primitive lighting love

DSC_1838I have always liked candlesticks.  Not the shiny sterling silver variety although I do appreciate their beauty.   The candlesticks I have always admired best are the simple ones especially Depression Glass era clear or etched candlesticks, simple crystal sticks, and those bulk-classified as “primitives”.

Maybe thirty years ago I started picking up  a form of primitive – cool chamber sticks at church sales, garage sales, and flea markets.  Chamber sticks are the candlesticks that look like they are in a little saucer and have a circular hook  (for lack of a better description) for your finger.

chamber stickThese chamber sticks I found were mostly pewter, and occasionally pottery.  The porcelain ones are also pretty but somehow too fussy for my taste. They never cost a fortune. They were inexpensive accents I picked up for anywhere in the range of $5.00 to $15.00 and they added a touch of home to wherever I lived. (My love of candlesticks and oil lamps is all my mother’s fault.)

I never considered myself a true primitives or country person as far as decorating styles went.  Some people just take it too far and too dark for me.  Too much plaid and gingham ribbons, wooden carved-out hearts.  But when I started exploring Chester County I began to appreciate elements of country and primitive in decorating.

I have fallen in love with primitive candle holders. Punched tin lanterns and especially primitive candle sticks known as hog scrapers.  When I first developed this candlestick crush, I wrote about it.

My crush is now a full-blown love affair.  Made of iron, tin, and even pewter the simplicity of them is so beautiful.

Some people consider them rustic and too beat up.  I see the lighting of our forefathers.

Hog scrapers were the go to lighting of average families in Colonial America.  My research indicates these candlesticks have not only British roots but Dutch, French, and German as well.  Which of course makes perfect sense given a lot of our country’s early settlers.

The name “hog scraper” comes from the similarity in shape and appearance to a  tool made for scraping the bristles off of a newly butchered hog (yes a reality of farm life, but yuck…and yes I like pork roasts.)  I have read while researching that  people actually used hog scraper candle holders for this purpose but none I have stumbled across this far have had any hog bristles snarled up in them. Which is probably for the best, that might gross me out.  (I have a thing for chickens, cows and goats but less so for live pigs. They just smell.)

My first primitive candle holders came from The Smithfield Barn.  They turned up when someone brought them contents of an old farmhouse. From there I have hunted them in various locations but rarely buy them from traditional antiques dealers because they mark them up too much.  Also, I am a practical person and I know I like these candlesticks, but know my knowledge base of age and dating them is somewhat limited. So I would rather not break the bank.

These candle holders seem to date from Colonial times through a good part of the 19th century as America moved west with the pioneers.  Stylistically it is my opinion that some candlesticks described as “mission” have their roots in these primitives.  I am no expert, but that is my opinion.

I have seen them on Etsy and Ebay.  The prices range from inexpensive to ridiculous in price. I recently came across some new reproductions that came into Reseller’s Consignment in Frazer but they were brand new reproductions and felt too light weight-wise in my hand.  I think part of why I like these candle holders is the comfortable, solid feel of them.  The new reproductions feel like a Xerox copy to me they are so light. Kind of like the difference between truly old oil lamps and the newer reproductions.

I know I seem to preach a lot about decorating on a budget, but that is just the way I am made.  I am not the one who wants a decorator, I want my own stamp on my home. And I love the thrill of the hunt for pieces. I hate to say I use high end antique store and antiques shows to educate myself and my eye, but I do. They provide me with an invaluable resource.

That being said, if you live in Chester County or close enough to it, be sure to add the Chester County Antiques Show to your schedule.  It is a lovely show and the dealers for the most part are happy to talk to you about their pieces and antiques and collectibles. There was only one dealer last year that I did not find particularly convivial and unfortunately that was Stevens Antiques in Frazer.  The attitude of whomever was running their booth the day I was there wasn’t what I would describe as warm or welcoming.

This year the Chester County Antiques Show is April 4, 5, and 6 at the Phelps School in Malvern. This show benefits the Chester County Historical Society which is an amazing resource and they are always doing cool stuff.

