things I ❤️ about west chester pa

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what is history?

Photo off of Twitter August 22, 2017

What is history?  By straight definition it is the study of past events, particularly in human affairs.

In the early 1960s, an English Historian named Edward Hallett Carr wrote a book titled What is History.  It was a study of historiography (study of historical writing/the writing of history). The book discusses history, facts, the bias of historians, science, morality, individuals and society, and moral judgments in history.  I find that so timely considering the craziness of revisionist history overtaking the US today.

Allow me to quote Cambridge University on his book (Cambridge University Press printed it originally in 1961):

…Historiography consists partly of the study of historians and partly of the study of historical method, the study of the study of history. Many eminent historians have turned their hand to it, reflecting on the nature of the work they undertake and its relationship both to the reader and to the past….. he chose as his theme the question ‘What is History?’ and sought to undermine the idea, then very much current, that historians enjoy a sort of objectivity and authority over the history they study. At one point he pictured the past as a long procession of people and events, twisting and turning so that different ages might look at each other with greater or lesser clarity. He warned, however, against the idea that the historian was in any sort of commanding position, like a general taking the salute; instead the historian is in the procession with everyone else, commenting on events as they appear from there, with no detachment from them nor, of course, any idea of what events might lie in the future.

Carr also discussed the influence that a society will play on forming the approach of the historian and the interpretation of historical facts. He wrote about how historians as individual people are also influenced by the society that surrounds them.  He also wrote about the cause and effect of history, and that history is human progression.  It’s fascinating, really. It makes you understand how and why certain historical events seem so different from generation to generation.

So let’s look at our history in the USA.  We are a country born of immigrants, yet today we seem to have such issues with them.  Truthfully, nothing new as every era in the U.S. has historically had issues with various ethnicities  coming to the U.S. in search of their American dream, correct?

We as Americans have ugly wars in our past.  It’s all part of our history. How we got here today, has it’s roots in our past.  It’s how we learn and grow as a society.

Today we are a nation seething with anger and self-righteousness. People love one politician, and hate another.  People love each other, and also hate each other.  It is kind of part and parcel of the human condition, is it not?

We learn from history what we do not wish to repeat, correct? So why is it people do not get if we do not acknowledge and learn from our history we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes?

Our history is not pretty.  No history is 100% pretty.  Even fairy tales are not 100% pretty, so why is it people think they can change the history by removing statues?  I get why people want to remove some statues – like Robert E. Lee.  Even when some versions of history try to be gentle, there isn’t exactly much that is truly redemptive about him. But his personal history was interesting, and he seems to have been a  contradiction of himself at times. (And no I am not a fan of his, that is merely an observation after doing a bit of reading on him when writing this post.)

At the center of the Robert E Lee and tearing down of statues debate is slavery.  Trump asked if we were going to start removing George Washington things as well,  and as a column in the Chicago Tribune asks, where do we as Americans draw the line?

Here is a snippet from the article by Eric Zorn:

It can be an interesting and difficult debate — think of Christopher Columbus, Henry Ford, Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson and other historical figures whose great accomplishments are tainted by words or deeds that horrify those with modern sensibilities….It’s an easy distinction. Washington, Jefferson and other flawed founders built this country. Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and other rebels tried to tear it apart. Unlike Washington and Jefferson, they have no significant compensating virtues or accomplishments to counterbalance their treachery and justify the numerous honors and tributes bestowed on them as symbols of Southern “heritage.”…

This doesn’t mean, as one piously aggrieved reader wrote, that we must purge our personal libraries of accounts of the Civil War. It doesn’t mean we have to sanitize our museums, pave over our battlegrounds or write the Confederacy out of history textbooks. It doesn’t even mean that good ol’ boys and girls can’t put rebel-flag stickers on their cars or build shrines to losing generals on their property.

It means we all have to stop pretending. It means we have to acknowledge Robert E. Lee isn’t an anodyne mascot for sweet tea, stock car races and Faulkner novels, particularly for African Americans, whose continued bondage he fought for.

 

Ahh yes, but here in the Philadelphia area, we have to have what the media calls in situations at times “the Philadelphia connection.”

Enter Frank Rizzo.

