playing tourist in chester county: rambling around marshallton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

More on Marshallton:

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

 

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

 

Marshallton History Off of West Bradford Website

 

National Register of Historic Places Marshallton

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

Go to Marshallton.

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

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

It’s what Chester County is all about.

the fairy tales of development

Updated: AUGUST 9, 2016 — 4:34 PM EDT

by Joseph N. DiStefano, Staff Writer @PhillyJoeD

EXCERPT:

New stores and apartments are boosting tax collections, and have given Chester County’s West Whiteland Township (pop. 20,000) a rare distinction: Yesterday Moody’s Investor Service boosted its credit rating to AAA, a rare distinction shared locally with Tredyffrin, Whitpain, Upper and Lower Merion, and Whitpain townships…..”We didn’t used to be known as developer-friendly,” Soles told me. “The current board has changed that. We want to attract development. We are a retail-based township. We have to stay ahead of the curve.”

The township’s presentation to Moody’s lists more than 1,000 new apartments, including 410 units approved for Main Street Apartments, 276 for Parkview at Oaklands (where residences are replacing office/industrial zoned space), 240 at Marquis at Exton; plus 108 “new carriage homes” (rowhouses) at Glenloch (where the township fought to keep out a trailer park), plus 86 at Waterloo Gardens, and several smaller developments….”Those develoments are going to have minimal impact on the school district,” Soles promised. “The primary market that developers are going for is the millennials and the empty nesters.”

 

Mmm O.K. That is a really nice BUT regular residents don’t want townships to be so “developer friendly” – we as normal, everyday residents of Chester County are in fact looking for BALANCE and RESPECT for open space and the county’s agricultural heritage. And some historic preservation. And community preservation.

exton_1937 guernsey cow photo

Exton in 1937 courtesy of the Guernsey Cow

I learned something very amusing the other day. An executive of a large developer active in local township meetings where they live doesn’t exactly live in one of the developments that supports their salary, does he? Does he not in fact own a lovely property that is private and part of the beautiful rolling hills of Chester County? If even the developers and their employees don’t live in these cram plans, why should we want them in our communities?

Aerial shot of Exton 1974 courtesy of The Guernsey Cow

Aerial shot of Exton 1974 courtesy of The Guernsey Cow

All of these developments have an impact on every single resident and that also means they do have an impact on the school districts.

Aerial shot of Exton off of Paramount Realty Website – not sure how old, but current times to be sure.

They can’t say in West Whiteland (or elsewhere since it is a common mantra) every single one of these units being built is going to go towards millennials and empty-nesters.  And as for that younger generation just starting out out of college they don’t necessarily want to be all the way out here – they want to be closer to an urban area because they’re single and social.  That behavior pattern extends to empty nesters and retirees too – not all of them want to be so far out. And a lot don’t want to be so far out living in cheaply constructed projects.

Areial shot from Pennsylvania Real Estate INvestment Trust

Come on, these projects are plastic city and built for the masses to do ONE thing: show a profit for the developer.  These developers shove in as many projects as possible and move on to the next area. These developers are not building for posterity, only their own prosperity. They get in, and they get out.

IMHO Steve Soles (the article calls him Rick, quite amusingly – see screen shot.) owes his constituents better. Of course given his day job as a lawyer lawyer for a hedge fund, I never would have voted for him in the first place if I lived in West Whiteland.

And so we know who is who in West Whiteland (and do not forget the Township Manager is the former Township Manager of Tredyffrin who was just going to “retire”, Mimi Gleason), here is a screen shot of the supervisors:

west whiteland officials

Now if you do a quick flash back to the most recent election, you will recall a very interesting Daily Local article:
West Whiteland supervisors race getting nasty

POSTED: 10/27/15, 10:59 AM EDT

WEST WHITELAND >> Democratic challenger Rajesh Kumbhardare is running against Republican incumbent Steven Soles for his position on the township’s board of supervisors.

Kumbhardare launched several accusations against Soles that both Soles and fellow Democratic board member Joe Denham claim are false.

West Whiteland board supervisors serve six-year terms. One member of the board is up for re-election every two years.

In a phone interview, Kumbhardare criticized the township’s financial practices, saying township funds were “running into the red.”

He also mentioned the $31.2 million price tag for the township building….

Soles said during his tenure, the township greatly increased its transparency and kept taxes low.

“We have a fiduciary duty to our residents, I think we’re on the right track,” Soles said. “We are working for the residents of West Whiteland Township.”

Really?  Seems to me that West Whiteland Township has ambitions to become another King of Prussia. (But what do I know, I am a mere mortal and a female and not a lover of malls.)

