remembering chris thompson

Chris Thompson. 2011.

Chris Thompson. 2011.

Today I have something sad to share.  Someone I know who was a friend who had moved away passed away suddenly from a heart attack in June, and I did not know until today.  His name was Chris Thompson.  I thought he deserved more than a paid obituary locally so I have decided to write something today. He was a really good guy and extraordinarily talented.

A lot of you would remember him as Christopher Arthur Thompson as the former Director of Land Preservation from 2006 to 2009 at the Willistown Conservation Trust.

Or simply as Chris Thompson who lived in Berwyn.  Or as in Chris Thompson who used to own a sustainable food business, a true farm to table venture called Panache Foods.

Celestial Blue by Chris Thompson. Photo courtesy of family.

Celestial Blue by Chris Thompson. Photo courtesy of family.

To me he was just Chris, father of Alexandra and Margaret.  He was the former husband of my dear high school friend Sandra Hitschler Thompson (also Shipley 1981).  He and Sandra had divorced after their move back to the Midwest around 2011, and at his death he was married to Jennifer Drackley Thompson. To all of them I send love and condolences. The dynamics of couples you know change over time, but that doesn’t mean you stop being their friends or thinking about people and remembering them fondly.  Such is how I feel about Chris.  He was just a good guy.

Writing about the death of someone you knew and liked is so darn difficult.  I liked Chris a great deal and his former wife and daughters will always be close to my heart.  When I heard about his passing I thought not only of his career in land stewardship and conservation, but his art.  Chris was an accomplished artist and his work hung all over the Midwest and East Coast.  His art was powerful and lyrical and always blew me away.

 

Violet Eclipse by Chris Thompson

Violet Eclipse by Chris Thompson. Photo courtesy of family.

Christopher Arthur Thompson, 56, late of Three Oaks, MI and formerly of Berwyn, PA Joliet, Ill., passed away suddenly on Friday, June 3, 2016.

Chris in his element, Photo courtesy of Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy

Chris in his element, Photo courtesy of Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy

Born January 27, 1960 in Joliet, he was the son of Arthur and Marilyn (Smith) Thompson. Surviving are his wife, Jennifer Thompson; two daughters, Alexandra and Margaret; his mother, Marilyn Thompson of Joliet, IL; two brothers, Jeff (Nancy) Thompson of Joliet, and David (Carla) Thompson of Coal City, IL; one sister, Marianne (Joe) Haake of Joliet; his former wife, Sandra Hitschler Thompson; and several nieces and nephews.

Chris was previously employed by Willistown Conservation Trust, and worked as Executive Director of the Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy in Sawyer, MI for the last five years. Chris Thompson joined Chikaming Open Lands in 2011 at the conclusion of a nationwide search for an executive director.

He was also the former owner of Panache Foods which was based in Berwyn, PA until a move back to the Midwest in 2011.

 

Panache Foods launch March 2010

Panache Foods launch March 2010

Panache Foods offered locally sourced local Chef prepared foods and offered CSA boxes seasonally.  Panache had partnered with Kimberton Whole Foods at the time and local Chefs like Chef Francis Pascal (Trzeciak) of the Birchrunville  Store Café and introduced me to my now friend Deb Street Davitt of MacDougall’s Irish Victory Cakes.  I had actually photographed the launch of this business at the time, and my friend Caroline O’Halloran wrote about it when she was with Main Line Media News.

I mention this business not to diminish any other aspects of my late friend’s career but because this business at the time was at the head of the class when it came to CSA and locally sourced food. The so called Locavore movement was just revving up in our area when this business began in my opinion.  There weren’t many businesses like this in existence if at all at the time. There were folks who were offering CSA shares, but not a direct to the consumer’s home business like this.  This wasn’t pizza delivery, it was much more and they offered catering connections and introductions as well. It is through Panache I also made the acquaintance of  the now very popular Chef Jennifer McCafferty, owner of JPM Catering in Ardmore, PA.

Panache Foods and Chris participating in Foodapalooza for First Friday Main Line in 2011

Panache Foods and Chris participating in Foodapalooza for First Friday Main Line in 2011

For 18 years while living in the Chicago area, Chris owned Event Management. He offered many jobs to local youth who helped him with the Food and Beverage at the Taste of Chicago. Those were challenging, but very fun times. That was part of the inspiration later in his life for Panache Foods.

He attended Joliet Catholic High School and received his undergraduate degree in Art and Anthropology, and Masters of Fine Arts degree from Northwestern University.

Chris, as I mentioned, was an accomplished artist. He was the recipient of the Scholastic Gold Key Award, a Scholastic National Gold Medal for painting, the Rotary International Scholarship for Art, the Ford Foundation Arts Fellowship, the Quita Brodhead Memorial Award from the Wayne Art Center, and the Squirrel Gallery Award of Excellence. Now as a related aside, the Squirrel Gallery was the brainchild of the late mother of my friend Averil Smith Barone (also an accomplished artist)  named Valerie Lamb Smith.

