in the wee small hours

Conshohocken State Road just after Hollow Road in Penn Valley on the edge of Gladwyne. Now vines and an unkempt forest of sorts, there used to be old silos that once stood and a spring house.

Gloaming is evening twilight, the time just before dusk when the sky is pink and fading.  Morning twilight is that equally beautiful quiet time just before dawn.  Mind you I am not awake then on purpose, sometimes it is just when I wake.  The past few nights it has been the yipping and calling of the foxes plus that even more eerie sound raccoons make when they call to each other – it’s almost a warbling that has awakened me before dawn breaks. It is a time for quiet contemplation, these early moments before dawn, and sometimes I wake up thinking about things and pondering.

Such was the case this morning.

This morning, I was thinking of how to make people see how quickly development takes over farm land.  This morning as I lay there in the twilight while everyone in my home slept, I remembered a couple of examples.

When I was little before we moved from the city to the Main Line, and even when we first moved to the Main Line, the more rural bucolic roots of Penn Valley and even Gladwyne peeked through the modern suburb of it all.

When you turned off of Hollow Road (when you get off the Schuylkill Expressway if you go right, it is River Road, left is up Hollow Road to Conshohocken State Road) onto Conshohocken State Road, for years the remnants of a farm eerily stood in this valley off the side of the road.  Silos and a spring house.  I watched them deteriorate over time, until vines and trees and woods have now basically swallowed them up.

I am not sure whose farm it was.  Along Hagy’s Ford Road (where Welsh Valley Middle School is among other things) until the 1950s there was the Charles W. Latch family farm  and other farms.   According to the Penn Valley Civic Association, this farm once provided a lot of fresh produce for the area. It is so jam packed full of houses today, it’s frankly hard to believe.  But before all of the development, it was farm land, including Pennhurst Farm owned by Percival Roberts.   Pennhurst was over 500 acres.  Pennhurst had among other things a prized heard of Ayrshire cattle (another fact gleamed from the very interesting and well written Penn Valley Civic Association website. (So all of the prize Ayrshire cattle weren’t just on Ardrossan in Radnor, were they?)

The Penn Valley Civic Association continues (and they credit Lower Merion Historical Society with all of these marvelous historical facts):

Other farms included that of George Grow on Hagys Ford Road. Sold in 1921, it is still known as Crow’s Hill (the “G” having become a “C”). Another farm was the Grove of Red Partridges on Old Gulph Road near Bryn Mawr Avenue. The property later was part of the tract of 302 acres belonging to James and Michael Magee. John Frederick Bicking, who operated a paper mill along Mill Creek, owned ten acres where Summit Road ends at Fairview Road. The Bicking family cemetery, mentioned in Bicking’s will of 1809, still exists at this location. Ardeleage, the estate of Charles Chauncey at Righters Mill and Summit roads, was torn down in 1938, and fourteen homes were built on the property. 

 

(Read more of the history of Lower Merion here and farming in Lower Merion here.)

I also remember visiting a dairy farm in King of Prussia that was somewhat commercial when I was a kid where you could get literally farm-fresh ice cream. I don’t remember the name.

Yes, King of Prussia.  It is hard to remember that what today is just thought of by the every growing malls and a casino, was once prize farmland too. (Do you see where I am going now, Chester County?)

If you visit the Valley Forge website, you will find this great post with an even more interesting 1953 zoning map of Upper Merion: 

RETAIL REWIND

March 13, 2017 by Dan Weckerly – VFTCB Communications Manager

Because I grew up in the area, I have long-term memories of King of Prussia Mall….author-historian Michael Stefan Shaw…

since his 1992 transplant to the area, he has looked at the mall through a surprising lens, that of historian rather than shopper.

Shaw is in the midst of capturing the full story of King of Prussia Mall, tracing its development from when it was just a little prince.

And even further, before it was born….

“I wrote a book in 2013 on railroading in King of Prussia, and that got me looking into the backdrop of Upper Merion Township,” Shaw says. “That led me to the mall.”

His research showed interest in a large-scale retail presence long before the 1963 official opening of King of Prussia Mall.

