along charlestown road

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Charlestown Road is one of those crazy, twisty, meandering, yet beautiful Chester County Roads. It used to be such a country road.  It still is even if it is a traffic nightmare cut through road at times now too.

I see it as another beautiful series of vistas potentially at risk.

Why at risk?   Simple, start with the intersection of Phoenixville Pike and Charlestown Road. It’s called “Pickering Crossing“. Another cram plan community of “carriage homes” or the current trendy word for townhouses.

DSC_5291While I will admit the design of these houses actually shows taste and some actual design, it’s 76 more houses.  3 and 4 bedrooms, and NOT a retirement community. It’s just another Stepford Village. You can’t even have a real garden in most of these communities.

So, that being said, time for a segue: Hey Great Valley School District are you paying attention YET to all of the development, or when the time comes will you behave like Lower Merion School District and just try to take someone’s land somewhere to expand?

Sorry, not sorry but given the pace of development in the Great Valley School District will it end up someday like Downingtown, which when I was in high school was just “Downingtown”, there was no Downingtown East and Downingtown West.

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And it’s not just the school districts which suffer from over-development.  We all are affected.  It affects infrastructure, municipal services, storm water management, traffic. It means less open space, fewer farms.

People, our food around here is not grown on the roof of Whole Foods, even if you can take a Yoga class there.

Development is an agriculture killer. Now granted, this country doesn’t respect farms and farmers the way they used to, and farming is not a business for the faint of heart.  It’s hard.  But we should support our local agriculture, not let it get developed away.

One of the beautiful things about Charlestown Road is there still is some farming left. It’s lovely.

DSC_5305BUT…..Another thing that worries me before I share the farm love is located at 124 Charlestown Road. This is the mysterious property known as Swiss Pines.

Swiss Pines is a 19 acre arboretum and Japanese garden . It USED to be open several days a week between spring and fall. BUT not so much since around 2013 (I think.)

Swiss Pines was established by Arnold Bartschi (born 1903- died 1996), born in Switzerland and by the mid-1930s, owner of the J. Edwards Shoe Company. In 1957, he purchased the 200 acres of the former Llewellyn estate, and during the next 30 years he developed the Swiss Pines site.

Swiss Pines became a nonprofit foundation in 1960- The Bartschi Foundation. The last IRS form 990 I can find is from 2016 –Bartschi Foundation 990 2016 – I do not even know if at this point there is still a non-profit. Guidestar and Charity Navigator seem conflicted in reporting and there are a few old IRS form 990s and that is about it. The last time the Bartschi Foundation or Swiss Pines was in the news was 2016 over a land dispute law suit.  Swiss Pines was mentioned briefly in May at a recent Charlestown Township HARB Meeting :

There was also discussion about the Great Valley Nature Center. Negotiations are underway to resolve issues in connection of the deed of the Bartschi Foundation that require this facility be used for educational and nature purposes. The condition of Swiss Pines was brought up. Since it is part of the Historical District, it is regulated by those ordinances but there was concern about the deterioration of the property. A suggestion was made that HARB could apply for a Keystone grant and obtain matching funds from the township to be used in maintenance of the Revolutionary Cemetery.

Once upon a time (check out this slide show from 2010 on Flickr) Swiss Pines had a Japanese tea house and garden, a stone garden, statuary, stone lanterns, and bridges set among amazing natural gardens. Plant collections include the Glendale Azalea Garden (150 varieties); the herb garden (100 species), the ground cover garden (28 varieties), and the pinetum (over 200 types of conifers).

Public interest has always been high for this property as a natural destination.  The Philadelphia Inquirer has written several times about the property, most recently in blog blip in 2010:

Living — Kiss the Earth
Swiss Pines
Updated: OCTOBER 20, 2010 — 10:32 AM EDT by Virginia A. Smith

Swiss Pines is a strange name for a place that calls itself a Japanese garden, but here you go – 19 planted acres (out of 200) along Charlestown Road in Malvern, just down the street from the Great Valley corporate wonderland.

It was built by the late Arnold Bartschi, who was of Swiss ancestry and owned five factories in Pennsylvania that made children’s orthopaedic shoes. When he bought the former Llewellyn estate in 1957, it came with an English-style garden, four Asian pieces that caught his fancy – one sculpted Chinese lion, 2 Korean dogs and a bench – and 40 Swiss stone pines.

So, according to Carl Shindle, who’s taken care of the garden since 1962, Bartschi named the property Swiss Pines, studied up on Japanese design (and at one time hired a Japanese designer), and created this unusual garden. 

Sadly, Carl Shindle died in June, 2016 I am told. Henriette Bumeder, the manager, still lives there.  I worry for her and the property also because of periodic reports of vandalism to the property over the years (reference this article from 2007, for example.)

