the historic village of yellow springs is falling apart.

I do not want to upset anyone. Or deliberately offend any volunteers.  But Historic Yellow Springs Village is falling apart. And there was a lot of activity not so many years ago.  I know Congressman Jim Gerlach got money for the village around 2009. And he honored the village around then too.

Not to be blunt, but WHAT HAPPENED?

Take for example, what is known as “Vaughn House”.  It is at the end of the village right before the West Pikeland Township Building.

It had a fire at least two years ago.  I have been digging around on the Internet and in 2009 I found a reference in some West Pikeland report:

K.  H istoric Yellow Springs Vaughn House – Mrs. Matthews reportedthat the Township has not received a response from Historic Yellow  Springs regarding the current status of repairs needed to the  abandoned Vaughn House. A discussion ensued regarding the need   to have the property secured by fencing to assure public safety.

Maurie Kring offered to allow Historic Yellow Springs to use fencing from his recent demolition. The Township Public Works  employee will transport the fence for Historic Yellow Springs.

Then I saw this report which mentions it:

February 12, 2010.

1.Mr. Ross stated he has spoken to Prudence Haines, Director of Historic Yellow Springs in regards to the fire damaged Vaughn House. Ms. Haines informed Mr. Ross that Historic Yellow Springs has secured the facility and does not have funds for maintenance and repair and would consider selling the property.

Then I find another reference from June of this year, 2012:

PERSONS WISHING TO BE HEARD

Barbara Miller of Art School Road stated that she has observed two properties damaged by fire; one being the Vaughn House owned by Historic Yellow Springs and the other a private home located in the eastern most portion of the village. Ms. Miller stated that the properties are blighted and are unattractive and asked if they were going to be repaired. The Board informed Ms. Miller that the private home has been sold and is plans are presently being made for renovation. Eileen McMonagle of Historic Yellow Springs was present and stated that Historic Yellow Springs is currently working on a solution to restore the property.

I dug a little more and this is what Historic Yellow Springs has to say on it’s website today even as Vaughn house is all boarded up and half covered by tarps:

Connie’s, Vaughn, Jenny Lind, and Yeaworth Houses

Connie’s House dates to the late 1800’s and was originally a post office and general store. It is now owned by the Chester Springs Studio and is used for exhibitions and artists’ residencies. The building was given to the Studio by Yellow Springs Founder Connie Fraley, hence the affectionate name. The Vaughn House, named for its last resident, is a charming small farmhouse built in the 1830’s. Historic Yellow Springs completely restored the house in 1989 and it serves as a tenant residence.

Mrs. Holman, the retiring owner of the Yellow Springs Spa property, built the Jenny Lind House in the early 1840’s as a boarding house – it has eight bedrooms!

The Yeaworth House, also named for its last resident, was built in 1899 as an infirmary for the Soldiers’ Orphans School. It was converted to a residence in the 1950’s, extensively renovated in 1987-88, and now serves as another tenant residence.

The English actress Fanny Kemble describing her visit to Yellow Springs during July 1843 in her book Records of Later Life, 1882:

“This morning the children took me up a hill which rises immediately at the back of the house (the Jenny Lind House), on the summit of which is a fine crest of beautiful forest trees, from which place there is a charming prospect of hill and dale, a rich rolling country in fine cultivation – the yellow crops of grain, running like golden bays in the green woodland that clothes the sides and tops of all the hills, the wheat, the grass, the variegated patchwork covering of the prosperous summer earth.”

Vaughn House is no charming tenant property now.  I took a good look at it on Sunday.  It is a wreck after a fire, and how embarrassing that Historic Yellow Springs can’t be honest about it.

I dug around and was told Historic Yellow Springs  did collect insurance post-fire,but it was not enough to effect historic preservation repairs.   Given the June 2012 meeting minutes I quoted above, I would say they are in a fair pickle when it comes to this property.

Someone I know who looked at the house recently said it was not beyond redemption but would be soon if they did not get busy.

The irony is everyone knows there is some serious money in and around Yellow Springs, so why can’t some of those people rescue this house and preserve it?  What happened was a tenant fire, I am unsure of the timeline, but I noticed on West Pikeland’s website a last name that is the same as that general store, or Harold M. Hallman III.   From what I have been told years ago, this family has been around forever and own a lot of land?  Couldn’t a family like this help Historic Yellow Springs?

See this is what I do not get about this place: those who can’t don’t.

Yellow Springs has an amazing history and still has three mineral springs: magnesium, sulphur, and iron.  The whole village grew up around the medicinal value of these springs. There are references to them in Colonial Times and Washington hung out there…and they can prove it.  People used to travel up the Schuylkill by packet boat from Philadelphia to Pottstown/Phoenixville and then by coach to the Inn for taking the waters in the springs.

On their website, the iron spring gazebo is in a field neatly cut.  It is practically drowned by brush and rushes right now.  There used to be these amazing walking trails that you could take to check out the springs.  I could not see any of the trails this weekend, as things are that overgrown.

