east whiteland do you know your own history?

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It took years, but I finally located a copy of A Brief History of East Whiteland Township by J. Gilmore Wilson from 1965.  It is a slender volume, but it captures the history of a Chester County municipality that has no town center and to most is a place you drive through.

But East Whiteland has historical significance and as I do not wish to damage the spine of my book, I converted photos I took with my phone into a PDF so people can see it.

East Whiteland is one of those places thanks in part to organizations like the Chester County Planning Commission that people think they can just keep dumping development in.  Someone said to me again last week how King of Prussia was once upon a time farms and open space.  They then compare East and West Whiteland to King of Prussia, as in these municipalities are getting WAY over-developed.

I have said it before that I object to the Chester County Planning Commission being head up by a carpetbagger from Lower Merion Township. He doesn’t live in our county, how much of the history of places like East Whiteland does he know?

East Whiteland is a funny place because as much as it use to be farms, it was also equal parts mines and quarries and industrial.  That of course is why there are some astoundingly toxic areas past and present in East Whiteland Township.

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East Whiteland is home to random historical facts and locations.  For example: Dead Horse Hollow. Yes, a lovely name and according to J. Wilson Gilmore was at one time located south of the then PA Railroad, a quarter-mile east of the township line. As the railroad was being built all dead horses and mules were…well…dumped there. Can you imagine how THAT place stunk to high heaven in warmer weather? Gross.

Or how about Cabbagetown? It was a small community on Summit Road. And Barker’s Corners? That was a little village at the intersection of Swedesford and Church Roads.

Or how about the giant Penn Oak that was said to pre-date colonial settlers on Flat Road? Does it still stand somewhere, or was it cut down or did it die years ago?

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What about the Native Americans who once lived and roamed what is East and West Whiteland? Like the Okohocking which were for a while given a 500 acre reservation somewhere in Willistown Township? Do the residents of East Whiteland know the Indians referred to the area as “The Dark Valley” because of all of the woods? Of course today they would not recognize the area given all of the development.

How many know East and West Whiteland used to be one Whiteland? And they split into two areas circa 1764-1765?

Around 1777 do people realize that George Washington and his army after the Battle of the Brandywine marched into the area and encamped near Malin Hall? To quote Mr. Wilson:

With his troops deployed along this ridge from Three Tuns at the junction of King Road and Goshen Road, and west approximately three miles as far as Ship Road, he was in an excellent position with an army of approximately 11,000 men. During his march up the Valley, quite a number of local farmers joined his ranks.

And residents see reference to the Battle of the Clouds in East Whiteland but do they realize this was a battle which didn’t actually ever happen? Why? Inclement weather, apparently. Mr. Wilson states had the battle occurred, “the British army might well have been routed.”

The history goes on and meanders from schools to Duffy’s Cut to all of the inns and taverns and residents and industry and quarries and farms and early schools and churches.  Did you know the Catholic Church tried several times to build a church in various locations in East Whiteland but were never able to complete the task?  Mr. Wilson also talks about Ebenezer AME whose ruin barely stands today on Bacton Hill Road with its abandoned graveyard with a mobile home park to one side, and new development approved last year to spring up and around it.

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This book is fascinating and this is why I wish more local historical societies had really good websites with archives available online. I can tell you East Whiteland does not. Bits of local history continue to get lost and it would behoove the township to give the historical society more resources or help them build a proper website and archives.

Things in this book Mr. Wilson refers to are a mystery to me.  What were the Speakman apartments, for example?  And the Chester County Academy? Where is it?

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And what of a crazy cool log barn ?

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Or a crazy cool log cabin? “South of Conestoga Road, on Bacton Hill”?

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Or what was known as the “Black Maria” ?

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Now Elinor Janney Detterline also wrote a brief history of East Whiteland for the Tredyffrin Easttown Hostorical Society around 1970. It is available in the online archives they have for the public to use.

