why preserve when you can demolish?

Wandering back to Lower Merion Township today. Yes, I do that on occasion, although these days it’s mostly virtually. I know some people who read my blog and visit the blog’s Facebook page are occasionally outraged when I don’t write about either Chester County or whatever they think I should be writing about. But life journeys are individual, and kind of like my writing journey, yes?

Growing up in Lower Merion, one of the things I loved most were the homes and the gardens. Stately, modest, actual estates, twins, cottages, mansions, and everything in between. Back in those days, the history of the area mattered. And the gardens were glorious whether large or small.

But then, October 1, 2009, Addison Mizner’s La Ronda was demolished. I was there with many others outside the gates. I documented it in photos. She was such a gorgeous structure. So historic. Part of the history of the area, yet even as a historic resource, she was torn down and exists only in memories and photographs.

When La Ronda was demolished, I knew deep down in my heart that Lower Merion was no longer the place for me. It had completely at that moment become about people and how much money they had, and not much else. When La Ronda came down I realized no property was safe or valued there. It was a sad realization.

Over the years I have continued to document notable properties. People have the right to sell to whomever they choose. People have the right to demolish homes great, large, wonderful, small, whatever. But I still lament the people who can’t see the value of the architectural history of an area, and the impact it has. Well another home popped up on a mental endangered list (as in my mind and opinion, I don’t know if it is on an actual list anywhere) because of a Historic Commission agenda in Lower Merion for February 22nd:

Sigh. 651 Black Rock Road. They say it’s Gladwyne, but it’s actually Bryn Mawr. I knew who lived there although they were not friends. Of course people wish to downsize and move on. But for this house to be facing the fate of the wrecking ball is just so tragic. This house is spectacular, with mature gardens and an amazing property and pool.

And as described by the realtor:

Let’s see “as is”:

If you look at all the photos, ok the kitchen is a little dated, and perhaps the bathrooms to the taste of some, but this property and home are spectacular. Quite literally, they don’t build them like this anymore. And the gardener in me wonders about plants that may have been there since the house was built.

So according to Lower Merion’s website, this is in Commissioner Scott Zelov’s ward? He was a champion of saving Stoneleigh and once upon a time against eminent domain in Ardmore (it’s why he got elected originally and I know, I was there), will he have an opinion on this if it proceeds to demolition? But will it matter?

Nope. It won’t. People have the right to demolish. Sadly.

Historic preservation can’t just be a vague idea, it actually has to happen. It has to matter. And in Lower Merion, starting way before La Ronda got bulldozed, it ceased to matter. Lower Merion’s current manager was West Chester Borough’s Manager before ascending to the plum position of Lower Merion Township Manager. And although I have nothing against the man personally, he always appeared to me to be pro-development over other things. And the current Director of Building and Planning is someone I watched climb the ladder at Lower Merion. And I have always found him pro development over anything else. He won’t like me for mentioning this but I sat through YEARS of meeting watching him flip his hair like Farrah Fawcett and present developer’s plans like he worked for them, does anyone else remember?

Anyway, the house is still standing as of now, but this is on an agenda and according to Lower Merion there is a demolition permit. What will happen when all of the old and historic houses and their gardens are gone? In Lower Merion and elsewhere?

Historic preservation isn’t really going to matter until it matters to all of us consistently across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And I do not believe every old house can and should be saved, but when you see houses like this one you have to wonder because beautiful places like this is what drew people to the Main Line in the first place. Until then, why preserve when you can demolish?

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe, roads are icy.

abandoned gladwyne farmhouse

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Even down in the land of ostentatious McMansions and Nouveau Main Line behaviors, there are abandoned farmhouses. After all, the history of Gladwyne can’t completely be obliterated, can it? Mills and farms were a big part of the early industry that made the area prosper.

As seen from Schuylkill Expressway. It is in Gladwyne.  I have wondered about this house for decades.  It has, to the best of my knowledge, been boarded up my entire life.

It is nearly impossible to get photos, it just depends how fast traffic is moving and what time of year it is.  I was able to fire off a few photos as a passenger in a car recently. Not my best efforts, sorry.  Soon the green will engulf all around this little red farmhouse and it will disappear from highway view until fall and winter.

