west whiteland: development and crumbling history?

Along S. Whitford Road. I have photographed this before. It continues to deteriorate.

Meanwhile, turn the corner onto Creamery Way I think it is and you see:

It’s like in West Whiteland there is a race to develop every square inch into homogeneous Tyvec wrapped insanity…while history rots.

Surely Chester County deserves better?

ex-supervisors in west vincent be like….seeing dead people

When there is an election coming in West Vincent you can always rest assured that the same old political bullsheit will surface. Oh yes, bad words…please alert the potty mouth police. (Yes, sarcasm, we are talking about West Vincent, after all.)

Take the letter above. Written by Vomitorious Ralph err…that suave Country Squire former Lower Merion Township resident and political operative , former West Vincent Supervisor…David Brown.

Hence, elections in West Vincent are like seeing dead people…err former politicians desperately seeking relevance.

(Yessss people…..Buckle up West Vincent between now and Election Day it will be CRAY CRAY…..)

Time to resurrect Chickenman archives?

The largest irony about reading this letter? Wondering if it’s autobiographical to the author’s cronies and their days gone by?

I mean come on now really Mr. Brown? My goodness. If you were Pinocchio 🤥 would you be able to hold your head up now?

You can always count on West Vincent to be super nasty at election time. I have experienced it personally and have saved the screen shots to prove it. Cyber bullying, cyber harassing, the dickitude factor runs high.

I fully expect they will attack me again because oh my gosh my golly I don’t like the crap that spews out of West Vincent every single election season.

If you want the tea and scones administration to return, by all means be of the sheeple and for the sheeple and vote sheeple. Sara Shirk is your gal.

But if you want a nice man who is thoughtful and caring and honest, then vote for George Dulchinos.

Otherwise it’s the Handmaids Tale….

“roundabout” we go in east whiteland and east goshen looking for answers…that don’t add up to eminent domain….

aerial

Roundabouts. That is PennDOT new speak for traffic circles.   I know, I know I have been writing about this a lot on this blog. Most recently at the beginning of this month (October, 2019) That is when East Whiteland and East Goshen released a letter they received from PennDOT September 30:

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At that time I said  September 30th was Monday, so why has it taken this long for the people to be notified and have they even notified the potentially affected residents? I marvel that PennDOT dated the letter September 23rd and it took until September 30th to be received? DO they not also send an electronic copy?

PennDOT needs to define “minor construction” and does that mean any eminent domain land takings?

PennDOT will do this project when exactly and how long will it take?

And if PennDOT was offering to meet with both townships, I suggested that when that occured the most directly affected homeowners should be present with whatever representation they so chose to be with them.

Well guess what? According to residents I know (directly affected in fact) the meeting DID take place. And East Whiteland Towsnhip verified this on October 15 when they said on their websiteOn September 30, East Whiteland and East Goshen Townships received a letter from PennDOT regarding its recommendations for the Route 352 and King Road intersection.

The Townships recently met with PennDOT to discuss those recommendations. No decisions as to road improvements have been made, but the Townships agreed to update traffic counts along the roads and expect to continue discussions with PennDOT when those studies are completed.

Please note who was missing at said meeting with PennDOT. Yup, you’ve got it, the potentially affected residents.

When they received the news these residents (my extended neighbors) replied to East Whiteland very politely but firmly:

Thanks for keeping us in the loop and for pushing back on PennDOT’s recommendations.

That said, while we appreciate that you may be hesitant to proceed with the only two options PennDOT is permitting (a roundabout or making the roads perpendicular), we still have much to talk about. Will you share why the townships are willing to pay for new traffic counts, what the townships think are the existing problems that must be fixed and what is your goal?

It is my understanding that the various justifications the township has presented have been adequately debunked. It started with cut through traffic, then law breaking cut through traffic, then rush hour delays, then unjustified future traffic predictions, and eventually it morphed to safety. Now, it seems like rush hour delays may be the leading reason again. Or, is this all just a means to mask future plans for over-development? Whatever the reason, it is concerning and very disappointing that the township hasn’t ruled out eminent domain given the community feedback as well as an overwhelming evidence contradicting those justifications.

If the township still feels adequate justification exists and cares about the affected residents, you will help us to understand those justifications. We don’t need to wait for new counts.

If people were dying in the intersection, bad accidents were above “normal” or traffic was backed up frequently enough that it was unpleasant for those of us who actually live here, we would understand (or move). However, these conditions absolutely do not exist. We live here because we want to. If you plan to take our land, destroy our properties, reduce our quality of life, eliminate our privacy and reduce our safety by making the traffic move faster and closer to our homes, we need to understand and accept your justifications or we will fight you to the bitter end.

Finally, can we audit the new counting process when it occurs? Or can we be involved in hiring the firm to perform the counts? Given the conflicts of interest identified with McMahon and the weakness of their presentation, the legitimacy of any further data they present will be called into question.

Subsequent email letters went to PennDOT (three times) from directly affected residents and as they can be obtained on a Right To Know Request, I am publishing them now.

Here is the first letter:

From: Tom Stuart
Sent: Wednesday, October 2, 2019 11:28 AM
To: ASHPATEL@pa.gov
Cc: Sue Drummond <sdrummond@eastwhiteland.org>; Rich Orlow <rorlow@eastwhiteland.org>; ‘slambert@eastwhiteland.org‘ <slambert@eastwhiteland.org>; 
Subject: Eminent Domain Taking @ King & 352

Dear Mr. Patel:

I read your September 23, 2019 response to East Whiteland and East Goshen Townships regarding the intersection of Sproul (S.R. 0352) and King Road (S.R. 2022).

In your first paragraph you cite an increase in traffic volumes as the justification for a solution requiring eminent domain taking.  A solution that “must be advanced for eventual implementation within a reasonable timeframe.”

Given your solution will destroy homes, privacy, safety and home values (for which payment alone will not cure), are you basing your recommendation on the two traffic reports prepared by McMahon & Assoc in 2005 and 2016?  Or, do you have some other traffic volume data that you can share?

