playing tourist in chester county: rambling around marshallton

Every once in a while you need a staycation day. Today was mine. My friend Chris and I went to Marshallton today.  We played tourist in our home county. We rambled in Chester County.

Everyone knows I have not been very mobile since my knee injury at the end of February/ first couple days of March and subsequent surgery in May.  (Yes, it took that long.  I couldn’t walk, and I certainly couldn’t drive and U.S. healthcare has a long and winding and irritating process if you do not practice Emergency Room medicine, as in push to the head of the line and bypass everything by going straight to the E.R.) So now, as I go through the process if physical therapy, I am thrilled to get out again.

My friend picked me up and we went to The Four Dogs Tavern.  I had forgotten how amazing the food is and how wonderful the ambiance, and the terrific and friendly staff. We had the beet salad, which was amazing, and split the mushroom and goat cheese flatbread.

Then we did the senior stroll of the village of Marshallton – I am moving like a snail still.  But oh, to take in the beauty of this village!  This is so what Chester County is about.

My late father loved Marshallton and in particular, the Marshallton Inn.  When some of my girlfriends and I were in our twenties we loved the then Oyster Bar and way back in the dark ages of the late 1980s some were dating guys who competed in the Marshallton Triathlon (and wow what a party afterwards!)

So flash forward to me as a quasi grown-up (some days are better than others!) and today.  Marshallton is more beautiful than ever and the gardens are marvelous!  Ran into another friend and met a nice man named Ernie and his wife.  Ernie was restoring an antique buggy on his front porch.

Ernie encouraged us to go back further down the lane by his home to see the Bradford Friends Meeting, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.  I am so glad he did!  I had never seen it in person before.

Marshallton is just the village to remind you what Chester County is about.  Marshallton is an unincorporated village in Chester County and a Federal Historic District. The Marshallton Historic District has 65 contributing structures and 3 contributing sites. Marshallton is like a living history site, living proof that historic districts and preservation can work. 

Marshallton lies within West Bradford Township.  In recent years it has faced encroachment of development from the surrounding area.

We did not wander up Strasburg Road to see where Marshallton Walk is, for example. Stargazers Village that thing that was  contentious enough, that it  doesn’t appear to be more than “coming soon” I guess? (Stargazers shows up on this “Envision” website.)

And then there was Embreeville, which started out life as the  Chester County Almshouse in 1798. It is also where Indian Hannah is purportedly buried.

Embreeville has had no news since February 2017 when West Bradford saidZoning Hearing #395 for Embreeville Redevelopment, LP scheduled for February 1, 2017 has been continued to a date uncertain.   There was no hearing on February 1st.  Any resumption of the hearing will be after public notice and will be posted on this website.”  (Embreeville has been so crazy it has it’s own page on West Bradford’s website.)

Now the Marshallton Conservation Trust which was created in 2009 exists to help preserve the village and surrounding rural area:

“Motivated by the desire to see the Marshallton area return to a safe, walkable community and its rich history preserved, several residents formed this 501c3 non –profit in 2009. Marshallton Conservation Trust is committed to preserving the historic integrity and the quality of life in this very special area for future generations….The Marshallton Conservation Trust (MCT) promotes the preservation and improvement of the Marshallton community through initiatives focused on maintaining and improving its livability along with its distinctive character.”

Marshallton Conservation Trust also sponsors many events.  As a matter of fact the 44th Marshallton Triathlon is October 1st. 

But back to the history.  Reference a website called Living Places:

The Marshallton Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.

…The Marshallton Historic District is located along the Strasburg Road in central Chester County. It assumed its present configuration between the 1760s-1880s, with scattered infill and rebuilding occurring into the 1920s. Of the 71 principal buildings in the Marshallton Historic District, 67 contribute to its historical and architectural significance. The 4 non-contributing buildings include three from the 1930s-40s (a dwelling, store, and apartment building) and a c.1965 brick dwelling. Of similar size and scale to the district’s contributing buildings (by which they are far outnumbered), these non-contributing buildings do not detract from Marshallton’s overall architectural unity.

Marshallton lies only four miles west of the county seat of West Chester; its surroundings are still rural. Leaving West Chester by the Strasburg Road, one passes sprawling farms, open fields, and pasture land. There is a small group of historic buildings near the nationally registered Cope’s Bridge on the East Branch Brandywine River, and then more open country….

The Marshallton Historic District is primarily significant for its association with Strasburg Road, established in the late 18th century as a thoroughfare between Philadelphia and Strasburg in Lancaster County. Throughout 200 years of its history, Marshallton’s focus has been on Strasburg Road, and both literally and figuratively its growth has paralleled the road’s. With its integrity of setting and well preserved collection of buildings representing a variety of historic uses, Marshallton today conveys a clear, sense of the past — when the Strasburg Road was a primary transportation route and, capitalizing on its location, the village functioned as a rural service center for both travelers and nearby farmers.

