historic preservation is inspiring and infectious, why can’t we have more not less?

This was something the greeted me this morning when I popped open my tablet. An update from Meg Veno at Life’s Patina about the restoration in progress of the Jenny Lind house in Historic Yellow Springs Village this morning she was talking about antique fire backs and it triggered a memory in me, reminding me of my late father upon seeing these fire backs.

When I was very young, as I have written before, my parents bought a wreck of a house from the redevelopment authority in Philadelphia. Literally a wreck. It was their first house and they had lived in an apartment close by as newlyweds.

An 1811 double front townhouse turned into bad apartments in the depression (if memory serves.) This was the early 60s and most of Society Hill was a slum. I remember my father hunting for fire backs for all the fireplaces (and almost every room had one except for the back building.) Because the homes were in such a general condition of disrepair, you would salvage for missing parts quite literally from other homes being torn down.

This was the original “sale sign” on the house my parents bought in the ‘60s in Society Hill

Yes above you see the actual sale sign that was hanging on the house my parents bought from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority in the early 1960s. I will note that in today’s world, realtors and others get the actual date of this house I was born in wrong. Sometimes it’s just buy a couple of years, other times it’s been by decades. I don’t know how they can’t do their research. I keep the sign with me as a souvenir of my childhood there.

I have distinct memories of Society Hill when I was really little and it was like a giant construction site. There were so many houses that were beyond repair being torn down, other houses being restored, and in some cases entire blocks being leveled for new construction. Including next door to our house.

From Philadelphia government archives. Photo dates to 1957

From Philadelphia government archives. Photo dates to 1930s

If you look at those photos, the one immediately above the one that was taken in the 1930s when the house was part of an entire row of homes built in the same early 19th century. The photo above that is from 1957 and a bunch of the houses had already been demolished. I will further note that the house at the end of the row in the 1957 photo (269 S. 4th) was torn down by the time my parents bought their house (271 S. 4th.)

When I was a little girl until they started building, right next-door to us was a big old empty lot with a giant sycamore tree in the back corner.

The two screen shots above are from the PhillyHistory.org amazing photo archives. This next screenshot is from Philadelphia Architects and Buildings and was taken in the 1980s:

When I look at that photo I get wistful because the little street tree is a pin oak tree my father planted when I was a little girl. I also have that memory of him planting the street tree and taking care of it throughout the years. Just like I have memories of my mother scrubbing down by hand the white marble steps. It was the only way to keep them clean.

The next screenshot is a Google shot my parents’ old house today. I have no idea who owns it I know it’s sold a couple of years ago. I presume it is still single-family. It would kill me if it was put back to apartments after all these years.

And look to the left of my parents home townhouses built in the early 1970s. I don’t think it was late 1960s, but maybe they were at least in planning. Look at the difference between what you see being built today and what was built then. It has a better size and scale to fit into the existing neighborhood. The design while modern, nods to the past. It is a shame we can’t get that today with new construction, isn’t it?

Society hill in the 1960s was a very different place than a place you see being gentrified today. It was like this unspoken word-of-mouth saying that when houses were being either taken down or strip to the studs, people from the neighborhood that were in the middle of restoration projects always got a pick at salvage basically.

Meg’s photo of her firebacks took me back to when my father was restoring the fireplaces in our house back then. I have no idea if the fireplaces are still wood-burning, but they were when I was a child. And I remember my father going in and out of houses being torn down or houses that had been torn down and all were left were piles of rubble looking for hardware and firebacks and even some mantelpieces. The mantelpieces in this house I was born in were predominantly marble. A lot of them were black marble with beautiful veining.

