once again, lower merion school district and her cheerleaders can’t see the forest for the trees….so why not just clear cut the forest?

May be an image of tree, outdoors and text that says 'SAVE THIS FOREST!'

RANT ALERT. If you don’t want to hear it, turn away now.

Traveling back from whence I came, or visiting issues in Lower Merion Township is always amusing albeit somewhat disturbing to always be amazed at the blind devotion to Lower Merion School District especially when once again they are doing something destructive.

The comments from the blind faithful THIS time are over Lower Merion School Board plans to bulldoze a beautiful swath of woodland unnecessarily is truly something which will take your breath away. I am not giving those comments air time because they are always the same thing: when it is distilled and boiled down, Lower Merion School District is perfect.

If you disagree with Lower Merion School District cheerleaders no matter what they are trying to do you are at a minimum a bad person. Or you are NIMBY, which doesn’t apply unless it’s in your neighborhood and even then it is just a knee jerk pejorative term most of the time. These folks want to drive their status symbol green friendly Teslas, but when it comes to actually doing better the environment in other ways, or even just preserving an area to keep a bit of charm, that is far too inconvenient.

And OMG you would think Lower Merion School District was in dire peril if they don’t get their way every single time.

MISPLACED SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT. Lots of school districts excel and thrive on far, far less.

No Lower Merion School District is not perfect and it has decades of issues to prove that. And no I don’t think highly of them.

And Lower Merion Township has contributed to issues surrounding Lower Merion School District vis a vis development. Sure they are separate entities autonomous from one and other, yet they have a weird codependency since what they do as individual entities affects the other. And when you overdevelop and they come, it overcrowds the school district, correct?

A few years ago now, Lower Merion School District had a failed attempt to seize land from Stoneleigh, the 100% preserved property donated by the Haas family to Natural Lands to remain preserved in perpetuity for people (and nature) to enjoy.

Then when Lower Merion Township School District couldn’t get their greedy paws on Stoneleigh, they acquired the old Clothier Estate and it was happy bulldozing. Oh and I forgot, before they attempted to get Stoneleigh, there was that whole situation where they made a play to take Ashbridge Park. Yes a park.

So then there was the whole thing of they still need more land and that old disco song “More, More, More” comes to mind because with Lower Merion School District more, more, more is always their mantra. Nothing is ever enough.

As a school district they could have sent representatives to Lower Merion Township for years to express concern over infill development, but they didn’t. And once upon a time, they had other schools, that they closed. They closed Ardmore Junior High School around 1978, they let the Ardmore Avenue School (elementary) rot and eventually closed it (that caused redistricting back then didn’t it although it was also integration?) they closed Bryn Mawr Elementary School, and the Wynnewood Road Elementary School.

So in my humble opinion, Lower Merion School District has always had issues and always been a crappy neighbor. In the vein of that opinion, their still current and fractured relationship with neighbors over field lights at Arnold Field. And remember redistricting again in the not too recent past and the case Students Doe v. Lower Merion School District which made it to the U.S. Supreme Court although it was not heard?

So back to Villanova where the new middle school with the stupid name that means nothing but could have meant something if they had bent their absurd rigidity and allow it to be named after beloved educator, Sean Hughes. Anyway, Lower Merion swoops in and elbows out Villanova University using eminent domain once again to get 13.4 acres on adjacent sites to Stoneleigh at 1800 West Montgomery Ave. and 1835 County Line Rd.

Oakwell. 13 acres of old growth woods and heritage trees, mostly majestic oak trees. HUNDREDS of them. This property was in play for a while and I believe the former owners just dangled a juicy carrot until they had enough people salivating. First it was Villanova University (which would have been just as bad owning this property in my opinion.) But you know Lower Merion School District and their favorite billy club of eminent domain, right?

So now it is to be turf field city, the hell with trees and species like the great horned owl which remarkably DOES live there? This is also still a threat to Stoneleigh in my humble opinion. This is also an enormous environmental threat to the entire area and will affect not only Lower Merion Township residents, but Radnor Township residents who literally are on the other side of terribly narrow County Line Road. And of course one can’t help but wonder, does a new school mean the need for another outpost for first responders? Where would THAT go if so?

This is post is truthfully an addendum to a last-minute call to arms the other day for anyone who grew up in Lower Merion Township or lives there still today.

Please continue to send emails telling the Lower Merion School District to NOT bulldoze down many acres of a pristine old growth oak forest. They want to destroy a valuable natural resource that will affect Stoneleigh immediately adjacent, and neighbors in Lower Merion Township and Radnor Township just so middle schoolers can have a few turf fields.

FLOOD THEIR EMAIL!


I hate to sound as old as dirt but we had plain old grass fields and survived quite nicely. It’s middle school. Of course ironically it’s also the place in school where they teach or used to teach earth science and this property is like a giant living earth science lab complete with great horned owls.