If you look at photo in top of post, the front door is clearly open.  Lower Merion Township has since secured the open door. Lower Merion has also gained permission to demolish the house from a judge in Montgomery County over the past couple of weeks.

Chester County, specifically West Chester Borough residents will remember Lower Merion’s Township Manager. He did a movin’ on up like The Jeffersons…Ernie McNeely.

I do not know how exactly you get to this farmhouse. But hopefully someone figures it out and gets the property properly secured.  I do not know if the house is 18th century or early 19th century.

If anyone knows the exact location and  any history of this house, please leave a comment.

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A reader sent in:

From Lower Merion’s “Listing Of Properties In The Historic Resources Inventory”

1805 Youngs Ford Rd
Date of Construction: ca. 1851-1871
Original Architect:
Original Owner: Howard Wood
Description of the Resource: This vernacular frame farmhouse was built sometime between 1851 and 1871 at the end of Youngs Ford Road next to the Schuylkill River Expressway. In the 1870s, the house and the 90-acre property belonged to Thomas Rose. By 1896 the property was divided among other adjacent parcels and the building belonged to Howard Wood, owner of the nearby “Camp Discharge.” Wood and his descendents owned the house and much of the surrounding property until the 1930s. From 1937 onwards, the property gradually developed into subdivisions or was preserved by the Township. The house is two stories with a side gabled roof and a full-length, shed-roof porch. The front façade, which faces southwest, is asymmetrical and comprised of five bays. The one-story porch shades the entrance, located in the center of the front façade. A chimney rises along the exterior of the façade, near the southeastern end of the building. A detached, one-story, two-bay garage is also located on the property. (8/2012) Early Frame house (1896 atlas: Howard Wood). (88) Red frame early farmhouse adjacent to Schuylkill Expressway.

when non-profits become bad neighbors

  

Your eyes do not deceive you. This is  indeed a photo taken Monday of a parking lot resembling an obstacle course. This parking lot is not in Chester County thank goodness, the  location is Ardmore, Pennsylvania. In Lower Merion Township where West Chester’s former borough manager Ernie McNeely is now the Township Manager. 

The Junior League of Philadelphia is doing a huge renovation project at the thrift shop and headquarters in Ardmore. I applaud them for all the good works they have done for decades, but they are being astoundingly dad neighbors now.

Ardmore is a town that suffers from parking issues chronically. So if you add a construction project where construction vehicles park every which way and dumpsters get put and left in thru lanes for very tight parking lots,  it creates a driving hazard and an impediment to small businesses.  Believe it or not, close to that dumpster out of the sight line of the photo is an outdoor dining space for a small café. I can’t imagine they have much business with a giant dumpster RIGHT there.

One of my closest friends owns a store that you literally cannot get to through this parking lot a lot of the time right now because of these construction vehicles. So if customers and suppliers can’t reach the stores and store owners and employees are having a hard time, how are small businesses coping? The answer is not really well and it’s just not fair.  (I also have to note that many of these buildings have apartments and office suites above them and all of those people are having a hard time too)

Why can’t the Junior League find other parking close by for the construction vehicles?  Why does it seem like they are getting preferential treatment and everyone is letting them get away with murder in the parking lot? Other businesses can’t stop being in business because the Junior League is renovating their building.  

Don’t misunderstand me, the building they (The Junior League) are in has been long in need of renovation, it’s kind of a pit, but they should be more considerate of their neighbors and they aren’t. If there are projects which have to block portions of the parking lot at times during this project (which keeps occurring), why not start it a little earlier in the morning before businesses open or why not provide neighboring businesses advance notice that the parking lot will be blocked on certain dates for certain amounts of time?

I used to be a big fan of the Junior League of Philadelphia, and hopefully someday I will be able to be once again. But right now they are simply a nonprofit behaving badly. Think of this post as #dogshaming of a charitable organization. Somehow I don’t think when Mary Harriman founded the Junior League in 1901 being a bad neighbor was part of her plan.

This is yet another reason why I am glad I no longer live on the Main Line. I would however love to be able to navigate this parking lot safely so I can patronize my friend’s business. I  used to donate to the Junior League for their shop once in a while and I never will again after this.