Last evening, I attended a virtual zoom lecture via the Willows Park Preserve titled “Lost Mansions of the Main Line.” It was presented by Jeff Groff of Winterthur who is the Estate Historian there.
It was like opening the Pandora’s Box of history. It was fabulous. I wished the program had been longer. The program was primarily mansions and houses which no longer exist. Some that still exist in a mostly adaptive reuse capacity.
So I grabbed some screenshots:
I posted the screenshots to show people the coolness of the lecture and the response was amazing. So many people had memories of some of the properties, like my weird connection to the Cassatt Estate in Haverford which was discussed.
My great grandmother, Rebecca Nesbitt Gallen, who was in service back then, was the summer housekeeper to the Cassatt Family. My grandfather and one of his brothers found pieces of old bicycles in old stables or perhaps a garage and built their own ramshackle bikes out of parts and learned to ride bikes on Grays Lane. When he was in his 80s and my parents had moved us to the north side of Haverford (late 1970s), I wonder what he thought about his daughter and her family living but a minute from where his mother had been in service during the summers?
And I have another weird Cassatt connection, or my husband does. His late mother was one of the many, many Tredyffrin residents years ago who tried for years in vain to stop the development known as Chesterbrook that completely changed the face of not only the Main Line, but part of Chester County. (see this history as compiled by TEHistory.) The Cassatts’ Chesterbrook Farm
So anyway, sharing about this lecture and the response led to other things. People interested in Bloomfield (the Radnor Township estate on S. Ithan Ave that burned in the spring of 2012) and as always, La Ronda which was demolished October, 2009 in Lower Merion Township.)
I have photos of both Bloomfield and La Ronda. I chose to document both with a camera back then. La Ronda over the last few months she stood, and Bloomfield after the fire.
What I also found startling are all of the people who vaguely recall the names of some of these places, but have no idea of the history. Or locations. Or the families that lived there.
We live in such a transient world that the very context of history of an area, and the history itself is getting lost. It goes hand in hand with people don’t know what the “Main Line” is, where the name came from and where it ends ( Name came from the days of the Pennsylvania Railroad for the “Main Line of Philadelphia” or “Pennsylvania Main Line”, ends as Paoli, not Malvern or points west.) It also goes hand in hand for realtors and developers who want to call Malvern and points west “Main Line” or things properly in Downingtown “Chester Springs” or something sitting on Route 3 “Radnor Hunt.”
The history matters. The facts and people and places give said history context. Maybe it’s me, but how can you want to put down roots in a community and not have a clue as to how that community came to exist? Or what are area traditions and beloved celebrations and why? Why certain non-profits have specific fundraisers?
Now more than ever, our history is important, along with the context that goes with it. COVID19 has seriously stressed out especially the smaller non-profits. Big non-profit machines will survive the economic fall-out of COVID19, but our small non-profits need our support. Here’s my list of some I think we all should show the love to and whom I am supportive of:
I will note that the Jeff Groff Lost Mansions of the Main Line lecture will be given via zoom and the Chester County Historical Society on May 12th. It’s free, but if you are not a member a small donation would be nice.
Also, there is a Lost Gardens of the Main Line lecture which will be given via zoom and Jenkins Arboretum on March 18th. It is also a Jeff Groff lecture (and I can’t wait!) Also a free event, but if you don’t already support Jenkins, consider a small donation.
All of the institutions I named are wonderful, and offer very reasonable memberships. There are many more I didn’t name, these are just some of my favorites.
I have a file of e-mails and attempted contact. National A.M.E. church leaders, regional leaders, local ministers. Some give an initial acknowledgement of my outreach, some have wasted my time with pleasant platitudes and a complete lack of action and I wonder if they really care, but most? Most just blow me off.
There are bits of newspaper articles here and there, including this one from the 19th century with horrible language that was sadly acceptable and not considered offensive back then:
It is maddening. These aren’t my ancestors, this isn’t my religious history per se, but this place speaks to me. It speaks to me of our country’s history and the important part these brave individuals buried there played. Freed slaves, free people of color, black Civil War soldiers. They matter. #ThisPlaceMatters — yet it rots.
