Ebenezer on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer (East Whiteland) is a sacred and historic place. It’s no secret I have written about this place for years.
The AME Church grew out of the Free African Society in the late 1700s, but the church became it’s own entity founded in Philadelphia around 1816. So you can see given the age of Ebenezer AME in East Whiteland, Chester County, PA that it is truly part of the early days of a church and religion founded in Philadelphia. Bishop Richard Allen died in 1831, just months before Ebenezer came to be after Joseph Malin deeded the land.
Hiram Woodyard was a Township resident and former slave who served in the Union Army as a teamster. He was a leader in the African American community and is buried at the Ebenezer AME Church. His home still stands on Congestoga Road. Other homes he built still stand. He was an inhabitant of Bacton Hill.
Without active preservation there will come a time that all which will be left of the area will be my blog posts including this one from 2017 which is an oral history complete with some really cool photos courtesy of Claude Bernadin, or this one from 2015, this one from 2016, this one from 2017, the ceremony November 2016, a post from October 2016, another one from October 2016, when for brief moment people stopped to visit the old souls now covered by weeds and brush once more, 2015 post which had links to earlier posts. Also what will survive will be the occasional newspaper article from every newspaper reporter who tried to raise awareness to this area and to Ebenezer.
Once upon a time people tried to get a Bacton Hill Historic District or something like that. It’s a shame it never happened. Because at least then there would have been a more organized history of the place.
So this Juneteenth, I was thinking of Ebenezer again and here are a few new photos scattered throughout this post. I remember the black civil war soldiers here and elsewhere throughout Chester County. I share again the oral history of one resident (CLICK HERE). I think of all of the people who have shared what they have discovered about Ebenezer over the years.
Juneteenth (on June 19) is know as Emancipation Day and also as Freedom Day, Jubilation Day, and Liberation Day. I never learned about this important day in any history class I took in school. Which is something I think needs to be rectified because it’s part of our history of this country.
Although Juneteenth is celebrating the end of slavery in the United States, it was still legal and practiced in two states – Delaware and Kentucky – until December 6, 1865, when ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished non-penal slavery nationwide.
On Fold3, there exist some records of Hiram, including voluntary army enlistment. These photos aren’t the best but here they are:
Someone has been cutting the grass again at Ebenezer. I don’t know if it is the developer who will be building houses all around it or someone else. It’s not the AME church. They need to become involved as we believe that this is STILL their land, but will they?
I am but a middle-aged white woman. I am not black and won’t pretend I understand the black experience. I try to learn and respect it. But given the state of racism in this country and the need for all Americans to learn more of this country’s history good and bad, to me, this also means we need to SAVE sites like Ebenezer and preserve their history.
So I am calling on officials state, local, county, federal, and from the AME church to save Ebenezer. The church is too far gone to save BUT capping and preservation of the church ruin is possible. We need a study including with that sonar stuff like they use for Duffy’s Cut to map out where all of the graves are and what stones may lie beneath the dirt.
Officials also need to remember and properly notate the Bacton Hill area because it was a well settled free black community once upon a time. This needs to be done because otherwise this will all sink as a footnote to history that will be forgotten.
My husband spent hours trying to figure out a way to get to my elderly parents and bring to us to get them out of the city. To no avail.
He couldn’t get to them. He literally went all the way down to Columbus Boulevard and over to South Philadelphia and back up! I am beside myself.
I just got off the phone with my mother and she tells me that the building Cole Haan is in was burnt out on Walnut, TD Bank and PNC Bank were destroyed all those other stores were loaded and broken into. She’s not sure about all that happened to places DiBruno Brothers on Walnut Street (they did get looted) but everything around it was pretty much destroyed.
This crap literally came to the front door to where my parents and another friend call home and that is so unacceptable and also while all this looting was going on last night? Apparently although they didn’t see a lot of police activity, but they saw a lot of news cameras and people with phones recording it.
