Today is ugly season in Downingtown at Kerr Park. Their objective? To be louder, uglier, and nastier than everyone else.
This makes them (in their minds) better Americans than you and I.
They aren’t. It’s not actually a contest.
But all of this ugliness is exactly WHY people have to get out and vote Tuesday. They are exactly the reason we have to vote to preserve our rights. And those rights are whichever ones apply to us as human beings and Americans. If you think about it, to an extent, this election season is about protecting the basic human rights Americans enjoy, isn’t it? Our rights aren’t subjective.
Oh and where would we be without a Ron Paul t-shirt sighting as well?
The ugliness and abusive behavior and implied violence is supposed to make you afraid to stand up. It’s still the basic premise of bullies only win if you allow them. Trust me, I know. Threats and implied threats and harassment have become every day behavior for bloggers and other independent voices that aren’t interested in political cultism.
Those photos above demonstrate clearly that the Chester County GOP panders to extremism and extremists. If you are a Republican and you care about the party of Lincoln, I hope Tuesday you vote to keep their current slate of insanity and inadequacy out of office. I hope you vote to save what’s left of your party by voting against them.
Republicans and Democrats need to try to set a path forward to return to moderation, balance, and a viable working two party system. Because we need a viable two-party working system to maintain a democracy. That means saying NO to the ENTIRE GOP slate this time.
We are already “free people.” Our founding fathers fought, died, and bled for it. that means that these people also get to demonstrate their ugliness, sadly. But it doesn’t mean they have to win. But it means that Kumbaya time is over and you need to get out and vote on Tuesday.
I am just one voice. This is not my sole responsibility, and more of you need to find your individual voices. How we move forward as a county, state, region, and a country is a “We the People” kind of thing. I am not interested in people telling me how I should think and how I should write and what I should write about. I am writing about this because it matters to me personally. When I was born, women had limited rights. Women weren’t even really supposed to have their own bank accounts and credit card accounts and store charge accounts. And along with everything else, we vote Tuesday as women to preserve our rights. Don’t tell me you care, show me you care by actually voting.
The secret is out. Once again the billboard baron is on the march. A reminder of what they did in East Whiteland Township, Chester County:
Oh and these are the trees they weren’t allowed to take in East Whiteland because residents went to PennDOT:
What has recently been heard regarding East Whiteland is that Catalyst withdrew their application from Penndot not so long ago and something like the billboard site is being sold to yet another billboard company?
And here are more views of current uses of the West Conshohocken sign not really so far away from where they want them in Lower Merion:
Yeah so read what came out from one Lower Merion Township Commissioner, Josh Grimes. And people say the commissioner in Bryn Mawr, Scott Zelov is all for moving the billboards so it now becomes the problem of another area of the township? Pretty obnoxious if true, right? Especially given all of the support other commissioners have gladly provided to him all these years over billboards in Bryn Mawr? Really hope this isn’t true don’t you? I also wonder who he’s using for a lawyer this time? Because unless I am mistaken I believe the lawyer he used and East Whiteland is actually Radnor Commissioner Jack Larkin and I wonder how he would feel if the shoe was on the other foot and they wanted to put billboards in Radnor?
And what’s with the carrot and rabbit psychology by billboard company? Kind of like what they did in East Whiteland, right? Perhaps it’s being done this way in Lower Merion because the objective all along was to get the giant TV billboards on the Schuylkill Expressway? Maybe the billboards should go up at “Maple Hill”? That’s in Gladwyne, right?
So my opinion which I’m entitled to have as I hope lower Merion fights these billboards because just because the man can buy a house in Lower Merion it doesn’t mean Lower Merion should have to be the location for his billboards unless they’re going on his own front lawn, Anyway, here is what Lower Merion residents are now facing:
Now, I aim to be helpful, and I do not wish for ANYONE to not be able to read the screenshot (and so many don’t *get* all they have to do is *click* on the photo to see larger size), so allow me to give y’all the text:
Subject:Ethics InquiryGood Afternoon, Attached you will find a copy of an ad that I received at my home address [REDACTED] on Saturday, October 22nd. If you follow the QR code on the ad, it leads to the website of Kyle Scribner, who is the Republican candidate opposing me in this election. I have searched the Department of State website and I cannot find a report filed by the Uwchlan Township Republican Committee or a committee on file in that name one the DOS website. I also reviewed Mr. Scribner’s finance report and cannot find an In-Kind Donation disclosure on his finance report and he has not filed any 24 hr. reports that I can see.