The school board keep trying to do an end run around neighbors who want to have a zoning hearing board meeting on this issue. I think it behooves all of us to support the neighbors and environmentalists on the front lines of this issue.

This property they acquired adjacent to Stoneleigh is irreplaceably special. It has mature woodlands with all sorts of flora and fauna species as well as the oaks. Those old growth oaks in particular are extraordinarily valuable, and not just monetarily. They are also heritage trees.


This property has been evaluated by experts and it is a treasure trove of species. It is home to many, many migratory birds, etc.


Here is whom you address your email to (and YES include LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP):

communitycomments@lmsd.org
publiccomment@lowermerion.org
shouchins@lowermerion.org

drmumin@lmsd.org

mcgloia@lmsd.org

shaferm@lmsd.org

Now including those email addresses because if you have been sending emails their comment email address keeps getting overwhelmed.

Lower Merion Township Zoning Hearing Board Meeting Cancelled 1/25/22

The zoning meeting got cancelled on this topic this week. It is rescheduled. Do not know exact date. Including Lower Merion Township in your email will probably be the only response you get. And it will be from the current Township Secretary and it will be terse and may even feel somewhat rude, but you have put your sentiments on the record which is important in any issue. Don’t expect great things from the Township Manager, Ernie McNeely, and if you don’t believe me just ask folks in West Chester Borough where he came from before he became socially upwardly mobile and moved to Lower Merion, right?

By all accounts, Lower Merion School District finally has a decent superintendent. But he inherited a legacy of bad decisions and bad apples in my humble opinion. This was set into motion by the previous superintendent who was even worse than the one he succeeded.

Middle school kids can play just fine on grass fields and the new middle school has field space too. They could have fields on this latest seized property and save the woodlands. Saving those woodlands gives them opportunities from other than turf fields. Kids could learn from actual nature, not what is projected on a screen as they sit growing like mushrooms while they are looking at their phones anyway. Nature gives kids room to be kids.

Middle school kids aren’t competing for the Heisman Trophy or Soccer World Cup, maybe less playing fields and letting kids still be kids at that age would be more productive? But then the soccer moms and dads in their expensive athleisure wouldn’t be able to drive their giant gas guzzling or environmentally appropriate SUVs through the Starbucks drive thru with casual disregard for other drivers and pedestrians only to scream and yell at the side of a field and because it’s Lower Merion expect others to clean up their Starbucks cups, right?

Hell yea I am on a rant. This is ridiculous. I don’t always agree with Lower Merion resident Phil Browndeis, but his thoughts posted with his video shared above, struck a chord:

This is the last winter for a stand of old growth trees in Lower Merion. The Lower Merion School District plans to clear cut the trees to build new athletic fields for the new middle school. So much for carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat and all the other good that trees provide us.

Allow me also to share verbiage from a petition about this (and sign that too while you are at it!):

THIS PETITION IS SPONSORED BY CLIMATE ACTION LOWER MERION (CALM) https://www.climateactionlm.org/ contact us at climateactionlm@gmail.com

Lower Merion Township is facing a great challenge which must be addressed with urgency: the Township is under tremendous development pressure which is being allowed to continue under old building and development and land use codes that do not protect and preserve the Township’s shrinking remaining environmental assets. This is a matter of grave concern: our tree canopy is under attack. Our waterways, already polluted, are being further compromised. Our cost to correct the adverse impacts of this type of development may greatly exceed whatever short term benefits may be derived.

An environmental tragedy is unfolding. Over 482 trees over 6” in diameter (which probably understates the number of mature trees) including 26 giant oaks, a magnificent oak savannah, and a densely treed mature woodland are slated for removal according to a proposal before the Township for their approval. It would be hard for this proposal to be enacted under the current zoning code, but this proposal is sadly grandfathered under old rules.

Due to an unfortunate set of events that occurred a few years ago, a wooded parcel was acquired by the School District for playing field development. This parcel is located at 1800 Montgomery Avenue and 1835 County Line Rd in Villanova. The plan involves an almost complete deforestation of the parcel including a clearcutting of vast swaths of trees. Neighbors say it is a stopover for migrating birds including snowy owls.

At the same time that this project is moving forward, the Township is in a planning process to write and implement a Sustainability/Greenhouse Gas Reduction plan and is considering adopting a Net Zero Carbon Emission resolution. The destruction of the woodland would be a self-inflicted wound making it far more difficult and costly to achieve the sustainability and carbon reduction we so desperately need. In addition, the children cannot walk to the proposed playing fields. They will have to be bussed. So we hope another site could be equally viable.

We are simply asking the Township authorities and the School district to work together to exhaustively and completely explore all other options. We must be stewards for our children and our children’s children. We can do the right thing, its not too late.

I don’t hold out great hope here, I am a realist and this school district is always selfish and so are the majority of their narcissistic blind faith devotees. However, you just don’t know and if we can save these woods, it is so crucially important to the are and to nature herself.