I totally get Historic  Yellow Springs  currently seems to be  swinging toward a more public revenue stream with using the village for  weddings, rentals,  and sponsored events. I have done enough work with small non-profits to know non-profit funding is there but grantors want specific results over the long-term.  However, when I say the place needs donor angels I am not kidding.  They are advertising the old inn “The Washington” as being event ready, and maybe it is o.k. but I have heard from people who inquired that you have to bring in a kitchen to do an event, there is no longer a kitchen. That adds significantly to what you have to rent.

This place is like a ghost town now.  The life comes from the restaurant in the Jenny Lind House, The Yellow Springs Inn.  But that is privately owned, and the care taken to do a restoration there is obvious.  So should Historic Yellow Springs consider selling some of the properties provided they can ensure they can, and will be preserved?

This is the list of HYS board members as per their website and if it is not current that is their issue:

Mark Ashton, President

Anne M. Congdon

Stephen P. Cottone

Polly Gable, Secretary

Karin E. Gedge

Rita Kaplan

William LaCoff, Vice President

Edward A. Meltzer, Treasurer

Terri Moran

Moira Mumma

Matthew E. Roberson

Brendan J. Sherman

Robert C.F. Willson

I do not know any of these people but is this board active?  Or are they a board that treats their non-profit as a private club?

Here is the staff list:

Heidi Brett, Arts Program Manager – 610-827-7414 ext. 16 hbrett@yellowsprings.org
Callie McGlone, Office and Events Manager – 610-827-7414 ext. 10   cmcglone@yellowsprings.org

Eileen McMonagle , Executive Director – 610-827-7414 ext. 14 emcmonagle@yellowsprings.org

Sandra S. Momyer, Moore Archivist – 610-827-7414 ext. 19 smomyer@yellowsprings.org

Diane Peterson, Business Manager – 610-827-7414 ext. 17       dpeterson@yellowsprings.org

John Shaw, Volunteer Coordinator jshaw@yellowsprings.org

I have been told the Executive Director is fairly new and very nice and really into preserving the historic village.  Maybe they need some new board members then?

The history from the springs, the Revolutionary War Hospital, the who artist colony history makes Yellow Springs cool.  But it does not matter how many volunteers it has if no movement is occurring.

They used to do so many events, and that has dwindled.  You need events to bring people to town, not just putting the event for rent sign out on the village.  Bring back the antiques show, for example.  That drew thousands to the village.

They could host re-enactment events.  There are tons of people who live to come to these things in correct period costume and share their knowledge of particular periods in United States History – I have seen it at places like Historic Goshenville.  I have seen it at various Civil War re-enactments.  Also things like Farmers’ Markets will draw people to a community – look no further than the markets we all go to every week in Chester County during growing seasons. Or flower shows.  Or old-fashioned things like quilt shows.  Open air antiques and crafts markets.  Partner with local farms for farm table dinners in the Village or haunted hay rides in the fall. People love those too. There are a lot of things that can be done, but the people controlling this historic village need to want to do things to better the lot of the village.

And what can the West Pikeland Township people do that is positive for the village to encourage and entice people to support the village.

I know so many areas that would kill to have history like this.   Don’t squander it Historic Yellow Springs.   People care about the village.  I watched a guy cutting really long grass just to make things look better.  I asked someone if he worked for the township.  The answer was no, he is just a resident who cares about the land.

Look at the historic homes inventory in and around Yellow Springs Village. (Mind you one thing I found interesting on that list was the 1083 Bodine Road owned by The Barnes Foundation.)

If Chester Springs is supposed to be one the most affluent sections of Chester County, then I wish some of them would wake up and see that Historic Yellow Springs gets a shove.

No one wants to write a donation check in this economy that is not going to be accounted for, I get that.  So what about targeted donations?  Or very specific fundraising efforts?  Like how much needs to be raised to restore Vaughn House?

What kind of special events (not just recurring ones)  can the board of Historic Yellow Springs bring to the Village?  If those people want to sit on the board then are they responsible for helping raise a certain dollar amount in donations?  Face it, this place needs not only an active board, but a proactive board.  And if these board members aren’t bringing in a certain amount of donations each year, or giving it themselves, they need that board freshened up a little more often.  Who can they partner with in neighboring communities or other areas of historic interest to raise awareness?

And the walking trails.  People love walking trails, especially when there is not only beauty, but a lot to look at.  And face it, those springs are still cool a couple of hundred years later!  But the trails seem to be lacking maintenance.  Why not invite boy scout troops from Chester County to adopt the trails as service projects?  Maybe let them camp once in a while  in one of the fields like the one being used for parking of studio vehicles.

O.k. rant over.  Sorry, but I think this is worth saving and the people in control do have the tools to do so.  Only I can’t figure out what they are waiting for.