Yes that Frank Rizzo, former Mayor of Philadelphia, dead since 1991.

As seen in The Elephant Bar blog, I think this was originally an AP Photo

So as I was researching, I stumbled accross this blog – I found it interesting (and timely), so let me share:

Saturday, December 09, 2006
One Tough Philly Cop, Frank L. Rizzo.

Rizzo was born in 1920 in the Italian-American neighborhood of South Philadelphia. In 1943, like his father before him, he joined the Philadelphia police force and rose to became Commissioner in 1966. Rizzo didn’t care much for the sixties. To him it was all about law and order and he had zero tolerance for those who acted otherwise….Other American cities burned, not Philadelphia. …The man was asymmetric in force and style. Look left at this photo. Check the nightstick from his sharkskin tux. This is Rizzo in 1969, Commissioner Rizzo. While attending a banquet he was informed on an impending riot. Still dressed in his tuxedo, he took charge. No delegating for Rizzo.

Rizzo went on to be mayor. He switched parties from a Democrat to a Republican was elected mayor in 1971 and 1975. No cultural ambiguity or political correctness from Frank…Rizzo lived a modest life and was never charged with anything.

Frank Rizzo died 16 July 1991. He is gone and so is a lot else of that era. America has always had flaws and so has her leaders. The cynical cadre on the left side will always make a cause of tearing down America and the tough patriotic men who created and slowly improved her…The Left has seized the agenda and will set the agenda once again. They know what they are about and their leaders stay true to their cause. The never deviate form staying the course. Conservatives have not done well because of misplaced loyalty to those that call themselves conservative and are not. Given that, which side do you think will win?

 

We are still having the conversation today between left and right, but that is not what we’re talking about today.  We are discussing “what is history?”

Frank Rizzo was an Italian from South Philadelphia.  He may have been many things, but a White Supremacist and slave owner wasn’t among them.  That is inconvenient history to some, but it is the truth, isn’t it?

Helen Gym, on Philadelphia City Council seems to be one of the main proponents of Project Topple Frank, and who is she? I frankly, don’t follow Philadelphia city politics particularly closely and had never heard of her before this.

She is apparently the first Asian American woman to hold this position.  She is Korean and was born in Seattle, raised in Ohio.  Went to Penn as per what I see online, and after college worked as a teacher and as a reporter in Ohio.  She is married and has kids and is a community activist.  In 2009 she was active in a Federal Civil Rights case involving the horrible bullying of Asian students in South Philadelphia. (Click here for her subsequent testimony to the US Commission on Civil Rights.)

Here is her website – check it out HelenGym.com. She has done amazing things, but you know I just do not agree with her whole Rizzo thing.

People conveniently forget how the Italians and Irish were discriminated against in Philadelphia.

Rizzo was a big symbol to a lot of Philadelphians. Positive and negative. But that is kind of like the parallel to what is history isn’t it? The good and the bad? The pretty and the ugly? Are we going to sanitize every piece of history in this country? Can we? Should we?

Taking down Frank Rizzo’s statue is not going to do anything except create more of a divide than exists already in Philadelphia.  He’s not Robert E. Lee.  He wasn’t perfect, but he is part of our regional history – we can’t whitewash all of our history.  The heated rhetoric on both sides does not help.

This country is exploding in ugliness. It makes me sad.  I am not so naïve to think “why can’t we all get along” because it is at it’s core completely contrary to human nature.

I remember years ago, a local politician refusing to go to a historic site for a special occasion.  They wouldn’t go because one of the owners (Quakers) owned slaves. It doesn’t matter that one of the more famous owners of the property freed said slaves and if memory serves, paid them wages.

And ironically, if you are a student of history, you will note that Quakers way back when before times changed, were slave owners .

FACT: even Benjamin Franklin owned a slave. Read more about Franklin and slavery here.  Does this mean we should no longer have statues of Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia as well?

(The Society of Friends did not make slave owning a disownable offence until 1776.)

But what we do need to do is to stop the hate, stop the violence.  A country founded by immigrants is now so at war with itself.  It’s like if we do not change course, we soon will be embroiled in a version of another civil war, or is it happening already?

