april 15, 2019: the day notre dame de paris burned

Photo courtesy of my sister, who literally visited Notre Dame a few short weeks ago.

I was 14 when I saw Notre Dame. A visit to Paris at the end of a summer trip to Strasbourg through I a local historical society- I think at the time it was a historical society in Valley Forge but it has been so many years.

Photo courtesy of my friend Jane

On this trip it was teenagers with chaperones and while in Strasbourg we lived with families. That is how I made my life long friend, Marie Claude.

Photo courtesy of my friend John

When in Paris, we stayed in an old but respectable hotel near Gare De L’Ouest and my friend blew the fuses when she plugged in a hair dryer. They were definitely not luxury accommodations but to a bunch of kids it was cool!

Photo courtesy of my friend Jane

Now here is a personal fact you wouldn’t expect from me I think: I may be well read, but I am not necessarily well traveled. I have not been to Europe since I was a teenager. Life has just not happened that way.

Photo courtesy of my sister and taken March, 2019

I do remember being in Paris and being overwhelmed because it was so big and busy. I remember doing things like stopping in a grocery for a baguette and cheese and fruit with my friend Lizzie and seeing Notre Dame and part of Versailles.

Photo courtesy of my friend Jane

I do have a bucket list of places I would like to see now that I’m older, but I hadn’t put Paris on it. Maybe I should now. A great deal of my bucket list surrounds the United Kingdom. I want to visit all the gardens I’ve read about and been inspired by over the years, and I want to go to wild places like the Shetland Isles, visit the Highlands of Scotland, see Haverfordwest and parts of Wales, and visit Ireland.

Photo courtesy of my friend John

Notre Dame is indeed a structure and a place which has figured prominently in a sense over the lives of so many people. The centuries of history and what Notre Dame has seen and survived, art history classes, the very symbol of it if you are Catholic.

Notre Dame is just iconic.

Photo courtesy of my friend John

Yesterday to most in the US was just another tax day. Well, maybe not just another tax day because thanks to our current president’s great “tax incentives, tax plans” it was kind of chaotic. And miserable. But that’s not for this post.

I remember I was standing in my kitchen and I had asked Alexa what the news was. I literally dropped a glass in the sink when I heard Notre Dame de Paris was burning.

Photo courtesy of my friend John

When I first turned on the TV all the US channels of major networks had game shows and the equivalent on air. So I turned to the BBC channel for news and pretty much remained riveted there for hours.

BBC: Notre-Dame: Massive fire ravages Paris cathedral

Notre Dame has survived centuries of war. Only on April 15, 2019 it has nearly burned to the ground. The news this morning is good, and already money is being raised for her restoration and rebuilding. But I can’t help but wonder all that has been lost while I marvel at the miracle of what was saved.

BBC: Notre-Dame fire: Millions pledged to rebuild cathedral

Here we are in one of the holiest weeks of the year. Are we supposed to learn the lesson that with endings there are new beginnings once again? I don’t know. But I have photos taken by my sister and my friends Jane and John to share with all of you. Enjoy the majesty that is Notre Dame de Paris and say a prayer for her restoration.

Photo courtesy of my friend John

barclay friends neighbors sent me photos

I was visiting a friend in Chester County Hospital today and remarkably, you can smell the smoke from the fire inside the hospital. It’s crazy. It was like someone had a fire in their fireplace.

I have friends who live in that part of West Chester and they have smoke infiltration in their homes. I am only publishing a couple of photos, but there but for the grace of God go all of us.

Other friends of ours (as in a couple of different families) had family members evacuated from Barclay Friends last night. Their family members are safe and sound elsewhere.

Another friend who has been on the scene texted that the fire was not completely out.

Neighbors of Barclay Friends are among the scores of unsung heroes who helped residents to safety. Some media outlets are saying not all are accounted for? (See this report from ABC News ):

Authorities struggled on Friday to account for the whereabouts of all the residents of a Pennsylvania senior living community after a massive blaze tore through their complex during the middle of the night, injuring nearly 30 and leading to a chaotic evacuation.