If you want to learn about hog scraper candlesticks check out this old post from Blue Dog Antiques.

MORE media is covering barn-gate in upper uwchlan! save picking in rural chester county!

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I have been horribly sick all week so I completely missed the fact that The Daily Local has also picked up on The Smithfield Barn!

I am thrilled. The article is fair and unfortunately (once again) Upper Uwchlan doesn’t really sound so nice, do they?

Upper Uwchlan, farmer at odds over barn sales Daily Local By Kendal Gapinski, Daily Local News POSTED: 01/09/14, 5:49 PM EST |

UPPER UWCHLAN – The Smithfield Barn, a spot where residents can pick through antiques, toys, furniture and collectibles at barn sales, has been asked by the township to stop the sales.

According to Phil Smith, owner of the Smithfield Barn at 425 Little Conestoga Road, the township made the request at the end of November because it said he was running a business on a property zoned residential.

Smith said the barn sales are held occasionally, once or twice a month in the spring and fall, and should not be considered a business.

“There’s no heating or air conditioning, it’s a barn,” said Smith.

However, the township disputes the claim that sales are held only “occasionally.”

Township Manager Cary Vargo said it had become apparent the sales were happening more frequently.

In October, Vargo said, the township’s zoning officer spoke with Smith and advised him “it was a retail establishment.”

“It was clearly a successful business,” said Vargo, who added the township believed sales were held nearly every weekend.

The meeting was followed up with an official letter in November telling Smith to stop the sales or be fined $500 a day, Smith said.

Smith said the barn sales, which he said are similar to garage sales, have been going on for nearly five years without objection from the township.

I have only posted an excerpt. Read the whole article and comments.

All of the people leaving comments on this have been IN support of the barn except for a poster named “Elizabeth McGill”. Her comment profile on the Daily Local shows a photo of an older lady who looks like a cookie baking, scarf knitting grandma. Her profile description says she became a widow in July after being married fifty years. Her comments, however, are negative and also untrue. She says (and I quote):


I was there last summer looking for unique antique treasures. All I found was junk obviously obtained through “dumpster diving.” His garage sale/store is open to the public every day in fair weather….What if your next door neighbor turned his house into a strip club, gas station, or retail store? This man is operating a store in a residential area. If anything goes, and everyone is allowed to do this, fine. But don’t blame the township for ‘sticking their nose’ into THEIR business which is enforcing the rules

Since when are their rules for yard sales, garage sales, and barn sales? And wow has this lady every been to the super fabulous and super popular Clover Market? You go there and you will see sometimes priced at hundreds of dollars things like the ones you might find at the barn for literally pennies.

How can you compare a barn sale or garage sale to a strip club? Unless of course designer stripper poles are developer add on options in these “communities” gobbling up farm land in Chester County LOL? And how can this woman outright fib and say the barn is open “every day in Fair weather”? The Smith family lives on that property and just because a barn door is open, it doesn’t make it a barn sale day does it?

It’s like the rumor that was heard when this barn-gate issue first surfaced that a complaint was supposedly made from Green Valley Road. At first I could not figure out what road this was. Then I looked at the map. It is the little spit of road that is in front of the barn, but isn’t Little Conestoga Road. It sort of dead ends a bit past the edge of the Smithfield Farm property. It looks like it runs to the Frame property. But the thing is this, those are the most immediate neighbors of the barn, aren’t they? And these are the people who are supportive of the Smith family so who would start such a rumor?

But back to this whole negative comment thing.

When I asked Kristin at the barn if she knew who this woman might be, do you know what she said? Not what you might think for someone who is in a sense under siege from the township she calls home. What she said to me was (and I quote):

We live in a world filled with hatred and poverty and crime, but someone attacks the barn for in essence recycling. That makes me feel bad because I feel sad for her.

You see, that is a prime example of the kind of people the Smiths are. They are good people who even now when someone is literally casting stones at them would turn the other cheek and feel badly and feel concern for this person leaving comments like this.

