loch aerie photos courtesy of the library of congress

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Who knew? Loch Aerie has her own page on a Library of Congress website.  It’s really cool – please CLICK HERE AND GO VISIT.

The photos except the black and white at the bottom which I took are all old ones taken for that August 1958 study. Only I never saw the photos until someone suggested I check the Library of Congress listing for the mansion. These photos are available to the public courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Even the folks at The Library of Congress thinks this Chester County symbol and gem are special.  See??? #thisplacematters 

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And finishing with one of my favorite photos that I have personally taken of Loch Aerie:

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loch aerie open again tomorrow – last “open house” before auction

Loch Aerie FlyerTomorrow is the last “open house”  or public viewing of Loch Aerie / Lockwood Mansion / Glen Loch Mansion before the auction on April 21st. So that is tomorrow Wednesday, April 6, 12 pm (noon) until 2 pm. If you know of a preservation buyer, tell them!

The auction people are very nice and gracious, but you do have to stop at their registration table and fill out a form so they know who is in the house. It’s no big deal, but it is an old house. Wear sturdy shoes or good sneakers, this is an old house with many rooms and floors and stairs.

Since the signs went up, the news of Chester County’s La Ronda going to the auction block has spread like wildfire, even making the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Properties for Sale List (CLICK HERE)

I would caution people that there is still opportunity here for Loch Aerie to be saved.  This is very different from those of us who watched La Ronda fall in Bryn Mawr .  No one knew what danger La Ronda was in until Lower Merion Township found out about the desired demolition. By then it was too late. And it was insane, the person who purchase dLa Ronda demolished her just because he could.  He even had a preservation buyer prepared to buy the house and move it to another location. La Ronda was replaced by an absurdly pretentious McMansion with a hockey rink and history was lost.

La Ronda was an amazing example of Addison Mizner’s work and was at that time (2009) one of the last remaining examples if not the last example in this area.  His mansions used to dot the East Coast up through New York State if I remember correctly. And in the end with La Ronda even the seller and owner were at odds over salvage rights.

La Ronda was an amazing property. I was lucky to be able to photograph her from outside her gates before she fell. I was  there like like dozens of others on demolition day. I took photos as tears ran down my face at the sheer waste of something so amazing. Even local commissioner were there and crying. It was awful . It was a house that was beloved by her former community, just like Loch Aerie is today. And just as symbolic and recognizable which is why people sometimes call Loch Aerie Chester County’s La Ronda.

The clock is ticking but not all is lost. Loch Aerie just needs a preservation buyer and not a developer who is land greedy who will buy her for the 6 acres in total she comes with and let her rot as opposed as to just lie fallow with a caretaker in residence.

Loch Aerie has stood there on her hill and watched Chester County change.  This mansion has survived Home Depot being built, turnpike and other highway expansions, motorcycle gangs and general ignorance.

Addison Hutton is one of the finest architects that ever worked or lived in Philadelphia. Loch Aerie is fanciful and lyrical in her Swiss Gothic style. Her original gardens were designed by Charles P. Miller, the landscape architect who designed Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. The gardens are all but gone and the difference between this spring and some other springs I have seen Loch Aerie go through seems to be that some of the last remaining foundation plantings are but memories.

You can read the report that the Chester County Historical Society compiled for a Historic Buildings Survey in the 1950s for The Department of the Interior by clicking HERE.

You can read author Thom Nickel’s Huffington Post essay on Loch Aerie by clicking HERE.

I will note that East Whiteland Historical Commission has a meeting tomorrow evening – 4/6/2016 from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm.  Supposedly they will be discussing Loch Aerie although no agenda is posted as per usual. they also never seem to post any meeting minutes. So I can’t tell you what they are doing but they certainly have not gotten out in front of this.  Or if they have it’s a secret they keep from everyone.

We can’t save every old house, barn, mansion, structure but we should save some, right?  The crime here is just like with the Old Conestoga Inn in Tredyffrin, the Strawbridge House next to the boat place on 30 in Malvern, or Linden Hall on Route 30 in Malvern at the base of 352 and countless other structures all over, there is nothing legally keeping any of them from being torn down. The drawback to living in Pennsylvania, which is a heavy private property rights state (which of course given the eminent domain for private gain all over the state for decades is somewhat contrary in and of itself.)