Chris Thompson in his role as Executive Director of the Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy in Sawyer, MI. Photo courtesy of Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy.

Chris Thompson in his role as Executive Director of the Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy in Sawyer, MI. Photo courtesy of Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy.

Chris will be remembered for his dedication to preserving the natural beauty of both Chester County and Southwest Michigan and his appreciation for the arts. He was a wonderful husband, father, son, brother, athlete and most of all friend. He loved life and was a warm and welcoming and inclusive person by nature. He was so truly multi-faceted that on some levels he could be considered a true Renaissance man.

Chris was also a Board member of  Michigan’s Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservation Policy.

Memorials in his name may be directed to the Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy. For information please call (815) 741-5500 or follow their donation and gift instructions on their website.

( related: ChrisThompson notification letter to supporters of COL )

Father, artist, husband, friend, conservationist. Chris Thompson was that and so much more.  He will be missed.  Rest in Peace, Chris.

Chris Thompson's cool vintage truck when he lived in Berwyn, PA

Chris Thompson’s cool vintage truck when he lived in Berwyn, PA

adult summer reading

Yes, gardening magazines are always part of my summer reading and fall reading and my winter reading and my spring reading. But I’m not writing a post to tell you that you should be reading Fine Gardening Magazine, even if I do think it is the best gardening magazine out there today.

I am talking about a novel I just finished called Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll.

I had heard buzz about it, and a lot of people have been reading it that I know from Shipley because it was written by a Shipley graduate and basically the school at the center of the book is a fictional private school very much like Shipley.  Reese Witherspoon has also optioned the movie rights. (She had Main Line experience when she came to Philadelphia to film a movie a few years ago and if I recall correctly she rented a house somewhere around Gladwyne and Haverford during filming, but I digress.)

If you grew up on the Main Line and/or went to one of the private schools you should really read this book. It’s fascinating, darkly accurate and darn fun to read.

It’s crime fiction but it’s not just that. It also is utterly spot on as to what life in a Main Line private school could be and was like— complete with the different tiers of kids and school social status.

Truthfully, for a debut novel it’s pretty powerful and yes can be quite dark. The depiction of the lunch room is also spot on.

The funny thing is that although I’ve heard a lot of Shipley graduates talking about this book I don’t remember seeing anything that the school put out. Maybe I missed it.

Main Line Today wrote about the book and I read the article after I finished the book. I always felt that the inspiration for the other fictional school in the novel was actually Villa Maria and I think I was right. Of course this makes me wonder that one of the many brief descriptions of teachers at the school is actually a teacher I remember and not particularly fondly. 

The descriptions of the area, down to pizza places are spot on. But I would expect no less of someone who grew up in the area. But what is most fascinating to me is how accurate and unabashed the author is about writing about growing up and going to school on the Main Line. And the types of parents she writes about, we all lived through.  

One of the sub- topics in her book, the reaction to new non-WASP kids at a school, resonated with me because I have a vowel on the end of my name. I also came to Shipley in the Upper School and wasn’t a lifer. Yes, I had some friends there going into the school as a new student,  but I still remember the new girl feeling and the pit in the bottom of my stomach which accompanied it.

The author also depicts the whole working in your twenties and the hoopla around weddings and the crossroads some found themselves in.

The book is a work of fiction but it is one of those books that will resonate with a lot of different people.

I will admit I have a thing about books and movies set in this area. That is what drew me to the book initially. What kept me is the main character. Sort of an anti-heroine but oddly real for a fictional character. I liked her and I loved the novel. Check the book out!

Thanks for stopping by.

main line mommy d.u.i…..again

4955-scene1-Concours

Looks like a happy scene right?  Folks enjoying a day of great cars in a beautiful setting and being snapped for the society pages of Main Line Today Magazine.  Yes, this is the Radnor Hunt Concour D’Elegance circa 2010.

And then this news breaks:

Wynnewood woman charged in DUI crash, child and dogs were also in the car

Published: Wednesday, November 13, 2013   By Richard Ilgenfritz rilgenfritz@mainlinemedianews.com

mug shotLower Merion police say a woman was driving intoxicated with her 2-year-old child and two dogs when she crashed her car into a utility pole in the Bryn Mawr section of the township Friday.

As a result, the woman is facing numerous charges in connection with the case.

Grace Tuten, 32, of the 1000 block of Clover Hill Road in Wynnewood is facing charges of DUI, endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangering another person, driving under a suspension, careless driving and related offenses….At police headquarters, Tuten recorded a blood alcohol level of .28, or more than three times the legal limit of .08.

Tuten’s 2-year-old son was a passenger in the car at the time of the crash, shortly after 8 p.m. He was found inside his child seat in the rear of the vehicle. The child was taken to Bryn Mawr Hospital for a precautionary evaluation. Two dogs were also found in the rear cargo area of the car.