Thanks for allowing the rant, you know I love my oak trees and owls and woodpeckers and other critters. Visit Save Oakwell Sister to Stoneleigh on Facebook to keep up with what is happening. I guess I am a tree hugger after a fashion. And I definitely don’t agree with yet another bad plan by Lower Merion School District.

Maybe this in the end is just another Don Quixote tilting at windmills issue, but I still think it is something to talk about, and why not object to the plan? After all WHY couldn’t they preserve these woods and use other open space on property for fields? Why CAN’T they be part progress part preservationist? These trees are actually important and I am completely unapologetic to those who cannot see that.

Photo Courtesy of Save Oakwell Sister to Stoneleigh.

Interesting reading on Lower Merion School District:

Inquirer: “Stoneleigh garden may be saved from Lower Merion school district by new law”
June 25, 2018

By Natural Lands

WHYY ‘Disconcerting to be a taxpayer and not be heard’: Lower Merion residents rebuke school district in open space battle
By Kenny Cooper October 14, 2021

6 ABC Save Stoneleigh supporters storm Lower Merion School Board meeting
By Annie McCormick

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Philadelphia Magazine: Lower Merion Schools: OK, We’ll Leave Most of Stoneleigh Alone By Claire Sasko 2018

Inquirer: “Is Stoneleigh safe? Lower Merion district buys nearby property for middle school”
July 20, 2018
By Natural Lands

LMHS Newsroom
UPDATE ON PROPERTY ACQUISITION (2019)

UPDATE ON PROPERTY ACQUISITION (2018)

MOI: A Closer Look
The Moment of Integration – Project Description

http://www.lowermerionhistory.org/photos/wynnewoodnew.html

Lower Merion The First 300: Public Schools

Postmortem: Redistricting battle in Lower Merion
A week ago, the Supreme Court declined to hear Students Doe v. Lower Merion School District, ending the legal debate over the Lower Merion School Board’s redistricting plan
.

by Adam Bredenberg
Published Jun 28, 2012

NOVEMBER 16, 2021 Lower Merion community wants new middle school named after late principal Sean Hughes
Students and parents have started an online petition to honor the longtime educator, but district policy explicitly prohibits naming buildings after people
BY HANNAH KANIK

PhillyVoice Staff

IT run amok: Pa. school allegedly spied on students via webcams by Bill Detwiler in TR Dojo, in Hardware on February 19, 2010, 6:03 AM PST

Great Horned Owl Nest. Photo Courtesy of Save Oakwell Sister to Stoneleigh.

more collateral damage in gladwyne, pa from hurricane ida

Old real estate listing photo
for Gladwyne’s 1690 House – it was for sale a few years back.

Damage from Hurricane Ida was a hot topic among fair goers at the Harriton Fair yesterday. I know because I saw Lower Merion Commissioner Scott Zelov getting his ear bent about it, especially about the Mill Creek Road Bridge.

Now sometimes over the years I have been hard on Commissioner Scott Zelov. We know each other from things Lower Merion. But where I will always give him credit is unlike others, he shows up to events in Lower Merion Township, and listens and engages with residents. I especially give him credit for supporting Historic Harriton House and the fair because the commissioner whose ward contains Harriton can never seem to show up for anything there which I find strange because it’s a wonderful place.

Anyway, River Road in Gladwyne was hit horribly and other places in Lower Merion as well. But I did not know about other Ida collateral damage until this morning when a member of Gladwyne Civic posted the following (and I am re-posting verbatim):

‼️📌MILL CREEK ROAD BRIDGE
From Scott Zelov, LM commissioner: the Mill Creek Road Bridge at the 1690 House has to be demolished and re-constructed due to extensive damage from Ida. The engineering and design could take 9 months, and then construction could be another 9 months, meaning that the bridge won’t re-open until March 2023. This bridge is owned by Montgomery County, not Lower Merion Township. We are working with the County to try to compress both the design and construction periods. TO CONTACT COMMISSIONER ZELOV
https://www.lowermerion.org/services/township-secretary-s-office/board-of-commissioners/commissioners/v-scott-zelov 📌‼️

An old art item found on Internet of 1690 house.

This makes me really sad. The history of the 1690 house is amazing. There is this website called Living Places which has a history. I will share an excerpt:

📌The Mill Creek Historic District is located in Gladwyne, Lower Merion Township, on the west side of the Schuylkill River. Approximately ten miles from downtown Philadelphia, it is situated at the juncture of Mill Creek and Old Gulph Roads alongside of Mill Creek.

