Yes again, I am writing about the Joseph Price house in West Whiteland Township.￼ It’s really starting to deteriorate badly in my opinion.￼ (And I say that from observing it across the street today- I have not been invited to be on the property so I would not presume.)￼
This house is historically listed. It was built in 1878 and altered in 1894 by the house namesake inhabitant at the time. It was altered from a Gothic style to a Queen Anne style.
￼￼I was also told in the 1990s it was separate apartments inside and there were also cottages around it which were rented out as well.
In the 1950s and 60s there was a large barn there that was a sale barn for cattle run by Bayard Taylor —a blog reader told me that. He knew because his mother did bookkeeping for that business while she was in college.
This house is not completely deserted I am told there is still a caretaker who still lives there. However, this house has an uncertain future at best and nobody seems to know what will happen to it. Which is a shame because it’s very cool.￼
There are so many amazing houses like this throughout Chester County from all eras of time￼.
I am told the house is owned by two people in Ambler. Chesco Views confirmed that today.￼￼
This afternoon I had some time so I pulled into the business parking lot across the road on Clover Mill Road. I took some photos from across the road and I just looked at the house. It has been historically listed since the 1980s.￼ And yes I know I’m being repetitive, but it just blows my mind that these gorgeous houses that are historically listed not just locally but nationally rot like this￼.
Things are just crumbling and the property also seems to be quite the haven for dead car bodies.
Truly (and sadly), the house is becoming so decrepit, more decrepit. I really wish these owners would sell to somebody who could restore it.
￼￼￼￼It is just so crazy to me, as this could be the most fabulous property. It’s big enough and there is enough land left that it could be a great restaurant or even a boutique bed-and-breakfast which is not a stretch considering there is one up the road from it on South Whitford – the Duling-Kurtz House and Country Inn.
Anyway, I continue to be obsessed by this property which is not for sale￼. It’s just that this is a historically listed property (since 9/6/1984) and is this demolition by neglect?￼ I really hope someone will save this place.
You know you are firmly ensconced in middle-age when people you know or knew die.
The latest round of people I know passing away began in late December when a good friend of my mother’s passed away. This lady was a cool woman. Loving, independent, complicated. Her death was hard on my mother, who had the flu when her memorial service occurred in early January.
I didn’t go to her service. Part of me wanted to, but she was another cancer death and as a cancer survivor they are just so damn physically, emotionally, and mentally painful to attend.
The other thing is this would have been a see and be seen crowded Main Line memorial service and I had just had knee surgery. So even if I had wanted to be there, I couldn’t have been because I literally couldn’t bend my knee enough to stand on a stone floor of a church or sit in a pew.
I made my peace with my decision, and I am glad I knew her. She was a friend of my parents who early on treated me as an individual and not merely one of my parents’ children. When you are growing up and you really wanted your own identity to show through, you appreciated the people who were able to do this. You appreciate the people who see YOU, don’t you?
When she had died I hadn’t seen her in a few years. Life has just taken everyone in different directions. But occasionally we used to email or text. I’m glad I knew her.
However, 2020 brings death closer to my doorstep not because of relationship, but age. Two of my generation. Two whom I had known since high school. Contemporaries so to speak.
Neither of these people were my best friends or my closest friends, but because of how I knew them and when, it has hit home. Sadly.
I have memories of both of these people as teenagers and as adults. A man and a woman.
The man was always just a nice person. Not perfect, sometimes foolish, but always nice. At one point in time he was a brother-in-law to someone I know. Suffice it to say he was always much nicer than his relative. This man fought a battle against a cancer that was always going to win. He was brave and positive about it. Even on hospice. I respect that.
The last time I had spoken with this man was before he ever received his initial cancer diagnosis. He was back in the Philadelphia area and was moving yet again. He moved a lot the last years of his life and I think my greatest impression of his last decade of his life was that he was somewhat nomadic, looking for a place to put down roots again, literally moving from one end of the country to the other. That aspect of his life was tinged with sadness I think. I also think he was lonely.
I have memories of him from high school that are almost like Polaroid snap shots. He was part of a pack of boys I knew. He and his friends dated some of my friends back then, and were just part of even more extended friends group.
The woman who recently passed away who was familiar to me, was also part of that fabric of those growing up years. She was not someone I was close to ever. But I knew her. She was a close friend of two women whom I still know. I actually have memories of them with her. Laughing. Having a great time.
The laughter of youth sometimes seems so far away, doesn’t it? But if you listen closely enough you can still hear the echoes.