The media reports indicate she crashed into a utility pole around Williamson Road and Morris Avenue in Bryn Mawr and kept driving even after that, hitting a mailbox and stuff in addition.  CBS 3 reports she was driving on a suspended licenseGrace Tuten appears to be pending her preliminary hearing as per the court dockets.

This accident which could have killed her, her small child, and two dogs occurred I would guesstimate less than a mile from the August DUI of Meredith Williams Earle that killed a florist delivery man in Bryn Mawr.  Meredith Williams-Earle goes to county court it looks like in early 2014. Williams-Earle’s attorney was in the newspaper in September saying his client should get her license back.

Here we have another sad state of affairs and the commonality is kind of eerie.  Both Main Line born and bred women and products of fine private schools and good colleges. Both married. Both have small children. Tuten is 32 and Williams-Earle is 30.

What has gone wrong here?  How do families not know if someone is having issues? Do that many people really in this day and age routinely drive around comfortably numb?  Where was Tuten coming from? It was 8 p.m. on a Friday so where was she coming from or going to and where was her husband? And who exactly let her get behind the wheel of a car?  With a blood alcohol level of 0.28 was she visibly intoxicated?  Who lets a young mother get into a car with her child and two dogs?

To me this is an alarming issue.  And with two to hit the news a couple months apart , I truly see this as an issue. But if we are honest, by varying degrees this is not a new issue. It’s just not one discussed in public as much as whispered down the lane.

These women like Grace Tuten need help and they need our compassion. I said that when I wrote the post titled “deadly decision”. I see another young mom in crisis here.

Who is listening to these women?  I wonder if these women had postpartum or other depression?  Or are they simply experiencing pressures of being a modern Main Line mommy?

Since I have moved to Chester County I have even encountered some similar mommies, closer to my own age.  One woman  in the Giant a few weeks ago literally reeked of alcohol when she passed me with her cart.  A friend said I should have called the police, but where was my proof?  I did not see her drink. We live in such a litigious society that can it be considered a real Catch 22.

Alcoholism is an awful disease.  I have friends who have been “in the program” for years.  Including now not so young moms. Some have been successful working their programs, others not so much.

I have no idea what was going on with this woman Grace Tuten but I do believe the pressures they experience as young moms and wives in an affluent area are very real.  And as a little girl, I remember the moms who were my mother’s generation who tippled.  One in the mid 1970s called her popping pills with a cocktail chaser a “mommy’s pick-me-up”.

Grace Tuten lives in Wynnewood but was in the Bryn Mawr close to Gladwyne area with her child and her dogs, so she was somewhere she knew people really well perhaps? Or at a local restaurant?

I don’t know the motive, don’t know the woman but I feel for her because as a friend of mine said today who is a mom who had postpartum that  she believes mothers just don’t intentionally put their kids in harm’s way. So I am going to stick with that.

The path to parenthood is not necessarily an easy one.  I know many women who didn’t make easy transitions from working girl to SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) or did the whole motherhood and career thing easily.

I can tell you as a stepmother in training to an awesome now teenager, I have not had it all come easily.  The love is there, but here I am in my late 40s becoming a parent for the first time.  It is hard work to be a parent. And while I have enjoyed my transition from a woman who worked her whole life to being in essence a mostly stay at home parent, it is not as easy as it sounds.  It sounds lovely, it is lovely, but it is a major life transition.  And wow can you feel guilty for keeping house which is a job in and of itself.

But with age comes life experience, so in some ways, I think it has been easier for me than some of the younger mothers.  With these younger women, they are not so many years removed from their single and young married party days.  Most of their Facebook pages tell that tale rather readily. So here they are in a fairy tale life to some that on the inside for whatever reason might not be such a fine fairy tale.  So do they drink socially and then it becomes drinking to take the edge off of the reality of life? Or do they just do the mommy pick me up to take the edge off and it gets out of hand?

I don’t really know.  All I know is this is yet another case of a well-educated, well-bred young woman ending up with a DUI with her child in the car.  I am hoping this is a topic that mom bloggers in the area will take up.  Why? Because I think there needs to be a conversation.

The pressure to be the perfect woman is a very real thing. And the sooner we, as women can learn to stop beating ourselves up for not being paragons of perfection, the better. And yes that is a lesson I also have to learn and accept. (Some days are just better than others and self-perception is a tricky and cheeky devil.)

I wish life and fixing life issues was as simple as Cher’s infamous line in “Moonstruck” – you know – “Snap out of it!” – but it’s not.  It takes work. Relationships take work, families take work.  Yes there is love and all the good stuff, but you get the good stuff by working together, don’t you?

So mom bloggers out there, I hope you will take the time to talk about this issue.  Not to be a salacious gossip, but to discuss how we can, as women, address this. And offer support but not enabling to those we might know who are in need.