Then, all of a sudden people have started to connect with me again about this place:
One of my friends…. lives in Malven Borough. She and her brother went o try and locate that headstone but weren’t successful. I’ve never been back to the site myself but would love to go once the poison ivy is gone. I don’t know the exact location..is it at the corner of Bacton Hill and 401 or Bacton Hill ? I don’t want to trespass. Their family has been around forever. Her father was a minister and there were a large number of siblings but all are gone. Thanks
And then this from another local historian I just met:
I recently had a lady reach out to me who’s looking for information on their relatives that were supposedly buried at that Ebenezer Church. I was hoping I would be able to find more information when I went there but everything was so grown over that we couldn’t even find the gravesite…The people that she is looking for is a James Williams, but he also went by the name Perry Ringgold. He bought his freedom in 1851 and lived in this area as a circuit preacher in the AME churches. He had a daughter who we do not have any records of and that is who I’m looking for. The daughter also had a daughter and then passed away shortly after the baby was born leaving the child to a Sophia Lane, who we do not know the relation of them to the baby. I think it may have been a sister-in-law
And then a lady named Tia contacted me. She is looking for family buried there. She is looking for the family the historian told me about above. She shared wondrous documents with me. The original deed, and a few other gems. I do not know where the originals of these documents are, but I was so happy to receive her e-mails.
It will take a village to save this. I would love to get the weeds hacked back so we can see the graves. It has been a couple of years. I heard the boy scouts will do this, but the gentleman I messaged who suggested it never responded.
If anyone from the A.M.E. church sees this, I really wish they would give a damn. We are talking about cleaning up and maintaining a historic sacred place. Is it as exciting as Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia? No, but it is JUST as important. A lot of the history of these churches is being lost, not just here. Records were haphazard, a lot of the history oral.
Here is the text Tia sent me from the deed:
Deed of Trust
James Malin to Samuel Davis et al.
This indenture made the eleventh day of the sixth month in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty one between James Malin of the Township of East Whiteland in the county of Chester and state of Pennsylvania, yeoman of the one part and Samuel Davie, Ishmael Ells, Charles Kimbul all the said county of Chester, Trustees of the African Methodist Episcopal Church to erected in the Township of East Whiteland in the said County of Chester, of the other part. Witnesseth that the said James Malin as well for and in consideration of the trusts, hereinafter mentioned, created & declared for and in consideration of the sum of one dollar, lawful money of Pennsylvania, to him in hands paid by the said Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells & Charles Kimbul, the receipt of which one dollar is hereby acknowledge, hath granted, bargained, sold, aliened, enfeoffed, released and confirmed and by these presents doth grant, bargain, sell, alien, enfeoff, release & confirm unto the said Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells and Charles Kimbul, their heirs and assigns a certain lot or piece of land situate lying and being in the Township of East Whiteland aforesaid, beginning at a post or stone thence by land late of Doctor John Jacobs, deceased, north sixty degrees, east eight perches to a post or stone, thence by other land of the said James Malin, North thirty one degrees and an half, West nine perches to a post or stone, thence by same and land sold to Charles Kimbul, South sixty degrees west eight perches to a post or stone, thence by land late of John Jacobs now of Joseph B. Jacobs, south thirty one degrees and an half, East nine perches in the place of beginning, containing seventy two perches of land which Joseph M Paul by deed of Indenture dated the eighth day of the fourth month on thousand eight hundred and sixteen and recorded in the recorder’s office in and for the County of Chester in book M3, page 245, granted and conveyed unto the said James Malin, his heirs and assigns forever. Together with all & singular the ways, rights, liberties, privileges, improvements, hereditaments & appurtenance whatsoever thereunto belonging on or any wise appertaining and the reversions and remainders, rents issues and profits thereof, and also all the estate eight title interest use /codeftion property claiming demand whatsoever as well at law as in equity otherwise housover of him the said James Malin of in to and out of the same. To have and hold the said described lot or piece of land, hereditaments and premises hereby granted or mentioned or intended so to be with the appurtenances unto the said Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells and Charles Kimbul and their heirs to the use and behoof of the said Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells & Charles Kimbul their heirs & assign and the survivors and the survivor of them and the heirs and assigns of such survivors and survivor forever. In trust nevertheless and to the use, intents & purposes herinafter mentioned, expressed & declared that to say that the said lot or piece of land hereby granted and conveyed shall be appropriated as a place & spot of growing whereon to build and erect a church to be called and styled the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Township of East Whiteland in the County of Chester for the members of said church to meet in and at, for the purpose of performing divine worship and for the erecting other necessary guildings for the conveniency and accommodation of the members of said church and for the purpose of a burial ground to bury and inter their dead and to and for no other use, intent or purpose whatsoever. And the said James Malin for himself his heirs, executors or administrators doth covenant, declare & agree to and with the said Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells & Charles Kimbul & their several & respective heirs & assigns in manner following that is to say that upon the death of any one of