When I saw the woman a few years ago, she actually wasn’t particularly pleasant to me. At the time I thought it was strange because we had always been o.k. Now that she has passed, I realize how ill she probably had been even then. I never knew how sick she had been until she died. We weren’t close, so I wouldn’t have.
These passings are something to ponder because they are my generation. That makes you think. I remember as a little girl my grandparents and great aunts reading the obituaries almost daily. And it seemed like far too often there was somebody between the pages of the local newspapers that they knew.
Loss and passings certainly makes you value life, no matter how difficult it can be at times. After all, life has peaks and valleys, doesn’t it?
But I swear, middle age is like a weird right of passage. You hopefully know better who you are as a human being, but it’s also about life and loss. You also sometimes wonder is your life exactly what and where are you thought it would be at this point? I know I have thought that.
And I do know that I am lucky. I am blessed and I don’t use that word lightly or frivolously. I had breast cancer in 2011 and I am here in 2020 to write down all my random streams of consciousness that sometimes make my readers scratch their heads.
Life is not perfect. And someone who tells you life is always perfect is either not being honest with you or with themselves. Life is what you make out of it, but there are peaks and valleys and bumps in the road. I guess it’s how we adapt to those changes that makes us who we are, that defines us later in life.
So tell those who matter to you that you love them. You never know the path life will take us on. Live your best life.
It is just a foodie fun weekend this weekend. This evening we went to Glenmoore Deli and Country Market which is located at 1941 Creek Road, Glenmoore, PA 19343. (Phone 610-942-4321)
The proprietress/chef is Christie Keith and she is another kitchen wizard I am lucky to know. Her place is a cool little joint in the delightfully sleepy village of Glenmoore. It’s a weekend breakfast and lunch place and it’s another hidden gem that more need to visit.
I will warn you, it’s a cell signal no man’s land, so call ahead to make sure they are open and when you get there, you unplug and enjoy your meal.
I know, I know I have kind of turned into a breakfast and lunch and brunch person. It’s what I really like.
Every once in a while, Christie does a special dinner. There is no liquor license here, so you can BYOB but a lot of people just don’t. There is always some wonderful teas or lemonade or coffee or infused water served.
This evening it was a Polish dinner. It was nothing short of amazing. Pierogis that were delicious and light and fluffy. Kielbasa. Tiny meatballs on fresh arugula. Borscht. All sorts of homemade fresh pickles. Cucumber salad. Kolaczki. Honey Almond Cake.
It was delicious. We were seated with a lovely local couple as the tables are sort of family style after a fashion. People came with their families, and young and old and every age in between, we just enjoyed a wonderful meal.
Christie is calling this her Comfort Food Series and we can’t wait for the next one!
Check out Glenmoore Deli and Country Market for breakfast or lunch one weekend. They have a Facebook page so keep an eye out for Christie’s next fun dining adventure!
Today I picked up some things from a storage locker sale I had purchased. One thing was a limited edition book published in 1965 when I was a year old. Philadelphia: The Unexpected City by Laurence Lafore and Sara Lee Lippincott. The publisher was Doubleday. It was a copy of the “Philadelphia Edition.”
I don’t think too many people would be as excited to see this book as I was. But it was a book I remember people having in their homes when I was growing up, especially people that lived in Society Hill because there was so much of Society Hill in the book.￼
And there’s one thing that’s a picture of when they were raising the houses around Front Street to basically put in the highway. And I remember when they were doing all of that because it took a while to build and my mother’s friend Margery Niblock the artist had done a wood cut of it that I have the artist’s proof of￼￼.
So again, unless you live there during this time this probably wouldn’t mean anything to you. But it means something to me because there are so many pictures in this book of what Society Hill looks like when people like my parents came in and bought house is dirt cheap and started to restore them.
And the restoration of Society Hill is still a historic preservation triumph even with all of the houses that were in such bad condition they had to be demolished.￼￼
I guess that’s why sometimes I wonder why municipalities let people say “Oh we can’t possibly fix this, it has to be taken down!”￼ I look at what happened then when I was a kid, and the technology wasn’t as advanced and so on and so forth, yet the historic preservation actually happened and restoration actually happened.
So I wish people would look at examples like this, and then look more towards preservation where they live. It is possible. Communities just have to want it. And if communities want it, they need to make that known to local government.￼￼
People have to realize you can save pieces of the past and people will love them and will live in them.
This section of Philadelphia when I was growing up was a sea of construction and scaffolding. I remember the contrast of going to neighborhoods where other people we knew lived and then coming back to our own. But it was exciting to see.￼￼￼ Even then.