…,The area was originally settled by a Welsh Quaker named John Roberts “the miller” who purchased the rights to 500 acres of land in the Welsh Tract in 1682. Taking title to 250 acres; he set up his grist mill called “The Wain” by 1690 or earlier….The house at 543 Mill Creek Road is the oldest in the area and possibly in Lower Merion Township. Originally it was the log house of John Roberts, the Miller, c.1683. The house, which is commonly called “the 1690 house” has been expanded several times and now bears no resemblance to the original. It is 1 1/2 stories has brick chimneys, and dormers with slanting overhangs. Presently, it is sheathed with wood shingles. Over the years, Mill Creek Road has been raised giving the house the appearance of being in a gully.📌

Lower Merion Conservancy photo

The 1690 house is a private residence. It’s a gem. I actually had senior portrait photos taken at the old mill across the street- way before it was restored into a private residence.

Of course this begs the topic of bridges in this area. And roads under construction BEFORE Ida . Everything seems to take so long. Like the hanging rock on 320 and the road closure that is supposed to be done by November, 2021. The hanging rock AKA “Drummonds Head” is actually located in Upper Merion Township and they are supposedly shifting the roadway AWAY from the rock, so it’s got me wondering what they are doing to the creek on the other side?

But my point is even THAT is taking forever. And you can’t get around easily and it’s right where 76 has an exit. The Mill Creek Road Bridge being out will mean a need for a huge work around connecting parts of Lower Merion Township to other parts of itself.

But I am glad the 1690 house can be saved. Here’s hoping the re-engineering can lift it up some and save parts of the original structure to incorporate into the re-build.

Ida was a real natural terror and my heart goes out to the people who own the 1690 House and my friends on River Road and elsewhere. And no, I have not seen photos of the 1690 house post-Ida

Part of an old real estate listing of 1690 House.

estate sale find: history treasure trove of articles and a fabulous book

That is a photo of a history book about Lower Merion Township from 1988. It was this great book that was privately printed that only had 1000 copies ever printed on the original publication, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen this book out there for sale other than on eBay. I bought it for $10 at an estate sale.

Inside the book was a treasure trove of articles mostly about things in Lower Merion Township but one about Radnor Township as well. The articles were from The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Main Line Times when it was still advertised as an independent newspaper.

I have only just started to read the book but I am sharing screenshots with all of you fellow history buffs that I hope you will find of interest. One thing I loved in particular is a screenshot about things in Gladwyne. it was obviously an old map and it was lent to the folks who put this book out by the father of a childhood friend.

There is so much about the history of the Main Line and Chester County the disappears year-by-year. This is why I love when I can get my hands on one of these really good local history books. I don’t know who owned this particular copy of this book but it’s a wonderful book, and the articles are fabulous.

Enjoy!

gladwyne village is fighting for survival from bad development.

This has been posted for perspective. So don’t tell me it’s not Chester County, etc, it’s indicative of the problem throughout the Southeastern Pennsylvania area with regard to invasive, unnecessary development that doesn’t even pause to reflect the character of the area.

So yes, even in Gladwyne, PA neighbors are rising up. Even in the rain they packed this VFW hall over a bad plan that would totally kill the sweet village of Gladwyne. And it’s literally a village.

Where they once had a grocery store ACME markets failed there and closed, and some developer wants to come in and put like apartments or townhouse condos and it’s not some gracious plan that will fit with the surrounding area and be across the street from a church, it’s a cram plan and a load of crap.

And I can’t help but go back to the people that owned the parcel who could have chosen differently and didn’t. Because they’re greedy in my humble opinion. Sorry not sorry.

But it’s Lower Merion Township, the land of infill development and former West Chester Borough Manager Ernie McNeely is the current township manager, and well he always loves development doesn’t he? And the current Director of Building and Planning in Lower Merion is someone who can’t suck up to a developer fast enough.

Essentially if this plan gets built it will be like putting an Eastside Flats in the tiny village of Gladwyne. And while people think of the Main Line as large houses etc, there actually are villages left that have to fight for survival when they should be embraced and encouraged to exist.

From the local civic association:

📌Acme Property Update

Dear Gladwyne Residents:

With so many rumors circulating about the Acme Property I wanted to take a moment to inform you of what we know about recent events and once again inform you that you to a June 8 meeting we are holding to discuss it.

Here is what the Gladwyne Civic has been told:

  1. The Acme property (NOT including the Shell station) is under an Agreement of Sale with a developer.
  2. The Developer has NOT submitted an official plan to Lower Merion Township or any commissioner.
  3. The Developer has shared two preliminary concepts with a small group of Civic Directors. Neither of those concepts meets the Township’s Zoning requirements for a Village Center https://www.lowermerion.org/home/showpublisheddocument/23245/637214107846470000).
  4. The Civic Association has not yet engaged in any official discussion of the concepts, nor has it taken any position with regard to them.