A partial list of other things I found of what has been looted and/or destroyed includes: Boyd’s , Brooks Brothers, AT&T, Apple, 7-11, Target, Macy’s, GAP, Lacoste, Old Navy, JCrew, Marathon Grill, Reading Terminal Market, UNIQLO, DiBruno’s.
There are many, many more. There is looting and rioting in the Northeast. Port Richmond is in particular crisis as I type this.
My parents are elderly. They live in YOUR city. I don’t feel they or my other friends in Philadelphia are safe. I never thought I would say that. And if you can’t get control of the city, we can’t get to them. HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF THESE WERE YOUR PARENTS?
I believe there should be justice for George Floyd. I had no problems with peaceful protests. But where is the justice for the innocent residents of Philadelphia and elsewhere who are the victims of the terrifying rioting and looting? Truly no one is safe right now. Doesn’t that worry you?
One good thing we can thank coronavirus or COVID-19 for is the postponement of unpleasant land and other development plans.
Accordingly, because the expanded Pennsylvania “stay at home“ orders now run through May 8, the billboard hearings scheduled in East Whiteland Township for April 27 and April 29, 2020 have been canceled. And rescheduled.
Today from East Whiteland Township I received the updated legal notice containing the rescheduled hearing date and other relevant details regarding the proceedings. The new date is May 26, 2020 and that will replace the previously scheduled and subsequently canceled hearing dates noted.
The hearing information is as follows:
Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Beginning at 7 PM in the East Whiteland Township Building
209 Conestoga Road
Frazer PA 19355
Please monitor the township website if you were interested in this or other issues in East Whiteland Township. The township website is www.eastwhiteland.org
I applaud the township for putting residents first and their health during a global pandemic. I also can’t help but wonder is this God’s way of telling us we don’t need giant electronically lit double sided billboards on Route 30 in East Whiteland, neighboring Tredyffrin, or other places like Haverford Township or Lower Merion’s parts of Bryn Mawr?
In 2009, lots of people (myself included) started going to billboard hearings in Haverford Township. And in Lower Merion Township. Sometimes we numbered in the 150+ per meeting.
We all also used to protest regularly. The two townships and their solicitors and commissioners were solidly with the community too. They didn’t want these billboards anymore than the residents in these locations.
My friends in small Haverford Township neighborhoods were the most imminently threatened, like my pals on Penn Street, Dayton Road, Lee Avenue, San Marino and more (there are multiple locations in Haverford Township, these were just the streets near me.)
However, my own neighborhood which stretched out behind Our Mother of Good Counsel Church in Lower Merion was potentially affected. And even worse? Where I lived was in a HISTORIC DISTRICT! (Which is why The Lower Merion Conservancy is alerting people to the court hearings beginning today in Media! It’s STILL a historic district!)
Then after a few years of attending meetings which seemed monthly if not more, my life changed. First breast cancer, followed by a move to Chester County, and I thought well at least I don’t have to worry about those ugly billboards anymore, right?
Phoenixville, Charlestown Township, West Whiteland, Tredyffrin now headed for county court, and a lot of them planned for East Whiteland Township.
I get that the billboard company owner wants to sit in traffic and look at his signs￼, but they are his signs. They don’t belong to the community at all. Which is why you see elected officials in Lower Merion and Haverford Townships still fighting for the residents and starting today, if y’all want you can join them in Media:
Also this week? The billboard company is doing a presentation at the Desmond in Malvern on what they want to do in East Whiteland. See this flyer (which I personally did not create but I am sharing):
‼️Is this Chester County or Las Vegas? Good question. ‼️
It’s no secret how I feel about these billboards. I think they’re simply awful. I don’t think they have a place in our communities. I don’t think they do anything positive for our communities. It’s all about somebody else’s sense of capitalism. And while on a certain level I begrudgingly respect their desire to make a buck, they shouldn’t do it at the expense of people in communities everywhere should they?￼￼
The media has not really picked up on billboards in East Whiteland. They should as it is just another in a long long line or list of communities facing the same company.
