back to ebenezer…again…

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Ebenezer December 2019

I received an e-mail today from the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

Preservation is about community.

Now is a time for us to come together as we have so many times before, but with a new sense of urgency and inclusion, and in ways that will last beyond the coronavirus crisis. As important visual and cultural clues, the places we preserve hold promise for the future we seek to reclaim, and each site stands as an historical indicator of our complex present. We need old buildings as much as old buildings need us. They prompt us to remember who we are.

The COVID-19 virus has devastated many across the country, but due to disinvestment and systemic policies, African Americans and communities of color have been disproportionately affected. Our nation is again reminded that this disparity mirrors and reflects historical and racial inequities. We are being reminded to face the truth about our past.

As a movement, preservation has also mirrored traditional social values. Yet, if we lean into hope and take time to self-reflect, we can be the change we seek. We can draw lessons from the past to create a prosperous future, while also reflecting on the promise of preservation as an equity-driven movement. In our individual moments of stillness, we should ask ourselves: Can we confront the economic challenges of COVID-19 and ignite a contemporary preservation movement as a force for positive social change? How can we weave a tapestry of places and stories to tell our full, shared history? Can we challenge ourselves to realize equity-driven outcomes that benefit all Americans? Because when we collaborate, we have the capacity to create a national identity that reflects the country’s true diversity.

In the spirit of envisioning a more prosperous and inclusive future, I invite you to join me for a special Virtual Preservation Month event with Ms. Phylicia Rashad, co-chair of the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund on Friday, May 22, at 1:30 p.m. ET. (Register in advance for the webinar.) In our conversation, we will discuss the power of preservation, the work of the Action Fund, and the historic African American places that inspire all Americans to build a better world.

Our forebearers responded to earlier preservation threats and injustices with dogged leadership, tenacious thinking, and community organizing. From the foundational work of Ann Pamela Cunningham and the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, to the groundbreaking activism of Mary B. Talbert and the National Association of Colored Women, our ancestors ignited our movement by honoring the cultural memories of George Washington and Frederick Douglass. Just like these trailblazing women, we have the fortitude to walk in their footsteps and prove that by cooperative agreement we can measure up. As social critic and author James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund will continue to examine and eliminate inequities through new forms of partnership, interpretation, and funding. Our leadership is about pursuing an idea, something yet to be seen, and a culture of learning to increase our relevancy and impact. We promote preservation as economic and social justice. We partner with humility in service of African Americans whose overlooked stories and contributions provide strength and examples of overcoming impossible-seeming odds. We draw inspiration and resilience from African American historic places.

Historic sites that bring forward a diverse and inclusive national narrative are playing a crucial role in redefining our collective history and, meaningfully, expanding the preservation movement in equitable ways. These cultural assets help us all walk toward a new era of justice. May our nation face its past to create a more just American culture with preservationists on the front lines protecting and preserving our diverse historic places and communities.

Be well and thrive.

 


Brent Leggs
Executive Director
African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund

  

I immediately thought of Ebenezer sitting all forgotten and forlorn on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, and it annoyed me. So I sent the guy who wrote this email a note:

You know what irritates me about this email? It is that I have been trying to contact people in preservation for years about the ruins of one of the oldest AME cemeteries in the country, in the history of the country, is in the township in which I live.  Ebenezer on Bacton Hill Rd in East Whiteland Chester County PA.

Every time I contact anyone that has to do with African-American history or the AME church I get crickets. 1832 is the deed date.  The land was donated by a quaker named Malin. It used to sit amongst one of the oldest free black communities in Chester County. Development and everything else is making it all disappear and there are Civil War soldiers black Civil War soldiers buried in the cemetery. You can Google it. My blog will come up with all the coverage that I have done and things I have tried to do to save it over the years.

Richard Allen was not dead yet when this church was planned But not built. He died in 1831. From my research I think originally it was planned so there would be a burial ground for mother Bethel outside the city. And it’s either the AME Church or mother Bethel which holds the deed to this and like many other historic AME church is it rots.