Consequently, after summarizing what we know about the sale of the property and the developer’s ideas, we intend to pivot this meeting to be the first of several Civic workshops to create a Community Vision for our Village Center. In preparation we encourage you to familiarize yourself with 2016 Comprehensive Plan (https://www.lowermerion.org/home/showpublisheddocument/13726/636072036854530000 ) as well as the aforementioned zoning code. In this context please consider that, by design, a Village Center is meant to be a mixed use area that will likely include some residential component within what is primarily a commercial setting. The operative portion of the code reads:

VC Districts are the small commercial areas that function as neighborhood or village centers, generally compact, walkable in scale, with local retail, and occasional residential uses above the first floor.

We are currently working with the Township to clarify what the allowable density can be on the property and other pertinent information.

….If you have specific questions you would like us to cover at the start of the meeting please email them to gladwynecivic@gmail.com by the end of day on June 6 before the meeting so that we can be prepared to respond.📌

Gladwyne is a gem nestled in the Main Line. And I’m not talking about the overpriced extended ZIP Code 19035, I am talking about this village. And the reason I am talking about this village is many decades ago when I was considered a “city kid“ my parents moved us to suburbia. We eventually settled in Haverford, but our first year was spent in Gladwyne.

We were just outside the village on Monk Road, and in those days kids could walk into the village via Youngsford Road without fear of becoming road pizza. We played kick the can and other fun games outside in the evenings in the summer. And in the winter if we were really lucky Mr. Gwinn took folks on a sleigh ride. We learned how to ride horses in Gladwyne, and a daily sound that I remember is the clip clop of horses hooves. (Although I didn’t belong because I wasn’t that good of a rider there was an amazing pony club.)

One of my favorite libraries I’ve ever been in is the little Gladwyne library. There was an old fashioned hardware store where the floors creaked, there were all sorts of old houses both 18th century and 19th century splendid and simple Victorians off of all the little streets. Gladwyne Village is special.

Today a lot of that still exists because the people who live there care. I have always applauded the people who live in Gladwyne because they rally together and they are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in.

I know if this development gets built it will forever change a historic village and the village does not deserve this. That is why I’m posting this. I would like the future kids to move here or even the ones that are there today to be able to still wander around a cool little village.

This is the place where you can still go to the fire company and celebrate the lighting of the Christmas tree (and buy your tree!), and have a fabulous Memorial Day parade that is old-fashioned and memorable. This is a village where you could go trick-or-treating with your families safely. This is a village where people care about their history. You know your neighbors because they stay, they aren’t transient. Therefore this is a village that deserves better than some crap developer with a cram plan because they just want to make money and move on.

We need to stop this kind of sprawl in ALL of our communities. Progress should complement our communities, not maim them. We need to stand up for places like the Village of Gladwyne, Berwyn, Malvern, wherever we live.

These are our communities and we deserve more in a say on how their future is shaped. It is high time to start lobbying our elected officials in Pennsylvania for a comprehensive update of the Municipalities Planning Code and better protections for where we call home. We need more that shredding events in our communities sponsored by elected officials. We need these people to roll up their sleeves and get busy trying to help the people that put them in office in the first place.

Not all developers are bad, but sadly there are a lot of bad and greedy developers. Developers might not like my opinion but the First Amendment says I can express myself thusly.

Thanks for stopping by.

target bryn mawr: today’s example of another bad proposed development plan…

Today social media groups on the Main Line are all abuzz about a particular development plan. It is proposed for Bryn Mawr. I think it’s awful.

It is the same developer apparently as the “Berwyn Square” that Eastown just said no to. Which was truly remarkable because Eastown never says no to anything.

I didn’t just connect the dots to all these development plans, Savvy Main Line did it for us (CLICK HERE FOR SAVVY)

Too. Damn. Much. Development.

The Bryn Mawr plan is shocking. Having grown up on the Main Line, and especially because where I went to high school was Shipley which is in Bryn Mawr, I spent a lot of years in Bryn Mawr. And I can tell you a great deal of the wonderful “village” feel disappeared when Bryn Mawr Hospital supersized. But a plan like this? I think it would kill what is left of the small town Main Street kind of vibe.

Obviously I no longer live in Lower Merion so even though I sent the commissioner for the ward that contains Bryn Mawr an email, I know my opinion doesn’t matter, I just gave it anyway. I figure he owes it to me to listen since way back when he wanted to become a commissioner in the first place a group I was part of helped him get elected.

The other reality of this plan and if you look at the last screenshot in this post it shows a rendering of sorts, and it also totally doesn’t show you what that Lancaster Ave (Route 30) intersection in Bryn Mawr is really like. It is an extraordinarily busy and accident prone intersection. It’s where Morris Avenue ends and Bryn Mawr Ave. begins. It’s where Ludington library is, the main and original branch of Bryn Mawr Trust Company is there. It’s where the train station is and a block or so from where the hospital begins.