Today I stopped in to Chester County Voter Services and requested to see Uwchlan Township Republican Committee’s report and no such committee exists. However, Area 25 Republican Committee, which is also a name that this organization goes by was available to review. It does appear that there are 3 expenditures that could align with this mailing and the date that they mailer was received.
The person submitting the report on behalf of the Area 25 Republican Committee, 605 Portland Drive, Downingtown, PA 19335 is Douglas Simpson.
I do understand that mistakes may be made in the process of filing campaign finance reports. However, transparency and accountability to the voters in disclosure of contributions is the reason that our campaign finance laws exists.
There are a few concerns here:
The advertising disclosure is required in order to make it easy for a voter to trace the source of material that they are being sent and who paid for them. The disclosure on this mail piece does not align with any registered committee at the state or local jurisdiction. This could constitute mail fraud.
If this committee is playing at a state level, it is required to report to the Department of State and has failed to register or report their expenditures to the state.
If Area 25 Republican Committee is the true source of this mail, doing business as the Uwchlan Twp. Republican Committee, they are violating campaign finance laws.
Friends or Kyle Scribner has also failed to disclose this significant in-kind contribution on their campaign finance report.
Additionally, one of the people who was reported on the Area 25 Republican Committee finance report to have personally paid for this mailer against me is Michael Taylor. Michael Taylor ran against me in 2020 and in 2021 Michael Taylor served as the solicitor for the Chester County Republican Committee.
Mr. Taylor presided on behalf of Margie Miller over a dispute regarding the Downingtown Area School District – Region 4 election, where the Democratic incumbent school board member lost the election by 4 votes, with 16 votes not being counted for various reasons. I spent several days observing this process and Michael Taylor’s close access and involvement in the process of determining which votes would and would not be counted. It concerns me that he may have this access in the process of counting vote by mail ballots in my race or any other race this year. He has gone on the record on social media saying that they only needed to get vote by mail ballots thrown out in that election to win. How can I be assured that he will not be involved in the process of determining the outcome of my race on election day?
Transparency with voters is critical to an election process that has integrity.
I have been advised to report to Chester County Voter Services, the PA Department of State and the Chester County District Attorney, all who have jurisdiction over issues such as this. Can you advise me on how to proceed?
Danielle Friel Otten
~ Danielle friel Otten November 1, 2022 at 5:28:15 PM EDT
Well I don’t have much more to say on the topic except for one wee thing. What do Uwchlan Republican Committee, AKA “Area 25” share with the Republican Committee of Chester County? Give up? The Chair of Uwchlan Republican Committee is the Vice Chair of the Republican Committee of Chester County. Isn’t that like SO cozy? I thought so. I like coincidinks, don’t you?
Oh and did I mention that the Republican Committee of Chester County blocks this blog on Facebook? Yup, they block, this blog’s Facebook page although this blog has never commented on their Facebook page. It’s very amusing, isn’t it?
Also amusing? The premise for the attack ad was how Danielle voted. But we all know if we use our brains, boys and girls, that how and why elected officials vote is not always a simplistic YES or NO. And if the elected official is someone like Danielle, if you ask nicely, she will tell you how and why she voted a particular way on a particular bill. FOLLOW THIS LINK TO CHECK THAT VERY THING OUT.
Anyway, Danielle Friel Otten is a friend. She was a friend before she ran for office. I am not in her district, but I believe in right and wrong. And I think unless Kyle Scribner has perpetual laryngitis he has some mansplaining to do, doesn’t he?
Whether or not anyone does a darn thing remains to be seen, but this is definitely interesting.
P.S. a helpful critic wrote in to remind me that I had written a post with Kyle Scribner in it before, so I had to post a correction. Actually, no, there is not need for mea culpas because I literally did not know who was running against Danielle as in the name of her opposition. But he is in a post about East Brandywine from October, 2020. Also truthfully? Once I heard who was running against Danielle I realized I had forgotten he existed in politician land. But since “Teresa” the helpful critic wrote in, I thought I would share the old post in case anyone wants to see those old East Brandywine meetings. But “Teresa” sadly said she couldn’t take me seriously because I said “mansplaining” and that it was a “gender thing.” I am horribly crushed, as everyone know I live for people named Teresa or Theresa to take me seriously….Go watch the Phillies people and quit writing to me LOL.
When Trump won his presidential election I thought it sucked. Can’t stand him, never could. It had nothing to do with him being a politician. I thought he was a crook and a schemer and kind of nuts. Truthfully, him being President only confirmed my original feelings.