But the thing is this: Pennsylvania needs more meaningful historic preservation. And there need to be more financial incentives available to preservation buyers. Other states in this country have them.

Pennsylvania also needs an overhaul of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (“MPC” or Act of 1968 P.L. 805 no. 245 as Reenacted and Amended).  This weighty tome is the bible which guides zoning and land use on local levels. This what your local elected officials will lament prevents them from preventing development/density and so on and so forth at times.  Legislators will tell you the MPC is flawed, heck they even did a comprehensive report on it around 2002-2004.)

Communities around Pennsylvania desperately need balance and even protections from development. What defined a suburb and exurb in the past may no longer fit and how does historic preservation in communities fit in? The truth is historic preservation is more of a nice option in Pennsylvania rather than the occasional requirement.

Sorry, don’t mean to put you to sleep, but I feel quite passionately about preserving our open spaces and history.

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Loch Aerie is a symbol to us. A symbol of the rich history and past, homage to a time gone by, an example of legendary architecture which has withstood the test of time and is still so beautiful. And Loch Aerie could be a private home again, or an adaptive reuse. It would be a fabulous boutique hotel and there is a need. I could see a small hotel with a chic restaurant on the first floor.

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Even artists have been captivated by Loch Aerie over time.  In a garage sale group I bought a print  done by Chester County artist named  Christopher Schultz.  Schultz used to present the land and wildlife of the Brandywine Valley in his watercolors and prints of his watercolors.  What I got was Loch Aerie. Apparently the print was popular 15 to 20 years ago.  I have never seen anything else by this artist, and I bought this print because it was of Loch Aerie. Not terribly valuable but pretty and spoke to me because of the subject matter.

Loch Aerie speaks to me as she does to so many of you. She needs a preservation buyer. She deserves to be saved. But someone has to want to and be able to afford to do it.  Here is hoping and praying that somewhere preservation buyers are thinking about this. It would be criminal for Pennsylvania to lose this treasure.

#thisplacematters

Thanks for stopping by.

 

inside and outside: visitng loch aerie/lockwood mansion/glen loch

DSC_2996Today I went to the open house at Loch Aerie.

I went all the way up to the top of the house to the cupola and the widow’s walk, and down to the somewhat creepy root cellar. It is truly an amazing house and considering all the abuse it is taken over the past few decades, it is in remarkably decent shape.
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I took hundreds of photos and also talked to people going through. Some were local people who read this blog and had seen me discuss the mansion, also a lot of regular people who like myself just always wanted to see the inside, and quite a few people that actually seemed interested in preserving the mansion. There were also developers and developer representatives and lots and lots of contractors.

DSC_2783I met a woman from far away with a big family that includes a lot of adopted children and grandchildren who is looking for a place to call home.

I also met a guy who grew up near the mansion and told me stories of when he and his siblings were little. He told me how they saw the bikers drive up to the house when they were squatting in the mansion in the 1970s I think it was. He also said that the bikers would ride their motorcycles up the front steps and up the staircase. And that kind of makes sense because there are marks and some of the floors upstairs that look like tires. He also told me of when the bikers had left and the kids in East Whiteland used to use the pool tables and pinball machines that were on the first floor.

DSC_2859Another lady wrote to me and said:

As a young boy my father, now deceased, worked making sandwiches at the Lockwood Mansion. Two elderly sisters employed my father. One of their relatives, Leaugeay, helped my father make sandwiches which were taken to the train station nearby for the soldiers. As the years gone by, my father married and named my sister, Leaugeay as a namesake of a family who helped dad. Growing up on Morstein as a young girl our large clan passed by the mansion many a Sunday on our visits to other family members. Really hate seeing another landmark in Chester County being replaced by commercial buildings. WHAT is going to be left for OUR GRANDCHILDREN to visualize HISTORICAL LANDMARKS……..What a shame that opportunity and money pass over our History.

