Three days before, he had bought the Old Guard House Inn in Gladwyne – even then it was “Old” – a warren of dimly lit dining rooms with log-cabin walls backing up to a bar regarded as the Main Line’s answer to Cheers. The previous fall, he started working in the kitchen for previous owner Jack Callahan, who opened the restaurant in 1949.
“One of those blue-hairs – we had them in those days – she called me over and said, ‘Hey, boy. If you keep your nose clean, you will do very well here,’ ” Breuers recalled this week….New Year’s Eve, though, will mark Breuers’ farewell from the Old Guard House. It also will spell the end of the Guard House as we know it.
Breuers struck a deal several months ago with the Union League in Center City, which in January – after some light redecoration and a kitchen makeover – will take it over. The Union League Guard House will be open to its members and their guests.
The news out of Gladwyne this morning is the Union League is doing a presentation in front of the Gladwyne Civic Association this evening at their regular monthly meeting for…wait for it….outside dining. Umm hello, a streeterie in the parking lot much? Eww. Maybe they should go for a streeterie on Broad Street instead? Yes, I know both are ridiculous ideas. I will also note, the Union League is building rooftop dining in Philthadelphia.
All – at our civic meeting on Tuesday, there will be a presentation from the GH Union League on an expansion to have an outdoor eating area. The civic never heard about this expansion (which is quite surprising and disappointing).
A few commissioners have questions as this expansion will take away some current parking spaces.
If you are interested, or have comments, please come to the meeting Tuesday, Jan 24 at 7pm at the Gladwyne Firehouse.
We are all surprised that the civic and even our Commissioners did not know about this until the other day, so we apologize for the delay in letting people know.
~ gladwyne civic 1/24/23
I will also note myself that this presentation to the Gladwyne Civic is VERY last minute. Why? Because apparently no one told the civic association these plans were in the works based upon what I read. Interestingly enough, I found reference to this on a Lower Merion HARB meeting agenda dated 7/26/22:
INFORMAL – 953 Youngs Ford Road – Old Guard House – Gladwyne Historic District Applicant seeks comment on a plan to create new window openings on the exterior wall of a non-original dining room extension adjacent to a proposed new outdoor dining area surrounded by a pergola structure.
So….why didn’t anyone tell the folks in Gladwyne this was actually in the air? I received a comment this morning from a Union League member. Allow me to share, although I will do the sender a favor and not share their name as that is not necessary, it’s just their opinion vs. mine:
This plan was in Place since they bought it. I think it is rather unjust to call the members discourteous. Parking is tight. You are correct. The UL is putting outside dining on the Roof at the UL and at great expense. It will be exquisite. They don’t do anything half assed. And BTW the DeSantis event is tonight. And what is wrong about that? The people of Gladwyne will be fine and will enjoy collecting the taxes from The guard house. Ain’t progress a bitch. BTW I do enjoy your writing very much. I just don’t see that you a a dog in this game. But free speech is free speech! Hope you are well.
~ Union league memeber to me 1/24/23
Dear member/friend, my “dog in the game” is not traditional. I used to live in Lower Merion (as you know) and I am aware of how hard Gladwynites work to preserve the history and character of this very important historic district. I also know how tight and bad the parking is and how people patronizing the Guard House these days don’t necessarily take care with their on street parking on Righters Mill Road, creating massive headaches for people who do live there. A plan as in their plans, is not the same as a filed plan, so is there a filed plan as in an actual plan, or is this still just a concept? This is also about being a good neighbor. This concept is not the potential act of a good neighbor, and it is that simple.
So now my question is, has this been formally discussed since? At a board of commissioners meeting or meetings? Any plans submitted even in draft form? Does the head of building and planning Chris Leswing know about this or the township manager Ernie McNeely?
I never object to outdoor dining where it FITS. It doesn’t FIT here. This is like when they wanted in Garrett Hill in Radnor not too long ago and diners would have been literally eating practically on top of Conestoga Road.
This is a very specific historic district. The Union League owns golf clubs with loads of outdoor dining space. Plus there is the rooftop dining project on top of the club’s home in Philadelphia. Here that idea just won’t fit. This is a village still, and parking for the Guard House is an issue, and having been there since the Union League took over to dine, the parking issue has never been sufficiently addressed. Righters Mill Road has been doubling as their overflow parking lot, and well the residents aren’t always so well respected when it comes to said parking. And when you add outside dining, there is also that good old expectation of quiet enjoyment so how would restaurant noises taken outside affect neighbors that way?
Now to be fair someone said to me they thought some sheds out back would go away and they would lose a “few spots” and everything would be hidden by a fence. Hidden by a fence made me laugh because it is now an extension of a private club, but it still comes back to village feel and parking. And this is a private club, not a public restaurant any longer, so there is that whole topic. I don’t personally care that it is now an extension of the Union League, except wonder what would happen if this club had a reversal of fortune? It is a valid question because they have been on quite the acquisition spree in the recent past
Union League, people can also go to Merion Cricket, Merion Golf, etc. for outdoor dining and they have the room locally. This location does not truly have the outside room. Leave Gladwyne Village alone, find another way to drive your revenue, and be a good neighbor. This is yet another reason I am glad I am no longer on the Main Line and no longer live in Lower Merion. In my humble opinion, this would be a very special bad plan if they go through with it.