The mantelpieces my father picked up out of homes being torn down were wood. Some of those had future use in other houses.  Daddy hated the waste so he literally collected hardware, doors, etc. Everyone did in those days.  Of course yes there were scavengers that just stole from everyone but I don’t remember them actually living in Society Hill.  They would just appear like carrion crows every now and again. I do remember my father chasing a contractor out onto the roof of the 4th floor for using interior mouldings as window trim. (But I digress as I ramble)

The PhillyHistory.org is a treasure trove of photos. You can see how bad a lot of the houses were on the inside, let alone the outside. I haven’t been able to find archival photos of my parents’ house from before they bought it but here’s a screenshot I took from one of the neighborhood homes of these archives that will give you an idea of the restoration that was necessary:

It’s crazy when I think about the way it was to what it has become as an area today. One thing no one ever talks about is how Society Hill got the name Society Hill.  Cue USHistory.org :

Named after the long defunct Free Society of Traders, this area of Philadelphia extends from Walnut to Lombard Streets, from Front to 8th Street.

 

The Society for which Society Hill is named is now defunct. The Free Society of Traders, a stock company to whom William Penn made liberal concessions of land and privileges, encountered virgin territory and woodlands stretching westward to the Schuylkill. They found some Dutch and Swedes living here as well. Though by 1683 the Society’s assets already included a sawmill, a glasshouse, and a tannery in Philadelphia, but two score years later they were bankrupt. The Assembly put the property of the Society in the hand of trustees in order to pay its debts.

 

Home to many members of the federal government when Philadelphia served as the nation’s capital, the area also attracted the locally wealthy and international nabobs as well. As the land juxtaposed the river and the seat of government, it was the most valuable in the city. From greed and speculation, lots were divided and divided again. The result: the serpentine walkways, abrupt angles, and tiny alleys that today make the area so appealingly intimate.

 

Over decades the area lost its cachet and ultimately became a dilapidated slum with a massive food distribution center located on Dock Street

 

But an interesting thing about when Society Hill came back to life is a lot was abandoned and derelict and empty.  It wasn’t a case of just displacing people to allow gentrification. That happened in many other areas of the city, however.  I am not going to say the Redevelopment Authority was full of angels.  There were always stories growing up.

PLAN PHILLY/WHYY: GENTRIFIED: STORIES FROM RAPIDLY CHANGING PHILADELPHIA
From slums to sleek towers: How Philly became cleaner, safer, and more unequal
By Jake Blumgart Jim Saksa March 12, 2018

Harry Schwartz, 84, remembers when his neighborhood, Society Hill, was one of the poorest parts of Philadelphia. But by the time he moved there as a young lawyer in 1969, things had changed. City planners had fixed up crowded blocks of crumbling old houses and razed a congested, old wholesale produce market to make way for majestic modernist towers. Schwartz and his pediatrician wife were attracted to Society Hill’s architectural gems, tucked among its cobblestoned, walkable streets. Soon, they found themselves surrounded by a community of artists, activists, and young professionals like them.

They loved it. Society Hill allowed them to bike to work and walk to friends’ houses for Julia Child-inspired dinner parties…The reinvention of Society Hill in the 1960s is widely considered one of the first instances of gentrification — although no one called it that at the time….“What happened in Society Hill in our experience, and I speak only from that, was not displacement,” says Schwartz, who moved in about a decade after city government spurred the redevelopment of the neighborhood. “But rather [by the time they moved in 1969], re-occupation and restoration.”

 

It was different.  And it was a time where progress didn’t hurt so much and people were actively participating in historic preservation.

There is this website I have discovered called Preserving Society Hill.  They have these oral histories transcribed. Some I have read have made me very emotional reading them. These are the people of my earliest years, the faces of where I lived. Some I still know today.  It is boring for all of you to hear me talk about this website, but for me, I am reading interviews given by people whose houses I played in or who my mother was in the babysitting co-op with and so on.

I will share a snippet of one given by Mrs. Burnette.  She and her husband who is an architect were friends of my parents and my sister and I went to school with their daughters.  They lived on S. 3rd Street.  I loved their house and still am connected to the daughters today:

DS: Tell me more about the condition of the house. Had it been open to the elements? Had it been vacant for a long period of time?

