the witch house of exton…a/k/a what was the whelen/ferrell/meredith farm

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Photo by Andrea M. Moore found on Flickr. Taken on July 3, 2011. “Exton Witch House”

One of THE most talked about houses that languishes in Chester County, PA is known literally far and wide as the Exton Witch House. It’s on/off Gordon Drive.

It was even in The San Francisco Globe in 2015.  That article also has the Abandoned Steve video embedded:

I will note that the video refers to “vandals” having the headstones. Mmmm, do they mean these headstones (and thank you Lee Wisdom for the photos!!):

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Let’s just say those poor headstones are in municipal protective custody to preserve them. They were removed so people did not steal them.

This house is a YouTube star. Seriously, people film it again and again and again.  Here is another one from 2016:

Here is a video that was posted recently. Not sure of the date.  Maybe 2017?

Why I look at the videos is it shows the progression of deterioration. And the progression of the vandals who graffiti the poor house and decorate it with profanities.  Note to graffiti practitioners here: you all deserve to be haunted for tagging old farmhouses, and if you believe in that sort of thing, maybe you are?

I have never gone back there as of yet, because it’s private property and I have not been invited.  People say it is haunted. Now maybe it’s just that the spirits can’t rest because too many thrill seekers tromp back there?

This house is in Uwchlan Township.

When I asked Lee Wisdom who contacted me about the house about the grave stones this is what she said:

They are not graves but markers. No one is sure why they were there. I think they could have been grave stones for a burial on the property and when the land was developed they were moved. Another person I talked to had another theory but now I can’t remember what it was! So no one buried under those that we know of. They were placed like stones for a path, so no room for a grave.

So when people run out here to photograph and ghost video this house, perhaps some of these things might start reverting to facts versus urban legend.

As per what I found on the University of Pennsylvania online archives:

Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries, the area now known as Uwchlan Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania was occupied by the Leni-Lenape (Delaware) and Iroquoian-speaking Susquehanuck peoples. The first Europeans in the area were Swedish explorers in 1637-1638, although the first permanent settlement was not established until the 1700s.

Welsh Quakers were the main group to settle in Uwchlan, requesting their own meeting in 1712, which is the same year that Uwchlan Township was founded. An additional tract was added to the eastern portion of the township in 1726, likely at the behest of prominent resident and large landholder David Lloyd. In 1858 the upper part of Uwchlan Township split from Uwchlan to form Upper Uwchlan Township.

Uwchlan was a primarily rural farming community until World War II, when post-war suburbanization resulted in rapid development. The population increased has increased dramatically from about 500 in 1920 to over 6,000 in the 1970s and upwards of 18,000 at the beginning of the 21st century.

Lee Wisdom is one of the volunteers on the Uwchlan Historic Commission. (They can be found HERE on their township website  and also HERE on their super fun Facebook page.)  With regard to this house she tells me:

The Merediths lived here before they moved to Taylor Rd . It was called Richmere Farm by them. They are my step family. I think the progression was Whelen, Ferrell, Meredith (not sure if there were owners in between).

The headstones in protective custody were those of the Ferrells. Where they were located and rescued from are not believed to be where they may have been  buried. I don’t know where theses graves truly are, and whatever they succumbed to all in a similar time frame was likely a disease, or an influenza. Not witchcraft.

This property is kept after by whomever owns the property.  Some commercial real estate concern is my guess.  They keep boarding it up when people break in and they keep grass cut.  If I had the opportunity to go back there with the Uwchlan Historic Commission I would.  I would love to photograph back there. But even though I know where it is, it is a far different situation than the farmhouse at Main Street at Exton which is out in completely plain view.

It disturbs me that people seem to think they can graffiti tag these old properties. And I think the profanities routinely tagged here add to the property’s spooky reputation.  Is the property REALLY haunted?  Well the place is what? 200 years old give or take? It has seen a lot of life, and death.

I would love to know more about the families who lived here, so if you know please comment.