them the said Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells and Charles Kimbul or upon their or any of them being mindful or desirous to quit him or themselves of the said Trust, or upon their or any of them being expelled from religious membership by the discipline of said Church, it shall & may be lawful to & for the majority of the members of said Church in meeting assembled as often as occasion may require to make choice of another or others to manage and & requite the said Trust in the room and stead of such as shall depart this life, be desirous of parting him or their selves of the said Trust, or being expelled from religious membership as aforesaid. And the said Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells and Charles Kimbul and the survivors and survivor of them and the heirs and assigns of such survivor shall at the request of the majority of the members of the said Church in meeting assembled as aforesaid convey the said lot or piece of land with the appurtenances agreeably to the Trusts, uses intents and purposes aforesaid to such person & persons and their heirs & assigns as shall be by the majority of the said meeting in that behalf chosen, nominated & appointed in order to keep on foot and in continuance the said Trust estate for the uses and purposes aforesaid. And also that the Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells & Charles Kimbul or any or either of them shall not, nor will not at any time or times hereafter assign or convey over his or their said trust estate of or in the said dasonibet lot or piece of land and premises or any part therof unto any person or person or persons so as to make a tenancy in common or otherwise to sever the joint tenancy on the premises hereby created or intended so to be or in any other manner whatsoever buy shall stand and be (?) of the premises with the appurtenances to and for the uses, intents & purposes aforesaid, and to have no other use intent or purpose whatsoever. In witness whereof the said James Malin have hereunto set his hand and seal dated the day, month & year first above written. JamesMalin. Seal. Sealed & delivered in the presence of us John Rogers, James Dilworth, before me the Subscriber, one of the Justices of the peace in and for the County of Chester cam the above named James Malin and acknowledged the above written Indenture of Trust to be his ad & deed to the intent the same as such might be recorded according to law. In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hands and seal the eleventh day of the sixth month in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty one. James Dilworuth. Seal
The auction people are very nice and gracious, but you do have to stop at their registration table and fill out a form so they know who is in the house. It’s no big deal, but it is an old house. Wear sturdy shoes or good sneakers, this is an old house with many rooms and floors and stairs.
La Ronda was an amazing example of Addison Mizner’s work and was at that time (2009) one of the last remaining examples if not the last example in this area. His mansions used to dot the East Coast up through New York State if I remember correctly. And in the end with La Ronda even the seller and owner were at odds over salvage rights.
La Ronda was an amazing property. I was lucky to be able to photograph her from outside her gates before she fell. I was there like like dozens of others on demolition day. I took photos as tears ran down my face at the sheer waste of something so amazing. Even local commissioner were there and crying. It was awful . It was a house that was beloved by her former community, just like Loch Aerie is today. And just as symbolic and recognizable which is why people sometimes call Loch Aerie Chester County’s La Ronda.
The clock is ticking but not all is lost. Loch Aerie just needs a preservation buyer and not a developer who is land greedy who will buy her for the 6 acres in total she comes with and let her rot as opposed as to just lie fallow with a caretaker in residence.
Loch Aerie has stood there on her hill and watched Chester County change. This mansion has survived Home Depot being built, turnpike and other highway expansions, motorcycle gangs and general ignorance.
Addison Hutton is one of the finest architects that ever worked or lived in Philadelphia. Loch Aerie is fanciful and lyrical in her Swiss Gothic style. Her original gardens were designed by Charles P. Miller, the landscape architect who designed Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. The gardens are all but gone and the difference between this spring and some other springs I have seen Loch Aerie go through seems to be that some of the last remaining foundation plantings are but memories.
I will note that East Whiteland Historical Commission has a meeting tomorrow evening – 4/6/2016 from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm. Supposedly they will be discussing Loch Aerie although no agenda is posted as per usual. they also never seem to post any meeting minutes. So I can’t tell you what they are doing but they certainly have not gotten out in front of this. Or if they have it’s a secret they keep from everyone.
We can’t save every old house, barn, mansion, structure but we should save some, right? The crime here is just like with the Old Conestoga Inn in Tredyffrin, the Strawbridge House next to the boat place on 30 in Malvern, or Linden Hall on Route 30 in Malvern at the base of 352 and countless other structures all over, there is nothing legally keeping any of them from being torn down. The drawback to living in Pennsylvania, which is a heavy private property rights state (which of course given the eminent domain for private gain all over the state for decades is somewhat contrary in and of itself.)
But the thing is this: Pennsylvania needs more meaningful historic preservation. And there need to be more financial incentives available to preservation buyers. Other states in this country have them.
Communities around Pennsylvania desperately need balance and even protections from development. What defined a suburb and exurb in the past may no longer fit and how does historic preservation in communities fit in? The truth is historic preservation is more of a nice option in Pennsylvania rather than the occasional requirement.
Sorry, don’t mean to put you to sleep, but I feel quite passionately about preserving our open spaces and history.