Hopefully someday when I am no longer around, someone else will happen upon what is now my copy of this book and love it as much as I do.￼
This was something the greeted me this morning when I popped open my tablet. An update from Meg Veno at Life’s Patina about the restoration in progress of the Jenny Lind house in Historic Yellow Springs Village￼ this morning she was talking about antique fire backs and it triggered a memory in me, reminding me of my late father upon seeing these fire backs.
When I was very young, as I have written before, my parents bought a wreck of a house from the redevelopment authority in Philadelphia. Literally a wreck. It was their first house and they had lived in an apartment close by as newlyweds.
An 1811 double front townhouse turned into bad apartments in the depression (if memory serves.) This was the early 60s and most of Society Hill was a slum. I remember my father hunting for fire backs for all the fireplaces (and almost every room had one except for the back building.) Because the homes were in such a general condition of disrepair, you would salvage for missing parts quite literally from other homes being torn down.
This was the original “sale sign” on the house my parents bought in the ‘60s in Society Hill
Yes above you see the actual sale sign that was hanging on the house my parents bought from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority in the early 1960s￼. I will note that in today’s world, realtors and others get the actual date of this house I was born in wrong. Sometimes it’s just buy a couple of years, other times it’s been by decades. I don’t know how they can’t do their research. I keep the sign with me as a souvenir of my childhood there.
I have distinct memories of Society Hill when I was really little and it was like a giant construction site. There were so many houses that were beyond repair being torn down, other houses being restored, and in some cases entire blocks being leveled for new construction. Including next door to our house.
From Philadelphia government archives. Photo dates to 1957
If you look at those photos, the one immediately above the one that was taken in the 1930s when the house was part of an entire row of homes built in the same early 19th ￼century. The photo above that is from 1957 and a bunch of the houses had already been demolished. I will further note that the house at the end of the row in the 1957 photo (269 S. 4th) was torn down by the time my parents bought their house (271 S. 4th.)
When I was a little girl until they started building, right next-door to us was a big old empty lot with a giant sycamore tree in the back corner.
When I look at that photo I get wistful because the little street tree is a pin oak tree my father planted when I was a little￼ girl. I also have that memory of him planting the street tree and taking care of it throughout the years. Just like I have memories of my mother scrubbing down by hand the white marble steps. It was the only way to keep them clean.
The next screenshot is a Google shot my parents’ old house today￼￼. I have no idea who owns it I know it’s sold a couple of years ago. I presume it is still single-family. It would kill me if it was put back to apartments after all these years.
And look to the left of my parents home townhouses built in the early 1970s.￼￼ I don’t think it was late 1960s, but maybe they were at least in planning. Look at the difference between what you see being built today and what was built then. It has a better size and scale to fit into the existing neighborhood. The design while modern, nods to the past.￼ It is a shame we can’t get that today with new construction, isn’t it?
Society hill in the 1960s was a very different place than a place you see being gentrified today. It was like this unspoken word-of-mouth saying that when houses were being either taken down or strip to the studs, people from the neighborhood that were in the middle of restoration projects always got a pick at salvage basically.
Meg’s photo of her firebacks took me back to when my father was restoring the fireplaces in our house back then. I have no idea if the fireplaces are still wood-burning, but they were when I was a child. And I remember my father going in and out of houses being torn down or houses that had been torn down and all were left were piles of rubble looking for hardware and firebacks and even some mantelpieces￼. The mantelpieces in this house I was born in were predominantly marble. A lot of them were black marble with beautiful veining.
The mantelpieces my father picked up out of homes being torn down were wood. Some of those had future use in other houses. Daddy hated the waste so he literally collected hardware, doors, etc. Everyone did in those days. Of course yes there were scavengers that just stole from everyone but I don’t remember them actually living in Society Hill. They would just appear like carrion crows every now and again. I do remember my father chasing a contractor out onto the roof of the 4th floor for using interior mouldings as window trim. (But I digress as I ramble)
The PhillyHistory.org is a treasure trove of photos. You can see how bad a lot of the houses were on the inside, let alone the outside. I haven’t been able to find archival photos of my parents’ house from before they bought it but here’s a screenshot I took from one of the neighborhood homes of these archives that will give you an idea of the restoration that was necessary:
It’s crazy when I think about the way it was to what it has become as an area today. One thing no one ever talks about is how Society Hill got the name Society Hill. ￼ Cue USHistory.org :
Named after the long defunct Free Society of Traders, this area of Philadelphia extends from Walnut to Lombard Streets, from Front to 8th Street.