Now enjoy a whole slew of photos courtesy of Lee Wisdom:

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A post script to this post which may finally debunk the four buried witches urban legend and the curse of everyone dying at once comes from one of the local genealogy buffs that send in information from time to time named Tina. She messaged me this morning the following:

Hi
I just did a quick search. I think someone bought a new stone for the Farrells. They are in Fairview Cemetery. Also Jesse’s daughter Mary A married a Richard Meredith.

So now we know how it came to be a Meredith farm,right? And Fairview Cemetery is where? Coatesville?

loch aerie 1963 photos and some of a more recent vintage.

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George Pyle sent me more photos.  This morning I have lined up his 1963 photos with my more recent vintage photos taken over the past couple of years.

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unnamed (1)I do not know what of the ornate plaster work will survive the adaptive reuse in progress, but I imagine what can be saved, will be. It was so badly deteriorated in spots, and in other spots just plain missing.

But it is so cool to see the rooms as they once were. Add to that the juxtaposition in time of when my photos were taken, decades later – 53 years later give or take.

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little pink house is coming to town, and why you need to see this movie

Little Pink House is coming to town. I got this e-mail today inviting me to a screening.

April 27 – May 3:  Philadelphia, PA: Landmark Ritz East

Based on a true story, Little Pink House is about a small-town paramedic named Susette Kelo leaves a bad marriage, and starts over in a new town. She buys a rundown cottage with a gorgeous water view. She fixes it up and paints it pink. Then she discovers powerful politicians want to bulldoze her blue-collar neighborhood for the benefit of a multi-billion dollar corporation. 

With the help of a young lawyer named Scott Bullock, Susette emerges as the reluctant leader of her neighbors in an epic battle that goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, inspires a nation, and helps millions of Americans protect their homes.

Most of you probably have no idea what this means. Or care. But I think you should.  It is the movie about the 2005 United States Supreme Court Case Kelo vs. New London, and what Susette Kelo and her Fort Trumbull neighbors endured at the hands of Pfizer and New London, Connecticut.

Susette Kelo taken in front of her little pink house around 2008 (I think) – It has been a long time since I looked at these photos. Scott Mahan photo.

And all of a sudden, I am taken back years.  I see faces I haven’t thought of in years; hear voices and snippets of long gone conversations.  Ardmore, PA to Washington, DC and Virginia.  What a long strange trip it was.

Dick Saha of Coatesville (left), Scott Mahan (center), Nancy Saha of Coatesville (right). I took this photo in June of 2006 down in DC/VA at an Institute for Justice/Castle Coalition conference on Eminent Domain.

My friends and I were ordinary people who became accidental activists via the Save Ardmore Coalition.  I resigned my position at Save Ardmore Coalition (“SAC”) in 2011 when diagnosed with breast cancer. I do not know if the organization still exists at all or not, truthfully. I am not there any more. My friends and I have all moved forward into our lives, and now we are mostly like local folklore.  Normal people who went to Washington to fight eminent domain and hang out with people like Susette Kelo.  But it’s not folklore, or urban legend as we did all that and lived through all of that.

Scott Mahan (left), Susette Kelo (center), Ken Haskin (right). Scott Mahan photo (again circa 2008 or thereabouts)

It was a long road for those of us who were the original SAC and we paid heavy prices for our activism at times (it was not pretty), but I would do it all over again as it was the right thing to do. We were part of the Institute for Justice/Castle Coalition’s eminent domain fighting communities.

My friends from Ardmore and I (the original Save Ardmore Coalition)  went to Washington once upon a time as I mentioned when Susette Kelo and others (like Long Branch NJ and the Sahas of Coatesville, PA and the other New London, CT /Fort Trumbull folks) were fighting eminent domain for private gain. We lived this with the Institute for Justice as we fought (and won) Ardmore’s battle.

They were crazy times and I am proud of what we did in Ardmore back then. I am honored I got to spend time with Susette Kelo and the other amazing folks from other cities and states along with the people from the Institute for Justice.