Also worth pondering? What work should the Union League be doing on the Guard House building itself before even contemplating outdoor dining?
The Union League has a responsibility being in a historic area in Gladwyne. This is also a nationally registered historic district. They also just need to be a good neighbor here and not try this. Maybe my opinion doesn’t matter, but I do have the right to express it.
A long time friend from whence I came called me this morning. Had I seen “the” video about Lower Merion Police Department? I did not have any idea of what she was talking about. She sent me a link.
I am not being a drama queen writing that this made me want to scream in outrage, cry, and be terrified. What is going on with Lower Merion Police Department?
I grew up in Lower Merion. I met so many awesome and helpful police officers who were just good at their jobs for the right reasons from the time I was growing up through to when I left Lower Merion in my late 40s. So literally over 40 years. I will be honest, however, and say I encountered some that I was a little less enthused with. Who gave me pause, right or wrong.
I never talked about Lower Merion and their police really before. I have law enforcement in my family so I am extraordinarily aware of how difficult a career path it is and I have respect for the badge. But what happens when you feel that some of those who wear the badge don’t have respect for you and others? Do your feelings matter no matter who you are? Also note from jump I am not saying police shouldn’t do their jobs. But was this thing that happened really good policing and good police?
Also, If you talk about police and it’s not 100% positive, you often put yourself at risk. Sorry not sorry that is how I feel, and surely all the TV programs that discuss things like this have to have some real life inspiration somewhere, right? What I am going to talk about is long past, but it came rushing back today when I saw this video.
Right or wrong, when I was growing up and well into adulthood in Lower Merion, you were told (in a hushed tone) as a woman don’t get pulled over as a woman alone in a car. RIGHT OR WRONG being the key here. I always thought this was like urban legend until a rainy night many. many years ago now.
We were in the thick of fighting Lower Merion Township over eminent domain for private gain in Ardmore, or maybe it was just after eminent domain was killed which was like 2006. Below is a video of a news report that aired right before we killed eminent domain. I found it as I was thinking about my timeline. It’s a bit of an aside, but what we accomplished then (at personal expense sometimes) was kind of huge.
Anyway, when you take a stand against something big, you become a target. During those years private citizens and business owners alike, we were targets. It could be unnerving. Lower Merion Township was THAT angry we wanted to air dirty laundry about eminent domain. I have never known if what I went through was related, but somehow it felt related, right or wrong.
So this one night I was driving home after a Save Ardmore Coalition meeting above Hu Nan in Ardmore (the original Save Ardmore Coalition, not what it eventually became before it fizzled out when most of us were gone away.) It was a nasty rainy night. Driving, teeming rain. I was driving home when all of a sudden I saw flashing lights behind me. I drive like grandma, so I wasn’t speeding or anything. I didn’t think the police car meant me. But then I realized it was me being all flashed at and sirened, so I put on my hazards and stopped.
A policeman came up to the window of my car, yelling. He was yelling did I know what I did? I said (quietly) why are you yelling at me? That of course made him yell louder. We did the whole license and registration request and meanwhile I am on Lancaster Avenue headed west between Ardmore and Haverford, just past Woodside Road and the other side of a light not there, but next one up. S. Wyoming or something maybe? It was a weird light.
In between the shouting and the passing off to him of my information he tells me I ran a light. Again, I drive like Grandma, so I am not your lead foot pedal to the metal kind of driver. I did not run a light, and I am wracking my brain trying to think was the light changing as I went through it or something and I simply did not know. As I am sitting there I am becoming more and more uncomfortable and scared. I could feel myself shaking but didn’t let on or tried not to. Traffic was speeding past us at such a rate that I asked if we could literally move like 20 feet maybe into the parking lot that was just slightly up to the right. It wasn’t an accident scene, and it would have been safer for all. I really thought someone was going to hit the officer in his dark uniform standing outside my car or either one of our vehicles. The officer yelled at me no we weren’t moving. I asked again why he was yelling at me, which made him yell louder again. I never yelled, he never stopped, was that right? Was that a tactic? What was that?
OK look, I wasn’t being argumentative and told him that. I was a woman alone, very uncomfortable, very unsure as to what I actually did and terrified that I was going to get hit, he was going to get hit, WE were going to get hit. This was then the end of it and I drove home with my ticket, shaking. I kept on shaking for a good while after inside my home.