So add this to your list of endangered places.

Read the Inquirer article from a few years ago

Visit the Facebook page devoted to the history and preservation of this site

Much to my surprise, he wrote back.

On Wed, May 20, 2020 at 10:06 AM Brent Leggs <BLeggs@savingplaces.org> wrote:

Good morning,

Thank you for emailing. It’s regrettable that you are irritated by my message of hope. I also regret that you’ve had difficulty securing support for the preservation of this historic AME cemetery. I have copied my colleague Lawana Holland-Moore who you should speak with about this site.

Best wishes to you,

Brent

BRENT LEGGS | EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURAL HERITAGE ACTION FUND
P 202.588.6185 

NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION
The Watergate Office Building

2600 Virginia Avenue NW  Suite 1100  Washington, DC 20037

SavingPlaces.org

So this IS hopeful. I sent one last email back:

I get irritated because you know as well as I do, that in preservation, especially in places like PA where it doesn’t seem to matter much, hope can be quite selective.  I fell in love with this cemetery when I discovered the Civil War Soldiers and freed slave(s) who built some houses that STILL stand on nearby 401 (Conestoga Rd). I also have spent years being told my skin was the wrong color to care about this place which is enough to make me cry. Every time we have gotten people to clear out the weeds, the place is happy. I can’t explain it.  You feel welcomed there. I also had a structural engineer look at the ruin a few years ago.  It could be cleaned out (by hand) and capped but the AME church has never seen fit to do much of anything.  I have done some informal tracking and this is the case with a great deal of their sites.  The walls are bowing on the ruin so time is of the essence.  There is also development going up around it so I fear for it.

So dear readers, we are home with more time than we want still on our hands. Can YOU send these folks an email asking them to save the ruins and cemetery of Ebenezer on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, Chester County, PA? After all #ThisPlaceMatters

LHolland-Moore@savingplaces.org (Lawana Holland-Moore)

BLeggs@savingplaces.org (Brent Leggs)

Thanks and have a great day!

the joseph price house in exton is in really bad shape.

Yes again, I am writing about the Joseph Price house in West Whiteland Township. It’s really starting to deteriorate badly in my opinion. (And I say that from observing it across the street today- I have not been invited to be on the property so I would not presume.)

This house is on S.Whitford and Clover Mill Roads in Exton. The Joseph Price House in West Whiteland Township.

(Here is a wonderful little slide show presentation on prezi. )

This house is historically listed. It was built in 1878 and altered in 1894 by the house namesake inhabitant at the time. It was altered from a Gothic style to a Queen Anne style.

I was also told in the 1990s it was separate apartments inside and there were also cottages around it which were rented out as well.

In the 1950s and 60s there was a large barn there that was a sale barn for cattle run by Bayard Taylor —a blog reader told me that. He knew because his mother did bookkeeping for that business while she was in college.

This house is not completely deserted I am told there is still a caretaker who still lives there. However, this house has an uncertain future at best and nobody seems to know what will happen to it. Which is a shame because it’s very cool.

There are so many amazing houses like this throughout Chester County from all eras of time.

I am told the house is owned by two people in Ambler. Chesco Views confirmed that today.

This afternoon I had some time so I pulled into the business parking lot across the road on Clover Mill Road. I took some photos from across the road and I just looked at the house. It has been historically listed since the 1980s. And yes I know I’m being repetitive, but it just blows my mind that these gorgeous houses that are historically listed not just locally but nationally rot like this.

Things are just crumbling and the property also seems to be quite the haven for dead car bodies.

Truly (and sadly), the house is becoming so decrepit, more decrepit. I really wish these owners would sell to somebody who could restore it.

It is just so crazy to me, as this could be the most fabulous property. It’s big enough and there is enough land left that it could be a great restaurant or even a boutique bed-and-breakfast which is not a stretch considering there is one up the road from it on South Whitford – the Duling-Kurtz House and Country Inn.