Here is the Institute for Justice Press Release:

Little Pink House Movie Hits the Big Screen, Seeks to End Eminent Domain Abuse

Biopic on Supreme Court’s Landmark Kelo Ruling Shows How Eminent Domain for Private Gain Destroyed Lives and an Entire Community

  • Eminent domain creates strange political bedfellows: Once-developer and now-President Donald Trump, along with liberal justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, came out against ordinary homeowners and in favor of the government and private developers.
  • But for the government’s use of eminent domain, corporations would be powerless to take someone else’s home.
  • The release of Little Pink House provides a rare opportunity for political unity. It should unite the Left, which wants to limit corporate influence on government, and the Right, which wants to limit government power over property.

Little Pink House is both a major motion picture and a cautionary tale that shows what happens when the government teams up with powerful private interests to take an entire working-class neighborhood for a glitzy development—a project that 13 years later is nothing but barren fields.

Starring two-time Academy Award nominee Catherine Keener and Emmy nominee Jeanne Tripplehorn, Little Pink House opens on April 20 and will be screened in theaters across the nation.  It tells the true story of Susette Kelo (played by Keener), a small-town paramedic from New London, Connecticut, who buys her first home—a cottage—and paints it pink.  When the governor and his allies plan to bulldoze her little pink house to make way for a development benefitting the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Kelo fights back, taking her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although national polls at the time of the Kelo ruling consistently showed that the public overwhelmingly rejects the use of eminent domain for private gain, the issue made for strange political bedfellows.  It was the U.S. Supreme Court’s liberal justices who made up the majority that ruled against Kelo and in favor of the government, and when the Kelo ruling was handed down, developer Trump said, “I happen to agree with it 100%.”  Trump had earlier sought to employ eminent domain to take a widow’s property in Atlantic City for his private use.  After becoming President of the United States, he said, “I think eminent domain is wonderful.”“As the Atlantic City eminent domain battle showed, unless the government abuses its power of eminent domain, private corporations are powerless to take someone’s property; they must negotiate because they cannot use force,” said Institute for Justice Litigation Director Dana Berliner, who successfully represented the widow at the heart of the Atlantic City lawsuit and who argued Kelo’s case before the Connecticut Supreme Court.

As documented in the film, after Kelo lost her U.S. Supreme Court case, her struggle sparked a nationwide backlash against eminent domain abuse that today helps millions of Americans better protect what is rightfully theirs.  The Supreme Court used the Keloruling to radically expand this government power—allowing eminent domain for the mere promise from a developer that it might pay more taxes if given someone else’s land, rather than for an actual public use, as required by the U.S. Constitution.  Because of the grassroots backlash at the state level against eminent domain abuse, however, the Kelo case is justifiably seen as a situation in which the government won the battle, but lost the war.  Still, the Institute for Justice, which represented Kelo, stated that more reforms are still needed if the abuse of this government power is to be ended once and for all.

Little Pink House wonderfully captures what the fight for property rights is all about,” said Institute for Justice President Scott Bullock, who argued the Kelo case before the U.S. Supreme Court.  “A house is typically someone’s most valuable asset, but the value of a home goes well beyond its mere monetary worth.  For so many, it is an extension of who they are and what they value.  It is where a person might raise a family, grow a small business, celebrate, mourn and grow old.  Eminent domain abuse, as depicted in this film, is not only unconstitutional, it is profoundly wrong.  Little Pink House vividly documents the heroic struggle of Susette and her neighbors to not only fight for their homes but for the constitutional rights of millions of others in America and throughout the world.”

Little Pink House should unite those on the Left who want to limit corporate influence on government, and those on the Right, who want to limit government power over property, said Bullock.  Eminent domain abuse disproportionately strikes poor and minority communities, and there is often a giant gap between the promises made by redevelopment supporters and the promises such plans actually deliver.  In just a five-year period, there were more than 10,000 instances nationwide where eminent domain for private development was either used or threatened by the government.

Government officials and the developer promised that the project that replaced Susette Kelo’s tight-knit blue-collar neighborhood would thrive and would make New London tax-rich.  Now, 13 years after the landmark Kelo ruling, all that remains there are barren fields; nothing lives there now but weeds and feral cats.