And why is it that these billboards have to be everywhere? Or anywhere? Let us not forget there are FOUR states in this country that do not have billboards and they seem to live just beautifully.￼ Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine—have prohibited billboards.
The protest photos you are seeing were taken by friends in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania yesterday. This morning I wish my friends who are headed or in court already in Media best of luck￼￼.
As communities near and far we are #StrongerTogether. #NoBillboards
It has been a crazy decade chock-full of so much. I wasn’t sure what my last post of the year was going to look like until I started looking at some of my photos of houses that had captured my interest and fancy in the past decade.￼
So in all of the houses I have looked at in this decade I have decided to remain true to Chester County today and give you my three favorites.
Ironically my three house picks for the decade￼￼ are not traditional 18th century Chester County Farmhouses, but three 19th-century stone houses of a certain era￼.
Loch Aerie on Lancaster Avenue in Frazer in East Whiteland Township enters the next decade with a guaranteed and brilliant new lease on life. She is being restored to her former glory, and will have an adaptive reuse that will ensure her place in architectural history for decades to come.
Old stone house Francis Ave, Berwyn, Easttown.
Next on my list is a house I was reminded of this morning. I know nothing of her pedigree. It is the great stone house on Francis Avenue in Berwyn.￼￼￼￼￼
My great friend (and Chester County historian and artist) Catherine Quillman and I stumbled upon this beauty in 2016 one fall afternoon.￼
We took a wrong turn somewhere after leaving Jenkins Arboretum and all of a sudden we were on Francis Avenue in front of this house. And before anyone flips out, we did not trespass. I had a camera with a zoom lens with me and I took photos from the street. This house captured my fancy for a number of reasons, including the fact that the stonework reminded me a lot of Loch Aerie.￼￼
I know absolutely nothing of the history of this house other than its 19th century and in Easttown Township . I think it probably has a name (possibly according to a 1912 atlas it appears it was maybe called “Rhydlyn” home of James G. Francis, whose sister in law I believe was famed local photographer Lucy Sampson according to census records from the early 20th century and according to the census she lived there for a while!) I don’t know if it is listed on any national registries or even a state or local registry.￼ I couldn’t find it listed anywhere. (I am told it is mentioned HERE.)
￼It strikes me as a similar vintage to Loch Aerie. I also do not know the current ownership of the home but I am told it is being preserved as part of some kind of a development. I am also told that the glorious slate roof is no longer which I can’t say surprises me because old slate roofs are incredibly expensive to maintain and it’s a lost art of the craftsmanship of roof building. There are very few slaters left.￼￼￼
My last house which captured my fancy a great deal in this last decade is the Joseph Price house in West Whiteland Township.￼
Here is a wonderfullittle 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 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.￼
So as we lift a glass one last time to toast a crazy tumultuous decade everywhere, let us think of our future and historic preservation. There are so many cool houses like this throughout Chester County from all eras of time￼.
Less development. More land and structure preservation and adaptive reuse. That’s my final wish for Chester County for 2019.
Please do not trespass on these properties. Either get permission to wander around or look from the street.
I got a comment into my blog today concerning the historic rotting house you see above. It is located on the Clews and Strawbridge property in Malvern on Lancaster Avenue in East Whiteland.
Here is the comment:
I remember when the now abandoned house next to Clews and Strawbridge was occupied by the Clews family (1970). Their daughter Sylvan was one of my closest friends. The home was filled with art and antiques, as Sylvan’s father, Mancha, was the son of a noted sculptor, and her mother Margaret ( a member of the family that founded the Strawbridge and Clothier department store), was a painter. I lost touch with Sylvan, but was somewhat amused that when I met my current husband years later, he was living almost directly across the street from that house, in Westgate Village. Now, I pass that house on my way to work almost every day, and often think about what it was like when the family lived there (and I wonder what creatures might currently be in residence, from bats to squirrels?)
This is another house that is part of Chester County’s architectural history that is just being allowed to rot.