This is just sad, and like I was sad for Meredith Williams-Earle, I am sad for Grace Tuten. So young to have screwed up so much. And the last thing to consider are the people who never think this will happen to them.  The “I’ll just have one drink” theory.

deadly decision (updated 6/4/15)

 UPDATE 6/4/2015

No winners here. This young woman, now pregnant with another child has been sentenced to prison for the death she caused with the accident.  This is in published media reports, so it is public knowledge.  I hope this woman can get through this.  I still feel the same about her prior behavior, but there are no winners in this case. At least this time family members could be seen with her.

Here is the coverage:

Meredith Williams-Earle (in black and pink dress) leaving courtroom with her husband, Timothy Earle (left), and her attorney Christian Hoey. (Laura McCrystal/Staff)
 On the morning of Aug. 6, 2013, the Lower Merion mother took a prescription sedative, swigged champagne, and filled a plastic cup with whiskey as she headed out the door.

Then she strapped her 2-year-old son into his loosely fastened car seat in the back of her Toyota Prius and set out to drive him to day care. At Spring Mill Road and Morris Avenue in Bryn Mawr, Williams-Earle sped through a stop sign and slammed into a flower delivery van.

Its 72-year-old driver died at the scene.

Now pregnant with her third child, Williams-Earle, 32, sat sobbing Tuesday in Montgomery County Court, apologizing and pleading for mercy…Judge William R. Carpenter said the death of Winston Staats could not be overlooked. Turning aside her requests to be free before her baby is born, he sentenced Williams-Earle to nine to 23 months.

The sentence brought to an end a tragic case that even perplexed the jury….The jury convicted her of driving under the influence and reckless endangerment – including endangering her own child…..and deadlocked on vehicular homicide.  By pleading guilty Tuesday to involuntary manslaughter, she avoided a retrial.

FROM BEFORE:

meredith 3When Meredith Williams-Earle, a high school Latin teacher who lives in Bryn Mawr near Historic Harriton House, got into her car on August 6th, she was above the legal limit for alcohol and had Ativan (Lorazepam) in her system.  Not only that, but she had one of her children in the car.

What happened next, no one except her would know for sure, but media reports (based upon police reports) indicate mweshe blew threw a stop sign at Spring Mill Road and Morris Avenue and struck and killed an older man in a delivery van.   Main Line Media News reported she was going 42 miles per hour.

I know where those roads meet quite well.  I worked in one of the Tower Bridge Buildings in Conshohocken for a decade and that is how I traveled back and forth. I remember hearing about the accident on KYW News Radio in my car when I was buzzing around on August 6th and thinking “wow that sounds like it could be bad.” You see, initial radio reports were in the form of a traffic advisory, no mention of anything other than something like it being called a serious accident.

mwe4

I was also saddened to learn that not only was this 30 year old mother a meredith 2teacher, but a graduate of my alma mater The Shipley School as well (and no I have no clue who she is, and I do not believe she was even born when I graduated high school). So bright, a mom, lived in a nice area, so what went wrong? Because something did.

meredithI am asking because the media has been floating photos of her out on the Internet and well, there seems to have been a metamorphosis.  She went from being a pretty co-ed at UPenn and pretty young teacher to the mug shot above.  You don’t travel from point A to point C without a point B. (And I am sure some reader somewhere will roll up and give me grief about writing about this, unfortunately.)

Bryn Mawr woman charged with DUI in fatal crash that killed Conshohocken man

Published: Friday, August 30, 2013 By Linda Stein
lstein@mainlinemedianews.com

Meredith Williams-Earle, a high school Latin teacher who grew up in Bryn Mawr, was trembling as she sat next to her lawyers at a preliminary hearing Thursday related to an accident that took the life of a 72-year-old flower shop delivery driver.

Williams-Earle, 30, who teaches at Interboro High School, was driving a Toyota Prius with her 2-year-old son in a car seat when she allegedly ran a stop sign and struck a van at 10:28 a.m. on Aug. 6 at the corner of Spring Mill Road and Morris Avenue in the Bryn Mawr section of Lower Merion, according to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office……..Officers spoke to Williams-Earle at the scene and smelled alcohol. Her eyes were glassy and her speech slightly slurred, police said…..Later…Williams-Earle allegedly admitted to Officer John Kuvik that she had taken Ativan the night before and felt dizzy that morning, according to the criminal complaint. …..a friend told her that alcohol reverses the effect of that sedative so she had drunk some leftover Champagne, the complaint said….defense lawyer Joseph Hylan argued that his client had lived in Lower Merion her entire life, was a graduate of The Shipley School….She lives with her husband, mother and two young children, on the 700 block of Harriton Rd.