“It was all for nothing,” said Susette Kelo.  “The government put us through all that torture and now, more than a dozen years later, they have literally nothing to show for it.  But even if they turned what was my home into an emerald city, that still wouldn’t have made it right.  The government and their corporate confidants destroyed our neighborhood and our constitutional rights.  We need to keep fighting this until we end eminent domain abuse once and for all.”

Eminent domain hot spots remain around the country.  For example:
In Garfield, New Jersey, the town’s redevelopment agency is using a bogus blight designation to take a zipper manufacturing warehouse, along with its neighbors’ homes, for a private developer to build private retail and housing.
Cumberland, Maryland, is trying to bulldoze a number of homes to make way for a chain restaurant.
The Bae family left Korea and built a successful dry cleaning business in East Harlem, New York. But city officials want to demolish it so a developer can build an entertainment complex.

Little Pink House has been lauded by The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline Hollywood, among others.  In addition to attracting stars Keener and Tripplehorn, Little Pink House features the original song “Home Free,” written and performed for the movie by rock legend David Crosby.

The independent film was directed by Courtney Balaker and produced by her husband, Ted Balaker.  It will open on screens across the nation with more screenings being added each week.  In those markets where Little Pink House is not being shown in theaters, the public can follow a simple process to bring the movie to their hometown theater or enter an email address at littlepinkarmy.com and a representative from the film will walk them through the process.

Courtney Balaker said, “Eminent domain abuse is a fancy term for legalized bullying.  It happens when insiders take advantage of outsiders.  Developers and politicians promise more jobs and more tax revenue, so it sounds appealing to lots of people.  But all the high-minded talk obscures what’s really going on—they’re forcing people out of their homes.  If you own your home and you want to keep living in your home, you should be able to stay in your home.  Eminent domain abuse happens far more often than most people realize, and it rarely brings the kind of economic development its supporters promise.  It should come as no surprise that poor and minority communities are especially likely to be targeted.”

Eminent Domain for private gain is legal stealing, economic segregation, and more often than not, class warfare. When you receive a notice of a taking, your world turns inside out, not just upside down. At first you feel like you are in the battle completely and utterly alone. But you aren’t alone. There are a lot of us out there.

I didn’t set out in life to become a grassroots activist on any level, but eminent domain is an issue that, as an American, I found I simply could not ignore. I loved Ardmore, where eminent domain threatened a block of small businesses in a local historic business district. Ardmore to me was a quintessential old fashioned main street-oriented town. It represents the bygone days of small town America.

The township (Lower Merion)  had declared this block “blighted,” and it intended to acquire these properties in a certified historic district for inclusion in a mixed-use development project to be owned by a private party.

One of the first lessons we learned as SAC was that when you are fighting a battle like this, you become an instant pariah. SAC next contacted the Institute for Justice and newly formed Castle Coalition, who gave us a crash course in grassroots activism.

We held rallies, protests and community meetings. We wrote letters to the newspapers until we had writer’s cramp. We took every opportunity to speak at public meetings. We lobbied government officials on a state and national level.

My friend Si Simons with Susette Kelo, June, 2006. My photo.

And we hit roadblocks. Although eminent domain had become a national issue when Susette Kelo took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Philadelphia area we discovered it was hard to get media attention from anyone other than the local papers. Eminent domain wasn’t sexy enough—it was just “a local issue”. We were called NIMBY and castigated publicly by certain local elected officials at public meetings, who referred to us as “a small group of mean spirited individuals.”

When someone told us in a letter if we didn’t like how government was run we should “change the face of who governs us,” our resolve as a group was strengthened. We decided to change literally the faces of those who were governing us. We had an upcoming election. We didn’t back one candidate in particular but decided they should all adopt our position and take IJ’s pledge against the use of eminent domain for private gain.

We were successful. In November 2005, we watched as five new faces against eminent domain were elected to the 14-member Board of Commissioners.