 

I was amazed at how few people actually knew any of the history of the house they were just drawn to it. It really is a landmark. And an emotional pull back to the area for others.
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Someone from East Whiteland Historical Commission  was there. A woman whose name escapes me. I don’t think she was particularly thrilled to meet her friendly neighborhood Chester County blogger, and I’m sorry for that but I am not sorry for my opinions necessarily. She said they were meeting next week, but to what end? Do they have a preservation buyer with deep pockets to bid on Loch Aerie come April 21st? When I asked her about Linden Hall, she assured me it would be preserved but that old porches not historically authentic would be torn off. I told her Linden Hall already looked like demolition by neglect, but she assured me I am wrong so we shall see. I hope I am wrong.
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If this beloved mansion Loch Aerie can find the right buyer future generations will be talking about her in years to come.

Here is an article from 2010 about Addison Hutton:

ML History: Addison Hutton, the Quaker architect

Known by many as the Quaker architect, Addison Hutton was a popular and prolific professional who designed palaces on the Main Line and in surrounding communities, and grand college buildings on campuses including Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore colleges and Lehigh University, as well as adding his talents to the designs of courthouses, museums, libraries and religious institutions.

Many of his most famous Main Line mansions have served double purposes. The Waverly Heights home of a railroad executive is now an upscale retirement community in Gladwyne. Ballytore in Wynnewood first served as a home to the co-founder of the Strawbridge & Clothier department store, then lived its second life as the home of a private school and is now in its third life as an Armenian church.

Hutton also used his talents for designing religious sites. In 1872 he designed the rectory for the Church of the Redeemer on Pennswood Road in Bryn Mawr. The original portion of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood was built in 1871 with Hutton and fellow architect Samuel Sloan designing the building where the preparatory college and theology divisions were joined in September 1871….

Addison Hutton is a favorite architect of mine and his work can also be seen in Bryn Mawr on Shipley’s campus – the landmark mansion known as Beechwood. I know that Addison Hutton mansions can be saved and repurposed as adaptive reuses because I was on the Committee to Save Beechwood. And while Shipley basks in all the glory of this successful old house rescue, it was a committee independent from the school who save it, not the school. The headmaster (who is still there today) wanted to tear Beechwood down for a parking lot or a pool (I forget which.) Here is an article from when it began (the renovation was complete around 2002):

Shipley School Is Taking First Step For Beechwood House Renovations

By Stephanie A. Stanley, INQUIRER SUBURBAN STAFF
POSTED: March 25, 1999

BRYN MAWR — If you renovate it, we can use it.

That’s the word from the Shipley School, which recently relented on its controversial plan to demolish a 19th-century building on its campus after a prolonged battle with local historic preservationists.

Yesterday, the school welcomed several architectural firms into the aging Beechwood House and asked them to pitch their best ideas for how to renovate its rooms for school use.

However, the school did not ask the architects to pitch their bills for the work to Shipley’s accountants. Someone else will be paying for the renovations.

As agreed in negotiations with the school, a group of Shipley alumni, preservationists and others who want to save the building have the job of raising the necessary money – possibly as much as $1 million – by Jan. 1, 2001. If they fail, Shipley reserves the right to tear Beechwood down.

But if the group can leap that hurdle, school officials are ready to make good use of the old building.

(Here is a link to another article on what happened with Beechwood)

Frens and Frens were the Philadelphia architecture firm which did the restoration of Beechwood. They won numerous awards as a result. Another Addison Hutton home, also in Bryn Mawr on the corner of Montgomery Avenue and Bryn Mawr Avenue is another more recent and successful adaptive reuse. It was restored and converted to a handful of luxury condominiums.

Follow THIS LINK TO GET LOCH AERIE/ LOCKWOOD MANSION  AUCTION INFORMATION. There is one more property preview next Wednesday April 6th, 2016 from 12 pm to 2 pm.

Her is the link to all of the photos I took today: CLICK HERE

DSC_2555Here is something I found on the Internet I *think* from the 1950s that the Chester County Historical Society did:

Loch Aerie by Chester County Historical Society

It was done for The Historic American Buildings Survey Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service Department of the Interior Washington, D.C.