2007 Accident Bryn Mawr.

The above photo was taken in 2007. One of the many accidents at this intersection. This particular accident I believe resulted in the fatality of the driver in the car in front of the bus. I also had another friend who was hit pushing her babies across the street in a stroller on a pedestrian walk signal at this corner. At that time, there was an NBC10 report on that accident.

No one is going to say that the building currently on the corner where they are proposing to put this apartment development is attractive. It’s never been attractive. But every development that is proposed is overly dense no matter where you live and whichever township or county you call home.

Downingtown PA development on Route 30.

The above photo is a development in progress in Downingtown. Another massive development. And none of these developments are particularly distinguishable from each other. Which is why I find great humor in the “brynmawr square“ and “Berwyn Square” development proposals

Above you see the development often discussed in East Whiteland. I don’t understand how the people who are paid to do the planning for these townships as well as elected officials have no vision.

At the end of the day this is why we desperately need to update the Municipalities Planning Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This amount of development is not sustainable. And I will never believe the emperor’s new clothes fairytale that it is.

It’s very sad that it has come to this, but pick the township, town, and county and there’s always a bad development plan or several bad development plans. We are the ones that live in these communities and it’s time for elected officials to start listening to us.

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe in the snow.

Proposed “Bryn Mawr Square”
Lancaster Ave (Route 30)

why preserve when you can demolish?

Wandering back to Lower Merion Township today. Yes, I do that on occasion, although these days it’s mostly virtually. I know some people who read my blog and visit the blog’s Facebook page are occasionally outraged when I don’t write about either Chester County or whatever they think I should be writing about. But life journeys are individual, and kind of like my writing journey, yes?

Growing up in Lower Merion, one of the things I loved most were the homes and the gardens. Stately, modest, actual estates, twins, cottages, mansions, and everything in between. Back in those days, the history of the area mattered. And the gardens were glorious whether large or small.

But then, October 1, 2009, Addison Mizner’s La Ronda was demolished. I was there with many others outside the gates. I documented it in photos. She was such a gorgeous structure. So historic. Part of the history of the area, yet even as a historic resource, she was torn down and exists only in memories and photographs.

When La Ronda was demolished, I knew deep down in my heart that Lower Merion was no longer the place for me. It had completely at that moment become about people and how much money they had, and not much else. When La Ronda came down I realized no property was safe or valued there. It was a sad realization.

Over the years I have continued to document notable properties. People have the right to sell to whomever they choose. People have the right to demolish homes great, large, wonderful, small, whatever. But I still lament the people who can’t see the value of the architectural history of an area, and the impact it has. Well another home popped up on a mental endangered list (as in my mind and opinion, I don’t know if it is on an actual list anywhere) because of a Historic Commission agenda in Lower Merion for February 22nd:

Sigh. 651 Black Rock Road. They say it’s Gladwyne, but it’s actually Bryn Mawr. I knew who lived there although they were not friends. Of course people wish to downsize and move on. But for this house to be facing the fate of the wrecking ball is just so tragic. This house is spectacular, with mature gardens and an amazing property and pool.

And as described by the realtor:

Let’s see “as is”:

If you look at all the photos, ok the kitchen is a little dated, and perhaps the bathrooms to the taste of some, but this property and home are spectacular. Quite literally, they don’t build them like this anymore. And the gardener in me wonders about plants that may have been there since the house was built.

So according to Lower Merion’s website, this is in Commissioner Scott Zelov’s ward? He was a champion of saving Stoneleigh and once upon a time against eminent domain in Ardmore (it’s why he got elected originally and I know, I was there), will he have an opinion on this if it proceeds to demolition? But will it matter?

Nope. It won’t. People have the right to demolish. Sadly.

Historic preservation can’t just be a vague idea, it actually has to happen. It has to matter. And in Lower Merion, starting way before La Ronda got bulldozed, it ceased to matter. Lower Merion’s current manager was West Chester Borough’s Manager before ascending to the plum position of Lower Merion Township Manager. And although I have nothing against the man personally, he always appeared to me to be pro-development over other things. And the current Director of Building and Planning is someone I watched climb the ladder at Lower Merion. And I have always found him pro development over anything else. He won’t like me for mentioning this but I sat through YEARS of meeting watching him flip his hair like Farrah Fawcett and present developer’s plans like he worked for them, does anyone else remember?

Anyway, the house is still standing as of now, but this is on an agenda and according to Lower Merion there is a demolition permit. What will happen when all of the old and historic houses and their gardens are gone? In Lower Merion and elsewhere?

Historic preservation isn’t really going to matter until it matters to all of us consistently across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And I do not believe every old house can and should be saved, but when you see houses like this one you have to wonder because beautiful places like this is what drew people to the Main Line in the first place. Until then, why preserve when you can demolish?

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe, roads are icy.

just another case of mcmansion building on the main line

Would you tear down this house? Well somebody is. An email this afternoon takes me right back to where I am from for a lot of my years on earth: Lower Merion Township. This house is possibly attributed to the famous architect William Price as per a historian who messaged me.