MB: I think it had been vacant for a while, because it was – as I remember, it was just large and dirty. [Laughs]

DS: Large and dirty. Were there animals or anything inside?

MB: No, no, it didn’t seem to be that way.

DS: Pigeons?

MB: No. Of course, it’s surprising that we went up into the attic and cleaned (5:00) the attic first of all. I remember being up there with a broom and sweeping out the attic and finding an old shoe. But the rest of it was pretty open. I don’t know if the Redevelopment Authority had come in and cleaned some of it out. Has anybody else said anything about that?

……DS: The Redevelopment Authority – you bought it from them.

MB: Yes. As I remember, it was $9,800.

DS: Gosh!

 

Another oral history was given by my friend’s father Philip Price.  What an amazing man he is!

Philip Price, Jr.’s account of his experience restoring 321 Spruce Street seems to include more lawsuits than do those of other narrators. A fire on the third floor had done a lot of damage to the house when Phil and his wife Sarah bought the place in 1965. The house was in “absolutely appalling” condition, but Phil and Sarah wanted to live in Center City and “enjoy the challenges of moving into a redevelopment area.” They also bought the property next door, 319 Spruce, where they would enjoy planting a garden. They did a complete rehab of the house: electrical, plumbing, roof, painting, nine fireplaces all restored to working order, and ultimately shutters required by the Redevelopment Authority.

One lawsuit arose after Phil and his contractor discovered that the chimney shared by the unrestored, unoccupied house next door at 323 Spruce was about to fall off the houses and crash onto the sidewalk – so imminently that Phil had the chimney removed immediately and wrote a letter to the other owner describing what had happened. The other owner sued Phil, but Phil prevailed

Truthfully this Preserving Society Hill website is a gem to me.  Even some of my childhood playmates are interviewed with the oral histories. If you lived in Society Hill when we did you will love the memories evoked. It’s why I love oral histories and think they are so important. I have always said communities should commit to oral histories.

But what is also so great about the oral histories I am reading on this website is I am not mis-remembering things. Like all of us who got jumped or mugged. Yes truly and as kids. They stole my friend’s bike right out from under us in Bingham Court which was down the street from our house.  My friend wore glasses and they smashed them in her face.  Then there was the Halloween a whole bunch of us got mugged for our Unicef collection boxes. And we were with parents. I remember we were wearing these giant paper costumes by Creative Playthings too – parents loved them because you could bundle kids up underneath.

Society Hill was tough but it was wonderful.  I loved the history of it and still do.  It was proof that historic preservation does and can work.  This is my touchstone when I think about historic preservation anywhere.  Society Hill brought together people from all walks of life, backgrounds, races, religions.  Oh and guess what else? Most people had walled gardens they created as they were restoring their houses.

So Meg Veno? Thank you for inspiring me today and evoking happy memories that made me take another ramble down my own memory lane.

We need more preservation.  We need development to fit with where we live when it happens. It is possible.


life in black and white…at life’s patina

Once upon a time in 2012 in the summer I was asked to photograph beautiful Chester County properties for a historic house tour. The Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s Annual Historic House Tour.

On this day, for the first time I saw Willowbrook Farm, which most of you know as Life’s Patina. At this point in 2012, the barn where so many go to enjoy special events and charity shopping days was being restored. I had not even met Meg Veno yet.

I fell in love with this farm on that day many years ago.

The restoration and adaptive reuse of the barn and the restoration of the property is an amazing thing to behold. It’s just so beautiful.

The care, the love, the attention to detail. And I have loved all of my many subsequent visits ever since.

Meg is inspirational to me. She is endlessly creative and has an incredible eye. She is also one of the kindest people I have ever met.

I was going through old photos and came across these and thought I would share them.

Life’s Patina is also expanding. They are restoring and renovating the Jenny Lind House in Historic Yellow Springs Village.