The Society for which Society Hill is named is now defunct. The Free Society of Traders, a stock company to whom William Penn made liberal concessions of land and privileges, encountered virgin territory and woodlands stretching westward to the Schuylkill. They found some Dutch and Swedes living here as well. Though by 1683 the Society’s assets already included a sawmill, a glasshouse, and a tannery in Philadelphia, but two score years later they were bankrupt. The Assembly put the property of the Society in the hand of trustees in order to pay its debts.
Home to many members of the federal government when Philadelphia served as the nation’s capital, the area also attracted the locally wealthy and international nabobs as well. As the land juxtaposed the river and the seat of government, it was the most valuable in the city. From greed and speculation, lots were divided and divided again. The result: the serpentine walkways, abrupt angles, and tiny alleys that today make the area so appealingly intimate.
Over decades the area lost its cachet and ultimately became a dilapidated slum with a massive food distribution center located on Dock Street
But an interesting thing about when Society Hill came back to life is a lot was abandoned and derelict and empty. It wasn’t a case of just displacing people to allow gentrification. That happened in many other areas of the city, however. I am not going to say the Redevelopment Authority was full of angels. There were always stories growing up.
Harry Schwartz, 84, remembers when his neighborhood, Society Hill, was one of the poorest parts of Philadelphia. But by the time he moved there as a young lawyer in 1969, things had changed. City planners had fixed up crowded blocks of crumbling old houses and razed a congested, old wholesale produce market to make way for majestic modernist towers. Schwartz and his pediatrician wife were attracted to Society Hill’s architectural gems, tucked among its cobblestoned, walkable streets. Soon, they found themselves surrounded by a community of artists, activists, and young professionals like them.
They loved it. Society Hill allowed them to bike to work and walk to friends’ houses for Julia Child-inspired dinner parties…The reinvention of Society Hill in the 1960s is widely considered one of the first instances of gentrification — although no one called it that at the time….“What happened in Society Hill in our experience, and I speak only from that, was not displacement,” says Schwartz, who moved in about a decade after city government spurred the redevelopment of the neighborhood. “But rather [by the time they moved in 1969], re-occupation and restoration.”
It was different. And it was a time where progress didn’t hurt so much and people were actively participating in historic preservation.
There is this website I have discovered called Preserving Society Hill. They have these oral histories transcribed. Some I have read have made me very emotional reading them. These are the people of my earliest years, the faces of where I lived. Some I still know today. It is boring for all of you to hear me talk about this website, but for me, I am reading interviews given by people whose houses I played in or who my mother was in the babysitting co-op with and so on.
I will share a snippet of one given by Mrs. Burnette. She and her husband who is an architect were friends of my parents and my sister and I went to school with their daughters. They lived on S. 3rd Street. I loved their house and still am connected to the daughters today:
DS: Tell me more about the condition of the house. Had it been open to the elements? Had it been vacant for a long period of time?
MB: I think it had been vacant for a while, because it was – as I remember, it was just large and dirty. [Laughs]
DS: Large and dirty. Were there animals or anything inside?
MB: No, no, it didn’t seem to be that way.
MB: No. Of course, it’s surprising that we went up into the attic and cleaned (5:00) the attic first of all. I remember being up there with a broom and sweeping out the attic and finding an old shoe. But the rest of it was pretty open. I don’t know if the Redevelopment Authority had come in and cleaned some of it out. Has anybody else said anything about that?
……DS: The Redevelopment Authority – you bought it from them.
MB: Yes. As I remember, it was $9,800.
Another oral history was given by my friend’s father Philip Price. What an amazing man he is!
Philip Price, Jr.’s account of his experience restoring 321 Spruce Street seems to include more lawsuits than do those of other narrators. A fire on the third floor had done a lot of damage to the house when Phil and his wife Sarah bought the place in 1965. The house was in “absolutely appalling” condition, but Phil and Sarah wanted to live in Center City and “enjoy the challenges of moving into a redevelopment area.” They also bought the property next door, 319 Spruce, where they would enjoy planting a garden. They did a complete rehab of the house: electrical, plumbing, roof, painting, nine fireplaces all restored to working order, and ultimately shutters required by the Redevelopment Authority.