Good people like the Smiths deserve better than they are getting. The residents of Upper Uwchlan deserve better.

Barn sales and yard sales are part of Chester County life and a lot of fun. Picking is as American as Apple pie and fireworks on the 4th of July! They should be allowed to continue. And this is a very nice family that I feel is being victimized by local government most unfairly.

Please help Save The Barn! Barn Picking hurts no one. And again I say there are a lot of very poor people in parts of Chester County who need places like the Smithfield Barn so they can just get stuff for their homes – you know the basics like a kitchen table and chairs that aren’t over priced?

Save picking in rural Pennsylvania. It is as American as Apple Pie. Contact Upper Uwchlan or your favorite TV station or heck even American Pickers or the Institute for Justice and tell them the Smithfield Barn and their OCCASIONAL barn sales should live on just the way they are until the Smith family doesn’t want to do it any more.

The Smithfield Barn is not a retail store and if you suddenly need a zoning variance for yard sales, garage sales, and barn sales wow so Big Brother and how is that even American?

Upper Uwchlan

Guy A. Donatelli Chairperson 78 Stonehedge Drive Glenmoore, PA 19343

GDonatelli@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

Catherine A. Tomlinson Vice-Chairperson 788 North Reeds Road Downingtown, PA 19335

CTomlinson@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

Kevin C. Kerr Supervisor 16 Heron Hill Drive Downingtown, PA 19335

KKerr@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

140 Pottstown Pike Chester Springs, PA 19425 Phone: (610) 458-9400 Fax: (610) 458-0307
Cary Vargo Township Manager (610) 646-7008
cvargo@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

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media picks up on smithfield barn

barn 1Yep. The media is onto the Smithfield Barn story. Upper Uwchlan may wish to stop playing possum on this one, huh?

They wait how many years before suddenly deciding to make a move on the Smithfield Barn on Little Conestoga Road?  Their employees and employees of local school districts all shop there (I have seen them with my own eyes – always amusing when you see a school bus stop so the driver can go picking).  So yes, apparently I am not the only one who finds this move on their part suspect yes? Especially given, shall we say, the “development” of it all next door and across the street from Smithfield Farm?

I wrote a post on December 27th about this and it has now surpassed in readership even the posts about Justice for Argus & Fiona.  After I wrote the story a lot of interest cropped up. From media and people all across the country. And I was inundated with comments and messages, including ones that were interpreted by many to be distinctly unpleasant.  Makes you wonder if that is how they roll over there in that township of Upper Uwchlan? Sheesh, even those who are not fans of media and bloggers in West Vincent weren’t so bad.

And yes the media is interested. And yes the first media story broke today.  It is by Tim Lake of PaNewz.com .

PANewz.com: Pa Picker’s country barn sale shut down by township as McMansions move in

Phil Smith is a self-described ‘Picker’ whose popular Smithfield Farm ‘Barn Sale’ has been shut down by his local Pa government

-1870s-era barn is filled with 30 years of ‘picking’ around old homes, estate sales and farms of Pa

Antiques, toys, glassware, collectibles, junk all sold in vintage Pa stone barn that drew buyers from eastern Pa, many other states

-Regular barn sales created ‘old timey’ social life in rapidly developing, former farm community now jokingly referred to as ‘McMansionville’

-Upper Uwchlan Township says Smithfield Farm was violating zoning regulations by operating as a business in a residential district, five years after barn sales began

-Timing of notice suspect because new ‘McMansion’ housing development  was just approved for across the road from Smithfield Farm

Smithfield Farm has a classic Pa stone barn first constructed around 1841 and later expanded  in the 1870s.  Smith says many people stopped at his barn sales just to get a glimpse inside the old barn. On sale days, items would fill the front lawn and the doors were flung open to reveal all the antiques, toys, furniture, collectibles, glassware and junk inside.  The barn is alongside Little Conestoga Road and the Pa Turnpike in Chester County, Pa.