Apparently in this county they can only build new these days. And isn’t that pathetic?
Many thanks to Abandoned Steve Explorations for the use of his gorgeous photo of Lloyd Farm in Caln Township.
Abandoned Steve Explorations took the glorious photo I am opening this post with. I am positively obsessed with the cool structures he covers. He was nice enough to lend us the use of this photo it’s part of an upcoming project. You can find him on Facebook , his website, and YouTube.
Lloyd Farm is haunting me. Part of a Penn Land Grant, dating its origins to the 1600s.
Then there is the 18th Century farmhouse with an equally historic 1901 addition.
What am I talking about? 1757 was when the farmhouse was originally built and 1910 when the Lloyd family commissioned Gilbert McIlvaine the Philadelphia architect to build a “modern” addition that paid homage and melded with the original farmhouse. Mr. McIlvaine maintained a home in Downingtown for many years and was also active in the Boy Scouts founding several troops I am told in Chester County.
Back to Lloyd Farm…except the people who have called it home or who had something to do with it are important to the very fabric of Lloyd Farm’s history.
From this form we learned quite a few things including that Lloyd Farm around or before the Civil War was a freaking stop on the Underground Railroad!
It’s just crazy and you have to ask what in the heck is going on in Caln Township? How long have these commissioners known the history of Lloyd Farm and why didn’t that historic designation proceed? Why wasn’t it pursued for a national historical status?
Did I mention the demolition permit? There is one. And what is with the date mismatch in that letter thing?
I don’t live in Caln. I do know amusingly enough like Lower Merion Township , it’s a First Class Township. But who runs the Township? Because it surely doesn’t seem like the elected commissioners does it? I know in Lower Merion Township years ago because I was part of it when the residents rose up after having had enough over the threat of eminent domain for private gain in Ardmore that we flipped half of the board of commissioners in one election.
And Caln residents are upset about this.
I want to know why the developer wants to tear down the house don’t you? Is this going to be like the death of Addison Mizner’s La Ronda in Bryn Mawr, PA? A case where a magnificent home was torn down for salvage just because someone could?
Caln resident submitted photo.
Look at the historic comparables in Chester County that are actually getting saved and restored: West Whiteland Inn, Exton. Benjamin Jacobs House, Exton. Fox Chase Inn and Barn, Exton. Linden Hall, Malvern (even if I don’t like some of what is being done it’s being saved, finally.) Loch Aerie, Malvern. The Jenny Lind House, Yellow Springs Village.
Also to be considered? Several Toll Brothers projects including in Chester County where similar vintage farmhouses and/or barns have been or are being saved. Now it is no secret how I feel about Toll Brothers developments, but if even they can preserve historic structures on properties they are developing why couldn’t the developer for Lloyd Farm do that? Or why couldn’t they contemplate something like selling off the farmhouse with a small plot of land around it to someone who might want to preserve it and live in it or something like that?
Caln resident submitted photo.
I don’t have the answers and every day I have more and more questions. This is one of those situations I just don’t get it. I just don’t get what is going on here. I don’t understand why this property isn’t more valued for the centuries of history involved here?
Our history should not always belong to the wrecking ball.
📌None of this is Angela Murray’s fault. Not the giant crane that hovers over the Cricket Avenue parking lot, its American flag billowing in the breeze. Not the 110 apartments rising from a giant hole in the ground. Not the upheaval for residents and business owners alike. Not the possible traffic congestion. None of it.
“People have blamed me,” says Murray, who’s been Lower Merion Township’s assistant director of building and planning for 16 years. “But I think it meets a need that was pressing.”….The allocated state money was supposed to go for the station, but when Amtrak balked at allowing apartments so close to its tracks, the plan—which included replacing some buildings along Lancaster Avenue south of the station—lost momentum. Meanwhile, the Save Ardmore folks filed lawsuits and protested the idea mightily. “Amtrak didn’t want people living so close to the rail line because it didn’t think it would be safe,” Lower Merion’s Murray says. “They were concerned about people throwing things out of windows onto the track.”📌
So….this is quite the piece in favor of Ardmore development. I don’t know who the writer is but my, he was sure led by the nose down a primrose development path.