Now Yellow Springs is one of my very favorite places and has been since I was much younger. I used to come to Yellow Springs with my parents. My father loved the village and we used to come for the art show and sale and the antiques show they used to host (which I always thought was fabulous by the way.)

I took these next two photos of the Jenny Lind House last May 2019. I was in the village for the Herb Society Plant Sale. It’s so wonderful to see the house come back to life!

Anyway, enjoy the photos and celebrate those who chose to restore and renovate and find an adaptive reuse for old structures. We need more of that around here!

Make sure you check out Life’s Patina on their website and Facebook page. They often have terrific events. And the bonus is you also get to see a property that’s a slice of heaven in Chester County!

the jenny lind house in historic yellow springs needs love (and a new lease on life)

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The Jenny Lind House, former home of Yellow Springs Inn looking forlorn May, 2018

A few years ago I remarked on what I thought would be the demise of the Yellow Springs Inn. It resulted in a flurry of breast beating (which can still be found on their old/existing website.)

I was off by a couple/few years but above is the Jenny Lind House as of this week. I went out to the Yellow Springs Art Show (truly amazing this year by the way, and runs through May 13th), and was honestly sad to see the sad down trodden Jenny Lind House.  It was a far cry from this photo I took a few short years ago:

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What happened? I guess the restaurant left given the deed/document thing I found on Chester County’s real estate site (2017 Deed Transfer).

But that is not ALL happening there.  Whomever owns it now seems to have had a stop work order issued on them. I kid you not:

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Sorry, not the best photos. A lot of sun glare when photos were taken.  So who is REO Acquisitions, LLC and what are they up to? The letter sent out by West Pikeland in April was sent to these REO Acquisitions c/o FCI Lender Services of Anaheim, CA.

PT Barnum Poster off of Wikipedia Commons

So what the heck were they doing to Jenny Lind house???

Now according to Historic Yellow Springs “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!”

How it go the nickname Jenny Lind House is history has it that she stayed in Yellow Springs during the Philadelphia portion of her P. T. Barnum-sponsored concert tour in 1850.  (Yellow Springs Catering Website)

Historic Yellow Springs Inc.,   is on the National Register of Historic Places. They can’t just do anything random to the Jenny Lind House! And this place deserves preservation!!

So here are a bunch of my photos from Jenny Lind’s Yellow Springs Inn days:

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Here are some sad photos taken this week:

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So look, anyone interested in giving the old gal some help? I have absolutely NO idea who these REO Acquisitions people are mentioned in the legal letter plastered to the door. But my guess is whomever they are, they are across the country and this is just some thing they own the paper on, right?  So my guess is West Pikeland Township and Historic Yellow Springs and the residents of the village would love to see this building in use.  I know I would. It is a lovely restaurant space, so it could be once again. Or a cafe. Or a cafe and  Air B and B (it still has a slew of bedrooms, right??)

Now it can be done because the house next door was quite derelict until the Halys bought it, and now it is a totally charming rental house for vacations, etc (Wm Haly House see VRBO). This is how Haly house looked  in 2012 or 2013 when I took this photo (before they purchased the property):

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Compare with this CURRENT photo courtesy of W.M. Haly House Facebook page:

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So how about that??? It IS possible!! W.M. Haly House is proof positive that people do want to restore historic homes! It’s awesome!

So how about it Chester County? Know anyone who would be perfect for the Jenny Lind House?  Wouldn’t it be great to have a little cafe of something with Air B and B above? Or a complete renovation into a Bed and Breakfast Inn complete with dining that would hearken back to the days of when it was a boarding house?

Check out what Schuylkill River Greenways has to say about the village:

The history of Yellow Springs Village spans nearly 300 years. The Native Lenape first attributed the name, “Yellow Springs” because of the natural mineral springs that flow through the area into Pickering Creek.