West Chester Mayor Jordan Norley said Friday afternoon that a few of the more than 130 residents of the Barclay Friends Senior Living Community, located west of Philadelphia, were unaccounted for following the huge fire.

“We’re hoping for the best obviously here,” said Norley, who put the number taken to area hospitals at 29.

Officials said fewer than 20 remained hospitalized and all were in good condition.

County emergency officials said there was the possibility someone could have died in the fire, which erupted late Thursday night. But a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which was on the scene, told an afternoon news conference that no relatives had reported any family members missing.

Some patients are at Chester County Hospital. These people have lost everything. Especially photos and memories. It’s devastating.

At West Chester nursing home fire, a heroic effort to evacuate residents
by Laura McCrystal, Justine McDaniel, Tricia L. Nadolny & Emerson I. Max, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS

Flames Rip Through Chester County Senior Living Community Displacing 150 Residents and Staff, Hospitalizing 27-The senior residents of the facility were evacuated into the bitter cold, and while more than 20 people transported to hospitals, officials did not elaborate on any injuries
By NBC10 Staff

The ATF was on scene this afternoon as well, so that should help people get answers, right?

It has been a very long day in the Borough of West Chester. On the eve of Thanksgiving I am grateful for all those neighbors, fire fighters, and EMTs and police who responded to this. I am told by friends that we can always drop off food or snacks to these volunteer fire companies. These men and women do this day in and day out.

Have a good night, all.

prayers for barclay friends

Most of us in Chester County woke up to those devastating news. Barclay Friends in the Borough of West Chester went up in flames as many of us, myself included, were sleeping. I have a friend whose mom was there, thank goodness she is now home and safe with her family. There are many, many displaced seniors as a result.

It is the eve of Thanksgiving and I think we must be grateful for the absolutely amazing first responders we have in Chester County. Firefighters, EMTs, police, and so on. I am not one to toss around the word blessed lightly, but we are so blessed with these heroic individuals because this could have been so much worse without their expertise and valor.

Daily Local : At least 20 injured, 100 flee into night as fire roars through West Chester senior living center (Photos)

Prayers go to the families with displaced seniors and the staff of Barclay Friends . I am happy to post legitimate fundraising efforts one Barclay Friends gets this sorted out to where they can do that. I am also happy to post efforts of groups who will be collecting clothing and other basics for these seniors. And if someone is planning to get Thanksgiving dinner to these displaced seniors.

These senior citizens could be anyone’s family members, and at least one is a family member of a friend.

I will admit I am so terrified at how fast Barclay Friends went up in flames. All media reports this morning indicate fire investigation is already beginning.

Also, and VERY important: you will note my photos come from social media. I am not going anywhere near that scene and neither should any curiosity seeker. Let the professionals do their jobs and stay out of the area in the Borough of West Chester.

Prayers up on this.

malvern area family needs christmas miracle

It’s Christmas- let us show this family the true meaning and help – I do not know them- it doesn’t matter because this could happen to any of us – saw this on Malvern Community Forum and decided to share.

Let us show the Zografakis family the miracle of Christmas ūü饂̧

Here is their story off of the GoFundMe page:


Again, this could be any of us so please pay it forward.  

Thanks so much!

https://www.gofundme.com/zografakis-family-fund

And The Daily Local wrote about this so people know this is real.

Dog rescued from two-alarm house fire
By: Pete Bannan (pbannan@21st-centurymedia.com)

POSTED: Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 – 5:16 p.m. 

WILLISTOWN TOWNSHIP >> Goshen firefighters rescued a dog from a house fire on Ridings Way in the Hunters Run development of Williston Township Thursday.


Nobody was injured in the fire, which seriously damaged the home.


First arriving police reported fire from the raised deck and rear of the home.

Goshen Fire Chief Grant Everhart said the fire went to two alarms.

about 60 pipe bombs? in public storage in malvern?