No matter what our race, creed, or color we need to take back our cities and towns and crossroads from ugliness and violence.  We have the knowledge and power to do it peacefully.  But I just do not see taking down the statues of dead Philadelphia mayors as being helpful to that end.

History is a cruel mistress and we can’t undo certain aspects of it.  We can only use what it teaches us to try to move forward more positively. We should not try to deny what happened or do a revisionist history on our history.  We do need to stop pretending, acknowledge history’s dirty and horrible bits, along with the rest of it and move on.

We have to stop trying to tear each other down as well as catering to the agendas of politicians – not trying to be mean, but politicians without some sort of agenda are few and far between, aren’t they?  We need to be the Americans our forefathers fought and died for, a nation of immigrants yearning for a better life and a desire to be free from tyranny.  The thing about tyranny is it comes in many forms.

Some will like this post, and others will not.  This is something I have been thinking about and I hope I have articulated in a way that provokes thoughtful conversation, not a litany of angry, threatening comments.

Please, be a part of the solution to stop the madness infecting this country, not feed it’s eternal fever.  Use our history to make us better in the future.

I wonder, what will the history books say 25 years from now, 50 years from now, and 100 years from now about what is going on across this country right now? How will they recount the history we are presently living?

For further commentary on Rizzo-Statue-Gate:

Was Frank Rizzo racist, or a product of his time?
by David Gambacorta, Chris Brennan & Valerie Russ – Staff Writers

That Rizzo statue is history! (No, seriously…put it in a museum)
Updated: AUGUST 17, 2017 — 12:07 PM EDT by Will Bunch, STAFF COLUMNIST

Kenney says Art Commission will make the call on Rizzo statue
Updated: AUGUST 22, 2017 — 2:20 PM EDT
by Chris Brennan, STAFF WRITER

Frank Rizzo mural defaced in South Philly                                                           Updated: AUGUST 19, 2017 — 1:31 PM EDT
by William Bender, Staff Writer

the pipeline destruction of chester county breaks my heart

The ugliness of the Sunoco pipeline takes my breath away every time I see it.

Where there once were trees and beautiful landscapes, all you see is destruction. It's now a barren, jagged, raped landscape.

I travel down Boot Road, 352, and similar roads and I see the little orange flags that mean what once was someone's front yard will now be pipeline. I have seen photos all over social media of people's gardens dying because of what Sunoco has done to the landscape.

Every time you see land that was once graceful and lovely or even just had trees that now has become all jagged and bare and dotted with construction equipment and orange construction fencing you can't help but wonder how can they not see this? How can they not care? How can our elected officials seemingly not care?

Sunoco has just stomped along and taken what it wants, when it wants, like a big corporate bully that it is. And the people working for them often seem lacking in respect in my opinion for the residents a lot of the time. We all understand that they have jobs to do and families of their own to feed, but do you think they could even be a little bit more considerate where they are parking at times?

Sunoco's talking heads will tell everyone how they care, but really? Do they think we are stupid? We know they don't care…..except about their bottom line of course.

It's like the inalienable rights that we are all supposed to have as US citizens and even as residents of Pennsylvania mean nothing.

And how will we benefit from the pipeline? I don't think we will and only corporate greed will benefit, correct? How is any of this being done for us?

It would be great if politicians enamored of big gas and big oil would travel the roads and see what we see. Let them deal personally with their land that is part of their home being stolen via eminent domain. (And in my opinion it's also eminent domain for private gain which is detestable. ) Let these politicians personally deal with wondering if their kids are safe, their first responders are safe, and the drinking water is safe, right? Let them watch their real estate values plummet, right?

So how about it Governor Tom Wolf? U.S. Senator Pat Toomey? Congressman Pat Meehan? Care to walk a mile in the shoes of Chester County, PA and Delaware County, PA residents? Never mind, don't bother answering we know you don't care.

This pipeline is a referendum on why we must choose our elected officials on every level better. It might be an off year election this fall but it's never too early to start. It's time to clean political house in Pennsylvania.

history look back: cramond

Enjoy these photos of what we today know as a Goddard School at 95 Crestline Road in Wayne (Strafford). This was Cramond.  My friend Michael Morrison at The Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society gave me special permission to share. I had asked if they had any photos of when this was an active estate.