We are starting to drown in development from one end of Chester county to the other. It’s ridiculous. I also do not believe that the economy can in the end support so much development and remember there actually is an ample housing supply already. Sure there are lots of retail and minimum-wage jobs, but those people are not going to be affording these developments. This is the whole emperor’s new clothes story of the New Urbanism fairy tale of development.

My photo. Views like this will continue to disappear by the day if we do not act as Chester County residnets

My photo. Views like this will continue to disappear by the day if we do not act as Chester County residnets

There are all sorts of things that no one thinks about when salivating over ratables as an elected official.

They definitely don’t think of the impact on the schools and they don’t take that into consideration. Mostly because school districts are autonomous from local governments and they don’t play well with one and other.

Also elected officials are NOT telling you another reality of getting rid of more and more farmland: it will drive your food costs up.

27406131775_05ddcef1f4_oIt’s a snowballing effect. We have lots of housing but we simply don’t take care of it. Our elected officials just approve more and more projects.

Someone said to me yesterday “I’m not really sure if a lot of local officials have the capacity to comprehend all of this and see the future and think about ecosystems etc.”

I think that is correct.

We have the power to change this and we need to pressure state elected officials to comprehensively update the Municipalities Planning Code to PROTECT us and actually plan wisely, not just literally give away the farm to developers.

It is an election year, which means we do have the opportunity to be heard by exercising our right to vote. We need to make our open space and agricultural heritage a huge election issue in Chester county and elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

26799260573_465b0e0d29_oAnd remember Moody’s is issuer paid. Municipalities get what they pay for and given the hot mess Lower Merion Township is due to developers (and is Tredyffrin with all it’s issues and the mother of all open space killing developments Chesterbrook from time to time far behind?) I wouldn’t be so bragging that my municipality was right up there with them as AAA. But again, a municipality is getting what they pay for.  And what will it mean when developments empty out because they are older and falling apart?

27887459781_c733efdbd5_oAnd I love when local elected officials in Chester County  brag about stopping mobile home parks. I do not think anyone really gets how many of those are in Chester County, or that they are kind of one of the few sources of truly affordable housing for what defines affordable housing. They approve building of huge projects with zero truly affordable housing.   Or a developer will toss out there that they will make a few units of something affordable, only it’s never truly affordable for say the family of four or six or even larger that might actually NEED affordable housing.

2706453199_4767aac241_oNow see what I think would be a great idea is if these developers who are salivating over Chester County’s open space would actually restore some of the actual run down housing supply that exists in areas that suffered downturns when factories and manufacturing left their towns.  Think Phoenixville, Downingtown, and Coatesville and any of the number of small cross roads towns you find scattered throughout Chester County.  Heck if they did this more in Phoenixville and Downingtown they would probably see a positive result fairly quickly given how hard these two places 27334976761_071b627e2e_ohave been working to rejuvenate their towns and business districts already. But it takes talent and patience to restore older homes or do an adaptive reuse of a mill or factory, doesn’t it?  And again, these developers aren’t about communities, they want to get in and get out.

But that is another idea: if elected officials and county level planning commissions pushed for an overhaul of Municipalities Planning Code that could be made part of the approval process legally: if developers want in, then they need to contribute more than traffic signals.  Let them contribute a certain amount of rehabilitated existing housing as a condition of approval.  Come up with a formula that for every new unit they want to add, they have to restore a certain amount of existing units in areas that could use the help, thereby actually helping provide actual affordable housing.

But that’s the other thing  – Pennsylvania does not make it attractive for people to preserve anything.

 

In other states there are many more avenues of tax credits and what not when it comes to saving things for environmental concerns and saving things as historic assets.
However what local officials do you have the power to do is to try to work with developers to reduce the footprint or encourage them to donate big chunks of land where they’re developing for conservation…..And in my opinion most don’t.
 I get that PA is a private property rights state so this is really tough, but it  is like the whole tale of Crebilly Farm in Westtown possibly going Toll — does anyone believe that NO ONE in that township knew anything?

Here are the Westtown Supervisors again:

westtownAgain, of special note is the Chair, Carol R. De Wolf.  How ironic is it that she works for Natural Lands Trust as the director of the Schuylkill Highlands???? Are residents asking her some tough questions?  Has she tried to get any of the land that is Crebilly conserved?

14359111719_cb799ed180_oOk and when you are speaking of development you need to consider the Herculean efforts some put into land preservation.  I have a friend who put four years of his life into obtaining Federal land conservation. He got a  USDA Easement on his farm. The easement is a conservation easement for the preservation of a thriving bog turtle colony. It’s locked up in perpetuity  I think that is wonderful.  His name is Vince Moro, and you will now read about him in this article on ChaddsFord Live:

 

Pop-up gala joins fight to save orchard

 

Read the rest of the article, but you get the point.  Here is more on the orchard at risk:

Help The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC) save Barnard’s Orchard, a fourth generation family farm in Chester County!