Last night a headline broke on Malvern Patch:

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Actual photo taken inside Public Storage in Malvern months ago

That really freaked me out because until a couple of months ago, I was a customer of that Public Storage – I had needed some extra storage when I first relocated permanently to Chester County.¬† It was clean and easy to get to and not creepy feeling the way a lot of those self storage places are.¬†¬† The few months I was there we rarely saw other people, and given all the shows on television and cable about storage units (Storage Wars) and auctioning off abandoned storage units, you can’t help but wonder what people store there.

While a customer there I saw mostly people who were storing clothes and books and stuff like me and once in a while people who were antiques and collectibles dealers who didn’t have store fronts, and did shows.¬† Occasionally you would see an orphaned piece of¬† furniture or a lamp no one wanted left inside the front doors by the elevators, but that was it.

So I was floored when I saw Malvern Patch’s headline last night about the sleepy yet clean Public Storage and I am equally shocked this morning that yes, the bomb squad borrowed from Montgomery County (apparently Chester County doesn’t have one?) detonated BOMBS last night!¬† Sweet Jesus!¬† How long were they in the storage facility?¬† The risk to the public with this if not for law enforcement could have been crazy.

This also makes you think about all the other self storage facilities around here on and off that Route 30 corridor, doesn’t it? Remember that developer of Malvern (who isn’t getting the Whip Tavern is also bringing more self storage to Malvern¬†called “Cube Smart”.)

So how do these self storage companies really know what is being stored?

Mr. Bomb Storage in the news broken by Malvern Patch (EXCELLENT job by the way in getting that out there) ends up is a Ponzi schemer named¬†¬†“Istvan Merchanthaler, a 42-year-old man facing federal charges related to a $2 million Ponzi scheme.”

And Patch reports that there was a lot of law enforcement there last night.  Given what it was about, I have no doubt in my mind ATF was there too.

I hope they throw another book at this freak Istvan Merchanthaler for those explosive devices.

Here is the updated story from Patch (Malvern Patch really does do local news well as opposed to a lot of other Patch sites), and from Michael Price at The Daily Local:

Bombs Detonated in Park After Storage-Unit Seizure

A series of explosions shook houses Thursday night as authorities destroyed pipe bombs in East Whiteland’s Valley Creek Park.

By Pete Kennedy and Eric Campbell  Email the authors  March 7, 2013

malvern patchTwo bomb-disposal units were among the multiple emergency response teams working at the Public Storage facility in Frazer Thursday evening after a large amount of explosives was found inside a storage locker.

FBI agents and bomb technicians worked in and around the building, located on the unit block of Lancaster Avenue, as local police and fire departments controlled traffic, maintained a perimeter and kept ready to respond to any incidents.

Around 8:30 p.m., bomb squads from Montgomery County and Philadelphia began hauling the explosives from the storage facility to nearby Valley Creek Park. The explosives were transported inside large metal containers on trailers, and each trip involved a convoy of fire engines, ambulances and police vehicles…..

Shortly after 11:15 p.m., as a light snow fell, the first in a series of explosions shook houses and woke sleeping residents miles away. At least five explosions occurred before they stopped around 1:15 a.m. Friday.

There were also reports of an explosion earlier in the day, around 7 p.m., but employees at businesses near Public Storage said they did not hear anything at that time.

The FBI had notified East Whiteland Police that they planned to execute a warrant within the township, but the circumstances that led the agency to Malvern are unclear. The Daily Local News reports that the storage locker was registered to Istvan Merchanthaler, a 42-year-old man facing federal charges related to a $2 million Ponzi scheme. Harman said agents told him a Maryland resident had been arrested in connection with the bombs.

Federal agents remove explosives from Malvern storage locker

 By MICHAEL N. PRICE mprice@dailylocal.com

Posted: Thursday, 03/07/13 10:35 pm Updated: Thursday, 03/07/13 10:43 pm

EAST WHITELAND ‚ÄĒ Federal agents and bomb squad units removed a high amount of explosives from a storage locker Thursday night in the unit block of Lancaster Avenue in Malvern.