It is my understanding that both McMahon studies were performed for just (2) one-hour periods during peak traffic periods in 2005 and 2016, respectively.  Further, while I am not currently able to locate the 2005 report to confirm, I was informed by an EG township official that there was very little traffic volume increase measured at the intersection between 2005 and 2016.  If this is true, then what “increase in traffic volumes” are your referring to?  Is it based on only future predictions?  Please quantify.

My wife and I have lived at the intersection for over 20 years. (I purchased the home on December 31, 1996.) Our home literally faces the center of the intersection.  Based on my extensive experience, I vehemently disagree with the premise that there is a volume problem that must be resolved.  You may consider my opinion biased because the widening and tree/brush removal will eliminate all of the privacy I have spent 10s of thousands of dollars (and a couple decades) to build up, it will dramatically reduce my safety (I can provide more details), and moving me closer to the intersection will destroy my property value.

That said, don’t take it from me.  At the June 5, 2019 meeting at Immaculata, I surveyed an audience full of 100+ township residents by asking, “Who thinks delays are the primary problem at the intersection?” Exactly zero people raised their hands.  (https://bit.ly/2oueoGQ:  Time Stamp: 1:50:10)  

So, while your recommendations may be suitable if there were a traffic delay problem at the intersection, the township residents do not agree with the premise under which you have proposed a solution.

So, if PennDOT will not support a permanent, signal-only solution to help address the left turn issues from 352, does PennDOT support a “do nothing” approach?  It was not entirely clear whether you were recommending or requiring your “comprehensive” eminent domain taking solution.  This is an important detail.  Please clarify.

Best Regards,

Tom Stuart

Here is the second letter:

From: Tom Stuart
Sent: Thursday, October 3, 2019 3:37 PM
To: ASHPATEL@pa.gov
Cc: Sue Drummond <sdrummond@eastwhiteland.org>; Rich Orlow <rorlow@eastwhiteland.org>; ‘slambert@eastwhiteland.org’ <slambert@eastwhiteland.org>; ‘rsmith@eastgoshen.org’ <rsmith@eastgoshen.org>; John Nagel <jnagel@eastwhiteland.org>
Subject: RE: Eminent Domain Taking @ King & 352 – *** Major Safety Concern ***

Dear Mr. Patel,

I have a critical safety concern regarding your suggestion to enable King Rd traffic to drive head on through the 352 intersection at the same time (“in exchange” for split phasing on 352.)

First, do you have a sketch or diagram of the revised intersection layout you are proposing?

I have driven up and down King Rd through the intersection a few times since I read your letter—including in the pitch dark last night. I wanted to get a feel for and imagine the shifted sight lines you are proposing (if the township proceeds with a 2-phased approach.) I imagined it with the westbound King Rd lane being re-located southward by about 1 lane width.

Given that the westbound approach rises slightly to the intersection and the eastbound approach rises significantly, you are inviting a full-speed, head on collision by letting that traffic flow at the same time and at full speed with such limited visibility.

Even if your plan includes destroying a half dozen or so properties by removing all of our privacy and safety providing trees and shrubs, safe sight lines simply do not exist with the current (or the slightly modified) geometry.

As you may or may not be aware, the left turns from 352 are not a major safety hazard now. They are more of an inefficiency and annoyance. The resulting accidents from those turns tend to be low speed fender benders… not head on and certainly not at full speed. The worst symptoms are frustrated drivers honking and cursing.

For this reason, I believe that switching the split phasing from King Rd to 352 as you propose (in part 1 of your 2-phased approach) will make the intersection considerably less safe.

Incidentally, there is a similarly shaped intersection geometry where Paoli Pike meets route 30 in Paoli. The sight lines are MUCH better there because it’s more level. However, in the mid to late 1980s (before the lights were changed to include a protected left turn phase from 30) there was a head on collision that occurred with so much force the driver’s heart detached from all of her arteries. So, unless you and the township want to be directly responsible for introducing fatalities to the intersection, I suggest you withdraw or amend that portion of your recommendation.

If you have any feedback defending what you proposed, I’d be interested to hear it—especially because the townships will likely heed your input more than mine.

I urge the townships to respond to this concern as well.

Best Regards,
Tom Stuart

And here is the third letter:

Tom Stuart 
Thu, Oct 17, 8:21 PM (12 hours ago)
to ASHPATEL@pa.gov, Sue, Rich, slambert@eastwhiteland.org, rsmith@eastgoshen.org, John, Christie, benpoe4@juno.com, TINA, Timothy, Christine, Zeek747, me, Ted

Dear Mr. Patel,

I gather from your lack of response to my previous emails (and because the residents were not invited to recent closed-door meeting) that you do not intend to respond to me. The important part is that I have raised my safety concern, you saw it, the townships saw it and it’s now part of the public record.

I would like to draw your attention to a few more critical issues I have identified in your letter of Sept 23 to the townships:

Your suggestion (2e) indicates that signal upgrades could better detect traffic. Obviously, this means reducing delays without any negative impact on safety or otherwise. If PennDOT thinks traffic delays are a problem, why would this not be your recommended solution as a first and immediate phase? Why wasn’t this recommended and implemented years ago? You go on to state that this improvement would not be approved by PennDOT unless the township also agree to take land from local residents in “a reasonable timeframe”. This is outrageous and extremely upsetting. Is this how PennDOT operates– with a complete and total disregard for residents’ homes and properties not to mention a disregard for common sense and unnecessary expenditures?
One of your suggestions is to clear the vegetation through the intersection along King Rd to improve visibility (2c). When it comes to the goal of improving safety, this applies not only to the drivers but also to pedestrians and residents, I assume. As Senior Manager of Traffic Engineering and Safety Division, you must be aware that trees and shrubs create a safety barrier between the traffic and the residents when they must co-exist in close proximity. Tearing them down, as you propose, reduces safety for residents (and pedestrians).
You state that that safety is the department’s primary goal. Yet, you directly contradict this statement with your proposed solutions. If safety is the primary goal, a safety improvement like enhanced traffic detection and painted lines (as you suggest in 2f) could be implemented now. (Or, years ago.) In fact, if safety were the primary goal, a safety improvement such as signal phasing on 352 could be delivered even if it came at the expense of added delays. Your proposals not only fail to make safety the primary consideration, you go so far as to suggest that signal-only safety improvements to 352 traffic can only be delivered if the township agrees to reduce safety on King Rd by letting it drive head on, simultaneously. Local residents would likely agree with me that this could be a net reduction in safety. The reality is that the goal of your proposal appears to be: reduce delays and, if possible, improve safety and do so at the highest possible expense. I find it disappointing that neither you nor the townships ever acknowledge this glaring falsehood being perpetuated. This is not and has never been about improving safety.
Each time I read your proposal and consider what has transpired to date, I become more and more disappointed by what appears to be a complete lack of competence, integrity, honesty, transparency and common sense by all parties carrying some sort of responsibility here. If you disagree with anything I have said and do not wish to have a dialogue with me directly, I understand. I hope you will communicate your feedback to the townships so they can pass it along to me. Or, if the townships care about the affected residents, they can prove it.

Until I see common sense prevail, I will not go away.

Best Regards,

Tom Stuart

“….would not be approved by PennDOT unless the township also agree to take land from local residents in “a reasonable timeframe”.”

There you have it. EMINENT DOMAIN.  They always try to make it sound pretty. How was it one of the East Whiteland Supervisors referred to it? As “slivers” of land or something equally preposterous?

It’s eminent domain. It’s stealing someone’s property and for what? So PennDOT can have their Roundabout Reign Of Terror?

I noticed in September PennDOT was doing the old soft shoe PR on their pet project to ruin where we live. All. Across. The. State.

media1media 3

Here, courtesy of Talk Erie News, is essentially PennDOT’s press release in September about this:

ERIE NEWS
PennDOT Data Shows Pennsylvania Roundabouts Reducing Fatalities, Injuries, and Crashes
By TalkErie News – September 16, 2019

roundabout

erie 1erie 2erie 3

Now whomever heads up PennDOT gets a plum pickings patronage job with taxpayer funded benefits of pure political pork, right? Well it is currently one of the original Wolf girls, Leslie Richards:

leslie

 

If you wonder why our roads are so bad, can it be said look no further than Ms. Richards?  Would you like to contact Leslie Richards? Try:

The Honorable Leslie S. Richards
Secretary, PA Dept. of Transportation
Keystone Building
400 North Street
Harrisburg, PA 17120
lsrichards@pa.gov

Leslie also has a Facebook page, but she allows no contact there. Just public adoration. She also has Twitter – Leslie S. Richards (@SecRichards) REALLY making her a Wolf girl.

Here (courtesy of Wikipedia) is the chronology of her ascent to the cushy land of political patronage jobs:

Richards was elected to the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors in 2007, and became chairwoman of the board in 2008. 

Richards was elected to the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners in 2011. Her election, along with that of fellow Democrat Josh Shapiro, marked the first time in over a century that Democrats controlled the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. Richards served as Montgomery County’s representative on the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.  Richards also serves on the board of SEPTA. 

Pennsylvania political operatives had mentioned Richards as a potential Congressional candidate in Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district. Richards declined to run for the seat after incumbent Congressman Jim Gerlach retired in 2014. 

In 2015, following the election of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, Richards was nominated to serve as Secretary of Transportation of Pennsylvania. She was subsequently confirmed by the Pennsylvania State Senate in May 2015. 

In 2017, Richards was appointed the first female chair of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission as well as the Public Private Partnership (P3) Board. 

But what does she actually DO? I will note I contacted Ms. Richards when this whole Roundabout Reign of Terror began.  Her response, even an acknowledgement, of the fact that I contacted her must have gotten lost in the mail.

So people always say when it comes to things like road projects to follow the money, right? So what happens when we follow the money to PennDOT with regard to things like Roundabout Reigns of Terror? Who is benefitting? Is it a long list? Is it a short list?

I sent an e-mail overnight to Senator Andy Dinniman since I feel the State Representatives have been quite invisible on this.

What is happening here is terrifying. He needs to act. He actually might have the power to help my neighbors and get the pause button pushed.

NO ONE HAS TRIED BASIC SIGNALIZATION CHANGES! Why the heavy PennDOT push for traffic circles or the more politically new speak term of “roundabouts” ? Whatever happened to trying something less expensive before taking people’s homes?

Again, if the money trail is followed all the way to Harrisburg where will it lead?

The basic intersection changes affected residents asked for would cost a whole lot LESS than a Circle. And it would not involve eminent domain.

But we, as residents and taxpayers, have been told that PennDOT doesn’t want that. Everything they want seems to involve  eminent domain doesn’t it?

Money, money, money. It’s only money and OPM or Other People’s Money at that.  Do you want your taxpayer dollars to go to stealing a neighbor’s home?

Why should my neighbors be forced to this? Why should they fear losing their homes? How would you feel if you were facing eminent domain?

None of us asked for this. And the origins of this current situation is somewhat mind boggling to me. That all came out when we did RTK requests a few months ago.

People have asked State Reps for help and to the best of my knowledge that has kind of gone nowhere.

road1

My neighbors need and deserve help. This affects residents in East Whiteland and East Goshen. Truthfully it affects anyone who travels through this intersection.  Have you watched people use roundabouts? And what about Immaculata and the buses that come through to them and the trucks, big trucks, which travel these roads?

Of course my personal thoughts include that wanton development is also a culprit here- another thing residents didn’t ask for.

I have seen what the threat of eminent domain does to communities as I have been to this movie before. I just didn’t expect it out here as a threat quite as often as I have seen it.