Did I love Hilary Clinton? Honestly, no. But him? Trump? He was the exact reason as a woman I knew as soon as he became the nominee, the Republican Party was no longer the party of Lincoln, but it was also no longer the party who cared about regular, everyday people period.
Are all Republicans bad? Nope. But good Republicans are hiding. They don’t want to be part of this nonsense. And it’s a shame they hide, because our country is a democracy based on a two party system. And our democracy is at risk.
Now back to election deniers.
When Trump won, I didn’t run around with my friends screaming the election was rigged. He won by being the snake oil salesman, fanatical cheating tent revival charlatan that he has always been. But the thing about Trump is there is always something lacking about the Wizard behind the curtain, so when he ran again, he lost.
When he lost, along came the election deniers to say it was wrong. Then came the January 6th assault on democracy and our nation’s capital. And there has been every day since then that has been an assault on democracy and what it is to actually BE an American, what it MEANS to be an American.
No one stole the 2020 election. Donald Trump lost the election all by himself. And obviously enough Republicans felt he was a corrupt Boss Tweed S.O.B. for that to happen.
I am tired of the barrage of misinformation from the sea of unqualified, nasty, potentially corrupt, apply your own pejorative term candidates the Republican Party is trying to shove down our throats. Allow me to point out a few: Oz, Mastriano, Napoleon “#whereisGuy” Ciarrocchi, Sarah Marvin, Gail Newman, Jessica Florio, Heidi VanderWaal, and the virtually mute Kyle Scribner. These people are not running for any of us. Truthfully I am not sure why any of them are running at all, and they are basically one step removed from digging up corpses out of the cemetery to run as Republican candidates. And all of these candidates cater to extremist groups and in some cases belong to them.
The Republican Party locally, regionally, statewide, and nationally have latched onto election deniers and election denying simply because that is all they have got. There is nothing based in reality, it’s all airbrushed for lock stepping sound bytes. And Trump still controls them, and he does nothing for the greater good, it’s all about doing things that benefit him, and that is the way it has always been. Trump is a corrupt malignant narcissist.
So if you out there want to believe the scams they are selling, that is on you. And I pity you all because if people like this prevail, we all lose. It’s that simple.
Truthfully I wish real Republicans would come out of the shadows. And send the deniers packing.
Also a friendly reminder that this is my opinion and until they repeal the first amendment I am allowed to have it. You don’t have to agree with me, and I have the right to choose not to engage including with threats and harassment.
I am more than tired of the personal and ad hominem attacks I am receiving because sometimes I share what Danielle Friel Otten shares. The latest is I lack INTEGRITY because I do.
Well here’s the 411: there are people in her district whom I feel lack INTEGRITY because they believe some hack spin doctor cooking up attack ads and nasty mailers in a soulless office located who knows where over a woman who has proven time and again she is there for her constituents and has been one of you fighting against things that are wrong.
I feel that attacking ME instead of having polite and reasoned conversations with her directly LACKS INTEGRITY. There. I said it.
Further and to the point, I can’t control the content of attack ads and attack mailers deliberately designed to divide communities, I can only be responsible for myself and how I feel. To that end, it’s not up to you all to decide who my friends are or why I know they are good people.
Every election season since Danielle Friel Otten has been a candidate and run for office there have been attack ads in some form or another. Her opponents assail her character. And WHY do they do that? Because of the fact that she is actually in Harrisburg for the RIGHT reasons to DO HER JOB FOR HER CONSTITUENTS, even the ones being pig ignorant.
If you want to speak with her, try being polite and not acting like you woke up and left your mind and manners behind. How about saying thank you to Danielle for all of the time she takes for all of you at her personal expense of missing everyday moments with her own family, her own children?
I am a grown up American woman entitled to make my OWN choices, including supporting my friends whom I think do a good job at their jobs. Supporting a friend doesn’t show a lack of integrity, it actually demonstrates integrity. Maybe you don’t like that I support my friends, but that is NOT your decision, it’s mine.
I am not of the religion of the sheeple and never have been. And also as American 🇺🇸 woman I still have freedom of choice and not just over the rights to do what I want with my body.
And speaking of a woman’s right to choose, I don’t want politicians in my medical business telling me or doctors or insurance companies or anyone what I can or cannot do. You see, this is akin to spot zoning, and politicians taking us back to back alley abortions will affect so much a woman has to deal with, not just one thing.
I already voted to protect my choices as a woman. I encourage everyone to vote to protect women’s choices and other choices like the rights to free and fair elections. Do I think democracy is at stake this election? Yes I do.
But above all else stop telling women how to think. Stop telling ME how I am supposed to feel about my friends.
