Worth mentioning – there is an email circulating in Radnor Township in Delaware County concerning an old house and a Township Park owned by the taxpayers of Radnor. The property is called the Willows.
In this email the sender addresses a neighboring development and the residents looking for their support – the development is called Inveraray.
Inveraray is a bit pretentious, check out their website. They scream landed gentry but are they really? It’s quite the stucco land of Stepford actually:
Anyway this person says that they want to buy the house and a couple acres around it, actually close to three and move there. I am not naming this person by name, their name is somewhat immaterial. The important thing is not the WHO but the WHY. They claim they are looking for a larger house in Radnor Township:
For the last several months I have looked for an opportunity to move into a larger residence with my family…. where I could again reinvest in an older property and turn it around to current premium standards we all love and admire.
This past week I submitted two proposals to purchase or lease for long term the Willows residence plus 2.25 + or- acres surrounding the residence for my family.
My plan proposes to reinvest in the manor house well more than $1.0 million dollars to modern livable standards.
It is my hope that this would be a win-win solution that would not cost the tax payers nor would it cost your beautiful neighborhood.
After all we, long term Radnor Residents paid for the 47 acres to stop development but certainly did not purchase the estate because a family lived in the main house.
I have had some astounding emails shifted my direction over the years but this one takes the cake. It’s like “Hi fellow rich people I want to move into your sandbox, won’t you kindly help me and I will have you over for tea?”
The house is part of a public park. How could Radnor Township legally sell something that belongs to the taxpayers the could affect the rest of the park usage?
If this person wants to live like nouveau landed gentry, that’s terrific. Let them go buy a building lot over at Ardrossan. There are lovely lots for sale, correct?
And when you research how the Willows was acquired by Radnor (see Willows Ordinance ) you see it was done via condemnation, or eminent domain. In this case it was public purpose. They paid what? Like a million dollars for the land and house in 1973? Was that even worth that back then? And it was all for a PUBLIC PARK. So if that is how the land and house were acquired and flash forward to 2016 and they sell off the house and acreage around it, in the visual middle of the park to a private person can’t it be contemplated that Radnor Township is turning eminent domain for public purpose to eminent domain for private gain?
How can that even be considered as a solution???
The Willows has been a problem for Radnor Township probably mostly due to past mismanagement of the property, and a lack of consistent maintenance, correct? They refer to the house as a “mansion” and it was never a mansion it was just a house. And it is NOT a huge house with landmark status or special historic preservation status – it’s not as if it is on the NTHP list.
I actually know quite a bit about the house because a friend of mine went to high school with a grandson of the last owners of the house and I know a woman who is the granddaughter of the architect. The granddaughter of the architect (Charles Barton Keen) suggested at the beginning of 2016 that the house be razed and turned into a folly. (Read this letter.)
This isn’t happening in Chester County, no, but I am somewhat astounded at the premise.
A park that is a public park should remain a public park. And if a tenant can’t be found in the can afford to do the necessary upgrades to the house which I think would probably include updating the electrical wiring to more than knob and tube and making sure there was no lead paint or asbestos on site and Radnor Township can’t afford it why keep the house standing? Mind you I never say that about old houses but this is one of those situations where I just shake my head.
Yes it’s an old house but it’s not even spectacular when compared to other old houses in the area that are still standing. It has no real historical worthiness. It is not one of the important works of Charles Barton Keen. It’s just a house. And I have always been curious as to the financial circumstances surrounding Radnor Township purchasing this in the first place. I don’t think anyone has ever seen a report of that.
If this house was at the edge of the park, the public park, I probably wouldn’t write this post. But this house is in the middle of a very large park and that sets a dangerous precedence for public parks anywhere.
Of course the issues with the house at the Willows also points to a larger problem and inconsistencies in historic preservation at local levels in municipalities through out Pennsylvania.
I love old houses. I like but not love the Willows as far as the house goes. But I love the park in which it sits and other things like the Skunk Hollow Community Garden. Turning The Willows into a giant donut by carving out the center so a private party owns it and then could even flip the property is not a solution, it’s a big problem waiting to happen on so many levels. Putting a nursery school in the Willows is also a problem. And why is that nursery school really leaving St.David’s Church after all these years and who else were they speaking with who may have said no thank you?
The perfect solution was when a caterer wanted to rent the Willows and use it as a dedicated destination site. That was perfect because well, weddings were held there for years. But that fell through because of funding issues, didn’t it? And that brings this full circle to the fact the Willows in past administrations of Radnor Township was not truly maintained. I mean who knew until recently about the electrical wiring still being so old? That is a fire hazard, correct? And what about the other issues? Is their lead paint and are their lead lined pipes for example? Has anyone ever heard about that definitively?
This isn’t an 18th or 19th century mansion. It’s a house. It was a house built in the early 20th century in the California style by a father for his daughter when she married. The Main Line has lots of those wedding gift houses and another one that actually was even more lovely and left to rot before it was razed was the former Clothier house on Buck Lane in Haverford across from the Haverford School Football field. The land was empty for a long time but new construction planned for it. Not sure if anything ever got built.
The Willows house has been a long time folly for Radnor Township, so maybe now is the time to actually consider it becoming one? Because if Radnor commissioners fall down the slippery slope of selling off land and a house taken for the public in 1973 as public propose to a private party that is a slippery slope to a great deal of unpleasantness. And my greater concern is it sets a dangerous precedence in Pennsylvania.
At the end of the day, sign me very glad I can’t see this hot mess from my window.
Here is the Main Line Media News Article:
Leslie Morgan of Wayne, a commercial real estate developer, has offered to buy the house plus two surrounding acres or lease it and make it her family residence. Morgan did not disclose the amounts she offered the township but said she would make her financial information available to the township solicitor or finance director.
“I would say to the taxpayers and residents of Radnor that it would be a shame for the Willows to be torn down or for the park to be overtaken by over 160 non- school age children due to a lease termination of their private business (the nursery school).”