Project Update:
TLC is working to conserve Barnard’s Orchard and its 75 beautiful and productive acres. To date TLC has raised
$863,000 toward the $901,000 total project cost, leaving a balance of $38,000 (less than 5% of the total project cost).
Securing these funds now will successfully conclude this important land conservation project and keep  intact a 1,200+ acre corridor of vital lands.
Here’s what is at stake, and once plowed under, irreplaceable:
  1. 74.3 acres of important agricultural soils across two parcels
  2. Fourth generation family owned farm established in 1862
  3. Orchard and orchard store are a community staple with generations growing up visiting the property
  4. 32 varieties of apples
  5. Apple cider
  6. Pumpkins
  7. Snapdragons and freesia
  8. Peaches
  9. Additional fruits and veggies grown on site
  10. Produce donated to the area food cupboard when possible and collection taken at the counter
  11. Hosts school groups at no cost to educate children about the orchard
  12. Rural vista along Rt. 842 for public enjoyment with ½ mile of road frontage
  13. Protects prime agricultural soils and keeps them in active agriculture via the agricultural easement
  14. Protects portion of a first order stream and wooded, steep slopes
  15. Protects the groundwater recharge abilities of the woods
  16. Maintains the existing riparian buffer to protect the watershed
  17. Protecting the stream corridor benefits downstream neighbors-over 500,000 people depend on the Brandywine Creek watershed for public and individual water supplies
  18. Protected woodlands are part of an unbroken corridor extending north onto Cheslen Preserve
  19. Stream corridor and woods are home to multiple endangered and threatened plant species
  20. Farmland and open space benefits everyone – keeping the costs of community services under control: For $1 of tax revenue from farmland, only 2-12 cents of community services are required. Residential costs are $1.33 for every $1 of tax revenue.
tlcBe a part of the solution by helping conserve Barnard’s Orchard for future generations!
Donate online here OR send check payable to TLC to:
The Land Conservancy for
Southern Chester County
541 Chandler Mill Road
Avondale, PA 19311

TLC also accepts Gifts of Stock; for details click here or contact

610-347-0347. 
All donations are 100% tax deductible.
If you have questions about this project,  please contact TLC today.
Thank you,
Gwendolyn M. Lacy, Esq.
Executive Director
(610) 347-0347 x 107
(610) 268-5507 (c)
sad
Chester County residents it’s do or die time. What do you want where you call home to look like?
Here is another very telling image taken by a friend of mine August 1st in West Vincent:
13876680_10210107066019031_3316649862016974527_n
Do we really think anyone is cleaning up the ruins of a decrepit old gas station or whatever for historic preservation?
And speaking of West Vincent, remember Bryn Coed.  It is TWICE the size of Chesterbrook. In my opinion, it is not a question of IF the land will be developed, but WHEN.
img_1840And I am not, believe it or not, completely anti-development.  Small and thoughtful projects that demonstrate careful planning are not problematic to me, but you do NOT see that today.  Developers come in and rape and pillage. It is nothing, ever about where WE call home, only how much money they can make. They don’t care about fitting their developments in with our existing surroundings or employing human scale in infill developments in towns (think East Side Flats in Malvern. I am all about supporting the local and small businesses there but talk about not fitting the surroundings.)
After all, take “Linden Hall” on Route 30 in East Whiteland.  The actual Linden Hall is NOT yet restored and what do we see? This:
27685291670_2d629ed33d_o
Is that about our community betterment or just about lining a developer’s profits?
8534073683_85d0f86dda_oAgain, I remind everyone that development should darn well be an election issue out here. Look at your candidates and what they stand for.  We need less who are proud of being “developer friendly” and more who are willing to preserve where we call home.  From the local township, borough, and so on to the State House and State Senate vote for Chester County. If a candidate can’t go on the record about what they will actually DO or an actual PLAN for preserving Chester County, it’s open spaces, agricultural and equestrian heritage, say bye bye to them.
I think Chester County’s future is worth more than crammed in developments of front end loaded plastic houses on postage stamp sized lots where there is not even enough room to garden let alone enjoy being outside.
22015047366_ebe0e60232_o

woof! more drama out of chester county SPCA

puppy

This sweet pup has nothing to do with the drama at the CCSPCA. This pup is just a reminder about WHAT it is the CCSPCA is supposed to be about….

Sigh….another in depth article about the issues regarding the Chester County SPCA today.