Cramond is a historic home located in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County. It was a project of the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White in the “Classical Revival” style. 

It was built in 1886, and is a  2 1⁄2-story, six-bay half-timbered dwelling sided in clapboard. It has a hipped roof with a pair of hipped dormers and two large brick chimneys.  It has been used as a daycare/educational facility for years at this point.

Click here to check out the application submitted in the 1980s by the Chester County Historical Society in order for the house to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Cramond- Newhall house is also on the 2003 historic resource survey of Tredyffrin Township. However should it be said that even when municipalities perform historic resource surveys it does not mean there are historic preservation ordinances in effect? 

Cramond was built for Pennsylvania Railroad magnate Daniel Newhall. A segue to Mr. Newhall would be one of his daughters.  Marian Newhall Horowitz O’Brien

That is the fun thing about history. You start on one path, and sometimes it ends up taking you some place unexpected!

Ms. Magazine Blog 100 Years Ago, The South Elected Its First Woman Mayor

July 17, 2017 by Erika Waters

In 1916, 33-year-old widow Marian Newhall Horwitz made the difficult decision to leave her affluent Philadelphia life behind and move to frontier Florida. Her husband had planned an agricultural venture there and although he had died suddenly, she intended to continue in his place.


She soon found herself and her young son on a 2000-acre farm in the northern Everglades, near Lake Okeechobee, far from Florida’s burgeoning coastal cities with fashionable tourist hotels and six-story “skyscrapers.” She grew corn, beans, cabbages and especially potatoes, which particularly thrived in the muck there. Only recently had farming started in the region, for this was primarily the land of cattle ranches and Florida cowboys. Barbed wire fences stretched for miles along unpaved, dusty roads, and cattle drives ran right through Okeechobee, the largest city.

Also see:
The Memorials of Acadia National Park J. J. O’Brien and His Jesuit Settlement Memorial


In 1952 a summer resident of Seal Harbor, ME named John Joseph O’Brien (1882-1971) mounted a bronze plaque on a granite cliff in his “Sea Bench” estate garden and invited garden tours to visit and enjoy it. The memorial commemorated the first settlement of Europeans on Mount Desert Island, ME and the introduction of Christianity to the island in 1613….O’Brien, a Philadelphian and a University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate (1908), was a journalist, industrialist, entrepreneur and politician from Grosse Pointe Farms, MI. Upon graduation he entered newspaper work, but he resigned as city editor of the Philadelphia Ledger in 1914 to go to Florida and develop agricultural land. In 1917 in Hillsborough County (Tampa), FL he married Philadelphian Marian Newhall Horwitz (1882-1932), the widow of Philadelphia attorney George Horwitz, and daughter of Daniel Newhall, vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. He and Marian lived in Moore Haven on the southwest side of Lake Okeechobee. There they formed the Southern Sugar Corp., later reorganized as the U.S. Sugar Corp., the country’s largest producer of cane sugar, and established the town of Clewiston, “America’s Sweetest Town.”

Marian was elected mayor of Moore Haven, a.k.a. “Little Chicago” from its location on Lake Okeechobee, and became the first woman mayor in the South. She also was president of the Moore Haven bank. By 1924 he and Marian had sold their land holdings and left the area. In 1925, while a Palm Beach resident, O’Brien purchased “Guy’s Cliff,” a 6-acre waterfront estate in Bar Harbor that today is the site of the College of the Atlantic’s Kaelber Hall. Marian died in their Grosse Pointe Farms home and is buried with her son and sister in St. David’s Episcopal Church cemetery, Wayne, PA…..

Also visit:

Brickhouse319 Cramond: Where John Grew Up- A McKim, Mead & White Design in Strafford, PA DECEMBER 21, 2015 ~ SUE

This is the house where John grew up. It’s located about 2 miles from Brick House 319. It was designed by the prominent architect Charles Follen McKim of the influential architectural firm McKim, Mead & White in NYC.