In the 18th century, Yellow Springs was a fashionable spa village that attracted visitors who sought healing waters and social interaction. During the American Revolution, George Washington commissioned a hospital to be built in the village, the first military hospital in the nation’s history. Washington himself visited on numerous occasions. 

Following the war, the village returned to a spa town during the early 19th century.

From 1868 to 1912, Yellow Springs was home to the Chester Springs Soldiers’ Orphans School for children of Civil War Soldiers. From 1916 to 1952, the village served as the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Country School. 

From 1952 until 1974 the village was the headquarters of Good News Productions, a film studio in Yellow Springs that created over 400 films including the sci-fi original The Blob. From 1974 on, Historic Yellow Springs, Inc. has preserved many of these original structures and educates visitors about our unique past. 

For greater depth into the village history, visit the Historic Yellow Springs/Chester Springs Studio website.  They have all sorts of cool stuff to check out.

If you are interested in Jenny Lind House, I would say a safe place to start your inquiries would be West Pikeland Township. Their phone number is (610) 590-5300.

Here is how to reach all of their Supervisors:

Charlie Humphreys, Chair
chumphreys@westpikeland.com

Pamela Conti, Vice Chair
pconti@westpikeland.com

Noreen Vigilante, Supervisor
nvigilante@westpikeland.com

Richard Bright, Jr., Supervisor
rbright@westpikeland.com
Ernie Holling, Supervisor
eholling@westpikeland.com

 

 

historic demolition by neglect?

yellow springs 2I was astounded that when I went to the village of Historic Yellow Springs for dinner at the amazing Yellow Springs Inn over the weekend that Historic Yellow Springs or whomever owns  Vaughn House has not done a blessed thing yet as far as saving this historic structure. I mean it has been years at this point.

There  stood Vaughn House last Saturday evening like a ghetto shell of its former self. I had not been to the village since early fall, and would have thought by now that something other than demolition by neglect would have been happening.

yellow springs 1And yes, I understand some of my readers take *issue* with me mentioning the deteriorating, run down Vaughn house when I talk about fabulous dining experiences at Yellow Springs Inn.  The truth is I do it on purpose.  Historic Yellow Springs in my opinion neither respects nor appreciates the treasure that is Yellow Springs Inn and I find them extremely hypocritical at this point because if a private citizen owned Vaughn House I have no doubt everyone would be on them like white on rice to do repairs….yet what is happening?  Vaughn House continues to rot. I can’t help but wonder if it is salvageable at all at this point.

Vaughn House should not be allowed to continue to rot and moulder.  It brings down property values of everything around it in its current state of disrepair it also might be dangerous as a structure. It is criminal that it is being allowed to rot like this. Have they even had a structural engineer do an assessment?

I really do hate to criticize Historic Yellow Springs but sometimes I can’t help but wonder if they squander  the breathtaking beauty and charm that is this historic village? It’s not just all about the art studio and I think for all the effort they put into the studio and promoting the studio and promoting events at the studio that they could hold a fundraiser or something to raise the roof back up on Vaughn House and repair it before it falls in on itself.yellow springs 3

Historic Yellow Springs needs to decide what they want to do one way or the other. If they want to repair Vaughn House they need to get busy.  If they need to admit that perhaps the structure is too far gone at this point, that is something else they need to decide.  Otherwise what it eventually going to happen is West Pikeland might decide for them.  Of course if they are passively aggressively hoping for that, they could just be honest about it.

Historic Yellow Springs is a village of beauty and history.  Like many other non-profit places of historic import it apparently also has lots of problems doesn’t it?

Pity that.

Here’s hoping they have an epiphany sooner rather than later.  They can’t recreate the specialness, so why not get back to preserving it?

historic yellow springs…additional thoughts

I wrote a post recently about Historic Yellow Springs Village looking like a dust bowl run down ghost town.