Anyway, I continue to be obsessed by this property which is not for sale. It’s just that this is a historically listed property (since 9/6/1984) and is this demolition by neglect? I really hope someone will save this place.

#thisplacematters

the jenny lind house in historic yellow springs needs love (and a new lease on life)

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The Jenny Lind House, former home of Yellow Springs Inn looking forlorn May, 2018

A few years ago I remarked on what I thought would be the demise of the Yellow Springs Inn. It resulted in a flurry of breast beating (which can still be found on their old/existing website.)

I was off by a couple/few years but above is the Jenny Lind House as of this week. I went out to the Yellow Springs Art Show (truly amazing this year by the way, and runs through May 13th), and was honestly sad to see the sad down trodden Jenny Lind House.  It was a far cry from this photo I took a few short years ago:

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What happened? I guess the restaurant left given the deed/document thing I found on Chester County’s real estate site (2017 Deed Transfer).

But that is not ALL happening there.  Whomever owns it now seems to have had a stop work order issued on them. I kid you not:

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Sorry, not the best photos. A lot of sun glare when photos were taken.  So who is REO Acquisitions, LLC and what are they up to? The letter sent out by West Pikeland in April was sent to these REO Acquisitions c/o FCI Lender Services of Anaheim, CA.

PT Barnum Poster off of Wikipedia Commons

So what the heck were they doing to Jenny Lind house???

Now according to Historic Yellow Springs “Mrs. Holman, the retiring owner of the Yellow Springs Spa property, built the Jenny Lind House in the early 1840’s as a boarding house – it has eight bedrooms!”

How it go the nickname Jenny Lind House is history has it that she stayed in Yellow Springs during the Philadelphia portion of her P. T. Barnum-sponsored concert tour in 1850.  (Yellow Springs Catering Website)

Historic Yellow Springs Inc.,   is on the National Register of Historic Places. They can’t just do anything random to the Jenny Lind House! And this place deserves preservation!!

So here are a bunch of my photos from Jenny Lind’s Yellow Springs Inn days:

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Here are some sad photos taken this week:

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So look, anyone interested in giving the old gal some help? I have absolutely NO idea who these REO Acquisitions people are mentioned in the legal letter plastered to the door. But my guess is whomever they are, they are across the country and this is just some thing they own the paper on, right?  So my guess is West Pikeland Township and Historic Yellow Springs and the residents of the village would love to see this building in use.  I know I would. It is a lovely restaurant space, so it could be once again. Or a cafe. Or a cafe and  Air B and B (it still has a slew of bedrooms, right??)

Now it can be done because the house next door was quite derelict until the Halys bought it, and now it is a totally charming rental house for vacations, etc (Wm Haly House see VRBO). This is how Haly house looked  in 2012 or 2013 when I took this photo (before they purchased the property):

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Compare with this CURRENT photo courtesy of W.M. Haly House Facebook page:

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So how about that??? It IS possible!! W.M. Haly House is proof positive that people do want to restore historic homes! It’s awesome!

So how about it Chester County? Know anyone who would be perfect for the Jenny Lind House?  Wouldn’t it be great to have a little cafe of something with Air B and B above? Or a complete renovation into a Bed and Breakfast Inn complete with dining that would hearken back to the days of when it was a boarding house?

Check out what Schuylkill River Greenways has to say about the village:

The history of Yellow Springs Village spans nearly 300 years. The Native Lenape first attributed the name, “Yellow Springs” because of the natural mineral springs that flow through the area into Pickering Creek.

In the 18th century, Yellow Springs was a fashionable spa village that attracted visitors who sought healing waters and social interaction. During the American Revolution, George Washington commissioned a hospital to be built in the village, the first military hospital in the nation’s history. Washington himself visited on numerous occasions. 

Following the war, the village returned to a spa town during the early 19th century.

From 1868 to 1912, Yellow Springs was home to the Chester Springs Soldiers’ Orphans School for children of Civil War Soldiers. From 1916 to 1952, the village served as the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Country School. 