Don’t let Pennsyltucky ignorance take over Pennsylvania.
With election season here, it means two more lawn signs in Westtown Township, Chester County. It means a vote “YES” to save Crebilly sign. Sadly it also means a vote “NO” to save Crebilly sign.
I have been keeping my mouth shut but I think now is the time to say something. There isn’t much time to make the right decision here.
The folks who want a “YES” vote have it right. This is a unique opportunity it’s not just a couple of acres, it’s a lot of acres. It’s a lot of open space. Its a lot of open space that nods to agricultural tradition and the equine culture that literally made Chester County. It’s also a lot of open space with serious historic importance.
Voting “YES” to save Crebilly won’t come around again. In the short term, does it mean you get to pay a little more as a resident in taxes? Yes it does. But tax increases for land purchases such as this have a sunset date, don’t they? They don’t last forever, do they?
Land is not free. Could the Robinson family just donate the whole kit and kaboodle like the Haas family did with Stoneleigh? Maybe they could, but I don’t think they ever would. I think this is the best deal that residents are going to get who want this land parcel saved in perpetuity.
People have worked for years to get everything to this point. A critical point in the history of Westtown Township. And that’s where the naysayers come in. The naysayers claim to be fiscal conservatives, but I think they just want a free lunch. I think they’re being selfish. Yes it’s a hard time to ask people to dig deeper and pay a little bit more each year and taxes. But it’s not forever.
If the naysayers get their way and push through the “NO” vote and Crebilly is NOT saved, in my humble opinion they should be shunned, yes a good old-fashioned Amish shunning.
It’s pretty simple and no one should have to spell it out for you. If Westtown does not get a “YES” vote, the development Russian Roulette will start again and this time? The neighbors of Crebilly, the concerned residents of Westtown, and essentially anyone in the area will be screwed in perpetuity. The open space will be gone, the roads will be more clogged, the infrastructure will be stressed unbelievably, and let’s talk about the West Chester Area School District because what do you think it means to get a huge development on Crebilly to that district?
So that’s the choice that is before you residence of Westtown Township. Do you vote “YES” and have something in perpetuity that you, your neighbors, your friends, your children and your children’s children can love and enjoy and be proud of OR do you end up looking like an over developed section of Delaware County or Bensalem or King of Prussia that everyone hates?
Vote “YES” residents of Westtown. Tune out the selfish naysayers who don’t, can’t, or won’t understand. If they don’t like it, they can move, right? It’s a desirable municipality to live in, after all.
Vote “YES” to #SAVECREBILLY . It’s the ultimate act of community.
Once a long, long time ago now, friends of mine banded together with others and became The Friend of the Willows Cottage. Things like charettes were held. Fundraising and friend raising was done. The media paid attention. For a while it was wonderful.
It was wonderful until it wasn’t. Kind of like Skunk Hollow Community garden. IT was great, until it wasn’t. Now both languish somewhat.
But I keep hearing present day rumblings about the Willows cottage. I forget how much was spent to fix it up? Like hundreds of thousands of dollars in total? And now it is supposedly in disarray and a mold pit again? Why wasn’t the Radnor Conservancy paying attention? But wait, have they ever paid attention to other than their very narrow social club? If they had just moved their offices to the Willows Cottage years ago like people wanted them to, perhaps we wouldn’t even be having this conversation today?
Anyway, what is the future of the cottage?
I received an email today:
The issue of the final disposition of the Cottage that so many of us spent good energy in preserving and improving is once again in jeopardy.
Second handedly, people are saying that the cottage is closed to all persons, because of the black mold having returned that many worked to clean off, with white vinegar.
Whether this Township asset stays or goes should not happen without first having an in-depth discussion and exploration of several ideas for returning this asset to full use.
Working together we saved this building once; maybe creative minds working together can bring it into the future?
Feedback requested. And, please forward this email to anyone else you think would want to know.
I find this terribly sad and such a waste to even contemplate. But Radnor is regressing at such a rate, it wouldn’t surprise me. But I will throw up this post in the hopes that people will care. One of my friends who cared deeply about this and helped passed away a few years ago, and he would be so sad to hear this news…I really hope there are enough people out there to still care.
Move over Marie Antoinette, Saint Theresa of West Whiteland is on the Zoom! Apparently people are being chastised for NOT going to the grocery store and using services like Instacart and Amazon? Nice. I found her interaction with this resident completely condescending, and did she go to the political graveyard of West Whiteland to dig up dead bodies to say they like the crappy and overpriced big W trash bags too?