I found an old video from 2018 (watch it soon this post might make it disappear):

Ok this house is freaking fabulous and an amazing property at Morris Avenue and Waverly Road. Remarkably, I cannot find this listed as a historic resource in Lower Merion Township but that doesn’t surprise me since this was the township where Addison Hutton’s La Ronda was torn down.

Well nothing like seeing a demolition sale notice go up:

PRE-DEMOLITION SALE

This Saturday, October 3rd, from 9am til 4pm

AND This Sunday, October 4th, from 10am til 2pm

Location: On the corner of Morris Road & Waverly Road, in Bryn Mawr, PA. Look for our directional signs that usually go up about 15 minutes before sale time.

​MASKS REQUIRED. PLEASE PRACTICE YOUR SOCIAL DISTANCING. THANKS.

Here are some demo photos from the Pre-Demolition Sales Website:

So yeah, if you are looking for pieces of an amazing home, this is a great sale. If you are a fan of historic preservation, not so much a great sale but another old house funeral.

Oh and what will replace this gem you might wonder? 3 McBoxes all in a row:

I found the old listing on Estately. Such a lovely place. Some LLC owns it:

Oh you can build new boxes, but they will never be as grand or glorious….or historic.

Here are some photos from the various real estate listings so at least it’s memory can live on somewhere:

Someone said to me, well it’s a shame but it’s a trend. That it’s sad but “oh well”.

We can’t just keep “Oh Well”-ing our communities no matter if it is a working class neighborhood, a farm, or a millionaire’s row. These places matter.

File under another one bites the dust.

perspective: it takes too long for dangerous bridges to be fixed

A friend of mine took this photo today Pennswood Rd Bridge, Bryn Mawr, PA

This is not a post about Chester County it’s about orphaned and other bridges in need of repair in our area, state, country.

Pennswood Rd Bridge 2007

The bridge in the photo opening this post and throughout this post is the orphaned railroad bridge on Pennswood Road in Bryn Mawr, PA. It’s in Lower Merion Township. This bridge has been falling apart for decades quite honestly. I started photographing it in 2007.

Pennswood Rd Bridge. 2007.

It takes far too long for unsafe and run down bridges to be repaired in this country. I photographed the deterioration of this Pennswood Road bridge between 2007 and 2012. I think I had some other photos once upon a time but I can’t find them.

Pennswood Rd Bridge 2012

This bridge had holes that you could see through to the railroad tracks and rattled like all get out. Underneath this bridge runs Amtrak and SEPTA trains. The bridge is on the orphaned list like many others that were built by railroads and then orphaned – original railroad companies go out of business successor railroads disavow responsibility. I don’t quite understand how it all works but that seems to be how it works.

Pennswood Road Bridge at some point between 2007-2012

What happens is the federal government will pay for most of this repair, the state will pay for some of the repair, and the final bit will be the responsibility of the local municipality. In this case, Lower Merion Township. After the bridge is rebuilt it becomes the responsibility of the municipality.

Pennswood Bridge 2012

I have to give credit here to the local commissioner in Lower Merion (Scott Zelov) who has been at this since he became a commissioner in 2006. It’s absolutely ridiculous that it took so long to get to this point. And the bridge was failing long before he took office. It’s been failing since I was in high school.

This is a definite problem across the country. I have seen programs on news shows that run nationally like network news on orphaned and dangerous bridges. In 2019 Pennsylvania was still on the short list of states with the worst bridges. Our state was number 2 in the country according to the CBS news affiliate in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Post Gazette also covers the topic.

In 2013, Penn Live published an article about bad PA bridges. In 2017 the York Daily Record said PA was number 3 in the country for bad bridges. The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote about the topic in 2018 and many other times. (Click here for some sort of state database.)

Anyway glad this Lower Merion Township bridge is finally getting replaced. I just wish it didn’t have to take so long. Do you have a failing and/or orphaned bridge where you live? What’s being done (if anything)?

Here are two articles about the Pennswood Road Bridge:

Main Line Media News: Bryn Mawr bridge on Pennswood Road to be replaced
Richard Ilgenfritz rilgenfritz@21st-centurymedia.com @rpilgenfritz on Twitter Dec 13, 2019

Main Line Media News: Work could begin later this year on last orphaned bridge in Lower Merion
By Richard Ilgenfritz rilgenfritz@21st-centurymedia.com @rpilgenfritz on Twitter May 23, 2018 Comments

Pennswood Road Bridge 2012.

gone too young: r.i.p. kobe bryant

When I saw the news break I thought it was one of those celebrity fake news death hoaxes. When I began to realize the news wasn’t fake and shared a media report on my Facebook timeline, one of my friends had the same reaction “This is a JOKE RIGHT!!???”

But it wasn’t a joke. Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna (she was 13 or 14), alongside others died in a fiery helicopter crash.