….Smith says he was a ‘picker’ long before the TV show ‘American Pickers’ made the practice wildly popular.  Narrow pathways wind through the large barn, crammed with all kinds of useful antiques and household items and not so useful collectibles too…..Smithfield Barn is so crammed with collectibles that shoppers had to walk through narrow paths throughout the barn to find merchandise.  After five years of barn sales, the owners received a letter from Upper Uwchlan Township ordering them to stop the barn sales or face a $500 per day fine.  The township  cited the barn sales as a zoning violation for operating a business in a residential district.  Smithfield Farm contains about 14 acres in an area enclosed by a ‘Farm to Market’ type road and the Pa Turnpike.  Timing of the violation letter is suspect because the township had just approved a large new development of what local’s jokingly call ‘McMansions’, across the road.  The development of about 60 large homes will bring much needed road improvements, a large sewage treatment facility and a new park….Smithfield Farm is more than just a country barn sale. The original farmhouse was converted to a Victorian-style house that once held a boarding school.  The farm was originally in the Abrams-Fetters family, one of the oldest family names in the area formerly known as Uwchland.  It’s a vintage landmark among new homes in the former farm community…..Upper Uwchlan Township contains the picturesque village of Eagle that was once home to the iconic Simpson’s Store, a relic of the past with a pot belly coal stove and farm merchandise.  It was demolished several years ago to make way for a large shopping center, bank, and retail shops.  … Around the village, more than 10,000 housing units have either been built or are scheduled to be built in Upper Uwchlan.  With the rapidly changing nature of this once rural farm community, the days of old fashioned barn sales may be gone for good….Without a formal complaint, Smith and Nowak are concerned that the new housing development, which will likely resemble this Toll Brothers community a half mile way, may have spurred the decision to halt the barn sales.

Hmmm file under do not ask for whom the bell “Tolls”, it “Tolls” for thee?

I was waiting for Upper Uwchlan officials to really comment, but all I see are sound bytes from the township inspector Al Gaspari.  Guess he is the fall guy and is that penance of a sort? Wasn’t he in the middle of that scandal with the Township Manager being fired, and the missing rent money from the township owned farmhouse debacle not so long ago?

Anyway, Tim Lake is a seasoned journalist and former news anchor of a local affiliate of a major news network, so I would say maybe my suspicions weren’t so unrealistic if he took on the story?

And well there are other media folks nosing around who think something funky is a foot so is everyone wrong? Does Upper Uwchlan have a cut and dry case or cut and dry reasons for doing this?  Or is it just more about municipal greed and future development ratables and such?  And how can Al Gaspari stretch  the truth quite a bit by exaggerating how often the barn is actually open for barn sales? Upper Uwchlan and he would have you THINK they are open like every day and every weekend, but that is not true. I mean it is six shades of creepy and makes you wonder does Upper Uwchlan keep a log of the people who visit the Smiths and their immediate neighbors too? So 1950s cold war era McCarthyism of them, right?

But how would we know exactly what the motivation is? Upper Uwchlan hasn’t exactly been forthcoming have they? But not being forthcoming isn’t exactly new behavior for Upper Uwchlan officials is it?

Yes….Upper Uwchlan is no stranger to strange goings on:

Daily Local: Upper Uwchlan fires its manager

By DANIELLE LYNCH, Staff Writer      Posted:     03/06/12, 10:34 PM EST

UPPER UWCHLAN — Township supervisors announced the firing of Township Manager John Roughan Jr. at a standing-room-only meeting Monday night.

Roughan reacted Tuesday by saying he enjoyed his time working for Upper Uwchlan.

“I’m proud of what I accomplished there,” said Roughan, who began working for the township in October 1988. “I met some great people.”

The board’s decision to terminate Roughan falls on the heels of a controversial rental agreement on the Upland Farms property….Controversy over the Upland Farms agreement sparked in early February after township supervisors approved an occupancy agreement that requires Al Gaspari, the township’s code enforcement officer, to pay $400 a month to the township and “perform necessary upkeep and repairs on the property and coordinate capital repairs.”

Then in mid-February, former township Supervisor Don Carlson said there was already a rental agreement in place for the house in the 300 block of Route 100. The previous agreement was signed by Gaspari and Roughan in May 2004.