This was a new experience for me. I always before this had this kind of hero thing for police and firefighters. But this? It made me never want to drive at night as a woman ever again anywhere. I did take it to court and it didn’t make me feel any better. The whole experience left me feeling unsafe, uncomfortable. You see I complained, after the fact, so I still ask was I made to feel uncomfortable for a while because of that? I lived in Lower Merion for many years after this, and I always felt apprehensive even seeing a Lower Merion officer after that. As someone who is a law abiding rule follower even if I am occasionally politically/civically mouthy, I never looked at the police force where I grew up ever the same way again. And all these years later, this makes me very uncomfortable and sad to talk about. I hadn’t thought about all this for years until today, and watching that video brought it all back. Like a whoosh.
This scenario, right or wrong is one of those things that you aren’t just looking at race, you are thinking as a woman, what if she was me? What if that was me? What if I had been tased more than once?
Then it’s the scenario of a black woman being terrified, a cop with his gun out (listen to the recording – a woman who also happens to be a lawyer who was there speaking about it), and other black people as car passengers. This woman was handcuffed while her breasts were exposed after they dragged her out of the car? And tased how many times? According to the video, the female lawyer who saw it said the car passengers said tased 3 times? In the end like MORE than the police cars we can see in the video? Like 7 they say on the video? How is this not so incredibly action movie set excessive?
Then after that one experience of mine in years that followed, I had two experiences at public events where I was photographing said events, including one as the as the event photographer where I had police yell at me for taking photos. These were clear no expectation of privacy in a public space kind of deals and in one instance, a police officer from a suburban police force actually touched my person in front of witnesses including one of the event organizers and tried to literally RIP my camera off of me for taking event photos. In the middle of a public street, at a family friendly music event.
But these incidents have stuck with me. I rarely talk about them. And a big irony I keep coming back to regarding this whole LMPD debacle? National Night Out, the annual nationwide event to bring police and community together was founded in Lower Merion.
I live in a municipality now that I think has an amazing police force. I feel lucky.
Lower Merion Police Department is I don’t know what to think these days, but after this latest thing? Change has to happen. Multiple big white guys, one black woman. Her shirt is pulled up and in disarray, and I somehow don’t think it’s a Mardi Gras celebration and there will be beads, right?
To the poor lady, I am not trying to make light of what I have seen on video. I am so not. That terrifies me. That could be anyone. And if you listen to the recording which was as the whole thing was unfolding, this was for a supposed traffic infraction and the WOMAN COULDN’T SAFELY PULL OVER IN TRAFFIC, HEAVY TRAFFIC!!! This woman pulled into a parking lot, which is one of those public place situations/reactions women are told to do if they feel unsure, or unsafe.
And then all of a sudden it’s one, then two, then three, then FOUR police officers…eventually 7 cars as per the video. If I was THAT woman I would have been terrified I wasn’t getting home alive or in one piece. Absolutely freaking terrified. ALL yelling at her. And HOW many times is it even LEGAL to tase someone? It seems from the video she was tased MULTIPLE times. But seriously, they could have thrown her into cardiac arrest or something doing it more than once, couldn’t they have? What if she had a pacemaker for example?
And yes, the woman was cussing a blue streak at them by the end. I have to say in this circumstance however, if it was you or me would you have been able to not cuss them out given what transpired? I mean Jesus. What was all that?
Lower Merion Police has had a slew of issues making the papers off and on the past couple/few years. I am putting a few articles up because I think it is timely and I have to ask is this a department in turmoil?
This scares me what happened. What happened to me all those years ago has indeed stuck with me, right or wrong. And it’s hard to talk about because we are not supposed to criticize law enforcement.
But Lower Merion needs to deal with this, as well as their commissioner police committee and their Township Manager Ernie McNeely, who used to be West Chester Borough’s Township Manager. I will note that one Lower Merion Commissioner Scott Zelov has been on the police committee forever, and really, they need to deal with this. Something is wrong if things like this are happening.
Thank you for the brave women who put this forward in a video. That takes guts and courage. And again to the woman to whom this happened: I am really sorry. No woman black or white deserves what happened to you. It’s scary and was all unnecessary and should not be swept under the rug. I hope she will be O.K. That is enough to cause PTSD for real.
I have now walked away from this post for a while to let it simmer. I still feel quite strongly that this needs to be addressed. This is not just a race thing, this is something that needs to be dealt with for all women. And men. This is something that will outrage and sadden, and cause fear.
I found some press release thing via screen shot. Not sure to whom it was released and then I went to their website and I see a thing about George Floyd? Well what about Jane Doe from Norristown and her traffic stop 1/8/23? You as a department, can’t talk the talk if you don’t walk the walk and this thing that has happened? This thing will also affect other police departments who weren’t part of this “event”. Not right either.
Police are here to protect us. And this is not some de-fund the police post, so we’re clear. This is a big box of wrong that needs to be unpacked, discussed, resolved. Lower Merion isn’t the Magic Kingdom even in as much as they think they should be.
What happened shouldn’t have. I end this post being so lost in thought about after all we have been through as a country that this shit is still happening. To my friends who still live in Lower Merion, please demand better from this township.