DSC00662Ativan and champagne are a heck of a combination.  And the drug is prescribed for anxiety, correct? So I have to ask in the pill happy nation in which we live, who was monitoring this young mom and for what? What she one of the millions of women detrimentally affected by depression after having children? Was something going on regarding the home front? This is a woman who doesn’t appear to have had many brushes with the law so to speak (although I did find record of a speeding ticket in Radnor Township in 2011.)

Also something that bothers me is she did the “perp walk” caught on camera alone.

Where is her familial support?  Wouldn’t you think a young mom like this would have had either her husband or mother there?   A friend? A grandparent, aunt, uncle, someone?  The media reports that she grew up in Bryn Mawr and lives in that house currently with her husband, mother, and little kids.

NBC10 Philadelphia: Teacher Charged in Deadly Drunk Driving Crash         

By     Lauren DiSanto    |  Friday, Aug 30, 2013  |  Updated 6:16 AM EDT

A Delaware County teacher is charged in a drunk driving crash that killed a 72-year-old Vietnam War veteran.

Meredith Williams-Earle, who teaches at the Interboro School District, was charged today with homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, homicide by vehicle, driving under the influence and recklessly endangering another person.

My initial reaction was to write a much more harsh post.  I have a huge problem with drinking and driving.   There are just too many tragedies.

But as I have read and seen the media coverage and read the comments left by people on websites with articles on this, the conclusion I come to in my opinion, is this is a woman in crisis. And these charges she is facing unless a county judge grants leniency is up to 3 years in jail.

My instincts (and I do not know her or even of her), is this is a person who would not survive jail.  And what good is justice if it creates more motherless children?

I have to think that this is a woman who needed help but no one was listening, or listening closely enough.  How do you live in a house with someone (again media reports other adults in her household, a husband and mother) and not know someone is in trouble or self-medicating?

Ativan is a high potency drug often used as a sedative. It is also  is used in the short-term treatment of anxiety and insomnia.  There could be any number of reasons she took it.  She could have been prescribed it or someone stupidly could have just given her some to take the edge off. We live in a nation of extreme pharmacology and well, pills are the new jellybean at times I think.

Sedatives are things I find both serious and scary.  If she was taking this drug for whatever reason she should not have been in a car, let alone left alone with the potential for pulling a Karen Ann Quinlan by mixing hard core prescription drugs with alcohol. And whomever this “friend” was who suggested she mix Ativan with champagne is a huge loser.   A friend is the person who says if you are dizzy let’s get you to a doctor, not have a drink and you can get in the car.

This young woman faces a boatload of charges (see docket sheet) –  two counts of homicide by vehicle, three DUI counts, recklessly endangering another person, reckless driving, careless driving, failure to stop at a stop sign, speeding and improperly restraining a child.

This is what you call a real tragedy, boys and girls. A 72 year old man not wearing a seatbelt and everything that was going on with Meredith Williams-Earle.

Meredith Williams-Earle is a woman in crisis.  I don’t know why no one has addressed whatever is obviously going on with her, but I wish they would.  I do not think she is just some run of the mill gal who likes to play with drugs and alcohol.  I believe, right or wrong, that she needs serious help. And support from her family.  Because if she had help and more familial support or even familial awareness I am not sure she would have been behind the wheel the fateful day of August 6th, are you? But I wasn’t there, I don’t know, and can only guess and opine…as can all of us except immediate family.

There are no winners here, only quite a few take away lessons of life. This story makes me sad.

smooth and silky

r1I went to Shipley.  My class had some amazingly talented people.  One of those is my friend Rhonda Dorsey who now lives in Switzerland.

Rhonda is a fabulous songstress and her voice is as beautiful as she is.  She is a contemporary R & B singer, and she released a CD a few months ago and I am ashamed to admit it took me until now to hear it all the way through.

As I sat here today editing photos for a new photo book, I popped Rhonda’s “Chocolate Sound” in and listened.

Wow.  The melodiously beautiful voice I remember as a teen is all grown up and full of promise.

With a velvety R & B meets modern jazzy sound with the occasional dose of funk, Rhonda starts off her CD with “Sums of One”  and rolls through “It’s All  Good Day”, sliding into songs like “Giving” (which is probably my favorite), or the sultry “I’ll Be” which is just simply lovely.  A funky beat draws you into “Let it Be Me”, a cautionary tale comprises the lyrics of “Mr. Le Le” , smooth and sexy is “Sense Me”, finishing up with the beautiful “Far from You”.

Rhonda’s voice is rich and playful, and literally as smooth as chocolate.

For those who don’t know me, you wouldn’t know that R&B is not something I listen to every day, and it’s not.  But Rhonda takes it places with her own spin, where I could.

Rhonda has a website and a Facebook page and a sampling of her style on you tube. Check her out and you can buy her sound on iTunes and Amazon as well as her website.

Brava Rhonda, Brava

maybe loch aerie is indeed chester county’s la ronda.