DSC_2780Something interesting in the paper was that it was part of the Welsh Tract:

The estate was formerly a Welsh tract of 500 acres, and the title deeds say it vas held on a lease from W. Penn to Peter Young and from Peter Young to Hugh Roberts , of
whom President George 3. Roberts of the Penna. PR, is a lineal descendant. The tract has been subdivided and has been in the possession of General Persifor Frazer
of the Revolution and also of the family of ?. Frazer Smith. The purchase of the estate was made by Elon Dunbar, Mr. W. 2. Lockwood’s step-father, from estate of
William Harmer, in I8U9, and Mr. Lockwood from Mr. Dunbar in April 1863. When Mr. Dunbar purchased there was 113 acres. Mr. Lockwood has been making purchases
adjoining the original tract at different times and from 136 acres it has increased to 680 acres.

 

DSC_2841And it had quite the famous landscape architect:

Loch Aerie was designed by architect Addison Hutton in
1865 for William E. Lockwood, who made his fortune manufacturing
paper collars and folding boxes, and lost much of it promoting local railroads. The house remains with few changes. The fine landscape was designed by landscape architect Charles P. Miller. 

The paper continues:

Mr. Lockwood began to pay some attention to live stock in i868,when he purchased tventy five head of Ayrshires, but about that time he was elected president of the Union Paper
Collar Co. and had to reside in Sew York for ten years. He was thus forced to relinguish the raising of stock, but he secured the services of competent farmers who
attended to what stock he required for domestic purposes. Mr. Lockwood intends to divide his tract into three small farms, consisting of the property south of the
Penna RR and will include twelve acres of woodland,, which will be kept to preserve thewater supply. Pour hundred acres north of the Penna RR will be retained as the
homestead farms of two hundred acres each. On the western most tract is St. Pauls Episcopal Church erected in 1828 by the Rev. Dr. Levi Bull and which was improved in
1874 at an expense of $8000. A fine parsonage will be erected during the coming summer.

 

DSC_2904And these last excerpts:

2. “Daily Local News,” West Chester, Pennsylvania,
October 19, 1877
Wm. E. Lockwood, of Glenlock, has a telephone in his house also one in the P.R.R. tower so that in case of invasion of his domicile by burglars or tramps he can call the P.R.R. hands to his assistance. The Railroad Company also keep a police car on the siding there to lock up all loafers and tramps found in the vicinity. Mr. Lockwood also has a very complete “burglar. alarm»”which connects with every door and window in his house, and borrows his neighbors “bull dogs” for outside alarm at night. Also he has a formidable array of repeating revolving and breech-loading pistols and rifles and we understand he thinks of adding a gattling gun and jackass howitzer, and yet he retires to his little bed very uneasy as to his safety during the night.
We should think the tramp would give his place a wide berth in their travels but through his influence they are gobbled up at the rate of a dozen per night in and
about Glenloch.
3. “Daily Local News,” West Chester, Pennsylvania,
May 1, 1936
One of the most interesting houses in the Chester Valley is that of the late William E. Lockwood, at Glen Loch. It was built in the year 1865, with its towers and bull’s-eye windows. William A. Stephenson, late of West Bernard street, West Chester, was the boss stone mason, and the walls were well built. The architect was Addison Hutton, who, five years later, designed the first building for what is now State Teachers College. Mr. Hutton, as the story goes, was on his way to Glen Loch in response to a summons from Mr. Lockwood to consult with him in regard to the plans, when he was told that Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, had been shot.
All the people were so shocked and horrified that there was no talk about house plans that day, and the dwelling was not erected until some months later. One of the art
treasures in the home today is a painting of George Washington on horseback – a handsome piece of work which once was loaned to the late John Wanamaker, long ago, to be exhibited in his Market street window.

 

People, we need to save the grande dame. #ThisPlaceMatters and she needs a preservation/adaptive reuse buyer. Not just some developer who wants the other 4 acre parcel that goes with the house and the 2 acres it sits on. Loch Aerie has so much potential still. I can totally see a boutique hotel with a marvelous little restaurant on the first floor.

Thanks for stopping by.

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linden hall late 2015.

DSC_0967Linden Hall just a week ago in East Whiteland. All I see is work on the godforsaken townhouses no one needs. Where is the house preservation and restoration? What you can’t see because I was a passenger in a car headed east is the side of the house that now has  broken windows.