ARDMORE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) — A Lower Merion Police Lieutenant is serving a 3-day suspension after allegedly providing help to a police candidate during an entrance exam.
Sources throughout the police department in Lower Merion told Action News the allegations have only added fuel to an already fractured relationship between some officers and police leadership. They also believe the punishment was not severe enough.
Sources inside the Lower Merion Police Department said a lieutenant, as part of a panel administering an oral exam to prospective officers, provided questions to one of the candidates before the exam earlier this summer.
Sources said after the candidate “aced” the test, it was clear to two other lower-ranking officers on the panel that the candidate knew the questions.
After an investigation, Police Superintendent Mike McGrath handed down a three-day suspension and it was approved by the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners. Action News is not naming the lieutenant.
Rank and file sources say the punishment was not severe enough, and compromised the department’s motto of integrity, professionalism and respect. They also accused the superintendent of trying to downplay the severity of the misconduct.
…Regular monthly meetings of the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners can be staid affairs. Presentations are made, reports distributed, ordinances amended. There are occasional raised voices from the public, and a developer might draw an unruly crowd
Wednesday night’s meeting was something else entirely, as a township police officer and resident separately accused the Lower Merion Police Department of racism and sexual assault, respectively. The ensuing local media spotlight left Lower Merion officials and the Montgomery County District Attorney to handle the allegations.
An African-American, Officer Kerry Godbold, backed by a group of township residents, said a civil service exam list, which he said put him at or near the top of the promotions list, was intentionally allowed to expire in order to avoid promoting a black officer.
“These are really some very serious allegations that have been made,” said Commissioner Jenny Brown, underscoring the commissioners’ concern that black residents felt underrepresented within the police department, and the audience applauded when commissioners said it was an issue that needed to be addressed further.
Later, an unnamed Bryn Mawr woman appeared at the podium and claimed she was sexually assaulted and stalked by a Lower Merion police officer, who she did not name at the time. She also said she was illegally detained by another officer—a friend of the first accused cop—and threatened, after she made a report of the assault.
“I was totally shocked,” said Board of Commissioners President Liz Rogan. “I certainly wasn’t expecting to see anything like that. But we take any allegations of impropriety very seriously, so we want a thorough and objective investigation to take place.”
Said Rogan to the woman before she left the podium: “I don’t want you to be embarrassed about this.”
Two days later, the county is investigating the woman’s accusations, and the Board of Commissioners says it wants to address and settle the officer’s accusations in-house, cooperating with members of the community.
The New York Times reported in 2014 on the vacated 1944 murder conviction of a 14-year-old black boy, George J. Stinney, “the youngest person executed in the United States in the last century.” Stinney was convicted of the murder of two white girls in a trial that took less than a day, and was executed only three months after the day of his arrest.
Circuit Court Judge Carmen T. Mullen’s decision to vacate, or legally nullify, the conviction was not based on the merit of the case but because “[t]he prosecution had failed in numerous ways to safeguard the constitutional rights of Mr. Stinney, who was black, from the time he was taken into custody until his death by electrocution.”
In light of the 2014 police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, along with other notable cases where a white police officer killed a black suspect, a reasonable person may ask the question, “Has much about the justice and police system changed in the last 70 years?”
From Stinney’s case in 1944 to the cases of Garner and Brown in 2014 and many others, police and judicial racism against black citizens blights the United States’ national history. Closer to home, a history of racial profiling allegations exists in the Lower Merion Township, perhaps less violent or high-profile than that of Philadelphia or national breaking cases, but no less important.
In 2011, Officer Kerry Godbold accused the Lower Merion Police Department of racially biased hiring and promotion policies, which further consultant investigation found to be untrue. In January 2015, Wynnewood resident Deborah Saldana speculated that the police stop of two African-American snow shovelers was racially motivated, which the police department denied on the basis of previous illegal solicitation stops.
Both of these incidents were covered in Harriton Banner reports. According to a 6ABC report, a February 2015 meeting between residents and police gave no further satisfaction towards ending a legacy of tension.
Data and coverage of police bias events on the national and even local scale abound, but we wondered what stories we would find within our own school. In order to learn more, in December 2014, we interviewed two Harriton focus groups, one composed of ten black students in the POWER program, and the other of ten white students in Mr. Crooke’s journalism class.
The primary question was whether any of the students had been stopped by police. Though the groups were small and we were unable to account for the exact reasons students had been stopped, the numbers between the races were quite different: Eight of the ten black students had been stopped, while two of the ten white students had experienced similar treatment.
Matt Powell, then a Harriton senior, had on a black hoodie and got stopped across Lancaster Avenue. A white woman had become frightened, but in remembering, Powell wasn’t sure if it was because he was wearing all black or because he is black. Ethan Anderson, also a former senior, got stopped once while biking.
Savannah Brown, then a junior, reported that she was stopped and questioned by law enforcement when walking home from a friend’s house down the street. Later in the interview, Brown shared that she has multiple relatives who are cops, and although she does not hold any resentment or suspicion toward them, she still believes that some of their colleagues are doing wrong.