According to a high ranking official close to the investigation, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and members of the Montgomery County and Philadelphia bomb squads removed about 60 pipe bombs from a storage locker at Malvern Public Storage and transported them to a nearby park, where they were to be detonated.

The source, who asked to remain anonymous due to the ongoing and sensitive nature of the investigation, said that the storage locker was registered to 42-year-old Istvan Merchanthaler, a Chester County man facing federal charges in connection to a Ponzi scheme that officials say defrauded investors of about $2 million over the past seven years. ¬†Officials close to Merchanthaler‚Äôs case said the suspect was connected to similar explosive investigations in other states, and added that he is facing charges in multiple jurisdictions throughout the east coast….The United States Attorney‚Äôs Office announced additional fraud charges against Merchanthaler Thursday

Ponzi schemes are bad enough without adding BOMBS to the mix. So what was the goal here? Defraud some people and blow some others up? Wow. Nice guy this  Istvan Merchanthaler, right?

up in smoke: historic bloomfield in villanova burns

I believe I was in 9th or 10th grade the last time there was a fire at the historic Radnor Township mansion known as Bloomfield.¬†¬† ¬†Bloomfield was built at the turn of the 20th century in the Radnor Township portion of Villanova on the bones of a Victorian Estate built for¬† Albert Eugene Gallatin in the 1880’s.¬† Bloomfield was built by Horace Trumbauer and her gardens were designed by the Olmstead brothers.

This place in my opinion was like Radnor’s La Ronda and it was a marvel it had survived this long without being torn down or bastardized.¬† It¬†looked like a French Chateau with fabulous gardens and a graceful, grand presence.¬† It was being rented by a Canadian family at the time of the fire – which began mid-afternoon yesterday.

I went today to the site and when I got out of my car there were some news vans at the estate entrance on S. Ithan and the air smelled heavily of smoke.  As I went to take my photos I also glanced up the street shows the gaping, ravaged land where private school Agnes Irwin had been reportedly blasting this week.

There were many gapers and gawkers on the driveway and the road when I arrived and I wandered around with a local reporter from Radnor Patch  (Sam Strike) taking photos.  We got up the driveway to in front of the fencing now surrounding the site where we were met by a Radnor police officer who was none too happy to see us and asked us to leave.  He also threatened to take my camera.  He was just doing his job.

So we left, and we got some good photos, and as we wandered back down the driveway, there were yet more gawkers, so I would not be surprised if they did not soon post a police car at the foot of the driveway.

People are driving up and down S. Ithan hoping for a glance of the scene, and I found others back around Trianon Lane, where you can see glimpses of the gardens, house, and pool from behind wrought iron fencing.

NBC10 is reporting that investigators are trying to find a cause.  The state police fire investigator is now reported to be in charge of the investigation.  I was told that around 175 volunteer fire fighters responded from several companies from all over the area to fight this fire.  (This as a related aside is why everyone should support their local first responders and on the Main Line and in Chester County they are a predominantly volunteer force.)  First responders came from  Radnor, Bryn Mawr, Ardmore, Gladwyne, Penn Wynne, King Of Prussia, Manoa and Newtown Square.

They say the slate roof made it hard for firefighters to break into the roof and battle the fire.  I am also told some firefighters may have suffered some issues due to the heat, etc of the fire.  God bless them for what they did, because truthfully, I know many people near the mansion who had fears of the fire jumping via the trees surrounding the property.   With wind and fire, you just never know how it will travel.

The mansion was most recently owned by Jerald Batoff, son of a former Democratic fundraiser heavyweight, William “Bill” Batoff.¬†¬† I looked at Delaware County property records yesterday¬†and Batoff had only owned it a few years.¬† I am told by neighbors that although it had renters, the mansion had been for sale.¬† Apparently a movie soon to be released called “Safe”¬†was partially filmed there in 2010 – the mansion was a film double for New York City’s Gracie Mansion.

I think this is an incredibly sad loss if this mansion ends up not being rebuilt (I am sure residents will now be nervous that the mansion will be razed and the land sold for some sort of development because that would be a natural thought process after a fire of such devastation), and it is but for the grace of God that people weren’t killed because of this fire.