The farm site is still owned by Pulte Homes and is awaiting formal transfer to the township for use of taxpayer-owned open space….. the 56-acre site has a home, a barn and outbuildings.

Daily Local: Upper Uwchlan officials appoint new manager

By ERIC S. SMITH, Staff Writer   Posted:  03/07/12, 12:13

UPPER UWCHLAN — After going more than seven months without a township manager, township supervisors unanimously appointed a new manager Monday night.

The board selected Cary Vargo to fill a spot vacated in March after the board fired John Roughan Jr. His annual salary rate will be $95,000 for a 90-day probationary period, after which his pay rate would jump to $100,000 a year.

Vargo comes to Upper Uwchlan after serving as township manager in Thornbury for more than two years. Prior to that, Vargo served as a Coatesville police corporal. He had served on the force for eight years.

“I was interested in serving a quality community that was a little closer to home,” said Vargo, who resides in Amity Township, Berks County…..In February, the board passed an occupancy agreement allowing Al Gaspari, the township’s code enforcement officer, to stay there as long as he paid $400 a month and performed “necessary upkeep and repairs on the property and coordinate capital repairs.”

After this agreement passed, Don Carlson, who served as a township supervisor from 1994 until 2005, announced that an agreement had already been in place since 2004 for Gaspari to use the residence at a cost of $500 per month. The 2004 agreement was signed by both Gapsari and Roughan.

The 2004 agreement stipulates: “There will be a 10 percent penalty assessed for rent payment received the 10th day of the month.

“This agreement recognizes that the house will cost an average of $300 per month in utilities. The township will review utilities on a semiannual basis. You (Gaspari) may be liable for any utilities above a six-month period ($1,800).”

The board later brought in Bob Bezgin, a certified public accountant, to perform an audit on rent transactions from May 2004 until December 2008. Bezgin found that only $8,000 of the $28,000 owed was paid by Gaspari. But Gaspari and Roughan had amended the agreement to account for the work done on the property by Gaspari.

Therefore, the board required Gaspari pay back $11,085.84 that it deems he owes in back rent.

Daily Local Editorial: Township should clear the air over firing of manager

The Upper Uwchlan Board of Supervisors fired the longtime township manager on Monday. But the action by the three-member member board, instead of bringing to a close the troublesome situation surrounding the house at Upland Farms and its occupancy by a township employee, has had the opposite effect of raising more questions.

John Roughan worked at the township since 1988 and steered it through a period of intense development. Like any government administrator, especially in a “small town” setting such as Upper Uwchlan, Roughan has his supporters and critics. But we think it only fair to the residents of the township and those who do business there that the supervisors lay out a case in public against him if they are to have any hope of putting the crisis behind them.

Transparency is among the functions of government that we value as highly as accountability and responsibility. When pubic officials lay their cards on the table as openly as possible and give the public the ability to make up its own mind, then we have representative democracy in action. When they do not, it works against that goal…..Controversy over the Upland Farms agreement sparked in early February after township supervisors approved an occupancy agreement that requires Al Gaspari, the township’s code enforcement officer, to pay $400 a month to the township and “perform necessary upkeep and repairs on the property and coordinate capital repairs.”

Then in mid-February, former township Supervisor Don Carlson said there was already a rental agreement in place for the house in the 300 block of Route 100. The previous agreement was signed by Gaspari and Roughan in May 2004, but payments appear to have stopped coming into township coffers along the way, and Gaspari seems to have been living on the property rent-free for some months.

So I am of the opinion (once again) that things are not necessarily as they seem in Upper Uwchlan and can’t you agree something is fishy?

Here’s hoping a lot more bog turtles and whatnot are found, right? After all, if this is the future of formerly bucolic parts of Chester County, well I am so sorry but do we all live out here so we can look at plastic houses all crammed together?