Seriously, there were former officials speaking whose idea it probably was in the FIRST PLACE to do this whole trash bag thing! So of course they were good ol’ cheerleaders! (Full meeting video available HERE.)
Now I honestly couldn’t decide if Saint Theresa of West Whiteland should be Marie Antoinette for Halloween, or just a witch. So she has two costume options. Readers can decide on the best costume.
I will share video snippets of this public meeting and a word of warning to Supervisor Rajesh Kumbhardare. To Supervisor Raj, I caution you on your tone with residents at meetings. You are starting to sound dictatorial and combative. That is really unattractive and you can do and be better. Generally speaking, I think you are a good guy, hence the warning.
But Saint Theresa? Oy woman, just #resign already. You are an embarrassment to women, female politicians, and your own political party. Quit acting like Bossette Tweed of New Tammany Hall. How you grocery shop isn’t necessarily the golden rule of shopping is it? Who are you to judge every resident who essentially doesn’t agree with you? Ed the nice and friendly resident who spoke wasn’t the enemy. He expressed his opinion politely and in a non-threatening manner. You were rude. But then again you are always rude. You talk OVER everyone and CONSTANTLY interrupt. It’s like you are so damn afraid you won’t be paid attention to, and why is this always “The Theresa Show”? If the world revolves around YOU, lady then stop the spin so we can all jump off.
Why do you care where the guy gets his groceries? Why do youcare where the man gets his toilet paper or paper towels? What does THAT have to do with West Whiteland’s over priced but cheap trash bags? And no, we all actually don’t have to go to the grocery store any longer. And however you parented and whatever you thought when you had school age kids way back when is not necessarily everyone else’s opinion and experience. We don’t care. You aren’t a shining example of anything other than an extraordinarily unpleasant politician. That, madam, will be your enduring legacy.
You want to complain constantly on social media about how hard you work, like you are the only one who has ever worked hard, right? Ok, we get it. One of my grandmothers would have called that poor mouthing.
No one is ever as good as you are in your estimation. But then again you were the one who wanted a finance person to just cut a big check at the beginning of the year, bypassing proper procedure, so is your personal estimation even one we should take into account? I guess that might be a conversation for another day. But hey what do I know, I am just a troll, right? (Your words, I also saved the screen shots before you deleted them but you haven’t deleted that post dated September 15th where you trash talk a resident you are threatened by, right?)
Back to the trash: I do not believe all of the people who say they only put out one little trash bag a week. I DO believe that people dump their trash elsewhere, I have seen it with my own eyes in East Whiteland where the walking trail goes behind some office complexes. I literally watched someone drive into the place from the road, stop their car, pop the trunk, dump trash into office complex dumpster and drive off. I have seen it in other places too. When I lived in Lower Merion there was once an apartment landlord that would pick up his trash in Lower Merion and take it to apartments they owned in Narberth.
I understand why people in developments don’t want trash cans. They don’t want trash cans because their neighbors now just leave the recycling bins out everywhere for days without bringing them back to their garages. But that is an issue with the association that runs their development, isn’t it? If the HOAs were proactive and said they were going to fine residents for leaving trash bins out all of the time and blocking sidewalks, don’t you think development residents would be more proactive?
And the quality of the trash bags is poor. Even residents who like the trash bags say that. And they also comment on how the price can jump around if the retail outlets are paying molly markup. Why can’t trash bags be delivered to residents like quarterly? Or have them available at the township building?
And as for the trash haulers making coin on the side? Cash is king, and if people are tipping them to just just make the trash go away, as long as there are bags, I think this will continue to happen. It’s human nature, sadly.
It’s a shame, really. This is really about politicians who want to govern by surveys. Not everyone will take a survey, some actually want people to TALK to them. But some won’t do surveys in addition because they fear retaliation. Some just don’t have time. I think the survey was set up to fail because two supervisors wanted this to fail. But that is on them and their future elections, isn’t it?
The other thing that is a shame is while certain things in West Whiteland seems to be improving, certain elected officials are not. Saint Theresa of West Whiteland is unpleasant essentially EVERY meeting. Sometimes she has public meeting wig outs, other times it’s on social media. And when she puts on the extra special Bossette Tweed outfit on election day, well look out?
Why does she have to be that way? The simple answer is she doesn’t. The more complicated answer is appears she is not capable of any other way to be and is just so utterly unhappy and angry a person, that it spills out in all directions. And I can wonder aloud about politicians, Theresa.
Anyway, just another trick and no treats meeting this week in West Whiteland. And that is not because trash bags won. It’s because SOME had issues with the public speaking out and not agreeing.