Note to self: it would be really nice when developers claimed they were going repair/restore/renovate an old structure they actually were made to do it. This development is progressing and I am sorry but what are they doing to save Linden Hall itself?

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Of course it would be also interesting to discover what it is that East Whiteland Historical Commission actually does.  We can see they schedule meetings but there are never posted meeting minutes current or archival. You never hear what they are proactively doing to live their mission statement (all they say on East Whiteland website is “The Historical Commission has been instrumental in identifying historic properties and in spearheading efforts to protect the Township’s historic resources. Although many of these resources are located in developed areas, future development and change could continue to threaten the historical sites.

Integration of these structures into the community’s changing landscape is the key to preserving the historic resources.”)

It’s depressing actually. They have the ability to try to save things…only what have they done recently? Within the past 5 years? It would be good to know wouldn’t it?

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devon horse show: #thisplacematters

pizap.com14315430407401I was thinking about the post I wrote recently on Devon Horse Show. In it I asked who owns local history, of which the Devon Horse Show is an integral part of the history of Main Line residents, Chester County residents, and so on.

The answer is pretty simple: boards may come and go, but they do not own the history.  Which is why it was ludicrous that they pressured a perfectly nice local historian into cancelling a talk given at a library on the history of the Devon Horse Show, wasn’t it? Just like it is utterly ridiculous they try to squash a roadside historic marker which is an honor, right?

So it got me to thinking. May is Preservation Month if you follow what the National Trust For Historic Preservation does. Devon Horse Show falls in May. So what if there was a grassroots movement to do a THIS PLACE MATTERS on Devon Horse Show?

This is what the National Trust for Historic Preservation says about This Place Matters:

Every single person in the country has places that are important to them. Places they care about. Places that matter. We want to see and celebrate the places that matter to you.

It’s simple…

Download and print the sign (or display it on your phone or tablet). Take a photos with the sign at the places that matter most to you.Share your photos online with the hashtag #ThisPlaceMatters. Look for your photo in the gallery below, and stay tuned to @SavingPlaces on Instagram and Twitter as we spotlight our favorites

 

What if people did this at Devon this year? You can download the sign art free HERE.

Could you imagine the IMPACT if #ThisPlaceMatters started showing up on social media about Devon Horse Show and started trending? People could do it outside the horse show in case the kabal had a hissy fit. People could start now as a matter of fact.

Boards come and go, but they do not own our history.  The tradition that is Devon Horse Show is part of our history and people have to begin to act now so that Devon and the land are preserved. Because that is one thing that has always bothered me – the question of is the land Devon Horse Show sits on preserved in any way? Is it Is there a trust set up to preserve the actual land? Deed restrictions at county level and so on?

Why are  they are terrified of a historic roadside marker?  Why don’t they want local historical societies discussing the history? Is this all a larger scheme for down the proverbial road? Unfortunately Devon Horse Show seems to be the perfect scenario for conspiracy theories since raw land for development is such a hot commodity, right? (Think of what almost happened to Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show a few years ago with that failed bid for eminent domain for private gain, right?)

Anyway, I was thinking about this. I think the Devon Horse Show is a perfect candidate for #ThisPlaceMatters.

Thanks for stopping by.

devon matters

a walk down memory lane

 In  2009 I documented through photographs the last few months of architect Addison Mizner’s famed La Ronda in Bryn Mawr.  The tale of La Ronda even made the Wall Street Journal back then.

Putting all the drama of the La Ronda and her demolition and the upheaval the demolition caused in Lower Merion Township and across the country aside, the saddest part of the tale of La Ronda is there was a man willing to have the mansion moved brick by brick, who was willing to buy it fairly. Only he was denied that by both the seller of the property and buyer of the property.  Those people sold La Ronda to be torn down and tore down La Ronda because they could and that is kind of sad especially since they were players in the socioeconomic levels where they could actually afford to be more preservation minded.

I am not getting into some protracted discussion about property rights, what this demolition has done is leave a lasting impression on me regarding historic preservation in Pennsylvania.