From 1952 until 1974 the village was the headquarters of Good News Productions, a film studio in Yellow Springs that created over 400 films including the sci-fi original The Blob. From 1974 on, Historic Yellow Springs, Inc. has preserved many of these original structures and educates visitors about our unique past. 

For greater depth into the village history, visit the Historic Yellow Springs/Chester Springs Studio website.  They have all sorts of cool stuff to check out.

If you are interested in Jenny Lind House, I would say a safe place to start your inquiries would be West Pikeland Township. Their phone number is (610) 590-5300.

Here is how to reach all of their Supervisors:

Charlie Humphreys, Chair
chumphreys@westpikeland.com

Pamela Conti, Vice Chair
pconti@westpikeland.com

Noreen Vigilante, Supervisor
nvigilante@westpikeland.com

Richard Bright, Jr., Supervisor
rbright@westpikeland.com
Ernie Holling, Supervisor
eholling@westpikeland.com

 

 

went to loch aerie again today

DSC_3507I know, I must be pretty boring since I am stuck on this old mansion.  But I can’t help it. i love Loch Aerie. Or Glen Loch. Or Lockwood Mansion depending on what you know her as.

DSC_3538I went through today with a writer I know and a writer and historian. We explored Loch Aerie again, listening to tales people had to tell. There were people there today who had been in the house over the years.

DSC_3426Among the first people I spoke with was a gentleman whose brother was the motorcycle gang member who was shot on the front porch.  Apparently the brother had rented Loch Aerie along with a woman described as a “Campbell Soup Heiress”. The woman’s last name wasn’t Dorrance, however. And no, I can’t remember what her name was. IN fact I found out she wasn’t an heiress per se but her father was an Executive VP of Campbell Soup.

DSC_3347I saw the marks in the floor today a motorcycle had left.

Then there was the very much older lady who counted all the little steps up to the top of the cupola.  I spent some time up in the cupola today myself. The views are amazing.

There were people who had lived or grown up near by, people who were just curious and a lot of people interested in the property looking Loch Aerie over.  Truthfully the house was packed the entire time.

DSC_3451I smiled quite a few times because I overheard people saying they had come to see Loch Aerie because they had seen it on this blog.

April 21st is the auction.  I hope the right buyer finds her in time.  This really is a truly remarkable piece of American Architecture. Today I noticed details I did not notice last week.

And for all of those people who say “but it is next to the Home Depot” when you are inside, you forget. Everything else just melts away and there you are in this spectacular mansion of a bygone era. And I was pleased to learn from a volunteer from the Chester County Historical Society that there are a bunch of photos at the Historical Society of Loch Aerie when the Lockwood Family lived there.  I am thinking a field trip might be in order.

Follow THIS LINK TO TODAY’S PHOTOS.  And remember, #thisplacematters

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a little peek inside the fox chase inn and barn

Looking out the front porch at the Fox Chase Inn

Looking out the front porch at the Fox Chase Inn

So last week in the midst of a brilliant thunderstorm, off I went to photograph and tour the restoration of the Fox Chase Inn and barn on Swedesford Road in West Whiteland. Today I am going to share some of the photos I took with all of you with the property owner’s permission. I will be going back for more appropriate exterior shots sometime this week, it was just too wet when I took these photos to do the exterior justice. I even got my camera a tad wet getting inside it was raining so hard at times! The Fox Chase Inn is a brilliant example of restoration and adaptive reuse. And these people did it because they wanted to do it right. No one told them they had to. And their caring and attention to detail shows. For more on the history of the property check out this file from West Whiteland’s website: Fox Chase Inn West Whiteland Site 325_ historic information . Here are some photos of the restoration in progress – and it is amazing because this place was a wreck when they bought it: BARN: DSC_8607 DSC_8608 DSC_8610 DSC_8612 DSC_8613 DSC_8616 DSC_8617 DSC_8618 DSC_8621 DSC_8623 DSC_8630 DSC_8634 DSC_8635 DSC_8640 FARMHOUSE: DSC_8656 DSC_8712 DSC_8660 DSC_8661 DSC_8670 DSC_8675 DSC_8682 DSC_8684 DSC_8691 DSC_8664 DSC_8666 DSC_8694 DSC_8695 DSC_8697 DSC_8699 DSC_8700 DSC_8702 DSC_8703 DSC_8709 DSC_8710

the fox chase inn lives again!