This is in "City and Suburban Architecture" by Samuel Sloan, published in 1859 by Lippincott in Philadelphia. Sloan was partnered with Hutton when the house was built, but Hutton seems to get all the credit! The book is at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia

I am a lover of old houses and I love the quirky and fanciful.  But I had no idea that so many of you out there shared my fascination with Loch Aerie or the Lockwood Mansion in Frazer, PA.  When I said yesterday that Loch Aerie was like Bryn Mawr’s La Ronda was, well, hmmm maybe I am not so far off base?

It’s a shame that Loch Aerie isn’t loved and cared for like Granogue, Irenee Du Pont’s Estate in Delaware. Granogue is privately held and once upon a time Mr. Du Pont was kind enough to give me a tour, let me check out the green houses and the amazing view of the Brandywine Valley from a top the water tower.

Thanks to all of you yesterday, I learned who owns Loch Aerie — the Tabas family, and I discovered a tear sheet from what appears to be the realtor on the property on the Internet.  Unfortunately, it seems for these people, this magnificent home is just another steak on the grill.

The house was originally named Glen Loch, but when the Pennsylvania Railroad named its last Main Line station “Glen Loch” without asking permission first, William Lockwood the mansion’s owner changed the name of the estate to Loch Aerie.

I found this information in a book by Brian Butko called Lincoln Highway. Because of Mr. Butko’s book, I also learned that William Lockwood made the mistake of granting access to his springs to the railroad.  After all, the Pennsylvania Railroad needed water to power their steam locomotives.   Apparently Lockwood had to really go after the railroad and the legal battles depleted his fortunes, even as he prevailed in court against the railroad.  I find this part of the history fascinating because I think our railroads of today are lousy neighbors, and this shows that lack of consideration along this rail line in particular is historical.

William Lockwood had daughters who lived in Loch Aerie until 1967.  At that time Daniel Tabas, patriarch of the Tabas clan along the Main Line purchased the estate.

Now here is where I get confused.

Gretchen Metz of the Daily Local wrote in June 2010:

The Lockwood Mansion is going back on the market.

The seller, the Estate of Lockwood Mansion, a Tabas family trust, turned down the winning bid of $720,000 by a New York businessman.

Yet Brian Butko in his book Lincoln Highway says in 2002 (and I quote):

So that is most curious? Did the estate  ever leave the Tabas family after Daniel Tabas purchased the house?  I am sooo curious.  Thanks to The Library of Congress, we all have access to a Historic American Buildings Survey (mind you there are lots of other Chester County-centric stuff too.)  I found several copies on the Internet of the one in  particular about Loch Aerie to and will embed a copy below, but it appears to have been done in the 1950’s.  So maybe this Tony Alden did not actually own the house as was implied in Butko’s book?

Now take a minute and check out this article from 1992 from The Philadelphia Inquirer:

It’s Not The End Of The Line For This Landmark It Fell Into Disrepair. But Now Loch Aerie Has Been Lovingly Restored. 

 June 07, 1992|By Sharon O’Neal, INQUIRER CORRESPONDENT

As an East Whiteland Township landmark, the house known as Loch Aerie is more than the history of its original owner, who made a fortune manufacturing paper shirt collars and lost it fighting the Pennsylvania Railroad.

It is the end of the Main Line.

Loch Aerie, originally owned by William E. Lockwood and occupied by his family for 102 years, was a 19th-century gentleman’s farm built on 836 acres. It contained three separate farms and tenant houses and four railroad stations, including the last Main Line station of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The stop was known as Glen Loch (Scottish for “lake of the glen”) after the estate’s original name.

Lockwood built the Swiss Gothic house in 1867 for the then-astronomical cost of $250,000, using blue marble and blue limestone mined from quarries now covered by Route 202. Only the house and about 26 surrounding acres remain of that huge estate. The rest has become dense commercial development. The Sheraton Inn Great Valley is directly across the highway.

Because of its size, Lockwood’s Glen Loch estate was a town by itself. Mail was handled by the Glen Loch post office. But when the Pennsylvania Railroad adopted the name Glen Loch for its station without first consulting Lockwood, the angry owner changed its name to Loch Aerie.

That was not the only disagreement Lockwood had with the railroad. He had given the line permission to use some of the water from the estate’s many springs to power its steam engines, with the agreement that the railroad would maintain the pipes.

Eventually, however, the railroad was pumping all of Lockwood’s water from the springs, to the extent that Loch Aerie had no water. The ensuing battles in Chester County Court, many of which Lockwood won, cost him his fortune……until 1967, when the property was bought by Daniel Tabas….. Since 1980, the house has been occupied by architectural consultant Tony Alden.