Vandalism plagues Swiss Pines trustee
By Brian McCarthy
POSTED: 10/24/07, 12:01 AM EDT | UPDATED: ON 10/24/2007

Manager and trustee of Swiss Pines, Bumeder has owned her 190-acre property at 20 Tree Lane since 1985. She opens the Swiss Pines Japanese Garden to visitors on the weekend, and operates her property (with caretaker Carl Schindle, who has worked on the land for 42 years), as a wildlife preserve for the copious amounts of deer, geese and other animals inhabiting the area……a chain of vandalism, each incident more serious than the last, beginning in January 2006, when two dead Christmas trees were dumped on Bumeder’s driveway. In March of that year, her street sign was ripped off of its pole and soon afterwards her mailboxes were knocked over twice.

In August 2006, Bumeder was driving when she noticed she was being followed….

Swiss Pines is deteriorating.  There is a blog post about it on a blog called Scooter Kitten from 2010.

I found screen shots of two other Philadelphia Inquirer articles from 1966 and 1973, respectively (there is an article from 1985 that I also found screen shots for and actually tried to buy the article off of the Inquirer archives, but the archive site sucks and I hope I do not get charged for content never received):

img 2

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img (1) 1985img 2 1985

Related to Swiss Pines and also future unknown is the Great Valley Nature Center. Arnold Bartschi (as in founded Swiss Pines) gave the land and start-up funds to establish the nature center. That was in the 1970s.

The Great Valley Nature Center fell on hard times.  It is currently closed. They still have a phone, but their birds of prey have been relocated and no fun camps for kids this year.  Here is the update from January 2018 off a new website (old one is no more) and their blog:

update gvnc

If you can help the Great Valley Nature Center, you can contact them through the newer website.  I think they need an angel with very, very deep pockets. I do not know what happens when a conservancy goes belly up, and that is my impression of what happened (right or wrong, and if that is wrong, by all means correct me.)

I found this old video on Patch from 2012 so you all can see why the Great Valley Nature Center is so special:

Now the farm I love to watch along Charlestown Road is Charlestown Farm.  Located at 2565 Charlestown Road. You see them at the wonderful Phoenixville Farmers’ Markets and they have a CSA. This farm is owned by the same family that owns neighboring Broadwater Farm .

When I see working farms and open space, it makes me so happy.  It’s what makes Chester County so magical.  We need MORE of that.

Anyway, enjoy some of the photos I took of Charlestown Road recently:

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anna maciejewska is still missing

I was asked by a friend who lives in Charlestown to post about Anna Maciejewska , who is still missing.  

According  to media and local reports she has not been seen since like April 2nd or April 10th (I have seen both dates in media reports and on social media, so I don’t know which one is correct. All I know is she has been missing for weeks at this point.)

I am guessing last person who saw her is her husband because well she is married and has a little boy named Andrew (do I have his name right?) who I think is like 4 or 5.  He must miss his mommy something fierce, so I figured I would put a post up in the hopes like all the media reports that someone somewhere has seen something.

Has anyone seen Anna Bronislawa Maciejewska?  The PA State Police want to hear from anyone who may have seen her. Call 911 or Embreeville barracks at 610-486-6280


Media reports continue to go out and the AP has picked up the story. 

It would be great if a national law and justice show like Nancy Grace could tell her story so please, if you are in the media or know media, pay it forward so Anna’s son  Andrew (?) doesn’t lose his mom.  Anna is Polish and I am also told that family in Poland is frantic.

Anna Maciejewska went missing from the Charlestown section of Malvern.  She was driving a blue Audi A4 she is 43 years old and 5′ 4″ and 150 pounds 
There is a Facebook page up for FINDING Anna Maciejewska.

She’s a mom. She’s not going to leave a little child like that. Please, if you have seen Anna Maciejewska, call the police.

fatal crash on route 29 in charlestown

As I learn my way around Chester County, one of the things I have been doing is travelling back roads…including ones which lead to Phoenixville.

So this morning when I saw the teaser of an accident on Route 29 on Malvern Patch, I thought “uhh ohh”.

And it wasn’t just uhh ohh, it’s a fatality.

There are so many cool roads in Chester County, but a lot are windy and narrow.  I have noticed when doing these Phoenixville jaunts that drivers become impatient when you actually try to do the speed limit.  And a lot of people have a hard time staying on their sides of windy roads at times.

Here’s what Malvern  Patch and state police are saying thus far and stay tuned to Malvern Patch for updates:

Police & Fire

SUV, PennDOT Truck Involved in Fatal Crash on Route 29

State Police have not released the name of the deceased driver, pending next-of-kin notification.