“In writing the railroad book, I came across a 1955 zoning map of the township,” Shaw describes. “And because of the coming of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the Schuylkill Expressway, there’s a spot on the map marked ‘shopping center.’ In 1955, it was listed there. That’s way before the 1962 soft opening or the 1963 grand opening.”…

The map shows a candy-cane coded plot of land amid fields that were mainly devoted to dairy farming.

So there were cows onsite long before a purple one selling ice cream.

King of Prussia Zoning Map

 

That was then.  This is now. I guess my point is Chester County, that the farmland continues to disappear under the pace of development. I have to ask, will people in 50 or 60 years be looking at where we all once lived and will they be trying to imagine farmland too?

Do we really want farm land and open space to become just memories?

Check out two videos on YouTube about Nor-View Farm now owned by Upper Merion Township:


(You can also visit the King of Prussia Historical Society for more information.)

We don’t live in a bubble.  Chester County isn’t the only part of Southeastern PA threatened by development.  But if we learn from the mistakes of other PA municipalities, maybe we can hope for a little bit of balance?

Farming is brutally hard work.  Ask any farmer.  This state and this country really do not support farmers enough in my opinion.  But without our farms and farmers, where are we? Growing micro-lettuces on a green roof?  Green roofs are not open space.

Open space once, it is gone, is gone forever.  Along with our history, the architecture, and the farms themselves. And the wildlife.  Check out the Wikipedia page on Penn Valley for example:

Before Welsh development, Penn Valley’s forest was home to bears, cougars, wolves, rattlesnakes, otters, beavers, weasels, turkeys, grouses, woodland bison, trout, and bald eagles. However, after forest destruction by the Welsh and eventual home building after World War 2 many of the rare animals left.[12]

Today, the area is filled with red foxes, white-footed mice, horned owls, red-tailed hawks, skunks, raccoons, rabbits, chipmunks, pheasants, crayfish, songbirds, butterflies, and white-tailed deer. The white-tailed deer pose an occasional problem in Penn Valley because they can halt traffic, destroy the forest underbrush, devour expensive ornamental flowers, and spread Lyme disease. When last counted, Penn Valley contained 44 deer per square mile, 34 more deer per square mile than the recommended average. 

Just food for thought.

Thanks for stopping by.

the silliness of lillyness

barkhorn_lilly

So, more Lilly drama ensues.  As in Lilly Pulitzer.  This time it isn’t the Lilly for Target madness of earlier this spring, but the warehouse sale.

The warehouse sale is a study in insanity.  I went to one in the mid to late 1990s when the Lilly Pulitzer brand was revived  in 1993 when Sugartown Worldwide Inc of King of Prussia purchased Lilly from well, Lilly.  (Lilly Pulitzer Rosseau died in 2013) As a related aside, Sugartown sold it in 2010 for $60 million to Oxford Industries out of Atlanta.

The one warehouse sale I went to in the 90s after brand was revived, was a free for all with grown women behaving like savage beasts over the dresses and clothes  my mother and her friends all wore when we were growing up along with other lines like Vested Gentress which had more whimsical patterns. (Vested Gentress incidentally was manufactured right in Valley Forge PA between 1961 and 1985.  Personally, I always liked Vested Gentress better.)

At the one solitary warehouse I attended women were doing arm swoops and taking entire rows of clothes off racks and elbowing people literally for clothes. I remember one woman with an empty baby stroller that she was tossing clothes into. And then there was the cattle call dressing room section of the warehouse. It was like a Loehmann’s dressing room where you all got shoved in at once. Only my friend and I were almost scarred for life by the woman who had the red thong and bad suntan pantyhose on (it was really funny, sorry.)

That was a one and done experience and the new Lilly wasn’t half the quality of the old Lilly.  The old Lilly had fabric and lining that had some weight to them. They stood up to summer weather.   The fabric also lasted, which is why you can still find a lot of vintage Lilly.

Lilly-Pulitzer-Prints-70

Once the brand revived in the 1990s, in my opinion it cheapened a little and I have noticed that some more since it was sold again in 2010 to Oxford Industries.  The other thing is this: Lilly has become well regular. It’s everywhere now like overpriced Old Navy so why get so jazzed about it?