Loch Aerie is a symbol to us. A symbol of the rich history and past, homage to a time gone by, an example of legendary architecture which has withstood the test of time and is still so beautiful. And Loch Aerie could be a private home again, or an adaptive reuse. It would be a fabulous boutique hotel and there is a need. I could see a small hotel with a chic restaurant on the first floor.
Even artists have been captivated by Loch Aerie over time. In a garage sale group I bought a print done by Chester County artist named Christopher Schultz. Schultz used to present the land and wildlife of the Brandywine Valley in his watercolors and prints of his watercolors. What I got was Loch Aerie. Apparently the print was popular 15 to 20 years ago. I have never seen anything else by this artist, and I bought this print because it was of Loch Aerie. Not terribly valuable but pretty and spoke to me because of the subject matter.
Loch Aerie speaks to me as she does to so many of you. She needs a preservation buyer. She deserves to be saved. But someone has to want to and be able to afford to do it. Here is hoping and praying that somewhere preservation buyers are thinking about this. It would be criminal for Pennsylvania to lose this treasure.
I went all the way up to the top of the house to the cupola and the widow’s walk, and down to the somewhat creepy root cellar. It is truly an amazing house and considering all the abuse it is taken over the past few decades, it is in remarkably decent shape.
I took hundreds of photos and also talked to people going through. Some were local people who read this blog and had seen me discuss the mansion, also a lot of regular people who like myself just always wanted to see the inside, and quite a few people that actually seemed interested in preserving the mansion. There were also developers and developer representatives and lots and lots of contractors.
I met a woman from far away with a big family that includes a lot of adopted children and grandchildren who is looking for a place to call home.
I also met a guy who grew up near the mansion and told me stories of when he and his siblings were little. He told me how they saw the bikers drive up to the house when they were squatting in the mansion in the 1970s I think it was. He also said that the bikers would ride their motorcycles up the front steps and up the staircase. And that kind of makes sense because there are marks and some of the floors upstairs that look like tires. He also told me of when the bikers had left and the kids in East Whiteland used to use the pool tables and pinball machines that were on the first floor.
Another lady wrote to me and said:
As a young boy my father, now deceased, worked making sandwiches at the Lockwood Mansion. Two elderly sisters employed my father. One of their relatives, Leaugeay, helped my father make sandwiches which were taken to the train station nearby for the soldiers. As the years gone by, my father married and named my sister, Leaugeay as a namesake of a family who helped dad. Growing up on Morstein as a young girl our large clan passed by the mansion many a Sunday on our visits to other family members. Really hate seeing another landmark in Chester County being replaced by commercial buildings. WHAT is going to be left for OUR GRANDCHILDREN to visualize HISTORICAL LANDMARKS……..What a shame that opportunity and money pass over our History.
I was amazed at how few people actually knew any of the history of the house they were just drawn to it. It really is a landmark. And an emotional pull back to the area for others.
Someone from East Whiteland Historical Commission was there. A woman whose name escapes me. I don’t think she was particularly thrilled to meet her friendly neighborhood Chester County blogger, and I’m sorry for that but I am not sorry for my opinions necessarily. She said they were meeting next week, but to what end? Do they have a preservation buyer with deep pockets to bid on Loch Aerie come April 21st? When I asked her about Linden Hall, she assured me it would be preserved but that old porches not historically authentic would be torn off. I told her Linden Hall already looked like demolition by neglect, but she assured me I am wrong so we shall see. I hope I am wrong.
If this beloved mansion Loch Aerie can find the right buyer future generations will be talking about her in years to come.
Here is an article from 2010 about Addison Hutton:
What a perfect fit for a historic architect: designing the building for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania at 1300 Locust St. in Philadelphia in 1902.
Known by many as the Quaker architect, Addison Hutton was a popular and prolific professional who designed palaces on the Main Line and in surrounding communities, and grand college buildings on campuses including Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore colleges and Lehigh University, as well as adding his talents to the designs of courthouses, museums, libraries and religious institutions.
Many of his most famous Main Line mansions have served double purposes. The Waverly Heights home of a railroad executive is now an upscale retirement community in Gladwyne. Ballytore in Wynnewood first served as a home to the co-founder of the Strawbridge & Clothier department store, then lived its second life as the home of a private school and is now in its third life as an Armenian church.
Hutton also used his talents for designing religious sites. In 1872 he designed the rectory for the Church of the Redeemer on Pennswood Road in Bryn Mawr. The original portion of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood was built in 1871 with Hutton and fellow architect Samuel Sloan designing the building where the preparatory college and theology divisions were joined in September 1871….
The Main Line Times article is quite long and well worth reading in it’s entirety.