It’s just sort of inconceivable. He was only 41. And he came from the area I called home for decades, Lower Merion Township.

I am not some giant professional sports fan as my friends and family will all tell you and laugh. It’s just not me. But even I followed Kobe Bryant because he went straight from Lower Merion High School to being a professional basketball player. If you lived in Lower Merion Township , his career was always just kind of part of all of us because he grew up here for a while.

We all loved the prom photos years ago. He took Brandy and they just looked so cute together:

That is a screenshot I found on Google. You didn’t often have a high school kid with a bona fide celebrity prom date. It was a lovely prom fairy tale even for grow ups. After all when you are in high school you always want your prom to be something magical, right?

I kind of would follow him via my local paper (Main Line Times/Main Line Media News) because long time news photographer Pete Bannan covered him throughout the years. (Click here to check out the photos on Main Line Media News.)

Kobe Bryant was also always generous to his alma mater Lower Merion High School. He donated over $400,000 to the new high school gym around 2010. He made the gym dedication into this really cool event.

There is a video snippet of the helicopter going down. I will admit I don’t like helicopters. They scare me.

At least some of Kobe’s family still live in the Philadelphia area.

And Kobe Bryant also won an Oscar. Yes, that Oscar. Last night they saluted him at The Grammy’s. Alicia Keys was just amazing. That brought tears to my eyes.

Life is so short and precious as we are reminded once again. Like millions of others, I didn’t know Kobe Bryant. But he was from where I used to live. He never forgot that which I respect enormously. He was generous and gave back.

Read this column in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I kind of loved it. And don’t take life for granted.

Don’t try to make sense of Kobe Bryant’s death. Just remember his greatness, and hug your loved ones | Mike Sielski

Updated: January 26, 2020 – 7:34 PM

So where were you? What were you doing when that sickening trickle of news started to drip, drip, drip into your mind and heart? Kobe Bryant … dead? That can’t be. Kobe is strong. Kobe is always smiling…So now, do me a favor, and do yourself a favor, and do someone you love a favor. If you’re reading this, shut off your phone, close your laptop, or put the paper down. Go to your wife or your husband, or your mother or your father, or most of all your son or your daughter, and give him a hug. Give her a hug. Call them. Visit them. Tell them you love them.

no billboards in bryn mawr…haverford township…lower merion township…tredyffrin township….east whiteland township…and MORE

In 2009, lots of people (myself included) started going to billboard hearings in Haverford Township. And in Lower Merion Township. Sometimes we numbered in the 150+ per meeting.

We all also used to protest regularly. The two townships and their solicitors and commissioners were solidly with the community too. They didn’t want these billboards anymore than the residents in these locations.

My friends in small Haverford Township neighborhoods were the most imminently threatened, like my pals on Penn Street, Dayton Road, Lee Avenue, San Marino and more (there are multiple locations in Haverford Township, these were just the streets near me.)

However, my own neighborhood which stretched out behind Our Mother of Good Counsel Church in Lower Merion was potentially affected. And even worse? Where I lived was in a HISTORIC DISTRICT! (Which is why The Lower Merion Conservancy is alerting people to the court hearings beginning today in Media! It’s STILL a historic district!)

Then after a few years of attending meetings which seemed monthly if not more, my life changed. First breast cancer, followed by a move to Chester County, and I thought well at least I don’t have to worry about those ugly billboards anymore, right?

Wrong.

Phoenixville, Charlestown Township, West Whiteland, Tredyffrin now headed for county court, and a lot of them planned for East Whiteland Township.

Relentless.

I get that the billboard company owner wants to sit in traffic and look at his signs, but they are his signs. They don’t belong to the community at all. Which is why you see elected officials in Lower Merion and Haverford Townships still fighting for the residents and starting today, if y’all want you can join them in Media:

Also this week? The billboard company is doing a presentation at the Desmond in Malvern on what they want to do in East Whiteland. See this flyer (which I personally did not create but I am sharing):

‼️Is this Chester County or Las Vegas? Good question. ‼️

It’s no secret how I feel about these billboards. I think they’re simply awful. I don’t think they have a place in our communities. I don’t think they do anything positive for our communities. It’s all about somebody else’s sense of capitalism. And while on a certain level I begrudgingly respect their desire to make a buck, they shouldn’t do it at the expense of people in communities everywhere should they?

The media has not really picked up on billboards in East Whiteland. They should as it is just another in a long long line or list of communities facing the same company.

And why is it that these billboards have to be everywhere? Or anywhere? Let us not forget there are FOUR states in this country that do not have billboards and they seem to live just beautifully. Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine—have prohibited billboards.

The protest photos you are seeing were taken by friends in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania yesterday. This morning I wish my friends who are headed or in court already in Media best of luck.

As communities near and far we are #StrongerTogether. #NoBillboards