At the Lilly for Target debacle in April you had the Target website crash, stampedes in Target stores and unpleasantness that ended up with a whole lot of the cheaper line of Lilly for Target in eBay at quadruple the original selling price.  And for what? So a lot of women could show up at parties all wearing the same dress. Truly, it happened a couple weeks ago at a friend’s college reunion – five women from different areas of the country showed up in the same Lilly halter neck dress with a hot pink and blue patterned fabric. I didn’t like uniforms back in the day but that was school and the idea of walking into a room and having a bunch of women wearing my dress? No thank you.

jackie o in lilyLilly originally popped when style and fashion icon and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy started wearing Lilly Pulitzer in the 1960s. Jackie O as she was later known wore Lilly into the 1980s until Pulitzer mothballed the operation in 1984. Jackie and Lilly had been either schoolmates or classmates at Miss Chapin’s School in NYC.

So Lilly became this status of sorts. It was even mentioned in the Preppy Handbook. In the hey day of original Lilly you would see ladies from the Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Whitney and other legendary society families wearing Lilly at appropriate times of year.

I remember my mother wearing Lilly when we were growing up. Not a lot, just a few pieces. In particular I remember a couple of pairs of summer slacks that she would wear. They were so obnoxious a pattern that I remember a man in the grocery store (total stranger) saying “I bet your husband can never lose you in those pants”. (She didn’t wear them as often after that.)

My friends and I wore Lilly growing up and into our 20s and 30s when we would hunt the vintage down before it started to get as hotly collectible as certain baseball cards.   A big debut time every year for Lilly was the Devon Horse Show as a matter of fact.

But as new Lilly progressed and more and more Lilly stores opened and more and more retailers started carrying Lilly all over the place we just kind of stopped.  The prices were crazy, the fabrics and designs not as good as the original line and most importantly too many people were wearing it. And it is an age appropriate line these days too. It’s geared towards younger women in my opinion as opposed to original Lilly which was just geared towards women who liked a certain style.

But the historical status symbol of Lilly drove some women I know to check out the warehouse sale this week.  My one friend snapped a shot of the sale yesterday and said their was a FIVE hour wait in line. She said she had no idea it would be like that and left.

warehouse sale

Then up pops this thing on the local news last evening and this morning. Women who had waited for hours were abruptly shut out of the sale for “re-stocking”. Huh? Sounds like when there are lines of clothing manufactured just for outlet shoppers doesn’t it?

WPVI 6 ABC Shoppers outraged after Lilly Pulitzer event ends abruptly early

Friday, June 05, 2015 12:23AM

Call it a case of retail rage – instead of paisley and pink, shoppers were seeing a deep shade of red after the first day of a Lilly Pulitzer warehouse sale ended abruptly early.”I’ve never had a problem getting in the first day of the sale,” said Cathy Hedegard.Upset shoppers attending the Lilly Pulitzer warehouse sale wanted answer after they were told the doors were closing early on Thursday night.The annual sale is at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Montgomery County….It attracts people from all over the country – like Anni Carroll. She drove 10 hours from Charlotte and waited in line with her three children but didn’t get in”It’s extremely frustrating. I have three children under three with me. They were not allowed to use the bathroom inside – they closed the doors and wouldn’t let anyone in,” said Carroll.”The security guards are actually videotaping us thinking it’s kind of funny which is not,” said Joanne Resendiz.

 

And even more bizarrely was watching the television report which showed upset on the verge of tears women all outraged they could not get in because they “support” Lilly like a line of clothing has cult status. Maybe OLD Lilly, but new?

My favorite and the winner of the what-the-hell-were-you-thinking-Mother-of -the-year was the woman on camera being interviewed  who drove TEN hours to be at the sale. All the way from Charlotte, North Carolina with THREE children under THREE for a clothing sale. Whhhhaaaatt?  How much Lilly was she going to buy that she drove TEN hours with three LITTLE kids who couldn’t even go to the bathroom anywhere? That is simply astounding.

Forgedddaboutit.

I don’t know about you, but no way no how. Nothing is worth this drama. Especially when you see it everywhere like Baby Gap. Sorry. This latest Lilly silliness shows exactly why it is time for a lot of women to find something else to wear. The Lilly for Target debacle was bad enough, let alone drama over a warehouse sale.

And somehow this Lilly doesn’t strike me as what the original Lilly intended. Ladies save your pennies. Unless it is vintage Lilly it’s not so Lilly anymore.

Thanks for stopping by.  Sign me #SoOverLilly