We have done rights to know.  In the spring we learned a lot.  Is that the only way we can ever get answers is to pay to be flooded with paper?

This summer I took photos while a passenger in a car. Of a roundabout no one knows how to drive on in Chester County.  On Route 52. Where it is still kind of rural and no one lost their homes, although undoubtedly someone lost some land as in open space/farm land.

The topography where that circle was placed is radically different from where PennDOT seems hell bent for leather to get one at King and 352.

Putting a traffic circle, roundabout, whatever you wish to new speak it as on King and 352 is like the proverbial square peg in the round hole, or is it round peg in the square hole? (Sorry, traffic circle humor)

Remember this issue when election day rolls around.

Soon it will be Halloween.  Then we will have Thanksgiving and Christmas and Channukah and so on, so what do these poor residents have to look forward to with the evil specter of eminent domain courtesy of PennDOT lurking around seemingly every corner?

Residents asking for traffic improvements on side streets somehow translated to a potential pork project and please stop the roundabout turntable, residents want to get off.

Can anyone help stop this? Does anyone give a crap about residents anymore? Or all we just expendable?

Other posts:

the dance around eminent domain and other tales from the king road/route 352 meeting

no eminent domain. no circle/roundabout. people before politics.

meeting on route 352 and king road set for june 5th at 7pm at immaculata university

east goshen responds to right to know request on 352 and king intersection improvements

dear east whiteland and east goshen: we need a little “sunshine” about shared intersection improvements at king and 352.

penndot responds on king and sproul/352

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then there is this other stepford mecca being built on white horse road…

Of course then there is this development on White Horse Road in Malvern.

I don’t even know what this Stepford Mecca is called.

But hell’s bells I guess these local municipalities must really think that we are going to grow our food on top of Whole Foods and Aldi and Wegmans given the rate they are approving developments out of farm land and open space, right?

And when everyone is so surprised when every school district doubles in size splits into two takes land by eminent domain for new buildings, don’t be. This is exactly why it’s happening.

This is also the Chester County Planning Commission and Municipalities Planning Code of Pennsylvania hard at work…for anyone other than the actual residents.

Wake up Chester County. Wake the hell up.

breast cancer is neither pink nor fluffy

I saw these in a store on Saturday. The people running the store couldn’t tell me what percentage of profits went back to a breast-cancer charity if at all.

#Pinktober is something that any of us who have had breast cancer or are currently in treatment for breast cancer will tell you to pay attention to.

The true believers think that they are doing us a favor and honoring us who have or have had the disease by buying something pink. The truth is you’re not.

Look at the irony of buying products the turn pink for October as a marketing ploy which contain carcinogens. So you’re buying something you think is going to honor a friend or family member or other loved one who has had this awful disease and are you?

I don’t think you are.

I think people need to educate themselves on good solid breast cancer charities and if you’re buying something during the month of #Pinktober you need to know exactly how much is going to a non-profit.

There are three breast cancer charities I think or extraordinarily worthy and one of them is based in Chester County. Here is my list:

Unite For Her

BreastCancer.org

Living Beyond Breast Cancer

The pink ribbon culture is ridiculous. The #Pinktober culture is a marketing scheme. It’s called Cause Marketing. It’s about the bottom line of corporate America. Not those of us who are survivors or who are in treatment. There is MORE cause marketing for breast cancer than anything else.  Don’t fall for it.

You want to do something? Support those who have had or who are being treated with the disease by maybe doing something nice for them. Or if you feel the need to give a donation, do your homework and find legitimate charities that actually donate MORE to research or welfare then to their operating expenses.  Read the IRS form 990s of non-profits. Don’t get Pink Washed. Do your homework.  (Read this about the New York State Attorney General’s Office stopping a bogus charity I had written about a few years ago.)

By all means, support legitimate efforts to fund research and help women and families affected by breast cancer.  Men too. Because men get breast cancer too.  But do not think that pink box of crackers or energy drink haunting grocery store and drug store aisles or the t-shirt bought in a mall store is actually helping.

This isn’t a soft and fluffy disease. Breast cancer is not friendly or perky. So pink during October makes me want to scream or even throw-up.  I think the pink saturation does good.  I think it makes money for corporate America.

You do not have to believe me. But please, #ThinkBeforeYouPink

Watch this movie if you have the time:

 

the business of thug politics

It’s October. The leaves are starting to fall from the trees, we finally had a crisply cool night, the political attack ads are starting, parties are fighting duels to the death…yes, dear readers election season has arrived in Chester County.

Ready or not, here they come.

Both parties have issues. Both parties have problem children…even as candidates. Neither party has a straight slate anywhere you can vote for, unless you choose to cast your vote with a blindfold on. Personally I find that unadvisable, but it’s the choice of the individual to be an informed voter.

On a county and local level, politics should be more about the individual and less about the Washington political machines. Washington DC isn’t just a political swamp, it’s a political cesspool, so do yourselves a favor and learn to tune out DC and look at local and state candidates as individuals.

Elections have consequences. In many municipalities in Chester County, residents are bitching about managers and solicitors and so on. Ummm HELLO? Who do you think HIRES these people? Politicians. Elected officials. And when it comes to managers especially, they also direct them on how to act on certain things and don’t kid yourselves otherwise. Solicitors march to the beat of a different drummer, like the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code. That outdated tome is the work product of state elected officials isn’t it?

So what’s the point here? Elections have consequences so do your damn homework so you know whom to blame for what. Don’t just say it’s so and so’s fault. That is YOU in the voting booth casting your vote so do your homework! Learn what the candidates stand for, who they are, and to whom they are beholden. Don’t just vote a straight ticket because someone told you that is how you are supposed to vote. And don’t say that doesn’t happen because I literally heard a poll volunteer in another county long, long ago escorting an elderly person to the poll and they said “Ignore these people. You just vote the way we told you to.”