Here again is where I find more curiosity: was this definitively designed by Addison Hutton as an original idea?  I ask because a friend from the Radnor Historical Society Greg Pritchard (he is one of my favorite people and helped me so much as I was going through the approval process to gain a PA historical marker for what once was The Wayne Natatorium)  sent me a message last night with a photo he took from a plate in a book that was published nine years before Loch Aerie was built.  The photo is above and the first one in this post.  It is a photo of a plate in a book titled “Rural Villa” and I can’t quite make out the name on the bottom right hand corner of the plate.  But that is Loch Aerie, is it not?  So was this drawing done for/by Addison Hutton before Lockwood commissioned his mansion, or was this drawing the inspiration for Hutton’s design? If it was inspiration, is there a Loch Aerie look-alike somewhere?

Around 1974, Elizabeth Biddle Yarnall wrote a biography on Addison Hutton (Addison Hutton, Quaker Architect 1834-1916).  On page 41, she writes of what appears to have been a visit to the home with her husband.  William Lockwood’s daughters were still living there.

Apparently, as per this book, Loch Aerie/Glen Loch/Lockwood Mansion was one of Hutton’s favorite commissions because it was an independent one.  I also learned thanks to Elizabeth Biddle Yarnall how William Lockwood made at least some of his money:  paper collars.  Mrs. Yarnall remarked upon her 1958 visit how intact the house still was at that time that it seemed that they “…had stepped into the Victorian world of Addison Hutton“.

Flash forward to 1995, and another Philadelphia Inquirer article about Loch Aerie.  The Philadelphia Inquirer used to do all sorts of cool pieces like this, but their issues and various changes of ownership means that not only don’t you see articles of interest like this very often, they also don’t seem to give the reporters the time or encouragement to write articles like this.  I find that a shame.  Anyway back to 1995:

CollectionsLove Affair

A Battle Between House And Store Retailer’s Plan Is Too Close For Comfort.

December 10, 1995|By Susan Weidener, INQUIRER CORRESPONDENT

FRAZER — Loch Aerie was once the scene of lavish outdoor parties attended by gentlemen farmers living along the fringes of the Main Line.

A century later, the house, with its peaked roofs, gables and Romanesque windows, achieved fleeting fame when the Warlocks motorcycle gang took up illegal residence there.

Situated on Route 30 across from the Sheraton Great Valley Hotel, Loch Aerie is now in the midst of an escalating battle between preservationists and developers.

The latter have proposed to build a 103,000-square-foot Home Depot store and a 23,400-square-foot lawn-and-garden center about 50 feet from the side porch of the house, built in 1867 by paper magnate William E. Lockwood.

While the house would not be demolished under the Home Depot proposal, the proximity of a large commercial development would destroy its integrity, said Sylvia Baker, chairwoman of the East Whiteland Historical Commission.

Loch Aerie is owned by Daniel Tabas, who plans to keep the house and about two acres around it. Home Depot has bought the other 19 acres, contingent on township approval.

Even though the house would remain, Baker and Dan Maguire, vice chairman of the historical commission, said Tuesday that the proposal “won’t do.”…..”This plan would destroy the ambience of the property, not to mention the underground icehouse and gasworks,” two of the home’s most unusual features, Maguire said…..”This is the most valuable house in East Whiteland, maybe even in Chester County,” Baker said Tuesday as the late afternoon sun cast an orange glow over the small lake and formal gardens behind the house.

“And they want to destroy it,” she said.

But Tabas, former owner of the Tabas Hotel in Downingtown, said he is ”very hurt by a small minority” who think he would see Loch Aerie destroyed.

“I bought that house in 1960 because I loved it,” Tabas said Wednesday.

“It’s been a love affair ever since.”….

Tony Alden, an architectural consultant, has been living in the house since about 1975 and has been “meticulously restoring the furnishings,” Tabas said.

Tabas added that he has turned down a “dozen” development offers that would have destroyed the house.

“Then came Home Depot. They didn’t want the house, either, but then they agreed to keep it and establish a protection zone around it……The house is not on the National Register, Baker said, but it qualifies. The necessary paperwork was never completed. However, the house is considered ”an important structure” by preservationists around the state….The plan also shows a building that is “not the typical concrete block warehouse” Home Depot usually builds, but one with an architecture “more characteristic of the Main Line,” according to Snyder’s associate, Wendy McLean.

Ahhh what a tangled tale.  So with all due respect to the late Dan Tabas, if he had such a “love affair” with the house, why did it rot for many and have motorcycle gangs hanging out?  Why does it in essence sit and rot today?  Let’s get real, this was always a juicy plot of land.  Someone who has a love affair with a home like this, restores it, doesn’t sell off all the land around it to a big box store, effectively marooning it like a small desert island.  Someone with a love affair, restores it and moves his family in to enjoy the splendor and privilege of living in such a home. Or they find a suitable adaptive reuse. Yes, think Addison Hutton’s Beechwood on Shipley’s campus which the Committee to Save Beechwood saved – yes volunteers did that, not the school although the school reaps the ultimate benefit now.  Or up closer to Bryn Mawr Train Station (around 802 W. Montgomery).  That is also an Addison Hutton designed home, and if memory serves it could have been the house Hutton built for his family.  In any event, this property was recently converted to condos.  Mind you, I will never be a condo girl, but in this case, it provided a viable adaptive reuse that saved the structure.