I also take issue with the latest attempt at glossing over eminent domain in Ardmore. But then I also do not quite understand the article love affair with Angela Murray of Lower Merion Township, but perhaps she had a hand in the placement of the article?
Lower Merion Township can not unring the bells of the past.
Back in the day, as a member of the ORIGINAL Save Ardmore Coalition, Ms. Murray was awful to us. She was not nice, she was perennially unpleasant. However she wasn’t alone. You were either with them or against them. If you were against them, well then you were the enemy.
In 2004–2006, Ardmore’s business district was the subject of a hotly contested eminent domain for private gain battle. Lower Merion wanted to take a nice train track side chunk of land via eminent domain and give it over to private development- hence the private gain part.
A grassroots organization of which I was part of until diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 2011, the Save Ardmore Coalition, along with local businesses and other civic associations and civics groups, opposed eminent domain as a redevelopment program that would have involved the demolition of historic buildings, in favor of preserving those buildings for other commercial use.
In March 2006 after the previous election in the fall of 2005 when a large chunk of the THEN Board of Commissioners got voted out of office and the then new and improved 2006 Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution disavowing the use of eminent domain for the benefit of private redevelopment projects. The Ardmore battle was also instrumental in prompting PA to enact state legislation in 2006 restricting the use of eminent domain for private projects.
So that is the Cliff Notes version. Those of us down in the trenches back then were vilified and targeted. We were publicity spun into being resident and business owner pariahs by our opposition. It was really, really bad. All for defending what we loved.
Lower Merion Township have you forgotten? I haven’t.
Mind you this is not the first time that Lower Merion has placed Ardmore pieces that were glossy and glossed over things. May 2009 for the same magazine was one time and they even used my photo:
It hasn’t all been fabulous and if people point fingers at Lower Merion Township appointed and elected officials well shall we say it has been with good reason?
Ardmore’s largest handicap, is the fact Lower Merion Township as in the township seat, is situated there.
I am not commenting on the most recent past president of Save Ardmore Coalition or the litigation they filed in more recent times. It was sort of a horse is already out of the barn scenario to go after One Ardmore Place when they did. I did not think they would get the necessary traction and a positive result, and they didn’t.
But are they wrong?
I still think this development is a hideous mistake. I think their overlay zoning ordinance known as MUST (Mixed Use Special Transit/More Unfair Special Treatment take your pick) has been a disaster since enactment, and the development on and off Ardmore’s “Main Street” is ridiculous. You know, like the “mini” Target and whatever else is going to happen at the corner of Ardmore Avenue and Lancaster Avenue?
I think these developments will destroy Ardmore. But perhaps the only way for other parts of Lower Merion Township to survive is to lose Ardmore to all of this development?
The thing is this, I think for the most part these types of developments ultimately fail is because nothing is done in moderation. Nothing is done truly in concert with residents and/or small businesses. A good game is always talked, and with the case of Ardmore, Lower Merion Township is always trying to change the underlying narrative, but they can’t.
The township is responsible for this cluster F. They are responsible for the mistrust of residents and the like. They have never owned their part and their many, many missteps.
It’s a shame, really.
The other fault lies with Lower Merion Township voters. And who they allow to continue to represent them.
I loved spending a lot of my growing up and young adult to early middle-aged years in Lower Merion Township, but as an adult the bloom came off of the rose. And a lot of that had to do with all of the politics, development, and Ardmore.
It is because of what I bore witness to in Lower Merion that the pace of development in Chester County terrifies me….because I have already lived through the negative effects of overdevelopment.
And it is only getting worse because read the jaw dropping Main Line Times article of April 20 on what Lower Merion School District wants to do.
Lower Merion Township claims it’s brand as exclusive and well-heeled. I think the history books will remember this time as the cautionary tale of what happens to a beautiful area when development takes over.