I keep receiving comments.  Like for example:

You ask  the questions that many  wonder about.  Join the HYS Board, and continue to ask these good questions. They need you.

Uhh no.  My role is one of provocateur.  I am someone who admires the village.  So I blogged about it. I photographed it. I visit it.  The village has a board that should be doing more and can do more.  If they are unwilling to do so, they should move on.  But to be on the board of Historic Yellow Springs I would have to have the time to commit and  the coin to donate in the degree they need in that village desperately.  I do not right now, plus I also have not decided where exactly I want to volunteer in Chester County.   And if you want to consider thinking about this in a different way, my taking the time to write about the plight of Historic Yellow Springs Village and photograph it  is like volunteer work.

Now I did have a nice exchange back and forth with the new-ish Executive Director Eileen McMonagle.  She has the heart and the smarts but she is not an island of one.

One thing she wrote to me, I would like to share:

I read that you feel  the village is falling apart.  Sadly many of the historic sites in our area are struggling because there is no funding on the federal, state or local level.  HYS however has been blessed with a great group of volunteers and members who are working hard to turn the village around. As with all major projects, everything cannot be done at once.

 

I still say her board needs to step up.  I also think they need to cross pollinate with other preservation boards, and consider the other amazing people they have living close if not in  the Historic Village of Yellow Springs who want to see the village survive and thrive.  As in Chester Springs people.  Maybe they aren’t people who have been there for decades or centuries, but sometimes you need fresh blood.  And I can think of a few people right off the bat.  But it is not my job to find people to help this board and village.  They have the tools and creativity to do it themselves.

And they have a very cool art show starting August 2nd that runs through August 31st.  It is a weekend thing or by appointment during the week:

Historic Yellow Springs Presents :

The Lost Generation of Pennsylvania Impressionists

 

When: August 2nd through August 31st 2012

Where: First Floor Lincoln Galleries, Historic Yellow Springs, Chester Springs, PA

Open: Opening Thursday August 2nd at 5:30 as part of Chester County’s Town Tour.  Gallery is open weekends Saturday 10-4 and Sunday 12-4.  Weekdays open by request.

Cost: FREE

Historic Yellow Springs (HYS) will be hosting a diverse collection of work by talented students who attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) Country School from 1917 to 1952.  The PAFA Country School is now the village of Historic Yellow Springs, Chester Springs, PA.

The beautiful landscape of Yellow Springs prompted then PAFA president John Fredrick Lewis to open a summer school for artists at the turn of the last century. The Country School provided the much needed en plein air (in the open air) style of art training to these already accomplished Academy artists. The foundation of the PAFA Country School’s teaching philosophy was the 19th century French Impressionist movement. The magnificent grounds and scenery of the Country School attracted some of the area’s best art instructors and students, including Daniel Garber, N.C, Wyeth, Albert Laessle, Roswell Weidner and Albert Van Nesse Greene. In addition to landscapes, Country School artists were educated in portraiture and sculpture.

The artwork is from Historic Yellow Springs’ own archives and various private collections. Many have not been seen in over a decade.  The collection of artwork features work by well known artists who attended the Country School such as Darce Boulton, Lucus Crowell, Albert Van Nesse Greene, Roy C. Nuse, Francis Speight, Dorcas Kunzie Weidner, Roswell Weidner and Paul Wescott.  A number of the works were saved from destruction by Country School instructors Dorcas Kunzie Weidner and Roswell Weidner.

About Historic Yellow Springs: Historic Yellow Springs (HYS) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1974 and dedicated to the visual arts, the environment, and the village’s  300-year old history. The mission of Historic Yellow Springs is to share, preserve, and celebrate the unique living village of Yellow Springs. Focusing on the visual arts, history and the environment, HYS enriches the lives of all who come here.

 

And if you know anyone on the board of Historic Yellow Springs get them to get those trails in order.  Those springs made the village, and people still want to see them! And right now you really can’t.  Things are too overgrown.

 

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.