Historic preservation in Pennsylvania remain a lofty ideal, but is seldom a true reality. So when you hear on rare occasions that you might not like what a developer is doing, but they are saving and preserving a historic structure on a property they bought? Well that my friends is huge and doesn’t happen very often. See ( Linden Hall post July 24  and Farmhouse Post on July 27 and Adaptive Reuse from April 2013 )

Truthfully, all these years later and salvagers are still selling bits of La Ronda. And people still write about La Ronda and what happened (reference Proper Philadelphia in 2012 )

I watched and documented the last sad few months of La Ronda, and to me it is a glaring reminder of  what   lip service preservation is. In 2009, Lower Merion Township Commissioners (including the current Board President Liz Rogan) did much beating of the collective breast and waxed long and poetically on how they were going to do things differently and how they were going to preserve historic assets.

Flash forward to 2014 and well, much like other places, it’s all been talk. Or political gob smacking…. take your pick. Now the William Penn Inn is under a 90 day stay of execution err demolition, which means it will inevitably come down.  And that is the case even though people are saying it may have had something to do with the underground railroad (and see cool photos of the place here thanks to Main Line Media News.)

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Also facing an uncertain future is the historic Odd Fellows Hall and property and United Methodist Church and property in Gladwyne.  People have said for decades that there are Revolutionary War soldiers buried there.  Famous Phillie Rich Asburn is buried there and heck some of my friends have all their family buried there.  So Odd Fellows is in limbo. What is historic will survive if  the developers who are the owners, Main Line Realty Partners, do the proper preservation.  They can do the right thing if they want to.  They have in the past and truthfully the partners in these projects have done beautiful work.  Last I heard that Odd Fellows plan was tabled, but these same developers have now purchased another church, First Baptist in Ardmore.  They also bought the United Methodist Church in Narberth Now the developers are calling themselves Main Line rebuild.

3941005703_d390c4249e_oBut like I said, adaptive reuse and historic preservation by developers are the exception rather than the rule.

I do not know a lot of the preservation groups throughout Chester County as I have not lived here that many years yet .  I love the  Chester County Historical Society and they have lots of neat stuff in their headquarters in downtown West Chester and they do fun things like walking tours.

Also worth noting is the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust. Their 10th annual house tour is September 27th, 2014.

 

And if you like house tours you should also consider signing up for Chester County Day which benefits Chester County Hospital.  They have preview lectures starting in September which are open to the public.

Anyway, remember the La Rondas…once they are gone, they are gone.

Thanks for stopping by today!

cautious optimism? or fear of the future?

Jacobs houseEver since I came to Chester County I have loved this house alone in its own meadow and field on Ship Road in Exton. So I decided to put a photo I took recently up on the Chester County Ramblings Facebook page and a friend of mine told me it was a house on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the Benjamin Jacobs House .

I had noticed it has had a realtor sign outside and I thought was being listed by those folks formerly known as Prudential and now Berkshire Hathaway (their new signs are supposed to stand out as per their ads but I find the color scheme makes them not particularly remarkable).

The area in which the house sits is one that contains a lot of land being cherry picked for development (has been that way for decades at this point) …or if you go down Swedesford there I think it is you see a row of cute little houses abandoned by time and man and getting more vine-covered by the year.  I believe this parcel is listed by some commercial firm  and well people have to make a living and feed their family, but still, I somewhat disappointed to find familiar names on commercial real estate  signs for parcels of land that will kill more open space in Chester County, but that is the reaction I tend to have when I see beautiful land being opened up for development like this. Every time I go by this stretch of houses as a passenger in a car I don’t have a camera with me.

Seriously? Go check out this PECO link to available land in Chester County. It is a sobering list of available land parcels and isn’t all of Chester County out there for sale. (Again see PECO Land Database Chester County )

Anyway, the Benjamin Jacobs House has been part of the Church Farms School land parcels.  It was even mentioned in the Downingtown Area Historical Society Newsletter of April 3, 2014 . That house and the family from which it gets its name are steeped in Chester County history.