Oakwell. 1735 County Line Road, Villanova, PA. Originally part of Stoneleigh…..
I wrote briefly about Oakwell at the beginning of this year. I wasn’t going to care. I don’t live in Lower Merion any longer, so why should I care? Then a friend sent me photos. She had gone on an impromptu tour of the grounds, and met Dr. Bennett who is the man who first was selling to Villanova, then Lower Merion School District had it’s greedy paws out.
But then down the rabbit hole I went because a friend was there this weekend and sent me photos.
It started with the tea house. Such a folly. I had seen photos of them in Victorian estates. And then I saw the life size terra cotta warrior. A Chinese warrior. I find the Chinese terra cotta warriors fascinating. I have a small replica of one. (Check out the Smithsonian article HERE on them.) I have only seen life size ones in this area one other time: a few years ago for sale at Resellers Consignment Gallery in Frazer.
Then I read some fun history the Save Oakwell folks have dug up:
In 1919, William Bodine was making preparations to build his new house on a portion of his father’s Stoneleigh estate, a property that came to be known as Oakwell in 1922. The famed Olmsted Brothers firm had been Stoneleigh’s landscape architects since 1908, and there are hundreds of pages of their records for both properties accessible in the Library of Congress and the National Park System’s Olmsted Archives showing the level of expertise and thought that went into the stewardship of this place through the 1950s.
What was Olmsted Brothers’ main concern when it came to placement of the new house and driveway along County Line Road? Almost 103 years ago to this day, this telegram to their client William Bodine, along with other correspondence, shows that their main concern was situating these structures in order to “save trees.”
~ Erin Vintinner Betley “Save Oakwell” Facebook Group
Friday May 23, 1919 was a busy day for Stoneleigh’s Eleanor Gray Warden Bodine.
Bryn Mawr College was hosting the 5th Annual Conference of the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association. As an association member, Mrs. Bodine listened to talks on topics ranging from War Gardens to Community Gardens to the Woman’s Land Army.
Two years later, an article in House & Garden titled “Consider the Gardener” again shone a public spotlight on this program for training of young women, “offered by Mrs. Samuel T. Bodine of Villa Nova, Pa whose extensive estate and eminent superintendent-gardener, Mr. Alexander MacLeod, have formed an exceptional combination.”
After the program, the conference attendees toured 4 nearby farms & gardens, with Stoneleigh the last stop of the day. Eleanor Bodine would have welcomed attendees to view Stoneleigh’s magnificent gardens at the front of the property but given the interests of the membership, the back of the property likely would have been center stage. For this is where Mrs. Bodine and her superintendent Alexander MacLeod hosted an innovative gardening and horticultural training program for women, centered on a greenhouse complex and Superintendent’s Cottage designed by noted architect Frank Miles Day sometime before 1903 (both structures became part of her son William Bodine’s Oakwell after 1922). The women in the program lived in a dormitory they named “Squirrel Inn,” built specifically for them by the Bodine family, near the sprawling fruit and vegetable gardens where they spent their days (these were Victory gardens during WWI).
The article focused on the need to foster the interest of more young people in gardening and horticulture, with these lines that resonate 101 years later: “nature study classes and school gardens are awakening special powers of observation and emphasizing the practical value of patience and diligent perseverance…. public and private enterprise must combine to throw searchlights on the path to be chosen, revealing the mysteries of science related to horticulture [because] even soil… teems with history, science, poetry and religion.”
~ Erin Vintinner Betley “Save Oakwell” Facebook Group
So Oakwell. Was (again) literally once part of Stoneleigh. Stoneleigh as in the house was built in 1877 by Edmund Smith, a Pennsylvania Railroad executive. Pennsylvania Railroad money built a lot of the Main Line of a certain period, didn’t it? When the Bodines acquired the estate, in the early part of the 20th century, what is now Oakwell and Oakwell land was gifted to William Bodine. William Bodine’s house “Oakwell” was built in 1922. In 1932, it was subdivided off of Stoneleigh.
So Stoneleigh survived, was donated by the Haas family to Natural Lands, yet Oakwell, which is a place that should be part of a similar preservation and conservation conversation is at risk. It is fascinating that there has not been more noise about this. Maybe people are just tired of Lower Merion School District taking properties or causing reassessments and increases in taxes. The Lower Merion School District is a greedy behemoth and I don’t think those in the administration have ever cared about other that what can be gotten in the name of the school district.