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File under longer letter later but I just had to share: I was invited to tour an AMAZING adaptive reuse by the new owners of the historic Fox Chase Inn on Swedesford Road in West Whiteland just before the intersection of Ship Road.

I have written about the Fox Chase Inn and its  equally gorgeous neighbor the Benjamin Jacobs House before. Both are being restored. Both are being restored by people who care enough to do it right and who reside there.

I will post more photos at a later time but I just wanted to say WOW!!!! It is a beautiful restoration!  Every township manager and supervisor in Chester County should look at what is happening in West Whiteland. Actual historic preservation and adaptive reuse.

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Fox Chase Inn

The Fox Chase Inn on Swedesford Road was the first licensed public house in West Whiteland township, acquiring its first tavern license in 1786. Prior to that time, it had been a family home and, briefly, from 1775 to 1778, the home and workship of Eli Bentley, a well-known clockmaker. John Quinn  was the owner by 1783 and after securing his license for the tavern, continued to run the public house until his death in 1793. David Williams was the new owner and he rented the inn to Thomas Cummins who ran it until 1800. After that time, no further petitions for license were filed for the Fox Chase.

benjamin jacobs house in exton gets new lease on life



I have said (and written previously) that ever 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 put a photo I took 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, the Benjamin Jacobs House .

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.

So today I got a new Twitter follower request and much to my delight it is the new owner of the Benjamin Jacobs house!  And the house is being restored!!!

The owner, Sarah Toms,  is chronicling the restoration in a blog. Personally, old house nut that I am, I am very excited about this!  This is, after all something amazing in today’s age: someone actually wants to restore a truly amazing house like this! I can’t wait to read along with everyone else as the work progresses!

Here is her inaugural post:

Benjamin Jacobs House: Why Exton?

I’ve lived in Pennsylvania’s Chester and Montgomery counties since the mid 1990’s, and to be honest, the Exton area never spoke to me. For one, there’s no quaint town center like so many boroughs in this area to draw you in and make you want to explore the shops and neighborhoods. The busy routes 100 and 30, which transect Exton, are uninspired corridors of stop and go traffic lined with same-same chain stores and restaurants. It really could be Anywhere, USA. So when my husband Ben and I started looking for a home close to a train station and near our children’s charter school, we reluctantly decided to take a second look at this area.

The Benjamin Jacobs House was the first home for sale that we looked at online and based on the pictures and description, it seemed to be exactly what we were looking for. Large enough for our big family and situated in a peaceful park setting, Ben and I were excited to see it in person. We also liked that this home has a really interesting past that is connected to the founding of our country (Benjamin Jacobs’ father, John Jacobs, was Speaker of the House when the Constitution was signed, and Benjamin not only helped to fund the Revolutionary War but was also a signer of Continental Currency – stay tuned for more history!).

Our first viewing was in March, 2014 and I have to say my first impression as I pulled in and parked in the home’s parking lot (yes, it has a 15 car parking lot) was Addams Family, here I come! Half of the front porch had fallen down and was lying next to the house, all the exterior paint was flaking off, and there are no shrubs or gardens, so the huge white structure felt stark and at odds with its setting. The house sits a little way back from Ship Road, but given the unwritten rule that everyone must exceed the speed limit by at least 20 mph, I didn’t feel too keen about living on this busy road. When I looked to Ben to gauge his first impressions, I was amazed to see my beloved beaming from ear to ear. My English husband had finally found his country estate, and where I saw years of renovations ahead of us, he saw vast potential in this dilapidated gem. Our realtor Terry, who with his wife Lois, has helped us to sell and buy previous homes, let out a chuckle – he seemed to already know that this place would be right up the alley of his quirky clients.