The Benjamin Jacobs House was built around 1790.  Here is the description off of Zillow which feeds I am sure from listings like the one on Realtor.com :

house1The Benjamin Jacobs House circa 1790 posted on the National Register of Historic Places for its unique architectural details. Surrounded by Chester County Park grounds the 2.6 acre setting is truly beautiful with 100+ year old trees and views of the Great Valley. This wonderful estate offers many potential uses as permitted by the zoning code including; Guesthouse, Inn, Cultural Studio, Eating/Drinking house2Establishment, Professional Office and many more. Though in need of renovation the solid stonestructure presents; a dramatic front to back foyer, two large formal rooms with marble fireplaces, a house3step down family room with an angular bay seating area, spacious kitchen, study and a main level laundry room. The upper floors include 2 bedrooms with fireplaces plus 3-5 additional bedrooms and 2 baths. Other important features include covered porches, arched windows, two staircases, deep window sills, house4hardwood flooring, period trim and many historic details throughout. Come see this awesome piece of history and appreciate all of its potential. Call today for your personal appointment

Read more on REALTOR.com: 375 N Ship Rd, Exton, PA 19341 – Home For Sale and Real Estate Listing – realtor.com® 
Follow us: @REALTORdotcom on Twitter | Realtor.com on Facebook

 

 

It is all those “wonderful” zoning possibilities that makes me worry.  Just because something is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Circa 1984 see Benjamin Jacobs House West Whiteland ) , it doesn’t make it bulletproof.  Take for example another listing close by belonging to same realty office I think.

613 E Swedesford Road Exton, PA 19341 (Once known as the Fox Chase Inn and put on the National Register of Historic Places also in 1984.) The photo I will use of the front is a Wikipedia Commons File.  I have one of it somewhere in photos I took but can’t lay my hands on it right now. 

800px-Fox_Chase_Inn_Chesco_PA

This house is not faring as well as the Benjamin Jacobs House. As are evidenced in the interior photos this realtor has on this listing (and here is the description):

 

613 1Fox Chase Inn, listed on the National Historic Register, Circa 1765, the first true licensed Tavern in West Whiteland Township. This wonderful piece of history offers many possible uses including; Cultural studio, Guesthouse, Inn, Eating/Drinking establishment, Professional business offices, Home office and many other permissible opportunities. The sale includes a historic circa 1823 stone barn 74′ x 44′ plus a large 72′ x33′ addition. Offering 2500+ sf. the Inn includes; a welcoming front porch, a historic full wall cooking fireplace, deep stone window sills as 613 3well as period trim and details. Ready for renovation this prime 2.6 acre location offers high exposure on Swedesford Road that is surrounded by acres of dedicated park grounds and open space. This property is being sold As is Please do not walk the site without an appointment

Read more on REALTOR.com: 613 E Swedesford Rd, Exton, PA 19341 – Home For Sale and Real Estate Listing – realtor.com®
Follow us: @REALTORdotcom on Twitter | Realtor.com on Facebook

 

The problems with these listings is my preservationists heart is reading a sub-text.  Maybe the sub-text isn’t there but what I feel is that people wouldn’t blink if these buildings weren’t there, or if their interiors were to become truly modern commercial without the proper nods to restoration and preservation of the periods in which they were constructed.

Now the Benjamin Jacobs House was a bit of a regional media sensation circa 1988 to 1990.  This was when Willard Rouse was battling to develop adjacent land.  The articles are from the Philadelphia Inquirer which at that time had a fabulous Chester County Bureau.  Of course, that no longer exists today in the eviscerated version of a once great paper and it is out loss because there is so much not being told out here in Chester County because no newspaper has enough staff.

Here are excerpts:

(Article #1 Inquirer March 1988 )

Rouse To Restore A Farmhouse Near Church Farm School

 

Over 195 years, the Benjamin Jacobs House on Ship Road has been home to a judge, to farm families and to boarding students from the Church Farm School, which used the house as a dormitory.

The house would take on still another identity under plans by Rouse & Associates, which has proposed restoring the structure for use as project headquarters during the development of 1,325 acres adjacent to the Church Farm School….The first inhabitant of the house, built in 1793, was Benjamin Jacobs, a surveyor and lawyer who was an associate judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Chester County in the latter part of the 18th century.