One lawsuit arose after Phil and his contractor discovered that the chimney shared by the unrestored, unoccupied house next door at 323 Spruce was about to fall off the houses and crash onto the sidewalk – so imminently that Phil had the chimney removed immediately and wrote a letter to the other owner describing what had happened. The other owner sued Phil, but Phil prevailed
Truthfully this Preserving Society Hill website is a gem to me. Even some of my childhood playmates are interviewed with the oral histories. If you lived in Society Hill when we did you will love the memories evoked. It’s why I love oral histories and think they are so important. I have always said communities should commit to oral histories.
But what is also so great about the oral histories I am reading on this website is I am not mis-remembering things. Like all of us who got jumped or mugged. Yes truly and as kids. They stole my friend’s bike right out from under us in Bingham Court which was down the street from our house. My friend wore glasses and they smashed them in her face. Then there was the Halloween a whole bunch of us got mugged for our Unicef collection boxes. And we were with parents. I remember we were wearing these giant paper costumes by Creative Playthings too – parents loved them because you could bundle kids up underneath.
Society Hill was tough but it was wonderful. I loved the history of it and still do. It was proof that historic preservation does and can work. This is my touchstone when I think about historic preservation anywhere. Society Hill brought together people from all walks of life, backgrounds, races, religions. Oh and guess what else? Most people had walled gardens they created as they were restoring their houses.
So Meg Veno? Thank you for inspiring me today and evoking happy memories that made me take another ramble down my own memory lane.
We need more preservation. We need development to fit with where we live when it happens. It is possible.
Hands down one of my favorite places for breakfast and lunch in Chester County is Dixie Picnic in the Lincoln Court Shopping Center on Route 30 in Frazer/Malvern.
I realized that although I have been enjoying the place for years, I have never written about them. Well I need to rectify that.￼
It’s not fussy, it’s not pretentious, it’s good food, well-prepared, served with a smile￼. It’s a wonderful scratch kitchen and I love sending people there because they are always so happy that they’ve gone! And now through the website you can even order online to pick up.￼￼ And they have catering available!
The owners are as lovely as can be￼, and when we went today for breakfast we could smell the delicious smells of baking bread. (Their sourdough bread is my favorite.￼)
Today my husband had an omelette which is his usual go to go out to breakfast fare. It arrived the table fluffy and pretty.
He said it was delicious as always!
I tried something different today. I tried their avocado toast. I have had it a bunch of places recently where I wasn’t thrilled with it. It’s a pretty basic thing to make but some people just do too much. Today was perfect.
It arrived on a slice of their lovely sourdough bread and the avocados were just perfectly ripe and slightly smashed with an over easy egg on top. I added a little salt and pepper and some Tabasco sauce and oh my it was awesome! Truthfully it’s the best avocado toast I have had anywhere.￼￼￼￼￼
Something else they are known for that I did not have today are the upcakes￼. Delightfully homemade simply iced cakes in an array of flavors every time you go in the door. Some of my favorites include the carrot cake upcake and the red velvet upcake . And they also have this devil’s food one that has this amazing mocha frosting. And if you’re looking for something that is a lighter and fluffier upcake try the lemon￼￼. Upcakes are magically delicious.
Dixie Picnic is a wonderful Chester County business and I hope you give them a try!
Truly, it never ceases to amaze me what people think it is acceptable to say to another human being. And online for the world to see no less.
This was on Facebook today. In a gardening group. Directed at me from a total rather Angry Married White Female (remember the horror movie Single White Female?)
I hate this word. It’s an angry, vile, hateful, even violent word and it shouldn’t cross the lips of any woman (or man). It’s one of those words that will never be acceptable in polite company or anywhere.
That is not to say I don’t occasionally have a potty mouth. I can drop the F-Bomb on occasion. Heck one of my dear friends actually bought me an F-Bomb paperweight when I got diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011.
But no matter when I like many others gets the occasional case of potty-mouthitis, we don’t use the C word. We certainly don’t write the C word.
The woman who decided I was like the devil or something is a mother, with young enough kids. And this is how she leads by example with her children? Alrighty then.
Now I could have just shown the screen shot with her name but I chose not to out of respect for her family and her children. I even did it out of pity for her because how can you not pity someone who thinks this is OK?
Did I have words with this woman to precipitate this? Nope. Had I ever interacted with her? Unless you count approving her for a gardening group, nope. Wouldn’t know her if I saw her in the grocery store.
But she decided she did not like something I wrote and that was her solution. Mine was to remove and block her.
We do not have to like one and other. We don’t have to agree with one and other. But the great thing that USED to occur in this country is you could disagree on a topic and not get vile. But not any longer. Everyone is a keyboard tiger.