The three architects defined the look of the gilded age in the late 19th century and at the turn of the 20th century; they designed some of the country’s greatest buildings, most were concentrated in New York and New England. They were the most famous and successful American architectural firm of its time. Until 1887, the firm excelled in designing large homes built of shingles in Newport, Rhode Island, Long Island and the Jersey Shore….John’s father who was an attorney, bought the house in 1954 and sold it in 1983. John grew up in the house until the age of 23; he had fun living in such a great, big house.

playing tourist in chester county: rambling around marshallton

Every once in a while you need a staycation day. Today was mine. My friend Chris and I went to Marshallton today.  We played tourist in our home county. We rambled in Chester County.

Everyone knows I have not been very mobile since my knee injury at the end of February/ first couple days of March and subsequent surgery in May.  (Yes, it took that long.  I couldn’t walk, and I certainly couldn’t drive and U.S. healthcare has a long and winding and irritating process if you do not practice Emergency Room medicine, as in push to the head of the line and bypass everything by going straight to the E.R.) So now, as I go through the process if physical therapy, I am thrilled to get out again.

My friend picked me up and we went to The Four Dogs Tavern.  I had forgotten how amazing the food is and how wonderful the ambiance, and the terrific and friendly staff. We had the beet salad, which was amazing, and split the mushroom and goat cheese flatbread.

Then we did the senior stroll of the village of Marshallton – I am moving like a snail still.  But oh, to take in the beauty of this village!  This is so what Chester County is about.

My late father loved Marshallton and in particular, the Marshallton Inn.  When some of my girlfriends and I were in our twenties we loved the then Oyster Bar and way back in the dark ages of the late 1980s some were dating guys who competed in the Marshallton Triathlon (and wow what a party afterwards!)

So flash forward to me as a quasi grown-up (some days are better than others!) and today.  Marshallton is more beautiful than ever and the gardens are marvelous!  Ran into another friend and met a nice man named Ernie and his wife.  Ernie was restoring an antique buggy on his front porch.

Ernie encouraged us to go back further down the lane by his home to see the Bradford Friends Meeting, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.  I am so glad he did!  I had never seen it in person before.

Marshallton is just the village to remind you what Chester County is about.  Marshallton is an unincorporated village in Chester County and a Federal Historic District. The Marshallton Historic District has 65 contributing structures and 3 contributing sites. Marshallton is like a living history site, living proof that historic districts and preservation can work. 

Marshallton lies within West Bradford Township.  In recent years it has faced encroachment of development from the surrounding area.

We did not wander up Strasburg Road to see where Marshallton Walk is, for example. Stargazers Village that thing that was  contentious enough, that it  doesn’t appear to be more than “coming soon” I guess? (Stargazers shows up on this “Envision” website.)

And then there was Embreeville, which started out life as the  Chester County Almshouse in 1798. It is also where Indian Hannah is purportedly buried.

Embreeville has had no news since February 2017 when West Bradford saidZoning Hearing #395 for Embreeville Redevelopment, LP scheduled for February 1, 2017 has been continued to a date uncertain.   There was no hearing on February 1st.  Any resumption of the hearing will be after public notice and will be posted on this website.”  (Embreeville has been so crazy it has it’s own page on West Bradford’s website.)

Now the Marshallton Conservation Trust which was created in 2009 exists to help preserve the village and surrounding rural area:

“Motivated by the desire to see the Marshallton area return to a safe, walkable community and its rich history preserved, several residents formed this 501c3 non –profit in 2009. Marshallton Conservation Trust is committed to preserving the historic integrity and the quality of life in this very special area for future generations….The Marshallton Conservation Trust (MCT) promotes the preservation and improvement of the Marshallton community through initiatives focused on maintaining and improving its livability along with its distinctive character.”

Marshallton Conservation Trust also sponsors many events.  As a matter of fact the 44th Marshallton Triathlon is October 1st. 

But back to the history.  Reference a website called Living Places:

The Marshallton Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.

…The Marshallton Historic District is located along the Strasburg Road in central Chester County. It assumed its present configuration between the 1760s-1880s, with scattered infill and rebuilding occurring into the 1920s. Of the 71 principal buildings in the Marshallton Historic District, 67 contribute to its historical and architectural significance. The 4 non-contributing buildings include three from the 1930s-40s (a dwelling, store, and apartment building) and a c.1965 brick dwelling. Of similar size and scale to the district’s contributing buildings (by which they are far outnumbered), these non-contributing buildings do not detract from Marshallton’s overall architectural unity.