Yes seriously. And don’t act so surprised that it happened. It happens all of the time. If people volunteering for elections or who are committee people can’t be the way they should be, why listen? I have to tell you with a few notable exceptions I have liked most committee people from both parties over the years.

To vote is a privilege and a right in this country, use it wisely.

But election season also means thug politics. I was an attempted victim again yesterday. Someone just didn’t have a conversation with me, it was an attempt to bully or even worse depending upon how you interpret it. And it wasn’t the first one this season. There have been several unpleasant encounters.

If you are a blogger, thug politics is nothing new. By our very DNA most politicians and bloggers will not get along all of the time or even some of the time. It’s just the way we’re made and that’s ok. But to try to stomp all over someone’s First Amendment rights for not agreeing with you like a nodding bobble head doll? Oh come on and oh hell no.

Politicians even on a local level are public figures. Even former politicians because they used to hold office. Look at past U.S. Presidents as an example. Think of how long some of them have been out of office and still people talk about them. It’s still the nature of the beast.

Politics is an ugly business. That’s probably why I talk about it sometimes. I just don’t think it should be. Yet here we are.

Chester County needs political balance in my opinion. I don’t think that exists. And both political parties need to get their damn houses in order. When the infighting of each party becomes apparent to even the average and mostly uninterested Joe on the street, it’s a problem. And it’s not an attack the residents and bloggers and reporters kind of a problem. It’s a get your political house in order kind of problem.

Once upon a time I thought city politics was the nastiest and worst out there. I am beginning to think it’s not. We don’t live in the land of Stepford, people. We are NOT all supposed to think alike. It’s WHY this country was founded wasn’t it? For political freedom and doesn’t that include the right to be an individual and not a bobble headed Stepford dweller?

Whatever happened to the theory of the worthy opposition? Whatever happened to actual public service? Why is everything starting to seem agenda driven?

As residents of whatever political party we should want better for where we live. We should resist Washington politics taking over on a most local level. We need balance and fairness. And when politics gets nasty and thug-like we aren’t getting balance or fairness are we?

As the voting plurality, we deserve better. We deserve independent thinkers and people who epitomize public service. We deserve elected officials who answer to all of us equally, not just select factions.

I don’t have the answers and I am not telling all of you how to vote, just to use your vote wisely and do your homework.

the main line…..where it is…and where people think it should because

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File under things that drive me crazy. Not everything some developer’s marketing team labels as “Main Line” today is actually the Main Line…nor does it have to be.

One of my favorite quotes about this appeared on Facebook recently:

Die hards stick to the Original Main Line. Realtors and blow in’s want everything within 40 miles called the Main Line.

The Main Line refers to the towns between Overbrook and Paoli as per the history of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Malvern and Frazer are Chester County (for example) and should be delighted to be that. Realtors peddling new development are baptizing Malvern as Main Line the way they have already done with Chester Springs where they call what is actually Downingtown Chester Springs because they don’t think anyone would like living in Downingtown. Or saying Newtown Square is the Main Line also isn’t technically true. Newtown Square is Newtown Square and lovely in it’s own right.

Sad but true.  Some even try to say Exton, Blue Bell, and Chester Springs are also the Main Line. Now hell, we know Chester Springs proper isn’t the Main Line every time when the nouveau Main Line heads west for Chester County Day and Chester Springs homes are on the tour (like last year) and folks don’t know how to drive (or park) on our roads or how to be polite in the houses…but I digress…

People. Learn your railroad history.  It is how these towns were built.

The Philadelphia Main Line, known simply as the Main Line, is an informally delineated historical and socially pretentious and ridiculous region of suburban Philadelphia, as freaking created by old railroad lines. These towns became more cohesive along the Pennsylvania Railroad’s once prestigious “Main Line”, which ran northwest from Center City Philadelphia parallel to Route 30 (Lancaster Ave to some Lancaster Pike to some Lincoln Highway to others.)

The railroad first connected Philadelphia to the Main Line towns in the 19th century.

They became home to sprawling country estates and hotels belonging to Philadelphia’s wealthiest families, and over the decades became a bastion of “old money”.  People built their summer homes out here at that point.  In the 18th century wealthy Philadelphians summered in places like Fairmount Park.  In the 19th century the railroads moved them further west.

Seriously, don’t forget there were grand hotels too.  One is what is now the Baldwin School was once the Bryn Mawr Hotel. As per Baldwin:

Baldwin School, Former Historic Bryn Mawr HotelAfter the Civil War, Bryn Mawr was a popular spot for Philadelphians to come to escape the summer heat.  Of  the many hotels and boarding houses in Bryn Mawr, the one that aided most in its development was the Bryn Mawr Hotel or Keystone Hotel, as it was also known, built in 1871. This grand summer resort was constructed by the Pennsylvania Railroad, and was located in the countryside just north of the station. The four-story masonry building was designed by Joseph Miller Wilson. The hotel had 350 rooms, a fashionable polychromatic slate mansard roof, and an enormous veranda. The hotel’s amenities included: gas lights, bath tubs, the first elevator on the main line, a “ten-pin alley”, first quality mattresses and one bathroom on every floor. This splendor was destroyed by a disastrous fire which broke out in October 11, 1887 at 6:30 a.m. Most of the building was destroyed by the time Philadelphia fire engines arrived by railroad gondola car.

A second Bryn Mawr Hotel was built on the site in 1890 by a neighborhood syndicate. This new, four-story, granite structure was designed by acclaimed architect Frank Furness, of Furness, Evans & Co. The Hotel was inspired by the Chateau de Pierrefonds, a 16th century French chateau, and contained the latest technologies, including steam heat and electric light. From 1896 to 1913 the hotel hosted its own annual horse show that drew high society Philadelphians. The new Furness designed building cost the promoters half a million dollars.  Half of this amount was obtained by sale of stock and half through the sales of bonds.  The stock never paid a cent of dividend, and when the bonds finally came due, the group could not pay the interest.  The mortgage was foreclosed and with this, the hotel stopped operations.  Later the building was bought by the Baldwin School for Girls.