Here’s the coverage:

Radnor Patch: History Goes Up in Flames at Radnor Mansion:Bloomfield was home to historic architecture.  By Bob Byrne and Sam Strike  Email the authors  5:51 am

When fire tore through the mansion named Bloomfield on South Ithan Avenue on Wednesday, it not only repeated history, but also destroyed it.

Watching with a crowd of neighbors as Bloomfield burned, real estate agent and home builder Jeff Bader lamented what he was seeing.

“It’s a shame. They don’t build them like that anymore,” Bader said about the home with 19 bedrooms, a 25 by 35-foot ballroom and six-car garage.

“You can’t replicate the workmanship and design,” Bader told Patch as firefighters moved into the third hour of fighting the flames.

Historic Main Line mansion falls to fire

By Bonnie L. Cook and Robert Moran  Inquirer Staff Writers

A historic Main Line mansion in Radnor Township was gutted by a fire  Wednesday afternoon.

An automatic alarm was triggered shortly before 2:30 p.m., and by the time  firefighters arrived, flames could be seen shooting through the roof of the  three-story structure on the estate known as Bloomfield, said Township Fire  Marshal Don Wood.

A man and woman who were renting the property got out safely with their two  dogs and a rabbit in a cage, Wood said. Three firefighters suffered minor  injuries.

The fire, which started in an area between the main house and an adjoining  garage, was declared under control before 6 p.m., but fire crews were still  putting out hot spots well into the night, Wood said.

About 10 companies and 175 firefighters responded to the blaze, which was the  equivalent of four alarms, Wood said.

As they battled the towering flames, the mansion was veiled in white smoke¬† that would occasionally clear enough to reveal the charred remains….The estate was originally the site of the Victorian home of Albert Eugene¬† Gallatin, which was built around 1885.

George McFadden Jr., a cotton tycoon, acquired the estate, and in the early¬† 1920s he hired famed Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer to remake the main¬† residence ….It became known as Bloomfield, the name of a branch of the family, the¬† historical society reported in a 1988 newsletter article.

McFadden died when he was electrocuted by a steam cabinet in a bathroom, the  article said, but the estate remained in the family until 1984.

In late 2010, the 5.87-acre estate served as a double for Gracie Mansion, the¬† official residence of New York City’s mayor, for the Jason Statham action movie Safe…Bloomfield, listed for sale last year at $6.9 million, had 19 bedrooms and¬† nine full baths in its 22,000-plus square feet of living space, officials¬† said.

County records show the property is owned by Jerald Batoff, the son of the  late William Batoff, a prominent Democratic fund-raiser.

NBC10: No Cause Yet for Main Line Mansion Fire/State authorities take over investigation into massive Villanova mansion fire

By   Dan Stamm and  Rosemary Connors
|  Thursday, Apr 5, 2012  |  Updated 2:56 PM EDT

On Thursday all that was left of a once a sprawling Main Line Mansion was the charred remains and stone walls.

Just a day earlier flames broke out at the historic Horace Trumbauer-designed¬†mansion at 200 S Ithan Avenue in Villanova, Pa….On Thursday the State Police and state fire officials took over the investigation into the cause of the multi-alarm blaze at the 22,000-plus-square-foot home as authorities remained quiet as to what could have caused the massive blaze.

Neighbors told NBC10 that renters were apparently inside when the fire started…A few firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the blaze.

Delaware County assessed the property for nearly $2.25 million in August 2006 but the historic home, built more than 100 years ago, could be worth more.

The property is valued at nearly $5 million on Zillow.com….According to the home’s property record, the three-story, single-family home was built in 1905 and includes 19 bedrooms, 12.5 bathrooms, nine fireplaces, a full basement and a pool.

Fire struck the house once before. In 1978, flames consumed a large portion of the upper level.

Jerald Batoff bought the home in 2001, according to Delaware County records. The home was up for sale in the Fall for $6.9 million, a real estate source tells NBC10. It doesn’t appear it ever sold.