Addison Hutton is a favorite architect of mine and his work can also be seen in Bryn Mawr on Shipley’s campus – the landmark mansion known as Beechwood. I know that Addison Hutton mansions can be saved and repurposed as adaptive reuses because I was on the Committee to Save Beechwood. And while Shipley basks in all the glory of this successful old house rescue, it was a committee independent from the school who save it, not the school. The headmaster (who is still there today) wanted to tear Beechwood down for a parking lot or a pool (I forget which.) Here is an article from when it began (the renovation was complete around 2002):
That’s the word from the Shipley School, which recently relented on its controversial plan to demolish a 19th-century building on its campus after a prolonged battle with local historic preservationists.
Yesterday, the school welcomed several architectural firms into the aging Beechwood House and asked them to pitch their best ideas for how to renovate its rooms for school use.
However, the school did not ask the architects to pitch their bills for the work to Shipley’s accountants. Someone else will be paying for the renovations.
As agreed in negotiations with the school, a group of Shipley alumni, preservationists and others who want to save the building have the job of raising the necessary money – possibly as much as $1 million – by Jan. 1, 2001. If they fail, Shipley reserves the right to tear Beechwood down.
But if the group can leap that hurdle, school officials are ready to make good use of the old building.
Frens and Frens were the Philadelphia architecture firm which did the restoration of Beechwood. They won numerous awards as a result. Another Addison Hutton home, also in Bryn Mawr on the corner of Montgomery Avenue and Bryn Mawr Avenue is another more recent and successful adaptive reuse. It was restored and converted to a handful of luxury condominiums.
The estate was formerly a Welsh tract of 500 acres, and the title deeds say it vas held on a lease from W. Penn to Peter Young and from Peter Young to Hugh Roberts , of
whom President George 3. Roberts of the Penna. PR, is a lineal descendant. The tract has been subdivided and has been in the possession of General Persifor Frazer
of the Revolution and also of the family of ?. Frazer Smith. The purchase of the estate was made by Elon Dunbar, Mr. W. 2. Lockwood’s step-father, from estate of
William Harmer, in I8U9, and Mr. Lockwood from Mr. Dunbar in April 1863. When Mr. Dunbar purchased there was 113 acres. Mr. Lockwood has been making purchases
adjoining the original tract at different times and from 136 acres it has increased to 680 acres.
And it had quite the famous landscape architect:
Loch Aerie was designed by architect Addison Hutton in
1865 for William E. Lockwood, who made his fortune manufacturing
paper collars and folding boxes, and lost much of it promoting local railroads. The house remains with few changes. The fine landscape was designed by landscape architect Charles P. Miller.
Mr. Lockwood began to pay some attention to live stock in i868,when he purchased tventy five head of Ayrshires, but about that time he was elected president of the Union Paper
Collar Co. and had to reside in Sew York for ten years. He was thus forced to relinguish the raising of stock, but he secured the services of competent farmers who
attended to what stock he required for domestic purposes. Mr. Lockwood intends to divide his tract into three small farms, consisting of the property south of the
Penna RR and will include twelve acres of woodland,, which will be kept to preserve thewater supply. Pour hundred acres north of the Penna RR will be retained as the
homestead farms of two hundred acres each. On the western most tract is St. Pauls Episcopal Church erected in 1828 by the Rev. Dr. Levi Bull and which was improved in
1874 at an expense of $8000. A fine parsonage will be erected during the coming summer.
And these last excerpts:
2. “Daily Local News,” West Chester, Pennsylvania, October 19, 1877
Wm. E. Lockwood, of Glenlock, has a telephone in his house also one in the P.R.R. tower so that in case of invasion of his domicile by burglars or tramps he can call the P.R.R. hands to his assistance. The Railroad Company also keep a police car on the siding there to lock up all loafers and tramps found in the vicinity. Mr. Lockwood also has a very complete “burglar. alarm»”which connects with every door and window in his house, and borrows his neighbors “bull dogs” for outside alarm at night. Also he has a formidable array of repeating revolving and breech-loading pistols and rifles and we understand he thinks of adding a gattling gun and jackass howitzer, and yet he retires to his little bed very uneasy as to his safety during the night.
We should think the tramp would give his place a wide berth in their travels but through his influence they are gobbled up at the rate of a dozen per night in and
3. “Daily Local News,” West Chester, Pennsylvania, May 1, 1936
One of the most interesting houses in the Chester Valley is that of the late William E. Lockwood, at Glen Loch. It was built in the year 1865, with its towers and bull’s-eye windows. William A. Stephenson, late of West Bernard street, West Chester, was the boss stone mason, and the walls were well built. The architect was Addison Hutton, who, five years later, designed the first building for what is now State Teachers College. Mr. Hutton, as the story goes, was on his way to Glen Loch in response to a summons from Mr. Lockwood to consult with him in regard to the plans, when he was told that Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, had been shot.