Remember my photos taken from the hot air balloon America 1 on Septermber 11, 2012? I took photos of development from the air? The photos I snapped were quite close to the Smithfield Barn of pre-existing development as we took off from a field in Upper Uwchlan.  And I remember smelling that rotten septic smell when we landed in a septic field of another development.  Is that what we are to be reduced to soon?  That the only open space we have left in Chester County are septic fields of plastic mushroom house developments?

development1

In my opinion (which I am entitled to) Upper Uwchlan destroyed the village of Eagle. But they got a nice township building, right?  Don’t let them destroy the Smithfield Barn too.  This is about development, isn’t it?

Barn sales and yard sales are part of Chester County life and a lot of fun. They should be allowed to continue. And this is a very nice family that I feel is being victimized by local government most unfairly. Please help Save The Barn! Barn Picking hurts no one.  And there are a lot of very poor people in that part of Chester County who need places like the Smithfield Barn so they can just get stuff for their homes – you know the basics like a kitchen table and chairs that aren’t over priced?

Upper Uwchlan

Guy A. Donatelli Chairperson 78 Stonehedge Drive Glenmoore, PA 19343

GDonatelli@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

Catherine A. Tomlinson Vice-Chairperson 788 North Reeds Road Downingtown, PA 19335

CTomlinson@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

Kevin C. Kerr Supervisor 16 Heron Hill Drive Downingtown, PA 19335

KKerr@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

140 Pottstown Pike Chester Springs, PA 19425 Phone: (610) 458-9400 Fax: (610) 458-0307

Cary Vargo Township Manager (610) 646-7008

cvargo@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

the grinch must live in upper uwchlan township

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Folks I bring you sad Christmas tidings. Upper Uwchlan Township is trying to close down a place near and dear to many of our hearts.

Incredibly, Upper Uwchlan is trying to shut down the SMITHFIELD BARN.

On so many levels, this is a big bag of wrong. From a practical standpoint, where will half of the township employees shop if they close down the barn? Most of them are customers are they not?

The owner of the Smithfield Farm property prior to the Smith family tenure operated some sort of an antique store and often sold things out of the barn. So it’s nothing new. And the sales that go on there are glorified garage sales are not an everyday thing.

At first my friends were told that there were some sort of neighborhood complaints. So the Smith family did what concerned neighbors naturally do: they went door-to-door asking if they have somehow upset a neighbor.

I don’t know for a fact, because I haven’t done one, but I bet a freedom of information act request would turn up what exactly ? My opinion is not much.

What I wonder about quite honestly is the Toll Brothers project pending next-door to the barn property the crosses Little Conestoga Road as well.

Somebody somewhere told me that some kind of turtles were found on the property the developer had purchased, so if environmentalists are aware of that, wouldn’t that mean that project might be scaled-back?

So I have to ask the question: does this sudden desire to shut down the occasional barn sales they have ignored for so long have anything to do with a developer? That would be a real shame if it did wouldn’t it?

I assume all will be made clear eventually, but this now means the perfectly nice family is going to have to retain help to save their barn. Can I count on all of you out there to help? Can you please contact every supervisor and go to local meetings coming up? Call reporters you know?

Are they going to outlaw yard sales in this township next?

Please help save the barn!

Upper Uwchlan just became as bad as West Vincent in my book with this.

In Malvern borough they tossed some bums out with that writing campaign this past election season, maybe it’s time to consider that here as well do you think?

Barn sales and yard sales are part of Chester County life and a lot of fun. You should be allowed to continue. And this is a very nice family that I feel is being victimized by local government most unfairly.

Upper Uwchlan

Guy A. Donatelli
Chairperson 78 Stonehedge Drive Glenmoore, PA 19343
GDonatelli@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

Catherine A. Tomlinson
Vice-Chairperson 788 North Reeds Road Downingtown, PA 19335
CTomlinson@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

Kevin C. Kerr
Supervisor
16 Heron Hill Drive Downingtown, PA 19335
KKerr@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

140 Pottstown Pike
Chester Springs, PA 19425
Phone: (610) 458-9400
Fax: (610) 458-0307

Cary Vargo Township Manager
(610) 646-7008
cvargo@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

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