I also love how Home Depot described their store design as “more characteristic of the Main Line.”   And then they woke up.  I have been to that Home Depot several times, and Ardrossan it ain’t.  Not even close.  It is what it is: a big box with concrete floors.

Of course I wonder given another article unearthed from the Philadelphia Inquirer if East Whiteland could have said no?  According to this article, not only was the sale of the property on which Home Depot now sits contingent on this approval, Home Depot went to this  “township to amend its zoning ordinance and create a special classification for retail and home and garden center use.”  This article also says how the reason Home Depot wanted to big box in was traffic from the Exton Bypass on Route 202.

That just kills me.  Big boxes might have their uses but not only do they slowly starve out independent businesses, the big boxification and strip mallification of Chester County is something which astounds me.   So many Chester County municipalities seem to an outsider completely thoughtless when it comes to preservation and the future.   All these plastic mushroom house developments, and countless big boxes and sub par strip malls, not all of which have full occupancy.  Look at what has been built over the past 25 years or so.  Is any of it spectacular? No.

I don’t get why Chester County doesn’t have a more cohesive plan for commercial development county-wide, and it is obvious in some of these municipalities that they see the short-term salivation over ratables, and not much else.  Of course if you ever watch any public meetings, eleted and planning officials love to fall on the sword of Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code which in my humble opinion needs an updating.  Suburbs and exurbs are vastly different and Pennsylvania needs better comprehensive planning, so that  many local municipalities run out of excuses on why they don’t need better planning.  Not all local municipalities are horible at historic preservation, but a lot of them could do much better, or simply pay less lip service to the idea of preservation and employ more doing.

I also think that Pennsylvania as a state needs to have more that means more in the area of historic preservation.  People need incentive to preserve, and I wish that Pennsylvania would follow the lead of other states in this country who offer more enticing incentives to preserve historic structures.

Now the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission administers the federal rehabilitation investment tax credits , but it just seems a lot of other states simply do more.  At a minimum the Municipalities Planning Code needs to be more in sync with historic preservation in a top down approach in Pennsylvania.  Of course that opens other cans of worms as Pennsylvania is most definitely a private property rights state.  We all learned that lesson again when it can to La Ronda.  La Ronda was demolished I think as much as anything else because the owner could demolish it.

It is a crying shame that Loch Aerie has never made it to The National Trust for Historic Preservation.  I wish in addition that preservationists in Pennsylvania and Chester County would take an interest in preserving this La Ronda of Chester County.  No, we can’t save every old house, but once in a while it would be nice if some of the more important homes, of which this mansion is definitely one, were not left to rot.  We are in a crappy economy no doubt, but still so much our past in our communities is left to rot.  There seems to be plenty of money to build new, but not much money or incentive to preserve.  Private property rights state or not, once the architectural history is gone, it’s gone and not coming back.

What kind of adaptive reuse do you think could fit Loch Aerie?  I would like to see something that preserved the exterior and enough of the interior.  It would make a cool B&B or boutique hotel.  Even a restaurant.  Or a quirky office space.  Antique store or art center.  The landscaping would be key as it’s views are now either highway or big box.  Given how it was cut off, it wouldn’t make an ideal single family home.  If I were an official in East Whiteland, I would be looking for a way to make preservation of Loch Aerie happen.  But we all know the reality of that as it is far simpler to approve a demolition plan and look the other way.  Or to let many old structures rot and look the other way until no one wants the properties except for another doofy strip mall, drive thru pharmacy, bank branch, or fast food restaurant.

One last question.  Has this home ever been on a Chester County Day Tour?   There certainly are enough cool Victorians in Chester County that they could do an entire Victorian Day, or given all the historic homes at risk ALL over, they could do an “at risk” themed tour.  I love my barns, don’t misunderstand me, but there are a lot of cool houses in Chester County that are in desperate need of rescuing from various points of time in history.

Here are the documents I loaded on SCRIBD and also check out The Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society’s Historical Quarterly Digital Archives “A Brief Glimpse of East Whiteland“:

Just a little end note added courtesy of a reader.  They suggest all get familiar with Landscapes2: bringing growth and preservation together for Chester County.   In their call to action this website says (and I quote):

Chester County is at a critical point in its history. We must make a choice for our future.  We can let the unsustainable development pattern of the past continue, or we can  choose to work together toward a new pattern of development that preserves the  unique character of Chester County.

 

Chapter 1 of the comprehensive policy plan, Landscapes2, outlines how the Board of County Commissioners and the Chester County Planning Commission plan to address growth management and preservation strategies in collaboration with public, private and corporate citizens.

There is also a section on historic resources.

Thank you one and all for your continued interest in this blog.