During this whole time before and after the election, we had the good fortune to finally get some national and even international media publicity. We networked further with other eminent domain fighting citizens locally and nationally.  Members also gave testimony before both the Pennsylvania Senate and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. We submitted written testimony to the U.S. Congress and became part of the record on HR 4128.

February, 2006 walking Congressman Sensenbrenner (left) around Ardmore. Scott Mahan (right). I am behind them on the left with then Congressman Jim Gerlach on the right)

In February 2006, then Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner came to town with Congressman Jim Gerlach to discuss eminent domain. In March 2006, the five new commissioners who came to office promising to end the specter of eminent domain did just that: they proposed and passed a resolution to end eminent domain. The businesses were free.

I will not lie. It was an exhausting process fighting eminent domain.  I went to so many municipal and other meetings during this time, that even today I have a hard time going to meetings.

For me, there was also the fact that I hid my activism from my employers.  I was working for then Wachovia Securities (now Wells Fargo), and while not officially forbidden, such outside activities were seriously frowned upon.  We were supposed to be good little examples of Corporate America at all times, no matter what our position.

Susette Kelo is and always will be one of the most courageous people I have ever met. I have been waiting for this movie to be finished. (See Little Pink House Movie website too!!)

This is a story that still resonates.  See:

The Volokh Conspiracy    The story behind Kelo v. City of New London – how an obscure takings case got to the Supreme Court and shocked the nation
By Ilya Somin May 29, 2015

LAWNEWS
Dreams Demolished: 10 Years After the Government Took Their Homes, All That’s Left Is an Empty Field
Alex Anderson / @alexanderJander / Melissa Quinn / @MelissaQuinn97 / June 23, 2015

Eminent domain still under fire

June 23, 2017 by NCC Staff

POWER PLAY
Seized property sits vacant nine years after landmark Kelo eminent domain case
Published March 20, 2014 Fox News

The Kelo House (1890)

March 20th, 2009 Posted in Folk VictorianHousesNew LondonVernacular

Visit The Institute for Justice website. There is a Kelo vs. New London timeline.

Seriously….see this movie.  This can happen to anyone.  It happened to people I know and people I met.  And if you follow the current pipeline debacle, how do you think Sunoco has gotten land from Chester County residents? It certainly wasn’t candy and chocolates, it was the threat of eminent domain, wasn’t it?

And you can try to get Little Pink House played where you live by contacting the filmmakers HERE.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

scenes from a 95th birthday party (for hedgerow theatre, and also honoring penelope reed)

Into the Old Mill at Rose Valley we went to celebrate Hedgerow Theatre (America’s oldest repertory theatre) turning 95 and to also properly fête their beloved Director Emeritus, Penelope Reed for her many years of service.

We entered into a party that was alive and electric.  It was marvelous! During the cocktail hour, people mingled, nibbled on wonderful butlered hors d’oevres, and enjoyed things like the signature cocktail named “Essence of Rose.”

Penelope Reed, left, with guests

People mixed and mingled, and enjoyed a fun photo area set up with props. I loved meeting all of these new faces!  Everyone was open, friendly, and welcoming.  The colors of the gaily attired guests were such a welcoming sight after this past week’s 4th Nor’Easter.

I so enjoyed meeting the “Belle of the Ball”  Penelope Reed (also a 2017 recipient of the prestigious Theatre Philadelphia’s Barrymore Award) and the event co-chairs Jane McNeil and Richard Taxin!

Rose Valley is such a magical place, and it is truly fitting that it is the home of The Hedgerow Theatre.

Founded in 1923 by Jasper Deeter, Hedgerow was an old mill re-imagined by one of my favorite architects (and Philadelphia Quakers), William Lightfoot Price (Will Price.)

Will Price began his path to being an architect by working in the offices of Addison Hutton (Quaker architect who designed Beechwood House in Bryn Mawr on Shipley’s campus and Loch Aerie in Malvern/Frazer for example.) Price also designed things like Woodmont in Gladwyne (pretty much his largest and grandest residential commission), and he and his brother Frank worked for Frank Furness before setting up their own shop. In  1888 their first joint commission was to design homes in Wayne, PA.