(Article # 2 Inquirer March 1990 )

Wanting To Be On History’s Side Plans Are To Restore Several Historic Buildings And Incorporate Them Into The Churchill Project.

Posted: May 10, 1990

In 1715, there were 17 households in West Whiteland Township.

By 1730, the population had mushroomed to 130 – still less than 10 people a square mile.

Most lived on farms, spread around the countryside, with no real population center.

Among them was the Jacobs clan, a Quaker family that settled in the Perkiomen area and later bought several tracts of land that eventually became the core of the Church Farm School.

Today, the homes of John Jacobs and his sons Benjamin and John, and those of their early neighbors, are among the historic structures at 12 principal sites slated to become part of the controversial Churchill development, planned by the nationally known firm of Rouse & Associates for 1,500 acres of historic Chester County countryside.

Just how the sites will be used is not yet known. Rouse officials have said there will be “adaptative reuse” of the old properties. Their architectural consultants said the properties should be preserved along with a surrounding ”area of significance.”

But residents, fearing that increased traffic and new construction connected with the development will encroach on those properties, are taking a stand against Rouse’s plan – from a historical perspective….Sylvia Baker, chairwoman of the East Whiteland Historical Society, is expected to make a statement at tonight’s hearing in East Whiteland – the first public hearing to be held by the township supervisors on the proposed Churchill development…..In East Whiteland Township, Rouse has proposed changing 261 of the 315 acres of the Church Farm School tract located there by developing 62 acres for single-family homes, 40 acres for multifamily housing, 135 acres for light- industrial or warehouse use and 24 acres for commercial use…..”Our position is that we feel the zoning change as requested should be denied because we find no benefit at all to the historic resources if the zoning is changed,” said Diane Snyder, who heads the West Whiteland Historical Commission. “The potential for a negative impact is very, very large. We don’t see our properties gaining anything at all.”

 

 

I seem to remember from somewhere that this was a development battle that got really, really ugly. I think simple economics of the times also played a big role. But this battle for land out here was big enough that it was mentioned in obituaries too. Even Mr. Rouse’s.

I was much younger when this battle was playing out in Chester County.  So I do not really know the outcome of the land battle and who in the end now owns the Benjamin Jacobs House.  What I do know in spite of what this battle did dividing people and communities, is that you would be better off with someone like Willard Rouse in your community versus a lot of other developers who are still gobbling up chunks and chunks of Chester County with zero attempts at historic preservation.  Today it is your basic rape and pillage of beautiful land.

So when I am told a really fascinating old house is “under contract” I hope for the best.  After all both the Benjamin Jacobs House and the Fox Chase Inn play a vital part in local history.

Here’s hoping they stand a better chance than Loch Aerie and Linden Hall which are both sitting like ghosts of their former selves on Route 30 in Frazer.  At least Loch Aerie has a caretaker living there, Linden Hall is just rotting and although I can’t say for sure, from the photos I have taken it sure looks like the building envelope has been pierced by vines and such. And then there is the Ebenezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road.

A lot of people don’t realize that Exton didn’t used to be one big development like the King of Prussia area. And I hope by pointing out gems like the Benjamin Jacobs House and the Fox Chase Inn, people wake up to that again.

I find a common recurring theme in my own writing: the preservation of Chester County before it’s too late. Pick a municipality, all seem to have something going on.  I am not trying to deliberately pick on certain municipalities, but some of them talk about historic preservation and land preservation  and that is it.  I also hope that by writing about these preservation issues it will spur those who can afford to be really generous to become champions of the land once again.

I know that people everywhere are worried about large land parcels in Chester County, and the more rural they go, the less is known about what will happen. I had one person say to me recently about land I guess towards the northwest quadrant of the county where they said the land was the “perfect storm” for a developer: open farmland and glorious woods and no wetlands to speak of.

Can we save every old house and every old farm? I wish, but the realist in me says no. It is just so darn concerning that a county known for agriculture and beauty just seems to be growing piles of Lego-like structures wrapped in Tyvec without a thought as to our future.

The moral of this long-winded fable is simple: wherever you are in the county, please support land and historic preservation efforts.  They are so crucial.

Thanks for stopping by

Jacobs house 2