By Pete Kennedy   Email the author  11:04 am

Pennsylvania State Police are investigating a fatal two-vehicle  accident that occurred on Route 29 just north of the turnpike in  Charlestown Township around 7 a.m. Wednesday.

 

The driver of a  black Ford Explorer was killed in the crash. Police are withholding the identity of the deceased, pending next-of-kin notification.

 

The  other vehicle involved in the crash was a PennDOT “crew cab,” a  heavy-duty pickup truck. The three passengers in the PennDOT truck have  been taken to Paoli Hospital with unspecified, non-life-threatening injuries.

 

The SUV was headed south and the PennDOT truck was headed north when the crash occurred, according to Cpl. Weid of the PSP.

in the news in chester county

Last night at dinner time came the gruesome and sad news of an apparent suicide by car burning in Chester County (specifically Charlestown Township/Malvern):

NBC10: Body Found Inside Burned Out Car: Emergency crews responding to a car fire report in Chester County discovered a body inside the burned out vehicle.

I find that horribly sad and tragic.  It happened at Haverford College in 2009 – not a student, but someone who came in from the outside and ended their life in a remote parking lot.

There are so many people who are so deeply troubled.

In other news, let’s talk radioactive trash:

Radioactive material came from West Chester trash

Published: Thursday, February 02, 2012

NORRISTOWN — The Department of Environmental Protection is asking anyone who knows the history of an antique medical kit found in a West Chester trash bin to contact the agency’s Bureau of Radiation Protection…..The material was found Jan. 19, when a load of construction debris set off radiation alarms at Waste Management Inc.’s Norristown transfer station. The company deployed a health physicist to recover the radioactive material, identified as approximately one curie of radium-226. Exposure to one curie of radium-226 is equivalent to having more than 100 CT scans at once, and it has the potential to create skin burns within a few hours of contact.
DEP health physicists worked with Waste Management to properly evaluate and store the radium, and traced its source to a roll-off container that had come from the Hershey’s Mill retirement community in West Chester. 

Nice.  A retirement community.

Punxscutawney Phil, meanwhile, is predicting six more weeks of winter.

Now, previously, I had posted about  local food banks, and in today’s Malvern Patch there is a story about the People’s Pantry, formerly known as the Deacon’s Pantry in Frazer.  They are raising funds for a new building and have been approved as a 501(c)(3), making deductions tax-deductible.  They serve close to 2500 people- at least 500 households.  They have a website. In other food bank news, West Chester Patch announced that Chester County Food Bank has been named 2012 Business of the Year by the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce.  Read about it here.

We live in horrible economic times at present, and many are struggling.  If you can contribute to a local food bank, that is to paraphrase Martha Stewart, a good thing.

West Chester Patch has announced lane closures (for a change, right?) on Route 202:

Nighttime  lane closures are scheduled on northbound and southbound Route 202  between the Westtown Road and Route 100 interchanges in West Goshen  Township, Chester County on Monday through Friday (Feb. 6-10) from 8  p.m. to 5 a.m. …PennDOT reminds motorists they can log on to 511pa.com

The condition of 202 and how long this has taken is a personal pet peeve of mine.  That road is dangerous and deplorable. And the projects are like bad Brooklyn Bridge jokes. Construction never stops, never really completes, and work doesn’t seem to last very long.  They also do a crappy job of clearing debris from accidents, etc. from the roadway.

My last thing for this particular post is an outbreak of Whooping Cough in West Chester:

Whooping Cough Outbreak Declared for West Chester School

NBC10: Cases of pertussis at a West Chester school have officials shutting off classes to those who have not been vaccinated against the disease

By  Teresa Masterson
|  Thursday, Feb 2, 2012  |  Updated 8:32 AM EST

There is an outbreak of Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, at the Hillsdale Elementary School in West Chester, officials say.

Only days after a case of whooping cough was confirmed at another Chester County school– Great Valley High School – the superintendent of West Chester Area School District announced Tuesday that its elementary school has an “outbreak” of the highly contagious disease….

Scanlon said that any student or employee who does not have all of the necessary vaccines will not be allowed into school.

According to the Chester County Health Department, pertussis is spread through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. It begins with cold symptoms and a cough that becomes much worse over one to two weeks.

Symptoms usually include a long series of coughs (coughing fits) followed by a whooping noise.  However, older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the whoop.  There is generally no fever, officials say.

People with pertussis may have a series of coughs followed by vomiting, turning blue, or difficulty catching their breath….The disease can be very severe…For any parent who wants to have a child vaccinated, the Chester County Health Department offers free vaccinations for children under the age of 18 on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The vaccine is also available free of charge for adults