Read the 1891 article from The Illustrated American about the Bryn Mawr Hotel

The Main Line has this fabled history. I lived there until a few years ago.  My parents moved us there when I was about 12.  So yeah, I know the history.  In some regards I think I lived there in the sunset of it’s greatness.   The Main Line as it exists today I find distasteful and gauche sometimes because well, the nouveau Main Line neither gets nor appreciates nor really cares about the actual history.

Until the railroads, the Main Line was a lot of country. Farms, quarries, mills, even factories.  It became genteel versus rural/copuntry living by it’s very history.  The Pennsylvania Railroad and 19th century real estate developers and speculators truthfully get the credit here.

Like Wayne, PA which was essentially a developer planned community of it’s day.  Don’t believe me? Visit the Radnor Historical Society Website.  Here is a photo of a real estate brochure they have on their website from when Wayne was being developed:

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Courtesy Radnor Historical Society

People just don’t know the history any longer. Like this ad also courtesy of the Radnor Historical Society:

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Another real estate advertisement courtesy of Radnor Historical Society

There were SO many hotels up and down the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Like the Bellevue Hotel which burned to the ground in 1900:

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The Bellevue Hotel circa 1895 courtesy of Radnor Historical Society.

Or…

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Waynewood Hotel courtesy of the Radnor Historical Society

One of my favorites which no longer exists? The Devon Inn.

The Devon Inn is (I think) where part of Valley Forge Military Academy now exists.
Your Town and My Town Archives Courtesy of Radnor Historical Society
Devon Inn, Bryn Mawr Hotel, Valley Forge Military Academy
SEPTEMBER 10, 1954 / EMMA C. PATTERSON

….So it was with Devon Inn, a brief history of which was given in the series on large fires which have occurred in this vicinity in past years. In the early morning hours of January 18, 1929, this famous Main Line hostelry burned to the ground. The pictures illustrating today’s column show two views of the Inn as it appeared in its heyday. They were sent to your columnist by James L. Kercher, of Conestoga road, soon after the story of the fire appeared in “Your Town and My Town” in the spring of 1952. The reverse side of this picture postcard of the Devon Inn describes it as the “social center or the Main Line,” located in “beautiful Chester Valley” and “open from May to December.”

….Among its attractions they list the Devon Horse Show, polo matches, kennel show, Rose Tree Horse Show, Belmont trotting event, Chesterbrook races, Bryn Mawr Horse Show and Devon fancy cattle show. And these are not all, for the list continues with the Horse Show Ball, Spring flower show, golf and tennis, private theatricals, Bal Masque, Autumn flower show, auto exhibition, the County Ball and Devon Inn’s beautiful Japanese Floral Cafe. This cafe was evidently located on one of the Inn’s wide porches…The history of this old inn is an interesting one. The original structure, called the Devon Park Hotel, had been built in 1876 to house the overflow of visitors to the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Three years later, fire destroyed the first building, but it was replaced soon after by a larger and more ornate structure, erected on the same site. This is the one shown in today’s picture.

For some years there was great rivalry between the Devon Inn and the Bryn Mawr Hotel for the patronage of fashionable Philadelphia summer boarders. Located on the site of what is now the Baldwin School, the Bryn Mawr Hotel was owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad. This rivalry ended in a complete victory for the Devon Inn, when the Devon Horse Show made its initial bow. The show immediately became a nationally famous event, with entries and visitors from all over the United States. The socially elite from New York and the Long Island Colony, from Boston, Chicago and many other cities throughout the country filled the Devon hostelry to capacity each horse show season.

When the Bryn Mawr Hotel burned to the ground, the Devon Inn lost its only serious rival….

Most people don’t even remember there was ever a Devon Inn, which is why my friend Michael Morrison’s lecture at Jenkins Arboretum a couple of years ago was so popular.

Devon Inn circa 1900 postcard

Image from Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society

When this topic of what the Main Line actually is and what the actual historical boundaries are crops up on social media, someone always leaves a conversation feeling offended.

Sorry not sorry but Malvern isn’t and never will be the Main Line.  As I have said before, it’s Chester County and everyone in the Malvern area should be ok with it as Malvern already has a wonderful identity and history.

There is this booklet called Plan The Keystone which has a lot of great history in it (05.30.19 – Booklet – History of Paoli Station):

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But marketing being the illusion maker that it is creeps in even in the 1963 Franklin Survey Company publication:

Duffy Real Estate actually has a quirky but fairly accurate Main Line History page:

In 1828, the Pennsylvania legislature authorized the construction of the railroad between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. This was known as the “Main Line” of the Public Works system. This, in turn, caused the development of the surrounding area.

After the Civil War, track improvements were sought and new station houses were erected to include more stops along the line. In recognition of the heritage of the areas along the rail line, many stations were given English and Welsh names, such as Narberth, Ardmore and Bryn Mawr.

Many changes were made to the rail route and so the Commonwealth purchased lots surrounding the rail line with stipulations on setbacks and improvements to the land next to the station houses. In Bryn Mawr, it stated that the building of “hotels, taverns, drinking saloons, blacksmiths, carpenter or wheelwright shops, steam mills, tanneries, slaughterhouses, skindressing establishments, livery stables, glue, candle or starch manufactories, or other buildings of offensive occupation” was prohibited.

The result was “a complete picture of suburban comfort and elegance with wide avenues and roomy and open ornamental grounds, spacious lots for building and homes of more than ordinary architectural tastes.” These new homes served as the summer residences for many affluent families. The Main Line was now established.

The Pennsylvania Railroad promoted this area in brochures describing the “opportunities provided by the railroad for ‘summer sojourns’ away from the city and the desirability and convenience of suburban living.”

When we were growing up there was this little thing we did to remember the order of the train stations.  Old Maids Never Wed And Have Babies. Overbrook, Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr.  You can find this mentioned here on this blog which I find amusing because they say they think the ditty ends with Bryn Mawr Station because it was thought of possibly by a Bryn Mawr College girl. This blog is called Philadelphia Reflections and I love it because they write about the most interesting stuff!