But Mr Wilson’s book? To me finding a copy was like finding the holy grail.  It’s fascinating.  And I wish more would take an interest in the history of East Whiteland before everything of historical value disappears. Because if this township doesn’t start to have more interest that extends past people like me and members of the historical society, then what?

Until I got this book I had no clue that they totally celebrated East Whiteland’s Bicentennial.  And then I found related to that, this super cool thing from a page about Frazer on Facebook:

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And East Whiteland had a tagline/slogan before “The Heart of the Great Valley” and it was “Land of Limekiln, Plow and Millwheel”.

Enjoy the book, I think I got it all back into order before I converted to a PDF.  East Whiteland has history.  And it’s not just the modern-day history of groaning under development.

Thanks for stopping by.

loch aerie photos from 1991 courtesy of george w. pyle, jr.

Lockwood mansion 1991 (13)

All photos courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.  Today’s photos are from 1991.

Late yesterday, almost like the perfect birthday present, George W. Pyle, Jr. sent me more photos of my favorite old lady, Loch Aerie/Lockwood Mansion.  The photos came with a note:

These photos were taken in 1991.  My family and I were back visiting relatives and I saw some people standing out in front of the house so I took a chance and drove in to speak with them.  The person living there with his family at the time was Anthony Alden.  Mr. Alden was an architect.  He allowed me to walk around the property and take pictures.  I have 23 photo total.

Anthony (“Tony”) Alden is an architectural curator who loved Loch Aerie and put buckets of his own money into her from around 1980 until the mid 2000s when he moved out.  According to The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2016:

In 1980, architectural curator Anthony Alden moved into a Loch Aerie with boarded-up windows and no heat. He sank thousands into its restoration, hoping to buy it from the Tabases. Alden called it an “undertaking of love” but was unable to reach an agreement with the Tabas family. He moved out in the mid-2000s.

Before he left, Alden joined with a group of residents, environmentalists, and historical commission members who fought to keep Home Depot at bay when it bought land next door to build a store in the mid-1990s. The historical commission negotiated to minimize the impact to the house, Caban said. But its gas works were removed, and the pond and much of its grounds were paved over.

These photos are truly amazing to see and they show Loch Aerie BEFORE Home Depot when the beautiful old fountain still worked and the pond existed. Remnants of the original Lockwood Gardens still existed.

After looking at the photos, and knowing the history which includes two fires (one believed to have been started by vagrants), it is truly a testament to how she was built and her architect Addison Hutton that she survived.

If you drive by Loch Aerie, as I do weekly, you will notice work is progressing nicely. The lovely new owners had hoped to be opened by this spring, but if you have ever lived through an old house restoration or an adaptive reuse, you will know that it takes it’s own time.  I am so grateful to the  Poirier family for taking on the restoration. It makes me so happy every time I drive by!

Here are the photos:

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loch aerie 1963 photos and some of a more recent vintage.

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George Pyle sent me more photos.  This morning I have lined up his 1963 photos with my more recent vintage photos taken over the past couple of years.

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unnamed (1)I do not know what of the ornate plaster work will survive the adaptive reuse in progress, but I imagine what can be saved, will be. It was so badly deteriorated in spots, and in other spots just plain missing.

But it is so cool to see the rooms as they once were. Add to that the juxtaposition in time of when my photos were taken, decades later – 53 years later give or take.

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my heart is happy. ebenezer is getting help.

Ebenezer AME graveyard October 1,2016

Ever since my last go round with those fine folk at the AME Church (national and Mother Bethel in Philadelphia), I will admit I had somewhat lost faith in yet another organized religion.  After all, every time I or most have contacted them about the 184 year old ruin of Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill Road and her graveyard the AME people have either blown people off or been generally speaking, impolite.

So when this nice man contacted me through Save the Ruins and Cemetery of Ebenezer AME Church Frazer PA and said he was going to get Boy Scouts and volunteers in there to clean up AND would get the AME Church to say OK, I was so glad to hear it, but didn’t hold out much hope given how the church had been treating myself and others.