Price came to Rose Valley at the turn of the 20th Century. Rose Valley (although founded with William Penn land grants)  and in the early 20th century evolved into a hub of the Arts and Crafts Movement in the Philadelphia area, and was also somewhat of a Utopian community.

Gala Co-Chairs Richard Taxin and Jane McNeil having fun with the photo “booth” and props!

 

Rose Valley Borough in their history of the area writes:

In 1901, Will Price bought eighty acres in the name of the Rose Valley Association from the bankrupt estate of Antrim Osborne. With the financial backing of a group of wealthy liberal Philadelphians interested in social reform, Price set about creating the Arts and Crafts movement’s vision of “the art that is life.” The Rose Valley Association was to be an association of shops whose purpose was the manufacture of handcrafted items. The Association would rent space to these shops and work that met the standards of the Association would be stamped with the Rose Valley seal, a wild rose superimposed by a ‘V’ and circled by a buckled belt to symbolize fellowship. On the social side, true to his democratic philosophy, Price envisioned a community where “the tiniest cottages may be built side by side with a more spacious neighbor.”

….Although the commercial side of the experiment was not a success, the social and artistic sides were. From its beginning Rose Valley was attractive to people who saw an opportunity to use their creative talents in their living environment. The Rose Valley Folk, initially organized to deal with the practical problems of self-government, became more a social organization. The Folk organized all sorts of community events – picnics, swimming and canoeing parties, baseball games. At night the Guild Hall was kept in perpetual use with concerts, plays and dances. The community threw itself into these productions, writing the plays, designing sets, making costumes, printing programs and acting.

 

The Hedgerow Theatre was founded in 1923 by Jasper Deeter, the now benevolent spirit referred to many times during Friday evening’s gala event.  Built in 1840, the theatre was originally a grist mill. It was reconstructed and turned into a theatre by Will Price before Mr. Deeter came to town.

As per Hedgerow’s website:

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

In this act, he foreshadowed the regional not-for-profit theatre movement, and pushed for a racially integrated company of artists both near and far crafting an identity for Hedgerow as a beacon for artists throughout the country.

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

Visionary actor/director Jasper founded Hedgerow in 1923 as a haven for cutting edge artists of the early 20th century, and the theatre quickly gained a national and international reputation as a proving ground for era defining artists such as Eugene O’Neill, Henrik IbsenGeorge Bernard Shaw, Theodore Dreiser, and Wharton Esherick.

In a sense, the very history of Rose Valley and The Hedgerow Theatre are inextricably linked.

Hedgerow is now in the capable hands of Julliard trained, Jared Reed. He is also Penelope’s son. As event media sponsor Main Line Today Magazine in their March, 2018 article writes:

Penelope’s step-grandmother was with Hedgerow in its early days, and her mother began taking classes with Deeter in the early 1960s. A young Penelope soon joined in, though she spent much of her career on different stages, including the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, where she was a principal actor, and New Jersey’s McCarter Theatre Center, as a lead actor, director and teacher. In 1991, Penelope returned to Hedgerow, where she would take up tenure as the artistic director, bringing new life to the theater. “My goal was to get the community to embrace the theater, because a lot of times they saw Hedgerow was in the community, but not of the community,” she says.

For over 20 years, Penelope worked on that goal, upping programming. Jared, meanwhile, pursued a career in New York. He’d been involved with Hedgerow, but left to attend Rutgers University and eventually Juilliard. “I did my time in New York. I did my 10 years—and I was successful—but it never was a family thing,” he says.

Jared’s early years spent at repertory theaters with his mother made him want to return. “When you’re in a company and everybody does everything, I think that’s what drew me back here,” he says.

Jared returned to Hedgerow in 2012. Over the course of the next few years, he worked with his mother before being named producing artistic director. Penelope now focuses on teaching master classes. “A lot of times, I feel I’ve been tending the place until Jared came,” she says.