She was with Chris Fulton and Robyn Clark when, as Fulton described, the three students were stopped as they crossed a street. The officer told them not to jaywalk and said “Don’t do it again” to Fulton but not to Clark and Brown. Fulton felt uncomfortable, like the stop was “politically incorrect.”
The secret is out. Once again the billboard baron is on the march. A reminder of what they did in East Whiteland Township, Chester County:
Oh and these are the trees they weren’t allowed to take in East Whiteland because residents went to PennDOT:
What has recently been heard regarding East Whiteland is that Catalyst withdrew their application from Penndot not so long ago and something like the billboard site is being sold to yet another billboard company?
And here are more views of current uses of the West Conshohocken sign not really so far away from where they want them in Lower Merion:
Yeah so read what came out from one Lower Merion Township Commissioner, Josh Grimes. And people say the commissioner in Bryn Mawr, Scott Zelov is all for moving the billboards so it now becomes the problem of another area of the township? Pretty obnoxious if true, right? Especially given all of the support other commissioners have gladly provided to him all these years over billboards in Bryn Mawr? Really hope this isn’t true don’t you? I also wonder who he’s using for a lawyer this time? Because unless I am mistaken I believe the lawyer he used and East Whiteland is actually Radnor Commissioner Jack Larkin and I wonder how he would feel if the shoe was on the other foot and they wanted to put billboards in Radnor?
And what’s with the carrot and rabbit psychology by billboard company? Kind of like what they did in East Whiteland, right? Perhaps it’s being done this way in Lower Merion because the objective all along was to get the giant TV billboards on the Schuylkill Expressway? Maybe the billboards should go up at “Maple Hill”? That’s in Gladwyne, right?
So my opinion which I’m entitled to have as I hope lower Merion fights these billboards because just because the man can buy a house in Lower Merion it doesn’t mean Lower Merion should have to be the location for his billboards unless they’re going on his own front lawn, Anyway, here is what Lower Merion residents are now facing:
Lower Merion School District is front page news over Oakwell, next door to Stoneleigh in Villanova.
Why? Eminent domain….again
We shouldn’t be surprised because Lower Merion School District probably wields eminent domain or the threat of eminent domain more than any institution I’ve ever heard of. I could be wrong, I am sure there are some that do it more but in my worldview they are one of the worst offenders.
Lower Merion School District in my humble opinion has always abused eminent domain powers. It’s like they think they are LMSD and everybody should just bow down. ￼
In their vision quest with blinders they’ve gone after Stoneleigh, Ashbridge Park, etc. I think if they had bought this property with the intention of using the house as the administration building for the school district or something like that I wouldn’t care. But to so wantonly wish to destroy so much green space, so many trees, so much beauty for turf fields for middle schoolers is really kind of tone deaf in today’s world and it’s just wrong, pick a reason.
The house itself is super cool and historic. Things on the grounds are historic. There’s a teahouse with a beautiful giant old terra-cotta warrior who is just spectacular. It’s an amazing property, and once again it’s something that will be destroyed because of this school district if they aren’t stopped.
It doesn’t matter who the superintendent of the school district is, they just think if it’s something they want they can take it. Again, this is my opinion and I’m allowed to have it. I spent 30+ years living in Lower Merion Township.
Something else I find interesting is literally across the road is Delaware County and Radnor Township. How do they feel about this? How do their residents feel?
The whole Oakwell issue has been a slow burn that seems to have ignited. I don’t have a crystal ball on how it will play out, but I don’t think middle schoolers need turf fields and artificial turf as much as they need nature. Kids need to be able to be kids. A lot of kids today don’t want to be on organized sports teams. There are also field alternatives where they can share fields. But the problem with the school district is they don’t do anything nicely, sharing among them.
So once again we’re staring in the face of Lower Merion School District’s misplaced sense of entitlement.
The Philadelphia Inquirer did an amazing job on this article and I think everyone should read it.
John Bennett kindled the hearth on a recent day in what was once his 20,000-square-foot brick Tudor Revival manor replete with heavy wooden doors, wainscoted library, and Mercer floor tile.
The 72-year-old physician-turned-medical-device-entrepreneur recalled how he lost the home and its 10 acres off County Line Road in Villanova through eminent domain in 2018 to make way for middle-school athletic fields. The property, known as Oakwell, contains nearly 700 trees, some of which are thought to date back centuries.
“Everything happened so quickly that there was no way to save it,” Bennett said as he recounted stories about the house, including having a ghost exorcised.
The Lower Merion School District— one of the wealthiest in Pennsylvania —paid Bennett $9.9 million for the house and grounds in the condemnation with plans to clear-cut hundreds of the trees for athletic fields for newly opened Black Rock Middle School. Updated plans show it would keep the Oakwell mansion and a pool house, but a teahouse watched over by a terra cotta warrior, stone fencing, and a brick-walled garden complex all dating back at least 120 years would be razed. The $90 millionmiddle school opened this year. The district plans to start breaking ground for the fields in June…..