All the people were so shocked and horrified that there was no talk about house plans that day, and the dwelling was not erected until some months later. One of the art
treasures in the home today is a painting of George Washington on horseback – a handsome piece of work which once was loaned to the late John Wanamaker, long ago, to be exhibited in his Market street window.
People, we need to save the grande dame. #ThisPlaceMatters and she needs a preservation/adaptive reuse buyer. Not just some developer who wants the other 4 acre parcel that goes with the house and the 2 acres it sits on. Loch Aerie has so much potential still. I can totally see a boutique hotel with a marvelous little restaurant on the first floor.
Not to put too fine a point on it but there is ZERO preservation or restoration of the actual Linden Hall going on. All that is going on is construction of three (?) story stick frame slap dash but will be pricey townhouses. If the developer is going to bail on promised restoration of Linden Hall and it was a condition of approval are there consequences for a continuing deterioration of this historic structure? Is the East Whiteland Historical Commission doing anything? Is anyone doing anything?
When development plans get approved don’t developers have to put up some kind of money that’s held in escrow by townships? How much if so is the amount for this project? And if the developer welches on the restoration of the actual Linden Hall, will those funds be withheld? Would it be enough to restore Linden Hall at all?
Yesterday I wrote about the wrecking ball of doom hanging over a very beloved and well-recognized landmark, the Old Covered Wagon Inn of Strafford PA. Once it was a tale of two counties, and apparently at some point the structure got plunked 100% in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County. (Say, has anyone asked Radnor Township how they feel about this?? It is right on the border and they are always taking care of than intersection aren’t they?)
Today thanks to Pattye Benson I have these great photos to share with you. And a new post:
There has been questions about the exact date of the Covered Wagon Inn. According to Tredyffrin Township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey, the construction date is attributed to circa 1780. A team of professionals from Preservation Design Partnership in Philadelphia conducted the municipal survey documentation project, which surveyed and documented over 350 historic resources in Tredyffrin Township.
Interestingly in 2004, the Historic Resource Survey was given the Government Award by Preservation Pennsylvania. The project was described as “providing a usable preservation planning tool for a suburban township currently under intense development and redevelopment (in the form of “tear-downs”) pressure.” The award description went on to say that, “Tredyffrin Township Historic Resources Survey represents a model for the use of technology to document and plan for the management, protection and preservation of historic buildings, sites and districts valued by a municipality.”
The township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey was funded with taxpayer dollars and was intended to aid the municipal officials and staff in the protection of Tredyffrin Township’s resources. The preservation of historic buildings like the Covered Wagon Inn is a one-way street. There is no chance to reuse or save the building, once it’s gone. Preservation and restoration is the ultimate form of recycling. What is historic, and worth saving, varies with the beholder.
How horribly and sadly true. Not everyone sees the value in our old and historic structures.
photo courtesy of Pattye Benson and Community Matters. artistic filters applied courtesy of Simple Shots Photography: The Magic of Ordinary Days
When my friend Pattye Benson told me about what was up for discussion at a recent Tredyffrin Township meeting, I thought I misunderstood her. I thought they could NOT possibly raze the old Covered Wagon Inn located in Strafford on the corner of Lancaster and Old Eagle School. After all, it is one of the most rcognized landmarks on that part of the upper end of the Main Line in Tredyffrin, Chester County. It also is an ongoing example of adaptive reuse. No matter who rents or owns the site, it endures.
The last item in front of the Planning Commissioners tonight has personal interest – a land development application to demolish a building a construct a CVS Pharmacy and drive-thru. Summit Realty Advisors will present a plan for the 1-1/2 acre property located at 625/629 East Lancaster Ave. in Wayne. This property is located on the corner of Old Eagle School Road and Lancaster Ave – the Paddock Restaurant (previously John Harvards Brew House) property.
I have no issue with the redevelopment of this property, including the demolition of the ‘new addition’ located at 629 Lancaster, which housed the Paddock Restaurant. But … I have a real problem with demolition of 625 East Lancaster Ave, the historic building that currently houses Thos. Moser Furniture. According to Tredyffrin Township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey, the building was built about 1780 as a private resident. John Palmer owned a farm which included this structure in 1873, indicated on the 1881 atlas map. The structure was enlarged during the 20th century and was known as the Covered Wagon Inn. Well-known on the Main Line for fine dining and dancing, in its heyday the Covered Wagon Inn featured big name bands and performing artists such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington and their orchestras.