Marshallton can trace its origins to the 1760s when a few houses, a Quaker Meeting, an inn, and a blacksmith shop were loosely grouped near the intersection of the roads to Strasburg and Downingtown. At that time the Strasburg Road was actually a fragmented series of local roads leading west.


More on Marshallton:

Unionville Times Living History: A tale of two names, Marshallton and the Marshalton Inn Aug 10th, 2012 


Marshallton Conservation Trust: The Village of Marshallton, West Bradford, Chester County PA


Marshallton History Off of West Bradford Website


National Register of Historic Places Marshallton

I had one of the best afternoons I had in a while.  Good company, a nice lunch, and photographing one of Chester County’s most beloved gems.

Go to Marshallton.

Soak it in, have a meal at Four Dogs, support the village’s ongoing preservation efforts and events.

Walk down the street like we did and wonder about all of the people who walked it before us. Be in the moment of some amazing history and just a lovely and charming spot.

It’s what Chester County is all about.

embreeville back in the news again….

embreeville ughA while ago I screen shot a Legal Intellegencer article that came up on a Google Cache:

Embreeville 1 Embreeville 2

Read the article. It is a cautionary tale of land shark developers and politicians and local zoning and the Municipalities Planning Code or the MPC. You know that giant body of code that steers our local zoning in PA?

Embreeville was on my blog in 2013 because of the connection to the then Chester County SPCA.   I noted then that West Bradford has a page dedicated to the hot mess that is this development.

Well people are waking up about Embreeville again because it is in the news again.  A huge development which will directly impact schools, roads, and quality of life.

I last paid attention to this in 2014:

Embreeville developers argue against ordinance change

POSTED: 08/07/14, 6:52 PM EDT

West Bradford >> Developers with housing plans at the former Embreeville State Hospital property challenged a recent change to a township zoning ordinance, arguing the township is not meeting its “fair share obligations” for regional growth.

“Fair share obligations”? Wow who knew you HAD to have development? I guess the screen shot from the Legal Intellegencer above from March 2016 is the end result of this?

1546220_246864565489435_80306963_nSo I had heard there was supposed to be a hearing June 22, but then it was postponed.  The most incredulous thing to me is this will be a hearing where it sounds like the public can’t speak?

west bradford

Public hearing is Aug. 3 for plan to build 1,100 homes and apartments in Embreeville

POSTED: 06/04/16, 3:57 PM EDT

A public hearing for a development that could change the character of the Unionville area will take place Wednesday, Aug. 3 at the West Bradford Township Building.

At stake is an ambitious plan by Embreeville Redevelopment LP to build 1,100 townhomes and apartments, including stores and businesses on a 225-acre parcel known as the Embreeville property, over the next 25 years. Some local residents say the development plan is too much, too fast and will adversely affect the area with traffic congestion and a strain on the school system. The development is equal to about a quarter of the entire West Bradford housing supply.

A zoning hearing is needed because the land is zoned for a park, prison, or educational institution, not a housing development….Total tract size includes 222 acres in West Bradford and 22 acres in Newlin Township. Thirteen acres will be single-family residential; 52 acres will be resreved for multi-family residential and 18 acres will be reserved for mixed residential…The zoning hearing will be held at the township building, 1385 Campus Drive, Downingtown at 7 p.m.

The same article as above appeared in The Daily Local a couple of days ago.

In 2013 The Daily Local opined on the sad state of affairs that is the Embreeville debacle (it’s worse than a potential development, it’s a debacle) . They said it was inappropriate and would be a call for disaster:

For decades, the hundreds of acres of land that stretch between the villages of Embreeville and Romansville in West Bradford served the needs of Chester County citizens, as the location of a poorhouse, a state hospital for the developmentally disabled, and as the spot of a state police barracks.

Since the late 1980s, it has been less and less of a vibrant place, and now stands as a forlorn reminder of past uses.

But that is not to say that what is being proposed by a land developer at the Embreeville center would be a worthwhile way of rejuvenating the property. Rather, the idea that the land would be the perfect place for a housing project with more than 1,000 units would be a call for a disaster.

We urge the West Bradford supervisors, who have been asked to start looking at the development, to reject calls for this sort of reuse. We trust from their comments that they do have the best interests not only of the citizens of West Bradford, but for all central Chester County, in mind.

Yet like most tragically bad development plans it is back again.

It is too big and too dense.

Why does everything proposed in Chester County have to be an open space killer ?

And what would happen to where Indian Hannah is?


Indian Hannah (Mrs. Hannah Freeman) (1730–1802) was the last of the Lenni-Lenape Indians (or Delawares) in Chester County, Pennsylvania, USA.[1][2][3]

She was born around 1730 in southern Chester County. She moved about the region, at times living in New Jersey, perhaps having a common law Indian husband named Andrew Freeman. She was known throughout the region, wandering with her two dogs Elmun and Putmoe selling brooms and woven baskets. In her later years she lived in the newly constructed Chester County Poorhouse where she died and was the first to be buried in its graveyard.