What is eminent domain?
The taking of Oakwell marks one of several district attempts to build athletic fields for the new school. The board faced an outcry in 2018 when it tried to condemn part of the Stoneleigh estate next door, which is preserved under a conservation easement. Efforts to use the nearbyAshbridge Memorial Park were halted by a long-standing deed restriction. An attempt to use another nearby property also fizzled, while other lots were deemed unsuitable…..
Eminent domain — or the ability of the government to pay landowners to seize their private property for public use — is a power “inherent to the government,” said Matthew Hovey, a municipal attorney with the High Swartz law firm that represents clients in the area.
Typically, Hovey said, the power is used as a last resort as it can prove “politically unpopular” and may lead to costly and lengthy legal challenges.
Oakwell. 1735 County Line Road, Villanova, PA. Originally part of Stoneleigh…..
I wrote briefly about Oakwell at the beginning of this year. I wasn’t going to care. I don’t live in Lower Merion any longer, so why should I care? Then a friend sent me photos. She had gone on an impromptu tour of the grounds, and met Dr. Bennett who is the man who first was selling to Villanova, then Lower Merion School District had it’s greedy paws out.
But then down the rabbit hole I went because a friend was there this weekend and sent me photos.
It started with the tea house. Such a folly. I had seen photos of them in Victorian estates. And then I saw the life size terra cotta warrior. A Chinese warrior. I find the Chinese terra cotta warriors fascinating. I have a small replica of one. (Check out the Smithsonian article HERE on them.) I have only seen life size ones in this area one other time: a few years ago for sale at Resellers Consignment Gallery in Frazer.
Then I read some fun history the Save Oakwell folks have dug up:
In 1919, William Bodine was making preparations to build his new house on a portion of his father’s Stoneleigh estate, a property that came to be known as Oakwell in 1922. The famed Olmsted Brothers firm had been Stoneleigh’s landscape architects since 1908, and there are hundreds of pages of their records for both properties accessible in the Library of Congress and the National Park System’s Olmsted Archives showing the level of expertise and thought that went into the stewardship of this place through the 1950s.
What was Olmsted Brothers’ main concern when it came to placement of the new house and driveway along County Line Road? Almost 103 years ago to this day, this telegram to their client William Bodine, along with other correspondence, shows that their main concern was situating these structures in order to “save trees.”
~ Erin Vintinner Betley “Save Oakwell” Facebook Group
Friday May 23, 1919 was a busy day for Stoneleigh’s Eleanor Gray Warden Bodine.
Bryn Mawr College was hosting the 5th Annual Conference of the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association. As an association member, Mrs. Bodine listened to talks on topics ranging from War Gardens to Community Gardens to the Woman’s Land Army.
Two years later, an article in House & Garden titled “Consider the Gardener” again shone a public spotlight on this program for training of young women, “offered by Mrs. Samuel T. Bodine of Villa Nova, Pa whose extensive estate and eminent superintendent-gardener, Mr. Alexander MacLeod, have formed an exceptional combination.”
After the program, the conference attendees toured 4 nearby farms & gardens, with Stoneleigh the last stop of the day. Eleanor Bodine would have welcomed attendees to view Stoneleigh’s magnificent gardens at the front of the property but given the interests of the membership, the back of the property likely would have been center stage. For this is where Mrs. Bodine and her superintendent Alexander MacLeod hosted an innovative gardening and horticultural training program for women, centered on a greenhouse complex and Superintendent’s Cottage designed by noted architect Frank Miles Day sometime before 1903 (both structures became part of her son William Bodine’s Oakwell after 1922). The women in the program lived in a dormitory they named “Squirrel Inn,” built specifically for them by the Bodine family, near the sprawling fruit and vegetable gardens where they spent their days (these were Victory gardens during WWI).
The article focused on the need to foster the interest of more young people in gardening and horticulture, with these lines that resonate 101 years later: “nature study classes and school gardens are awakening special powers of observation and emphasizing the practical value of patience and diligent perseverance…. public and private enterprise must combine to throw searchlights on the path to be chosen, revealing the mysteries of science related to horticulture [because] even soil… teems with history, science, poetry and religion.”
~ Erin Vintinner Betley “Save Oakwell” Facebook Group
So Oakwell. Was (again) literally once part of Stoneleigh. Stoneleigh as in the house was built in 1877 by Edmund Smith, a Pennsylvania Railroad executive. Pennsylvania Railroad money built a lot of the Main Line of a certain period, didn’t it? When the Bodines acquired the estate, in the early part of the 20th century, what is now Oakwell and Oakwell land was gifted to William Bodine. William Bodine’s house “Oakwell” was built in 1922. In 1932, it was subdivided off of Stoneleigh.