Marshallton lies only four miles west of the county seat of West Chester; its surroundings are still rural. Leaving West Chester by the Strasburg Road, one passes sprawling farms, open fields, and pasture land. There is a small group of historic buildings near the nationally registered Cope’s Bridge on the East Branch Brandywine River, and then more open country….

The Marshallton Historic District is primarily significant for its association with Strasburg Road, established in the late 18th century as a thoroughfare between Philadelphia and Strasburg in Lancaster County. Throughout 200 years of its history, Marshallton’s focus has been on Strasburg Road, and both literally and figuratively its growth has paralleled the road’s. With its integrity of setting and well preserved collection of buildings representing a variety of historic uses, Marshallton today conveys a clear, sense of the past — when the Strasburg Road was a primary transportation route and, capitalizing on its location, the village functioned as a rural service center for both travelers and nearby farmers.

Marshallton can trace its origins to the 1760s when a few houses, a Quaker Meeting, an inn, and a blacksmith shop were loosely grouped near the intersection of the roads to Strasburg and Downingtown. At that time the Strasburg Road was actually a fragmented series of local roads leading west.

 

More on Marshallton:

Unionville Times Living History: A tale of two names, Marshallton and the Marshalton Inn Aug 10th, 2012 

 

Marshallton Conservation Trust: The Village of Marshallton, West Bradford, Chester County PA

 

Marshallton History Off of West Bradford Website

 

National Register of Historic Places Marshallton

I had one of the best afternoons I had in a while.  Good company, a nice lunch, and photographing one of Chester County’s most beloved gems.

Go to Marshallton.

Soak it in, have a meal at Four Dogs, support the village’s ongoing preservation efforts and events.

Walk down the street like we did and wonder about all of the people who walked it before us. Be in the moment of some amazing history and just a lovely and charming spot.

It’s what Chester County is all about.

public parks and private money: good partnerships?

The Willows Radnor Township

The Willows in Radnor has been the subject of controversy in recent years. The buildings needs massive renovations to bring it up to code. And the past few years residents and Radnor Township have struggled on how to best use the site.  They put out an RFP a few years ago and people thought a caterer would take over the house and make it a wedding venue. That fell through. Then a nursery school wanted to move in, and another proposal involved a private citizen buying the house (people incorrectly refer to it as a mansion, it is in fact just a house that sits on a spectacular property!)

Now the Willows is being studied yet again. It has been in the local papers.  It is an example of how communities struggle with publicly owned properties being run by private concerns. Hypothetically these are great adaptive reuses and can be great to keep the life in old and historic structures, but it’s a balance.  The problem as I see it with the Willows has always been the disconnect between the politicians and the people.  

Kennedy Supplee Mansion

For over 20 years the Kennedy Supplee Mansion at the edge of Valley Forge Park was a successful high end restaurant. But then around 2006 that came to an end when the business that owned the restaurant went under.  Since then, the place has slowly deteriorated. Last year I had seen on the National Park Service website an open RFP to I guess get a new tenant. I do not know whatever happened with that RFP.

This is not a new concept at Valley Forge National Historic Park, but over the past couple of years the topic has been getting more attention.

Daily Local: Valley Forge is renting out historic buildings to businesses
By Gary Puleo, gpuleo@21st-centurymedia.com
POSTED: 01/26/15, 4:58 PM EST | UPDATED: ON 01/27/2015


UPPER MERION >> How would you feel about heading over to Valley Forge National Historical Park for a double shot cappuccino and a blueberry scone — in a quaint café setting where memories faintly resonate off the walls?

It could happen before too long.

The National Park Service has put a few historic buildings up for commercial use, including the venerable Maurice Stephens House, which one entrepreneur is eyeing to transform into a charming cafe.

“We’ve had a couple of groups through the building and one is interested in turning it into a café of sorts so that people at the park will have a place to go to get a cup of coffee and a bite to eat,” explained the park’s business manager Patrick Madden, standing outside the 1816 stone farmhouse nestled off of Route 23.

Valley Forge Park needs help. No doubt. I am not sure how the money was spent over the past few decades, and I think it was a huge mistake when they lost the now new and opened and fabulous American Revolutionary War Museum to Philadelphia.