Next up: trying to make preservation conversations fun. Another rabbit hole I went down were old newspaper clippings. Enjoy:
Now here are a couple of society clippings discussing Oakwell and more recent era parties which I remember hearing of:
Ok yes, a lot of this is memories of days gone by, but properties like Oakwell? Legendary. Why shouldn’t a place like Oakwell live on with an adaptive reuse? The gardens although a wreck, are all still there! The tree are amazing. There is literally a small oak forest. And all of this is supposed to be flattened for TURF fields? For MIDDLE SCHOOLERS, no less? Is this an actual need, or a want?
Hidden City Philadelphia wrote an amazing article a couple of days ago. The talk about Oakwell being a historical resource. I will remind people this is Lower Merion Township and I watched Addison Mizner’s La Ronda get demolished. Being a historic asset may buy some time, but we live in a private property rights state, so it can sadly only delay the inevitable. And Lower Merion needs to pay more mind to demolition by neglect, in my humble opinion.
Here is an excerpt:
….The Oakwell estate’s current resident, Dr. John Bennett, founder and CEO of Devon Medical Products, has lived there for 25 years. He intended to sell the sprawling estate to Villanova University to be used as a retreat. However, in December 2018 the school district elbowed out Villanova and voted in favor of condemning Bennett’s property.
This is not how the school district sees it. “After a long search, the school district paid more than $12.9 million for the contiguous properties, which had both been offered for sale by their owners, for use as playing fields for Black Rock Middle School,” said Amy Buckman, director of school and community relations for Lower Merion School District.
Bennett disagrees. “I had the property under agreement with Villanova and, just prior to closing, the school district took it by eminent domain,” he said. “I didn’t want to see it go to baseball fields, destroying the ecological setting we have here. I went to court to fight them and lost. It’s a travesty.” The school district paid Bennett $9.95 million for the property.
“I offered to remain on the property to care for the house, but they want me gone so they can claim that it is abandoned, allow it to deteriorate, and tear it down.” Bennett has kept the entirety of the estate well maintained and still lives there with his daughter and grandchild.
The day that LMSD condemned 1835 County Line Road allowing it to be taken by Eminent Domain, the property was effectively titled to the LMSD. The only option available to the owners to get their property back is to fight a legal battle in court.
Lower Merion Township, PA — Fraud, collusion, and bad faith are alleged in court documents filed on February 7, 2018, by attorney Michael F. Faherty on behalf of his clients, township residents John A. Bennett, M.D. and Nance Di Rocco who are in a legal battle over the taking of their property by the Lower Merion School District.
In the documents, Bennett and Di Rocco are referred to as the “condemnees.”
Who allegedly did these wrongdoings? According to the documents it was the Lower Merion School District.
Using a tool afforded only to governments, the LMSD unleashed the force of “eminent domain” on Bennett and Di Rocco. That Force is the power to condemn and take a private citizen’s home, land or property by a government for the betterment of society.
Eminent domain are two words that can strike fear into anyone owning property that a school district or government wants to own or acquire.
Township residents John A. Bennett, M.D. and Nance Di Rocco of 1835 County Line Road, Villanova, PA have had their property condemned and taken by the Lower Merion School District. That is a fact, but the rest is very murky.
The court documents filed against LMSD allege a pattern of collusion and interference in a private business transaction where Bennett and Di Rocco say that LMSD officials and surrogates worked to scuttle an agreement with Villanova University to buy their property for almost $12 million.
The documents further charge the Lower Merion School District took the property illegally, and that school district officials or their delegates used fraud, collusion and bad faith tactics leading to an arbitrary action by the LMSD…..Villanova University’s President, Father Peter Donohue verbally offered to buy the property for $12 Million and agreed to have the paperwork drawn up.
The documents allege that Superintendent Robert L. Copeland, reached out to Father Donohue, after hearing about Villanova’s interest in the property. The document states that Copeland Donahue that $12 Million was too much for the property. Copeland allegedly told Donohue that the LMSD was interested in buying the property and that LMSD valued the property at $8 Million.
Donahue relayed to Bennett and Di Rocco that the University would delay their offer letter and that they didn’t want to appear hostile or look like they were attempting to block LMSD, “especially with all of the flair up over Stoneleigh.”
At the same meeting, a discussion occurred about both the condemned property on County Line Road and the Spring Mill Road property. The key question being: were both properties needed?
According to Faherty’s filing Dessner stated that “LMSD could sell it to Villanova University.”
Bennett also informed Dessner and Copeland that the University would pull out of their agreement of sale if the condemnees’ were able to reach an agreement with the LMSD.