One of my dear friend’s grandfathers was an executive with the Pennsylvania Railroad.  He moved his family from the city to Haverford near Merion Cricket Club.  The road they settled on had several homes built as a direct result of the railroad.  Like many of the homes in Wayne, it was desirable because one could walk to the train station.

Growing up, we never thought the Main Line was one centimeter past Paoli…because we knew the history.  Today it’s like saying you are from Greenwich, Connecticut or similarly affluent and storied suburbs.  Or even what defines Manhattan, versus living in the other boroughs of New York City but saying you live in Manhattan.

Pennsylvania Center for the Book: Philadelphia’s Main Line: It’s Not Just a Place – It’s a Lifestyle  By Casey Murray, Spring 2014

The mansion stood at the end of a half-mile long drive, in the midst of 750 acres. The estate was magnificent, to say the least. It had been erected in 1911, in the style of the Georgian Revival, and was crafted by the prolific architect Horace Trumbauer – designer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Duke University Chapel, and the main Harvard University Library, to name just a few. The façade of the manor was classic “old money” – adorned with brick, accented with ornate cream molding, and finished with large traditional sash windows….Too good to be true? A fairytale perhaps? Surely, a scene from a movie? Well, yes… and no. Because not even MGM, the esteemed motion picture conglomerate, would believe it. The mansion, Villanova’s Ardrossan estate, was the inspiration for 1940s The Philadelphia Story, and has since been dubbed by the Philadelphia Inquirer a “house so grand, even Tinseltown had to tone it down.” The house in question, however, is very much real, as is the lifestyle that comes with it.

But Ardrossan is only one small portion of the prestigious and affluent area known as the Main Line. Situated just west of Philadelphia, it is comprised of the seventeen different towns in Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester counties – each of which is connected by the railroad, and the area’s namesake, the Main Line…..These estates and their residents have come to define the Main Line. But what does that mean? With the birth of the Main Line in the late 1800s, there also came “an extreme type of class-consciousness. The flood of wealth that created American family fortunes in the late 19th century settled around a handful of cities and was expressed in different forms of conspicuous consumption and elaborate social behaviour,” writes Ian Irvine in the Sunday Telegraph. Irvine compares Manhattan’s Upper West Side to Philadelphia’s Main Line to call attention to the grandeur associated with the area; but that’s where the similarities end. “In more traditional… Philadelphia, however, society turned almost feudal, almost English in its attitudes – ‘old’ money and ‘old’ families counted for everything. The very term WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) was coined to describe members of Philadelphia society,” a term popularized by University of Pennsylvania professor E. Digby Baltzell. And an appropriate term it was….Nowadays not every Main Liner may live like a Scott, but the expectation to act like one endures. As Betty Feeney and Julia Lorenz Gaskill noted in 1955: “the Main Line is a way of life which both its natives and newcomers tend to view as the best this side of Paradise.”

The lure of the Main Line as well as the lore of the Main Line. I still find it crazy.  And I for all intents and purposes grew up there. It’s only the Magic Kingdom if you can really afford it and I often wonder how many can actually afford it versus the great pretenders? I lived there for so long because it was where I called home from the age of 12 into my 40s.  And yes, I always knew I would probably eventually leave not for anything else than it keeps getting more expensive and if you are realistic you have to ask is the Main Line really worth it?  

Back to history, this time courtesy of the Lower Merion Historical Society:

The Philadelphia & Columbia Railway

A Ride on The Main Line. The War of 1812 had ended and the country was expanding by extending its borders westward. New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia were the major seaports which stood to benefit the most in trade to the west. The road system could not handle the increased traffic so we entered into the age of canals, which offered faster service and were cheaper to operate.

New York built the Erie Canal which joined the Hudson River with Lake Erie, thus providing a through waterway from New York City to the Great Lakes. The Erie Canal opened in 1825.

Maryland, replacing their National Road, began the construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal which connected Baltimore with the Ohio River.

As a counter measure, Pennsylvania decided that it wanted to develop its own canal system linking Philadelphia to the frontier city of Pittsburgh and authorized its construction. But when the survey was made, it was found that there was not enough water in the right places for a canal between the Delaware and the Susquehanna Rivers.

In March 1823, the Pennsylvania State Legislature issued a charter for the first railroad in the state. It authorized the construction of an 82 mile railway, from Philadelphia through Lancaster, terminating at Columbia (on the Susquehanna River), as part of the “Main Line of Public Works of the State of Pennsylvania.” The nickname, “The Main Line,” derived from this early Pennsylvania railroad…A Government Venture. The Philadelphia & Columbia Railway was one of the earliest railroads in America and the first in the world to be built by a government rather than by private enterprise. The contracts for the work were granted by the Canal Commission, under whose supervision the line was operated. Considered a public toll road, individuals and companies paid tolls to the Commission for use of the rails. They also supplied their own horses, rolling stock and passenger or freight facilities.

The Philadelphia & Columbia Railway finally became operational on September 1832, with carts and wagons dragged by horse power on a 20-mile section which began in Philadelphia (at Broad and Vine Streets) and ended at Green Tree Inn, west of Paoli….More than any other person or entity, it was the Pennsylvania Railroad that built the Main Line. For 111 years, its trains linked Lower Merion with Philadelphia and the nation. Even today, three decades after the railroad merged with a rival, the Pennsylvania’s legacy continues to shape life in the township.

The Pennsylvania Railroad began its long association with the Main Line when it purchased the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad from the state in 1857. At that time, there were only three stops in Lower Merion: Libertyville (serving modern Narberth and Wynnewood), Athensville (now Ardmore) and White Hall (Bryn Mawr). For a little over a decade, the Pennsylvania concentrated on rebuilding the line and developing long distance traffic. As late as 1869, the railroad operated only a handful of local trains along the Main Line.