Now Valley Forge just had some great news I learned courtesy of my pal Caroline at Savvy:

Thanks to its newly invigorated citizen militia, the nonprofit Valley Forge Park Alliance, it’s marching forward with dazzling plans that will affect ALL of us – anyone who “recreates” in the park (90 percent of visitors), brings guests there, or even drives through. Ten Hut!

Here’s what’s afoot:

1. A TV show. Star fixer-upper Jeff Devlin, host of “Stone House Revival” on HGTV/DIY Network wants to film six episodes in the park and forge an ongoing partnership….

…..2. A new café with character – and a scenic deck for walkers and cyclists. A local real estate guy (not allowed to tell you who yet) is in serious talks with the National Park Service to lease the Maurice Stephens House….For the record: Of the 113 buildings scattered around the park, 74 are historic and 12 of those are colonial era. Bare bones budgets have left many in rough shape, or worse. The Stephens House was built in 1816.

Already a hit: Weddings in the park. Spiffed up and leased by Robert Ryan Catering, the old Philander Chase Knox Estate and adjoining tent hosted 30+ shindigs its first year and will host at least 44 more in 2017.

Ok I make absolutely NO secret of it that I am an old house geek. I am a HUGE fan of Jeff Devlin. He is the real deal and his work is gorgeous. So I think his potential investment in Valley Forge is awesome.

I do not think creating a respite for tourists, cyclists, etc in the form of a café  at the Stephens House is a bad idea per se, although a “scenic deck” gives me pause because I think the historic structure should remain intact so how will a “scenic deck” be constructed? What money will stay with this old house to help it in the future? I have that concern given the condition of Kennedy Supplee and the fact that mansion had a long term tenant …..until they didn’t.

Reader submitted photo pre-wedding venue days at Knox House

So another park structure the Philander Chase Knox House is now a wedding venue. And it is NOT cheap to marry there according to weddingspot.com which said:

The average wedding cost at Philander Chase is estimated at between $15,705 and $23,044 for a ceremony & reception for 100 guests.

Knox House has gotten freshened up. It is a rented space, but it sits in the midst of a PARK as in Federally owned, taxpayer funded land. They have put up signs asking people to walk a longer way around during events and that seems to be mighty inconvenient if you want to get to Mt. Misery from the main park side. (I have not seen with my own eyes and given the way my knee is still wonky post-surgery.)

Reader submitted photo

I am guessing preservation here comes at a cost because yesterday a friend of mine who is an avid outdoorsman and who loves Valley Forge Park sent me a note about Knox House as a wedding venue:

….People go to hear bird chirping, and enjoy peace and as much quiet as possible without piped in music from loudspeakers. Yesterday got to listen to Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder while enjoying Mt. Misery and Mt. Joy. Unreal!

Since Knox went wedding venue I know people who were used to cutting through to a public parking lot by using the house driveway have been stopped by I presume catering or valet staff. Now if an event is in progress maye that would be understandable, but I keep coming back to this house sits in a publicly funded park, so how does all of this work? How should all of this work as a public private partnership?

Should the tenant have to put up some sort of aestheticslly appealing fencing that would delineate the space in its entirety?

So when structures are rented out on publicly owned land to private parties is it a good thing or is it a form of prostitution? Some critics actually DO consider these partnerships sacrelige and not respectful of the history.  Advocates see these partnerships as a necessary evil: adaptive reuse helps old and historic structures survive in a modern world. 

But….are the rules defined enough with these public- private partnerships? And what money out of revenues earned are put aside for historic structures these businesses are renting? Should there almost be managed trust accounts for these buildings?

Thoughts? Comments? Concerns?

holding municipalities accountable….over sunoco 

It has been a looooong time since I have had a #SuNOco post. But things are heating up over pipelines gobbling up our land, our environment, where we live…all for their gain. They want to say it’s benefitting all of us, but those gas pipelines? They are pumping what they take out of here.  We don’t benefit but Sunoco and politicians like PA Governor Tom Wolf sure do don’t they? And what is it about our current governor? He is like a Wolf in sheep’s clothing isn’t he? Talking all tough about helping residents against the pipeline until he was elected?