Another post with a postscript, as I received a note tonight with photos:
📌Loved your post tonight, especially as one who lives smack dam in the center of the nightmare – Suburban Square neighborhood. You came to my house once, about 14 years ago.
Take a look at this, and please consider encouraging anyone you know who cares about fighting the blood thirsty developers in LMT to show up at the meeting Township Planning meeting this week to oppose the demolition of three quintessential Main Line Homes to make way for CF Holloway’s next apartment building – 4 stories and a parking garage directly across Montgomery Avenue from Suburban Square. I live in one of them.
Sale of all three homes is contingent upon Holloway getting LMT’s buy-in. Sadly, I think we both know how this will turn out. Here’s a pic of the building I live in on Glenn Road.📌
Wonder if the developer will cry on cue if things do not go his way like he did one time in Radnor?
People live in that house. It is in nice shape and it is lovely. But does the fact that people live there and it’s lovely matter in Lower Merion Township? (And by the way, the head of the Chester County Planning Commission lives in Lower Merion. And spent many a year on Lower Merion’s Planning Commission.)
Today’s ceremony at the ruins of Ebenezer A.M.E. on Bacton Hill Road today literally made me cry. I was so overcome with emotion that the ruin and cemetery are finally getting well-deserved recognition and attention. #thisplacematters , all 184 years of it.
When I got to the graveyard, people were assembling. Media, neighbors, passers-by who decided to pull over and stop, descendants of those souls buried there, a representative from the East Whiteland Historical Commission, some of my “Ladies of Ebenezer”, the Willistown Troop 78 Scouts, Luke Phayre the Eagle Scout and his family (including his mom Kathy and grandfather) , many local veterans, three member of the East Whiteland Police Department, WCU Student Veterans Group members, and Al Terrell.
It was so overwhelming to me, it truly was such a beautiful sight. It was indeed something I was not sure I would ever see and among other things I so wished Ann Christie had lived long enough to see this happen – which is why some of the Ladies of Ebenezer were there today – we had made Ann a promise because she truly loved the site and had tried for years before my interest to get to this point. We also felt today we were able to honor her, along with the black Civil War soldiers and other souls buried at Ebenezer. After so many decades of truly wanton neglect, these people were honored.
It was long overdue, but our very history is often such a cruel mistress.
Our ceremony was opened by Luke Phayre. He spoke about his project and thanked people who have been helping him. He spoke very well and is truly a poised and wonderful young man.
Captain Howard A. Crawford, USAF, MSC (Ret) who is the Commander of the West Chester American Legion Post 134 (Bernard Schlegel Post) spoke simply and eloquently
“We’re here today to honor Civil War soldiers…African American soldiers that died…[who] weren’t given the honors of a true [military] burial.”
His son played taps for the soldiers on a bugle. Veterans gave a military rifle salute, and if memory serves I think it is called a three volley salute.
And East Whiteland Police Department sent three representatives. These fine gentlemen came in full uniform and participated. I was so touched that they wanted to do this, especially today when they were on their way to bury a former brother officer who had served with them and passed away. At a time in this country when people are so darn critical of our men in blue – like those Bryn Mawr College students this week for example – I think these are the quiet moments that most police critics tend to overlook that speak volumes as to the characters of those who serve. Bravo, East Whiteland Police Department. Such a generous gesture on your own day of loss.
In a nation currently torn asunder by varying political factions and beliefs, those of us involved at Ebenezer are humbled by this kind gesture on the part of Chester County veterans and local police and others who believe in our quest to save Ebenezer and honor those buried here.
Today we saw people leave their politics at home and come together. It was such a poignant and beautiful thing to be part of the week before Thanksgiving. This is what it means to come together and be Americans. There was no race, creed, color, or political divide we were all just Americans coming together to honor our dead. It was so inspiring and true and good a thing. Days like this give us all hope.
Thanks for stopping by. Read the Daily Local tomorrow too.