13th Annual Historic House Tour!

The annual historic house tour would not be possible without the generosity of individual and corporate sponsors.  Click 2017 House Tour Sponsor Packet for information about how you can be a sponsor and receive complimentary tickets to the house tour and the preview party.

This is a magical day always in Chester County and the preview party is a lot of fun!  I hope you join us!