His name is Al Terrell. The Boy Scouts are from the Willistown Troop.  And there are others. Bible study folks from Al’s bible study and Lee’s Lawn Service. And more. And this is just the beginning.

Look at the photo above. Taken this morning. October 1, 2016. I have tears in my eyes writing this. 

Ann Christie are you watching from heaven?

I learned a lesson here to have more faith in humanity. The good guys do exist and do prevail.

Mr. Terrell wants to get this place saved in perpetuity. And get the church restored. 

My faith is renewed. Going to visit today. I have to say hello to my soldier, Joshua.

184 years of history. It does mean something to people.

I will post updates as I have them.

Ebenezer in June , 2016 the day we were there with Kristin Holmes from the Philadelphia Inquirer

ebenezer ame church – bacton hill road

Ebenezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, PAThanks to Pete Kennedy of Malvern Patch I know the identity of a ruin I like to photograph from the road on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer.

So sad.

It is an abandoned church that had historical importance to the area: Ebenezer AME Church.  I hate when this happens, and it makes me think of a whole slew of at risk churches.

Historical Photo Location Revealed: Ebenezer AME Church

The church, now crumbling, is on Bacton Hill Road.

By Pete Kennedy Email the author September 27, 2012

Last week’s historical photo challenge didn’t offer much in the way of contextual clue, but one reader got it right.

JoAnn Richardson hit the nail on the head with this comment:

This is Ebenezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, PA. There is a cemetary on the property as well.

That’s correct. The church was built circa 1835 and is still barely standing today.

Apparently the oldest grave stones in the cemetery date back to the 1830s.  An Eagle Scout named Matthew Nehring had been working on uncovering the gravestones. (Have no idea if his project is finished.) According to the photos it appears some of the dead buried here are soldiers and veterans. One gravestone is for a Joshua Johnson  (Pvt., Co. K, 45th Reg., United States Colored Troops (USCT) (Civil War). I find this to be incredibly historically significant as the army began to organize African Americans into regimental units known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1863.

According to the East Whiteland Historical Society (which I am not sure what they do because all I see are historic structures rotting in East Whiteland) this church used to serve as a “hub” of African American society in Frazer.  So why isn’t any of it being protected?

The church was used through into the 20th century as per Patch and the information from East Whiteland, and now it is abandoned.  So who owns the graveyard and the church?  In Radnor, the Radnor Historical Society has been caring for the historically important and abandoned First Baptist Cemetery off Conestoga Road.  They have gotten volunteers to help keep weeds in check and right upended grave stones.  So why is it that East Whiteland always seems to be Johnny on the Spot for historical data yet all this stuff just rots?

I understand completely that you can’t save every old house or church, but wow, people including soldiers who fought and served are buried here.  Show them some respect. Shame on East Whiteland for not trying to find avenues of preservation for this and other sites.

I think I am going to go back out there and photograph graves when the weather improves and the ground isn’t so soft from rain. But who owns the land? Is it truly abandoned?

loch aerie in frazer 2013

Here is beautiful and marooned Loch Aerie.  It’s 2013 and she is still hanging on.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the Tabas family cared as much about this mansion’s preservation and future as the airplanes in their front yard they feel the need to get media for?

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fun in frazer

Ok on the way home this afternoon I finally satisfied my curiousity about the GIANT warehouse “Resellers Consignment Gallery”.

One word: FUN

Amongst rather unattractive things Aunt Tilly jettisoned from her home are some really fun things.  Old, new, antique, collectible, and in between. Yes there is a lot of stuff that qualifies as dead furniture, but there are gems.  I saw a handful of empire sofas today that yes would require reupholstering (some due to wear, some due to fabric choice), but they were beautiful.

Stuff is pretty much priced to move too.

And no, I did not buy that chair.  I wanted to, but my better half nixed the needlepoint of it all.  And it is under $100 too :<(