Anywhere these pipelines go, it’s only about profit. And they pipe it right up and out, destroying everything around it as they go. It makes strip mining look like child’s play, doesn’t it? They (another pipeline company) are even shoving one through the Pinelands in NJ….which are supposed to be environmentally protected.

As per this AP report:

The 15-member New Jersey Pinelands Commission voted 9-6 to approve a plan by South Jersey Gas to run the pipeline through the federally protected Pinelands preserve, where development is drastically restricted.

I am no fan of these pipelines, and I must admit that I feel a lot of these Pennsylvania municipalities (like West Goshen) roll over and show their big fat political bellies at the expense of residents.

West Goshen like many municipalities likes to fly under the radar, so I am sure they are not digging what I am about to post. They (West Goshen) will point to their recent letter to Sunoco, but ummm it’s just tough talk unless their feet are held to the fire and what I am about to post serves that purpose indeed. 

Sunshine….ahhh sunshine….good for Tom Casey. I think he is terrific! And NPR too!

NPR: Townships accused of failing to enforce ordinances over Mariner East 2

FEBRUARY 24, 2017 | 6:13 PM

BY JON HURDLE

Opponents of the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline project are accusing two townships along the route of failing to enforce ordinances that would be violated by the pipeline in those locations.

West Goshen Township in Chester County and Thornbury Township in Delaware County have provisions in their zoning ordinances that could force the pipeline’s builder, Sunoco Logistics, to relocate the line if the municipalities chose to enforce the rules, according to the critics.

Eric Friedman of Glen Mills in Delaware County and Tom Casey of West Chester in Chester County have sent legal memos to the townships, urging them to enforce certain zoning provisions, and threatening legal action.

The initiative is the latest challenge to the project which has begun construction in some places along its 350-mile route after obtaining its final permits from the Department of Environmental Protection on Feb. 13.

Thornbury, by agreeing to Sunoco’s plan to build the pipeline in the Andover subdivision, is failing to enforce its own requirement that requires at least 40 percent of land in that subdivision to remain as open space, Friedman and Casey say…..The Thornbury ordinance says the open space “shall be no less than 40 percent of the gross area of the tract.”

In West Goshen, the township is accused of not enforcing a section of a 2014 ordinance that requires pipelines to be set back from occupied structures by a “Pipeline Impact Radius” (PIR) that Friedman calculates at 1,200 feet.

The radius is not specifically measured by federal regulations but it potentially covers safety, environmental, noise or visual impacts, and in any case would at least equal the approximately 100-foot distance between Casey’s house and the proposed pipeline route, according to Friedman and Casey.

The West Goshen ordinance says pipelines that carry hazardous liquids or gases “shall be set back from all occupied structures a minimum distance equal to the pipeline impact radius.”

Casey argued that West Goshen Township is failing to enforce its ordinance because of political pressure……The townships are among eight municipalities in the two densely populated counties that have published official statements in recent months expressing widespread public concern about the safety of the pipeline despite repeated assurances by Sunoco.

Although Sunoco recently obtained the long-awaited permits, the project is still beset by legal challenges. They include an appeal at the state’s Environmental Hearing Board by three environmental groups for a halt to construction; a pending case before the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas over whether the project truly has “public utility” status, and now the attempt to increase local control over the project…..Jeff Shields, a spokesman for Sunoco, said the company has no comment on the initiative by Friedman and Casey

My, my, my. This IS getting interesting again. Sorry but Sunoco deserves no less. They are raping and pillaging the land around us for their profit margins. They are putting us at risk on so many levels. They do not care about potentially polluting our wells and water sources, they do not care about reducing property values because so many do not want to buy a house with a pipeline running through a property, they do not care about environmental impacts on nature, or just the whole safety thing of it all when it comes to natural gas going “boom”, so why should residents settle? Lives and land have value.

Related:

NPR 2/17/17: West Goshen says Sunoco violated Mariner East agreement

Delco Times 2/20/2017: Editorial: Legal fight looms over Mariner East 2

Delco Times 2/23/2017: Guest Column: Wolf taken to task for backing Sunoco plan

Delco Times/Daily Local 2/17/2017: West Goshen files complaint against Sunoco Logistics in pipeline battle