So Stoneleigh survived, was donated by the Haas family to Natural Lands, yet Oakwell, which is a place that should be part of a similar preservation and conservation conversation is at risk. It is fascinating that there has not been more noise about this. Maybe people are just tired of Lower Merion School District taking properties or causing reassessments and increases in taxes. The Lower Merion School District is a greedy behemoth and I don’t think those in the administration have ever cared about other that what can be gotten in the name of the school district.
Next up: trying to make preservation conversations fun. Another rabbit hole I went down were old newspaper clippings. Enjoy:
Now here are a couple of society clippings discussing Oakwell and more recent era parties which I remember hearing of:
Ok yes, a lot of this is memories of days gone by, but properties like Oakwell? Legendary. Why shouldn’t a place like Oakwell live on with an adaptive reuse? The gardens although a wreck, are all still there! The tree are amazing. There is literally a small oak forest. And all of this is supposed to be flattened for TURF fields? For MIDDLE SCHOOLERS, no less? Is this an actual need, or a want?
Hidden City Philadelphia wrote an amazing article a couple of days ago. The talk about Oakwell being a historical resource. I will remind people this is Lower Merion Township and I watched Addison Mizner’s La Ronda get demolished. Being a historic asset may buy some time, but we live in a private property rights state, so it can sadly only delay the inevitable. And Lower Merion needs to pay more mind to demolition by neglect, in my humble opinion.
Here is an excerpt:
….The Oakwell estate’s current resident, Dr. John Bennett, founder and CEO of Devon Medical Products, has lived there for 25 years. He intended to sell the sprawling estate to Villanova University to be used as a retreat. However, in December 2018 the school district elbowed out Villanova and voted in favor of condemning Bennett’s property.
This is not how the school district sees it. “After a long search, the school district paid more than $12.9 million for the contiguous properties, which had both been offered for sale by their owners, for use as playing fields for Black Rock Middle School,” said Amy Buckman, director of school and community relations for Lower Merion School District.
Bennett disagrees. “I had the property under agreement with Villanova and, just prior to closing, the school district took it by eminent domain,” he said. “I didn’t want to see it go to baseball fields, destroying the ecological setting we have here. I went to court to fight them and lost. It’s a travesty.” The school district paid Bennett $9.95 million for the property.
“I offered to remain on the property to care for the house, but they want me gone so they can claim that it is abandoned, allow it to deteriorate, and tear it down.” Bennett has kept the entirety of the estate well maintained and still lives there with his daughter and grandchild.
The day that LMSD condemned 1835 County Line Road allowing it to be taken by Eminent Domain, the property was effectively titled to the LMSD. The only option available to the owners to get their property back is to fight a legal battle in court.
Lower Merion Township, PA — Fraud, collusion, and bad faith are alleged in court documents filed on February 7, 2018, by attorney Michael F. Faherty on behalf of his clients, township residents John A. Bennett, M.D. and Nance Di Rocco who are in a legal battle over the taking of their property by the Lower Merion School District.
In the documents, Bennett and Di Rocco are referred to as the “condemnees.”
Who allegedly did these wrongdoings? According to the documents it was the Lower Merion School District.
Using a tool afforded only to governments, the LMSD unleashed the force of “eminent domain” on Bennett and Di Rocco. That Force is the power to condemn and take a private citizen’s home, land or property by a government for the betterment of society.
Eminent domain are two words that can strike fear into anyone owning property that a school district or government wants to own or acquire.
Township residents John A. Bennett, M.D. and Nance Di Rocco of 1835 County Line Road, Villanova, PA have had their property condemned and taken by the Lower Merion School District. That is a fact, but the rest is very murky.
The court documents filed against LMSD allege a pattern of collusion and interference in a private business transaction where Bennett and Di Rocco say that LMSD officials and surrogates worked to scuttle an agreement with Villanova University to buy their property for almost $12 million.
The documents further charge the Lower Merion School District took the property illegally, and that school district officials or their delegates used fraud, collusion and bad faith tactics leading to an arbitrary action by the LMSD…..Villanova University’s President, Father Peter Donohue verbally offered to buy the property for $12 Million and agreed to have the paperwork drawn up.
The documents allege that Superintendent Robert L. Copeland, reached out to Father Donohue, after hearing about Villanova’s interest in the property. The document states that Copeland Donahue that $12 Million was too much for the property. Copeland allegedly told Donohue that the LMSD was interested in buying the property and that LMSD valued the property at $8 Million.
Donahue relayed to Bennett and Di Rocco that the University would delay their offer letter and that they didn’t want to appear hostile or look like they were attempting to block LMSD, “especially with all of the flair up over Stoneleigh.”
At the same meeting, a discussion occurred about both the condemned property on County Line Road and the Spring Mill Road property. The key question being: were both properties needed?
According to Faherty’s filing Dessner stated that “LMSD could sell it to Villanova University.”
Bennett also informed Dessner and Copeland that the University would pull out of their agreement of sale if the condemnees’ were able to reach an agreement with the LMSD.
Bennett provided a copy of the agreement of sale with the understanding that it would remain confidential.