I personally also have no issue with redevelopment per se (although I will admit I do not see the need of yet ANOTHER big box of a chain drug store or a big box store in general) but like Pattye I have a HUGE issue with razing this historic building. The old Covered Wagon Inn has stood for 250 years. It’s a local landmark in use currently, means something to the area, so why demolish it? Especially when the Summit Group ironically was involved with a very special adaptive reuse in Ambler, PA as Pattye continues:
In a review of the Summit Realty Advisors website, there are many, many CVS Pharmacy development projects, including a similar current project in Media. However, in the midst of their drug store building portfolio, I discovered a very special project by John Zaharchuk, owner/developer with Summit Realty Advisors. Zaharchuk oversaw the redevelopment of Ambler Boiler House, the 19th century power plant of an abandoned asbestos factory. Working with historic architectural firm, Heckendorn-Shiles (a former historic house tour sponsor) of Wayne, the project redesigned the circa 1897 brick building, preserving its architectural integrity and recycled it into a clean-and-green office development.
Now…what to do with this? You see a major stumbling block is Tredyffrin, like many Chester County municipalities, historic structures are NOT protected (you know like Linden Hall and Loch Aerie in East Whiteland for two other examples?)
So what can we do? Quite simply raise awareness and try to change the developer’s mind. Can we do it Chester County and beyond? The answer is we can darn well try! The building is in good shape and occupied and has been basically continually throughout the course of time.
In less than 24 hours we have just shy of 500 signatures already on the petition (and growing!) and well OVER 1000 Facebook page likes and growing. Thank you to those who have joined us already and here is an invitation for any of you out there wherever you are to join us!
#ThisPlaceMatters so we have shared our early efforts with The National Trust For Historic Preservation too! In addition to the petition and Facebook page we invite anyone who is preservation minded especially when it comes the the old Covered Wagon Inn to take a photo outside the building with a simple hand lettered sign on a pie of copy paper that says #THISPLACEMATTERS and either post it on the Save The Covered Wagon Inn Facebook Page or post it on Twitter to @SavingPlaces @tredyffrin @TredyffrinTwp .
Also we are looking for photos of the Old a Covered a Wagon Inn throughout the years. You can send them to Pattye Benson directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on or message them to the Facebook page.
One thing that has come out of this since we launched the Facebook page is people sharing memories of The Old Covered Wagon Inn throughout the years. My friends and I in our early 20s danced many a night away at the then “Main Lion” . Here are some of the other memories:
“My parents met at the Covered Wagon! It was a family favorite…..for so many reasons.”
“I have a personal connection, it was the site of my wedding reception. More long term, my family, Davis’, have a long history in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County ,dating back to the 1600’s as shown by Graves in the Valley Baptist Church off Valley Forge Rd, Devon. Please preserve and protect the history of this area and this building in particular.”
“My mother took me to see Harry James at the Covered Wagon. She convinced me to go backstage to get his autograph. He must have been in his 70s but he could really play. Nicest guy you’d ever want to meet.”
“They can’t do it!!! Our Saint Katharine of Siena eighth grade graduation celebration was there!! It’s like tearing down Independence Hall, or Betsy Ross’s house. Buildings that involved very very important people and/or events MUST be preserved, cherished and maintained.”
“I remember the 70’s when Mt. Zion AME Church Devon had many Fashion Shows at The Old Covered Wagon Inn. It was gorgeous. So much history. Hopefully it will be restored.”
“The Old Covered Wagon was a frequent advertiser in the Radnor Historical Society Bulletin years ago; feel free to use this ad if you wish to post it.”
from the Radnor Historical Society
There is also another post on Community Matters you should read:
Rob Lukens was one of those people whom I wanted to get to know. But sadly, although we shared many friends and acquaintances in common, cancer has taken him away from his family and Chester County and I will never get that opportunity. Rob Lukens was President of the Chester County Historical Society.
He did many fabulous and amazing things when it comes to the history of where we live, Chester County, PA. I always enjoyed his articles which would appear on the Chester County Historical Society website and in the Daily Local. The last one was this past May.
Rob lost his battle with cancer on August 1st. As a cancer survivor, it always touches a very sad chord within me when someone else loses their battle. As a survivor of breast cancer, I know I lead a charmed life, but this news just made me so sad and not just because of what Rob meant to the Chester County Historical Society and historic preservation here in Chester County, but because of his family. Rob leaves behind him a beautiful wife and equally beautiful children. To them I send my most heartfelt condolences.
If you admire people like Rob Lukens, I hope you will continue to support organizations like the Chester County Historical Society. Every membership helps.
It is with deep regret and a profound sadness that we inform you of the death of our President, Rob Lukens, PhD, August 1st, following a long fight with cancer.