So…look at the dates referenced by The Lower Merion Historical Society.  1832. Duffy’s Cut anyone? (Duffy’s Cut is the name given to a stretch of railroad tracks about 30 miles west of Philadelphia, United States, originally built for the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad in the summer and fall of 1832. The line later became part of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Main Line. Railroad contractor Philip Duffy hired 57 Irish immigrants to lay this line through the area’s densely wooded hills and ravines. The workers came to Philadelphia from the Ulster counties of Donegal, Tyrone and Derry to work in Pennsylvania’s nascent railroad industry. They were murdered.)

And just so we are clear, I am not some old Main Line trust fund baby.  We lived there because my parents decided to move us there as we got older for access to better schools and a way of life that included being able to play outside whenever we wanted.  However, where I grew up was close to where one of my great-grandmothers was in service.  Rebecca Nesbitt Gallen.  She was a summer housekeeper for the Cassatt family (think Merion Cricket Club) at their Cheswold Estate.   Of course Alexander Cassatt was also famous for his Chesterbrook Farm in Berwyn.  We of course know Chesterbrook today as the giant development that popped the cherry of suburban density development.  It’s hard to believe that Chesterbrook today was once a glorious 600+ acre farm, right?

Photo source: Pinterest

And yes, Chesterbrook Farm was in Berwyn…yet Chesterbrook the development today has a Wayne post office zip code. Yup even Chesterbrook wasn’t o.k. where it really was, was it?

Technically Chesterbrook although it has a Wayne post office zip code isn’t Main Line. In my opinion, it probably got the Wayne zip code to make it marketable as Main Line when the development was built.  The fight over the Chesterbrook Development went all the way to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court. Chesterbrook is I think actually over 800 acres if you count the other land parcels that went into it.  I still view it as planned development at it’s worst.  My late mother in law was one of the many, many residents who fought it for years.
(From Lower Merion Historical Society) Chesterbrook retells the story of Wayne for the 20th century
Finding homes for people drawn here by technology isn’t anything new

By David Schmidt
Special to Main Line Life

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That could apply directly to two very dissimilar areas of Radnor today. But each was a result of technology creating a need and ambitious men filling it. Although they don’t look the same at all, each was its century’s response to changes caused by technology.

In the late 19th century, the railroad had opened up the western suburbs for white-collar workers who wanted to escape the filth and disease of the city. It’s almost impossible today to imaging just how dangerous it was living in a large city and that didn’t even include crime.

Infant mortality was rife, and often mothers died in childbirth or from infections afterwards. Influenza today dreaded mostly for its discomfort killed tens of thousands each year. Men died young, maimed and broken in brutal factories. Everything was dirty, both from the coal smoke that permeated every space and from the animals which were ubiquitous.

But the trains made it possible for people to live and work in different places. After the railroad barons moved themselves along the Main Line, building monstrous estates, it was time for the middle class. The first development in Radnor designed to bring folks from the city was a 300-acre estate belonging to J. Henry Askins. Called Louella Farms, it was named after his two daughters, Louise and Ella.

In 1869 he began building houses some of which remain on Bloomingdale Ave. in Wayne clearly designed for middle-class families. But he was really too early, although he did create a community of sorts. The farm lay alongside the Main Line tracks. His mansion, also called Louella is now the Louella Apartments.

This was the center for further development in what would become Wayne. Askins liked the feudal nature of his “community” and encouraged development of other facilities south of Louella and the train tracks. This resulted in the Presbyterian Church, the Opera House and the Post Office, all built between 1870 and 1874….

A century later, transportation technology did it all over again. In the mid-1960s the state announced that it was turning Rt. 202, a two-lane highway running south from King of Prussia into a limited access four-lane highway. Radnor officials knew that meant urban sprawl was coming to Philadelphia’s far suburbs….The Fox Companies didn’t build everything, but they developed and controlled it. “The scale was large enough for two or more companies for construction and retailing,” he says. “Part of what we wanted to do was create a community with a physical and social sense, and landscaping is very important for that…..The original idea was to have a mix of housings. “We wanted teachers and cops to be able to afford to live here, for instance,” he says. “Unfortunately the economic realities of what happened to housing prices in the 1970s defeated that.” There are still different styles and price ranges grouped together, so that the 2700 units seems more to be clumps of housing.

As part of a plan to help control the tide of growth Radnor created a unified development area on a 1000-acre plot alongside the highway. This meant that the rules as to density of population and other zoning and regulatory issues would be worked to encourage controlled development. The Fox Companies, headed by Dick Fox, bought up most of the land and although there were several parcels of land, by far the largest was Alexander Cassatt’s “country place,”Chesterbrook. Farm” He named the development for Cassatt’s farm.

Chesterbrook is a mixed development, with office buildings, several types and styles of houses and townhouses and open spaces.”Issues such as schools, open space, traffic and roads were defined to help counter urban sprawl,” according to Jim Hovey, president of The Fox Companies. “Cassatt’s farm was owned by a company owned by Bill Levitt, Jr. son of the creator of Levittown. The Fox Companies were able to acquire three of the four packages of land.

Yeah, I know this has been quite the ramble. But I just don’t think Chester County needs to be completely annexed to the freaking Main Line. It’s preposterous.  Stick to the history. It tells you the boundaries.  And yes, there are several towns (and townships) that have parts of themselves which are part of the Main Line historically, although not in their entirety. Like parts of Chester County.  Chester County has a rich history that is far more interesting than the mere history of the Main Line which was created by the railroads.

I will close with this funny as hell map of the Main Line I found on Pinterest.  It is by a local artist and graphic designer named Barb Chotiner. She lives in Narberth…which is another place with it’s own unique and lovely history, yet it is part of the Main Line by history.

Thanks for stopping by….writing today as always from beautiful Chester County, PA. (NOT the Main Line.)

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The Main Line as envisioned by Barbara Chotiner of Narberth PA