history, historic preservation, and community context

Lost Mansions of the Main Line Tickets, Wed, May 12, 2021 at 7:00 PM |  Eventbrite

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:

Jenkins Arboretum

Willows Park Preserve

Chester County Historical Society

Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society

Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust

Chadds Ford Historical Society

Valley Forge Park Alliance

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Historic Sugartown

Historic Yellow Springs

The Mill at Anselma

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.

Pay it forward.

Thanks for stopping by.

Capitalism by Gaslight: The Shadow Economies of 19th-Century America  (Redistributing Wealth)

who stole the bench from historic sugartown?

Historic Sugartown photo from their Facebook page

I love Historic Sugartown! It is a lovely place full of history. I will admit I am not a fan of the current Executive Director BUT I am happy to cross-post their plea for the safe return of one of their handmade benches, which apparently was bolted to the wall!

I am somewhat flabbergasted that someone would steal from a historic site which is essentially next door neighbors with the police department in Willistown! But then I am flabbergasted someone would steal a bench off of anyone’s front porch!

Please if you know where this bench is just return it to them. They are saying they just want it back no questions asked. 

Here is hoping someone does the right thing.

dear applicant

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I am going to have a bit of a rant. What happened to the niceties of business etiquette? Am I crazy to feel insulted when I receive a impersonal form letter?

Yes…..this is a pet peeve kind of post. (Sorry)

A couple of months ago a friend who works for a preservation-based non-profit sent me an ad for a part-time job. It was for a part-time program coordinator at Historic Sugartown on Sugartown Road in Malvern. She had worked with me on historic preservation projects where I was a volunteer and was so excited to share this with me. She encouraged me to apply.

Historic preservation is something I am quite passionate about. So I indeed decided to respond to the ad. I sat down shortly after New Year’s and wrote a very detailed cover letter to the Executive Director. I submitted it along with my resume.

I am at a point in my life where I can choose what I would like to do, and if I want to do something like this part-time I finally can. I love this little historic crossroads village, and everything in the job description I knew I could do, even if I had never worked for a museum or historical site. The position sounded ideal, interesting, and fun.

Would I die if I wasn’t offered this very part-time gig? No. It was just something that really interested me. Also, the truth is you just never know so you should always go for what interests you. Life is short.

It’s March and until today I had heard nothing. I had already figured they had given this to someone who had spent their professional life around historic sites or museums.

Late this afternoon I received an e-mail. From the Executive Director referring to me as “Dear Applicant.”

I have a name. They didn’t use it. That alone was disappointing and almost infuriating. If you are going to bother to send a rejection letter, at least use the applicant’s name.

The note said :

Dear Applicant,

I am writing to inform you that the position of Program Coordinator at Historic Sugartown has been filled. We received over 60 applications for this part-time position, so it became an extremely competitive review process. We thank you for your interest and wish you all the best in your endeavors. If you would like any feedback on your application, please do not hesitate to email me.

Thank you again for your interest.

Best regards,

They had sixty applicants. Not six hundred. Heck there are mail merge programs that can quasi personalize even a generic e-mail.

I just think that if someone can take the time to apply for something, submit a resume, and a detailed cover letter, that the people who receive the resumes and letters can at least do better than “Dear Applicant”. Maybe that is too old-fashioned and antiquated , I don’t really know. But it is how I feel.

I will note that no one ever contacted any reference I provided them with and that is fine. I can completely accept that I wasn’t the shoe to fit this non-profit’s foot. It happens. But the position interested me because it is something I would like to do if the opportunity presented itself, so I applied. No regrets.

What bothered me was the “Dear Applicant” . They did not take the time to learn my name to send me my rejection e-mail, but they would give me feedback on my application? Are they even sure which resume and cover letter I was?

I realize that it is a brave new impersonal world out there when you apply for a job, but I swear I miss the days when receipt of resumes were acknowledged, people interviewed mostly in person (versus telephone interviews, Skype, and Google Hang Outs) , and when you were rejected they at least inserted your name in the rejection letter….which used to be a letter and not just an e-mail.

That is my rant. I know they will never consider me at Historic Sugartown to even take out the trash because I wrote this post, but as the workplace has evolved to business casual it should not mean that all niceties of business etiquette should just disappear.

Just food for thought.

Thanks for listening.