Rob became our President in 2011, although his association with the Chester County Historical Society began in 1993, over twenty years ago when Rob helped catalog, pack, and move museum objects as a volunteer during his undergraduate studies. Later, he was an intern at CCHS and then became our Collections Manager in 1998. Rob left CCHS in 2003 to become the Head of Collections at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. His career then took him to Historic Yellow Springs and the United States Capitol Visitors Center before bringing him back to the Historical Society, ready to lead the institution that he loved so much.
Rob brought passion and a commitment to share Chester County’s history with the community beyond the walls of CCHS. He initiated a regular column in the Daily Local News, a weekly radio program on WCHE, and the extremely popular History on Tap series. His leadership brought much needed upgrades to our facilities and continuing plans for their improvement. Throughout his illness he remained committed to CCHS, especially in developing plans for our new permanent exhibition.
George Zumbano, Chair of the CCHS Board of Trustees, spoke for all of us when he said that “Rob Lukens made an indelible mark on the Chester County Historical Society. It was a pleasure and an honor to work with him. His enthusiasm for our region’s history was contagious, and he brought a level of professional expertise that helped us move forward in innovative ways.”
Rob was a devoted father, husband, son, brother, uncle, friend, and colleague. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Becky, his two children Abbie and Finn, and his entire family during this difficult time.
Mr. Zumbano announced that David B. Reinfeld, who has served as Acting President of CCHS for the last two years, has been named Interim President. “David has done a remarkable job throughout this difficult time, and we are confident that CCHS remains in good hands.”
The Chester County Historical Society Board of Trustees, staff members, and volunteers are grateful for the time that we had with Rob, and we will miss him dearly. His work, which is our work, will continue.
Chester County Historical Society will post funeral details on its website when they are available.
I am not getting into some protracted discussion about property rights, what this demolition has done is leave a lasting impression on me regarding historic preservation in Pennsylvania.
Historic preservation in Pennsylvania remain a lofty ideal, but is seldom a true reality. So when you hear on rare occasions that you might not like what a developer is doing, but they are saving and preserving a historic structure on a property they bought? Well that my friends is huge and doesn’t happen very often. See ( Linden Hall post July 24 and Farmhouse Post on July 27 and Adaptive Reuse from April 2013 )
I watched and documented the last sad few months of La Ronda, and to me it is a glaring reminder of what lip service preservation is. In 2009, Lower Merion Township Commissioners (including the current Board President Liz Rogan) did much beating of the collective breast and waxed long and poetically on how they were going to do things differently and how they were going to preserve historic assets.
Also facing an uncertain future is the historic Odd Fellows Hall and property and United Methodist Church and property in Gladwyne. People have said for decades that there are Revolutionary War soldiers buried there. Famous Phillie Rich Asburn is buried there and heck some of my friends have all their family buried there. So Odd Fellows is in limbo. What is historic will survive if the developers who are the owners, Main Line Realty Partners, do the proper preservation. They can do the right thing if they want to. They have in the past and truthfully the partners in these projects have done beautiful work. Last I heard that Odd Fellows plan was tabled, but these same developers have now purchased another church, First Baptist in Ardmore. They also bought the United Methodist Church in Narberth Now the developers are calling themselves Main Line rebuild.
But like I said, adaptive reuse and historic preservation by developers are the exception rather than the rule.
I do not know a lot of the preservation groups throughout Chester County as I have not lived here that many years yet . I love the Chester County Historical Society and they have lots of neat stuff in their headquarters in downtown West Chester and they do fun things like walking tours.
The show was at Phelps School this year, new for 2013. And guess what? It was their best show yet and flowed better. Jimmy Duffy’s did the cafe.
I had to swallow a minor fit of pique mixed with giggles when I entered because I stood there and stood there as one volunteer discussed health issues with someone and then another volunteer without looking at me asked me if I wanted a senior citizen discount. I mean wow, I know a lot of women my age do not choose to go gray versus being a bottle whatever, but I am barely graying at this point !!
I will note that I was the youngest there by about 15 years, and what a shame that more of my peer group didn’t check this show out.
I had so much fun! Met some really interesting and pleasant dealers from out-of-state, and some local dealers that gave me the once over and decided I wasn’t even worth greeting. (Like Stevens Antiques in Malvern/Frazer. Won’t be patronizing them any time soon.)
The show was beautifully laid out and I saw some truly amazing things…along with some of my favorites like Tole trays and ceramic and porcelain chickens…saw some other fun things including a really whimsical cow statue. And OMG there was this estate jewelry dealer from Maryland right as you entered with cases of baubles to die for.
I have not enjoyed a show so much since Yellow Springs USED to do an antiques show.