 

At the event on Friday, we also heard from Hedgerow’s young artists.  Amazing children, eloquent and talented.  We had a song from the Beauty and The Beast Cast, “Belle”. What I loved about some of these theatre kids was how some of them carry themselves already.  In some cases it was uncanny to see their confidence and knowing full well when cameras were on them (even if they weren’t looking at a camera.)

I am appreciative of theater, but as a kid I never got further than helping on stage crew and being in the chorus of Oliver! in either 8th or 9th grade, so when I see these kids who are the real and talented deal, I love to watch them.

Dinner was served buffet style, and the caterers outdid themselves. Of particular note were the two salads,the cod fish, and of course the beautiful dessert buffet complete with a marvelous cake replica of the Hedgerow Theatre.

What stayed with me as we drove home is how Hedgerow is quite literally a family affair, and how devoted people are to the continued success of Hedgerow and it’s various programs. 

Charitable giving keeps organizations like this alive.  Click HERE to check out how you can support Hedgerow Theatre Company, including through “Amazon Smile” which is what I have chosen to do.

Thanks for taking the time to read about Hedgerow and Rose Valley today. Any photos featured here were taken by me, and I am giving all of the photos I took to Hedgerow for their use as long as they would like.

rally against pipelines – west whiteland- march 10 at 3:30 pm

See below. Sharing what I saw on Facebook. A peaceful rally. #DefendWhatYouLove.

Oh poor Jeff Shields former Inquirer reporter and now Sunoco Logistics’ Communications Manager (a/k/a their talking head.) He was an amazing reporter and now he has been Suessed. No Jeff, I had nothing to do with any of this, just sharing. Dude, hope the jingle in your pocket is worth it, you are on the wrong side of this one.

I would take note Adelphia Gateway and other companies pondering pipelines. We the people are awake. And the people are over pipelines and companies raping the land and destroying where we call home.

in the wee small hours

Conshohocken State Road just after Hollow Road in Penn Valley on the edge of Gladwyne. Now vines and an unkempt forest of sorts, there used to be old silos that once stood and a spring house.

Gloaming is evening twilight, the time just before dusk when the sky is pink and fading.  Morning twilight is that equally beautiful quiet time just before dawn.  Mind you I am not awake then on purpose, sometimes it is just when I wake.  The past few nights it has been the yipping and calling of the foxes plus that even more eerie sound raccoons make when they call to each other – it’s almost a warbling that has awakened me before dawn breaks. It is a time for quiet contemplation, these early moments before dawn, and sometimes I wake up thinking about things and pondering.

Such was the case this morning.

This morning, I was thinking of how to make people see how quickly development takes over farm land.  This morning as I lay there in the twilight while everyone in my home slept, I remembered a couple of examples.

When I was little before we moved from the city to the Main Line, and even when we first moved to the Main Line, the more rural bucolic roots of Penn Valley and even Gladwyne peeked through the modern suburb of it all.

When you turned off of Hollow Road (when you get off the Schuylkill Expressway if you go right, it is River Road, left is up Hollow Road to Conshohocken State Road) onto Conshohocken State Road, for years the remnants of a farm eerily stood in this valley off the side of the road.  Silos and a spring house.  I watched them deteriorate over time, until vines and trees and woods have now basically swallowed them up.

I am not sure whose farm it was.  Along Hagy’s Ford Road (where Welsh Valley Middle School is among other things) until the 1950s there was the Charles W. Latch family farm  and other farms.   According to the Penn Valley Civic Association, this farm once provided a lot of fresh produce for the area. It is so jam packed full of houses today, it’s frankly hard to believe.  But before all of the development, it was farm land, including Pennhurst Farm owned by Percival Roberts.   Pennhurst was over 500 acres.  Pennhurst had among other things a prized heard of Ayrshire cattle (another fact gleamed from the very interesting and well written Penn Valley Civic Association website. (So all of the prize Ayrshire cattle weren’t just on Ardrossan in Radnor, were they?)