Three days later on December 21, 2018. The school board convened a special meeting and passed a resolution to condemn the property at 1835 County Line Rd, and a press release was issued.
How was Stoneleigh able to block the school district, while the historic landscaping, Acorn Cottage, and horticultural structures of the Oakwell estate, originally part of Stoneleigh, at risk? “When the historic resource inventory survey was conducted in the late 1990s, the greenhouse buildings were overlooked. However, this parcel is historically associated with the Stoneleigh estate and warrants similar protections,” said Kathleen Abplanalp. director of historic preservation at the Lower Merion Conservancy.
“From the very beginning, the entire 13-acre property has fit into our mission goals for historic preservation, open space preservation, the health of the local watershed, and sustainability,” Abplanalp said. “We are vehemently opposed to the current plan and hope the school district will compromise some of their programmatic needs.”
Erin Betley, a conservation biologist who lives in Lower Merion, views the pending destruction of the estate’s landscaping and historically significant structures like the greenhouse complex as lost opportunity. “Oakwell’s intact landscape provides a hands-on educational opportunity for our children, and our community, to learn about ecology, conservation, environmental science, gardening, sustainability, history, natural history, historical preservation, and more,” she said. “Historical records reveal that Stoneleigh’s greenhouse complex and fruit and vegetable gardens were educational spaces for young women during and after WWI, where they gained practical training in gardening while also feeding the community. I hope this can be viewed as a chance for this valuable place to come full circle and used in a way that takes inspiration from our collective past to inform our collective future”…A single mature oak tree can consume more than 40,000 gallons of water a year. Where will all that water go when the Oakwell estate’s trees are gone?
Doug Tallamy, a conservationist, author, and professor of agriculture and entomology at the University of Delaware, agrees. “If you replace a forest with a lawn, you are generating run off,” he said. Tallamy was involved with preserving Stoneleigh. His message to the school district? “Find another place without cutting down hundreds of trees.”
I am a huge fan of Doug Tallamy, own his books, have heard him lecture a few times now. I also live with a woods full of oak trees. I love them. I am attached to my woods and the creatures and plants in them, much like the folks who live around Oakwell.
This property would be better suited as a retreat, which is I think what I heard Villanova wanted to do with the property.
And not to skip around but is all of this crap being done by Lower Merion School District going to cost Lower Merion Township big time when it comes to public works, police, fire, EMTs? So when will they have to put in another firehouse and where exactly?
Here are some links which I saw on Save Oakwell which some of you might find of interest:
What do I think? I am not sure as on one hand, this is such a complex tale that I do not know if we will ever know the whole story. BUT on the other hand I am so tired of major properties being demolished and I am definitely of the school of thought that Lower Merion School District need to be stopped. After all, #thisplacematters and has anyone gone to the National Trust for Historic Preservation yet?
And let’s talk about the trees. 500 as in FIVE HUNDRED. Yes, that is the destruction number. That makes me want to throw up.
Isn’t it time to curb the rabid dog of destruction that is Lower Merion School District? From the historic preservation aspects to land and environmental preservation aspects, sadly Oakwell has it all going on. Yet people are being too damn quiet about this. Natural Lands needs to speak up. Hell, they know what it is to have to fight Lower Merion School District over eminent domain and also, the eco system that is their Stoneleigh will be threatened and altered and affected irrevocably if the mass destruction of Oakwell succeeds. Natural Lands speaking up now is very important, and I don’t quite get their silence, do you?
Oakwell need a reprieve. But more people need to care. Not enough people seem to care or are willing to stick their necks out. I really wish that someone would sit down at Oakwell with people who had lived there, or whose family has lived there and film an oral history. Well that should have happened before I think. And where are elected officials on this? Not just statements of Lower Merion Commissioner, but State Reps, State Senators, Congressional representatives, etc? County Commissioners? State environmentalists?
Where. Is. The. Really. LOUD. Public. Outcry?? And more media or do they only cover bad politicians and crime in Philadelphia?
People. We need to save the region’s history. That includes gardens too. Trees. Houses. Tea Houses. I don’t have the answers. God I wish I did. But if we allow this to happen, in the end we will all be sorry. And I have to ask, is Radnor Township asleep here? Their township is quite literally across County Line Road. Radnor residents will be affected too. One would think the Radnor CONservancy might feign an interest, but that would mean getting out of their bubble, right?
Oakwell needs some big hitter angels, do any exist for this property? Why is it in other areas of the country, properties like this are revered and preserved?
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):
Now including those email addresses because if you have been sending emails their comment email address keeps getting overwhelmed.
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.
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.
Interesting reading on Lower Merion School District:
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 ZELOVhttps://www.lowermerion.org/services/township-secretary-s-office/board-of-commissioners/commissioners/v-scott-zelov 📌‼️
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.📌
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.
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
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.
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:
The Acme property (NOT including the Shell station) is under an Agreement of Sale with a developer.
The Developer has NOT submitted an official plan to Lower Merion Township or any commissioner.
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 email@example.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.