A road is named after her (“Indian Hannah Road”) in Newlin Township, Pennsylvania, and there are two memorial markers for her in Chester County, near Embreeville, Pennsylvania.


Indian Hannah has been written about a great deal.  The Inquirer wrote about her in 1989. Her history is fascinating, how would this development affect her memory? If her grave-site is on Embreeville property, then what?  And have Indian and other artifacts been found here? Properly cared for? Documented?  And I am confused about whatever actually happened to that 20 acres the SPCA had? Or didn’t they actually ever get the land?

Ok look, everyone knows that kind of a chunk of land will not go undeveloped, but why should this proposed development be allowed to ruin a part of Chester County?

Here are a couple of comments I have seen on social media:

With thousands of additional cars each morning, you can certainly plan on seeing quaint Marshalton installing a few traffic lights soon. As it is now cars back up a half mile each morning at the intersection of Strasburg and Telegraph, these developments and the extra traffic will a nightmare. I’m going to post a video soon of what Broad Run Rd looks like each day as people try to bypass the traffic and rush up the dirt road one after another to try and avoid the line on Strasburg. If the police want to make some money with speeding tickets they could make a years quota in 2 or 3 days. And this is BEFORE the developments have gone in.


This tract is very near the Natural Lands’ Cheslen preserve. I’m very disappointed in West Bradford….More suburbia in the last undeveloped area of Chester County, in West Bradford and parts north of Unionville?

Why is that they feel it’s acceptable to pack houses in a region just because its right next door to a preserve. Is this the vision of the Chester County comprehensive plan: create as many high density housing developments as possible but link them together with a few small open space areas, “passive” parks, recreational areas and exercise trails. So what if we no longer have working farms or authentic rural areas – we have a “planned” community of Chester County. You’ve heard of gentrification? Well this will be the organized suburbs.

Here is a great article on the area, written by a friend of mine for The Hunt Magazine: 

Chester County’s Poorhouse

A place to go for the poverty-stricken in the 19th century.

By Catherine Quillman |

As early as 1800, the poverty-stricken in Chester County had a place in the community. They lived at its Poorhouse, built on a 350–acre tract that was considered one of the most scenic regions of the county. In recent years, the grounds were known as the State Police Barracks at Embreeville and are now in the news for being part of a contested proposed high-density development.

The original building—a stately three-story brick structure with dormer windows—stood on a hilltop overlooking the West Branch of the Brandywine. From a distance, it resembled any other profitable farmstead of the region, with dairy cows and outbuildings. For the poor, this was no ordinary farm, of course. It served as an orphanage, a homeless shelter, a battered women’s refuge, a lying-in hospital, a nursing home and an asylum….For the most part, the Chester County Poorhouse was built in 1800 as a working farm. It was no Dickensian debtors’ prison. It had central heating and a steam laundry. Water was piped in from a nearby spring, and the kitchen was equipped with a professional-grade range and coffee boiler. Children of a certain age had their own dining room and, later, a school.

That first year, Hannah Freeman—aka “Indian Hannah”—appears on the books as one of only two nonwhite “inmates.” She and “Black Phyllis” were allowed to live, without segregation (that came later), among the other women in a dormitory-style room equipped with 27 cots but only 16 sets of sheets, as the “Visitors”—a group of men selected to tour the facilities—later reported.

On Nov. 12, 1800, when Freeman entered the Poorhouse at age 69, she was celebrated as a native Lenape Indian who lived alone with her two dogs in a series of “rude” huts. She had been under the care of a group of Quaker farmers, who signed a formal agreement for her financial support.

Freeman was later immortalized in the 1909 poem “The Last of Her Race.” In her lifetime, she became somewhat of a celebrity in Chester County. Yet only one other entry is found on the book—and that’s her 1802 death, the first in the institution, and her burial in the “almshouse graveyard.”


Anyway, I haven’t a clue as to how to stop this development any more than how people will stop whatever eventually happens at Bryn Coed in West Vincent and whichever other township has some of that estate in it but wow, we have to do something about development, right?

Chester County needs a citizen driven county-wide initiative to slow down, and in some cases stop development.  Chester County residents need to take back their county. When the open space is gone, it’s not coming back. When the farms are gone, they won’t be producing food. And all of these developments impact our way of life and our taxes and schools.  Municipalities get the quickie high of one time ratables and the burden goes to the taxpayers forever after, correct?

Every resident of Chester County needs to remember these horrible development plans every time there is the opportunity to vote in the most local of elections right through to Harrisburg. Use your power of your vote to enact change. But in the mean time, support the folks immediately impacted by a development on what was Embreeville State Hospital.

Contact Andy Dinniman’s office. He’s the state senator.  As for State Rep, contact your State Rep and tell them this is a BAD PLAN to enact on formerly(?) state owned land. And that is something I wonder: who owns the land? Is it the developer now? Or is it still the state pending the outcome of these hearings?