The Penn Valley Civic Association continues (and they credit Lower Merion Historical Society with all of these marvelous historical facts):

Other farms included that of George Grow on Hagys Ford Road. Sold in 1921, it is still known as Crow’s Hill (the “G” having become a “C”). Another farm was the Grove of Red Partridges on Old Gulph Road near Bryn Mawr Avenue. The property later was part of the tract of 302 acres belonging to James and Michael Magee. John Frederick Bicking, who operated a paper mill along Mill Creek, owned ten acres where Summit Road ends at Fairview Road. The Bicking family cemetery, mentioned in Bicking’s will of 1809, still exists at this location. Ardeleage, the estate of Charles Chauncey at Righters Mill and Summit roads, was torn down in 1938, and fourteen homes were built on the property. 

 

(Read more of the history of Lower Merion here and farming in Lower Merion here.)

I also remember visiting a dairy farm in King of Prussia that was somewhat commercial when I was a kid where you could get literally farm-fresh ice cream. I don’t remember the name.

Yes, King of Prussia.  It is hard to remember that what today is just thought of by the every growing malls and a casino, was once prize farmland too. (Do you see where I am going now, Chester County?)

If you visit the Valley Forge website, you will find this great post with an even more interesting 1953 zoning map of Upper Merion: 

RETAIL REWIND

March 13, 2017 by Dan Weckerly – VFTCB Communications Manager

Because I grew up in the area, I have long-term memories of King of Prussia Mall….author-historian Michael Stefan Shaw…

since his 1992 transplant to the area, he has looked at the mall through a surprising lens, that of historian rather than shopper.

Shaw is in the midst of capturing the full story of King of Prussia Mall, tracing its development from when it was just a little prince.

And even further, before it was born….

“I wrote a book in 2013 on railroading in King of Prussia, and that got me looking into the backdrop of Upper Merion Township,” Shaw says. “That led me to the mall.”

His research showed interest in a large-scale retail presence long before the 1963 official opening of King of Prussia Mall.

“In writing the railroad book, I came across a 1955 zoning map of the township,” Shaw describes. “And because of the coming of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the Schuylkill Expressway, there’s a spot on the map marked ‘shopping center.’ In 1955, it was listed there. That’s way before the 1962 soft opening or the 1963 grand opening.”…

The map shows a candy-cane coded plot of land amid fields that were mainly devoted to dairy farming.

So there were cows onsite long before a purple one selling ice cream.

King of Prussia Zoning Map

 

That was then.  This is now. I guess my point is Chester County, that the farmland continues to disappear under the pace of development. I have to ask, will people in 50 or 60 years be looking at where we all once lived and will they be trying to imagine farmland too?

Do we really want farm land and open space to become just memories?

Check out two videos on YouTube about Nor-View Farm now owned by Upper Merion Township:


(You can also visit the King of Prussia Historical Society for more information.)

We don’t live in a bubble.  Chester County isn’t the only part of Southeastern PA threatened by development.  But if we learn from the mistakes of other PA municipalities, maybe we can hope for a little bit of balance?

Farming is brutally hard work.  Ask any farmer.  This state and this country really do not support farmers enough in my opinion.  But without our farms and farmers, where are we? Growing micro-lettuces on a green roof?  Green roofs are not open space.

Open space once, it is gone, is gone forever.  Along with our history, the architecture, and the farms themselves. And the wildlife.  Check out the Wikipedia page on Penn Valley for example:

Before Welsh development, Penn Valley’s forest was home to bears, cougars, wolves, rattlesnakes, otters, beavers, weasels, turkeys, grouses, woodland bison, trout, and bald eagles. However, after forest destruction by the Welsh and eventual home building after World War 2 many of the rare animals left.[12]

Today, the area is filled with red foxes, white-footed mice, horned owls, red-tailed hawks, skunks, raccoons, rabbits, chipmunks, pheasants, crayfish, songbirds, butterflies, and white-tailed deer. The white-tailed deer pose an occasional problem in Penn Valley because they can halt traffic, destroy the forest underbrush, devour expensive ornamental flowers, and spread Lyme disease. When last counted, Penn Valley contained 44 deer per square mile, 34 more deer per square mile than the recommended average. 

Just food for thought.

Thanks for stopping by.