Planned land sale raises questions for Chester SPCA board
 Mari A. Schaefer, Inquirer Staff Writer  Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Two years after the Chester County SPCA turned down an offer to sell 20 acres of  the nonprofit’s land to West Bradford Township for a public park, the shelter’s  board has agreed to sell the land to a real estate partnership in which board  president Conrad Muhly is a principal….

Muhly is a principal member in Embreeville Redevelopment, a limited partnership that has an agreement of sale to purchase the CCSPCA’s unused acreage at West Strasburg Road and Shagbark Drive.

The land abuts the 245-acre Embreeville State Hospital parcel that the partnership purchased from the state for $1.05 million in the spring for potential development.

Muhly declined requests for interviews but did address questions in an e-mail….

Asked why the offer was declined, Muhly said in an e-mail: “There was no official offer to purchase the property.”

As for the vote this year on the sale of the 20 acres to his partnership, Muhly stated he had recused himself.

In an e-mail obtained by The Inquirer, board treasurer Frank Sobyak told board members that the sale to the partnership “will net the shelter $300,000 for land we no longer have use for.”…. When it deeded the 20 acres to the CCSPCA in 2002, the state stipulated that it be used for “programs and services associated with the prevention of cruelty to animals” in accordance with state law.

Many thanks to reporters like Mari Schaefer who continue to follow this story.  Conrad Muhly should step down immediately. Is it just me or is his involvement in this whole land thing a conflict of interest as a CCSPCA Board Member, let alone President of said board? As a matter of fact he and any board member that are truly interested in the best interests of a non-profit shelter with a venerable history, should step aside and allow fresh faces and fresh perspectives to step in. And where is Jim Jones the Controller of the CCSPCA in all this?  Some say he should be spoken to?

Mr. Muhly was undoubtedly chosen for his board role at CCSPCA because I imagine he is a wealthy man. When you look him up on PA’s publicly searchable corporation data base  you come up with what I assume are familial construction entities and then an internet search shows something called “Terra”. Don’t know much about it, found it on his LinkedIn profile.

Now this whole issue in West Bradford stems around this  Embreeville Redevelopment, and here is their page off the searchable corporations database:

M3

Mr. Muhly is named as a partner on the Marshallton Conservation Trust website:

Marshalltown CT

On 8/4/13 The Daily Local wrote a scathing editorial about this project:

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

Since the late 1980s, it has been less and less of a vibrant place, and now stands as a forlorn reminder of past uses…..the idea that the land would be the perfect place for a housing project with more than 1,000 units would be a call for a disaster.

Apparently we have the Commonwealth of PA (you know, the people who can’t seem to get their collective act together where dog laws are concerned and other things?) to thank for selling this property, and West Bradford has a page dedicated on their website to just this topic. As an aside I wonder if parts of this property might be creepy a la Pilgrim State Hospital in New York on Long Island that I took some photos of this summer.

Anyway, back to the dogs.  Seems to me that the shelter dogs and animals are not thought of in this land equation much are they?  Ironically the Treasurer of the CCSPCA mentioned in the Inquirer article and who also did not return calls was honored by the CCSPCA in June as Volunteer of the Year (see the pretty picture below?) as per the Unionville Times:

Here is hoping the Chester County SPCA can jettison all this trouble and get back to what they are about: the rescue and re-homing of neglected, abandoned animals.  This controversy in my opinion only continues to tarnish their reputation and eventually will make people want their non-profit status evaluated for any number of reasons.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, cats and dogs would be a horrible thing to have happen.

And a note to those like “birdiegirl” who like to roam around flapping their keyboards in quasi anonymous glory on websites covering this, sunshine is a bitch when it happens which is why no one can ever hide this stuff forever. Please stop running around crying fowl and actually put your energy to better use by telling the CCPSCA to get it together.  They caused this, not anyone else. And if they did their recent inspection truly and honestly, I am glad they passed.

In case you are interested, here is who the CCSPCA lists as board and staff these days:

BOARD AND STAFF

Board of Directors

Conrad E. Muhly, President
Doug Marshall, Vice President
Frank Sobyak, Treasurer
Beth Hills, Secretary
Joe Colella
Richard M. Dluhy
Bud Haly
Kim Denise Morton
Debbie Nason-Naples, Esq.

Board Member Emeritus

Elizabeth Minor

Management Staff

Larry Dieter, VMD, Director of Veterinary Services
Robyn Freese, Business Operations Coordinator
Jim Jones, Controller
Becky Turnbull, Animal Protective Services Coordinator
Here is their mission and vision:

OUR MISSION

To promote the welfare and humane treatment of animals and to be an advocate on their behalf.

OUR VISION

To be the recognized center for animal welfare fostering a  community that believes life should be respected and treated with  dignity.
Here is hoping they get back to both soon. Here’s hoping that the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of PA is looking into this, right?