Bennett provided a copy of the agreement of sale with the understanding that it would remain confidential.
Three days later on December 21, 2018. The school board convened a special meeting and passed a resolution to condemn the property at 1835 County Line Rd, and a press release was issued.
How was Stoneleigh able to block the school district, while the historic landscaping, Acorn Cottage, and horticultural structures of the Oakwell estate, originally part of Stoneleigh, at risk? “When the historic resource inventory survey was conducted in the late 1990s, the greenhouse buildings were overlooked. However, this parcel is historically associated with the Stoneleigh estate and warrants similar protections,” said Kathleen Abplanalp. director of historic preservation at the Lower Merion Conservancy.
“From the very beginning, the entire 13-acre property has fit into our mission goals for historic preservation, open space preservation, the health of the local watershed, and sustainability,” Abplanalp said. “We are vehemently opposed to the current plan and hope the school district will compromise some of their programmatic needs.”
Erin Betley, a conservation biologist who lives in Lower Merion, views the pending destruction of the estate’s landscaping and historically significant structures like the greenhouse complex as lost opportunity. “Oakwell’s intact landscape provides a hands-on educational opportunity for our children, and our community, to learn about ecology, conservation, environmental science, gardening, sustainability, history, natural history, historical preservation, and more,” she said. “Historical records reveal that Stoneleigh’s greenhouse complex and fruit and vegetable gardens were educational spaces for young women during and after WWI, where they gained practical training in gardening while also feeding the community. I hope this can be viewed as a chance for this valuable place to come full circle and used in a way that takes inspiration from our collective past to inform our collective future”…A single mature oak tree can consume more than 40,000 gallons of water a year. Where will all that water go when the Oakwell estate’s trees are gone?
Doug Tallamy, a conservationist, author, and professor of agriculture and entomology at the University of Delaware, agrees. “If you replace a forest with a lawn, you are generating run off,” he said. Tallamy was involved with preserving Stoneleigh. His message to the school district? “Find another place without cutting down hundreds of trees.”
I am a huge fan of Doug Tallamy, own his books, have heard him lecture a few times now. I also live with a woods full of oak trees. I love them. I am attached to my woods and the creatures and plants in them, much like the folks who live around Oakwell.
This property would be better suited as a retreat, which is I think what I heard Villanova wanted to do with the property.
And not to skip around but is all of this crap being done by Lower Merion School District going to cost Lower Merion Township big time when it comes to public works, police, fire, EMTs? So when will they have to put in another firehouse and where exactly?
Here are some links which I saw on Save Oakwell which some of you might find of interest:
What do I think? I am not sure as on one hand, this is such a complex tale that I do not know if we will ever know the whole story. BUT on the other hand I am so tired of major properties being demolished and I am definitely of the school of thought that Lower Merion School District need to be stopped. After all, #thisplacematters and has anyone gone to the National Trust for Historic Preservation yet?
And let’s talk about the trees. 500 as in FIVE HUNDRED. Yes, that is the destruction number. That makes me want to throw up.
Isn’t it time to curb the rabid dog of destruction that is Lower Merion School District? From the historic preservation aspects to land and environmental preservation aspects, sadly Oakwell has it all going on. Yet people are being too damn quiet about this. Natural Lands needs to speak up. Hell, they know what it is to have to fight Lower Merion School District over eminent domain and also, the eco system that is their Stoneleigh will be threatened and altered and affected irrevocably if the mass destruction of Oakwell succeeds. Natural Lands speaking up now is very important, and I don’t quite get their silence, do you?
Oakwell need a reprieve. But more people need to care. Not enough people seem to care or are willing to stick their necks out. I really wish that someone would sit down at Oakwell with people who had lived there, or whose family has lived there and film an oral history. Well that should have happened before I think. And where are elected officials on this? Not just statements of Lower Merion Commissioner, but State Reps, State Senators, Congressional representatives, etc? County Commissioners? State environmentalists?
Where. Is. The. Really. LOUD. Public. Outcry?? And more media or do they only cover bad politicians and crime in Philadelphia?
People. We need to save the region’s history. That includes gardens too. Trees. Houses. Tea Houses. I don’t have the answers. God I wish I did. But if we allow this to happen, in the end we will all be sorry. And I have to ask, is Radnor Township asleep here? Their township is quite literally across County Line Road. Radnor residents will be affected too. One would think the Radnor CONservancy might feign an interest, but that would mean getting out of their bubble, right?
Oakwell needs some big hitter angels, do any exist for this property? Why is it in other areas of the country, properties like this are revered and preserved?