Yesterday I wrote about the wrecking ball of doom hanging over a very beloved and well-recognized landmark, the Old Covered Wagon Inn of Strafford PA. Once it was a tale of two counties, and apparently at some point the structure got plunked 100% in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County. (Say, has anyone asked Radnor Township how they feel about this?? It is right on the border and they are always taking care of than intersection aren’t they?)
Today thanks to Pattye Benson I have these great photos to share with you. And a new post:
There has been questions about the exact date of the Covered Wagon Inn. According to Tredyffrin Township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey, the construction date is attributed to circa 1780. A team of professionals from Preservation Design Partnership in Philadelphia conducted the municipal survey documentation project, which surveyed and documented over 350 historic resources in Tredyffrin Township.
Interestingly in 2004, the Historic Resource Survey was given the Government Award by Preservation Pennsylvania. The project was described as “providing a usable preservation planning tool for a suburban township currently under intense development and redevelopment (in the form of “tear-downs”) pressure.” The award description went on to say that, “Tredyffrin Township Historic Resources Survey represents a model for the use of technology to document and plan for the management, protection and preservation of historic buildings, sites and districts valued by a municipality.”
The township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey was funded with taxpayer dollars and was intended to aid the municipal officials and staff in the protection of Tredyffrin Township’s resources. The preservation of historic buildings like the Covered Wagon Inn is a one-way street. There is no chance to reuse or save the building, once it’s gone. Preservation and restoration is the ultimate form of recycling. What is historic, and worth saving, varies with the beholder.
How horribly and sadly true. Not everyone sees the value in our old and historic structures.
photo courtesy of Pattye Benson and Community Matters. artistic filters applied courtesy of Simple Shots Photography: The Magic of Ordinary Days
When my friend Pattye Benson told me about what was up for discussion at a recent Tredyffrin Township meeting, I thought I misunderstood her. I thought they could NOT possibly raze the old Covered Wagon Inn located in Strafford on the corner of Lancaster and Old Eagle School. After all, it is one of the most rcognized landmarks on that part of the upper end of the Main Line in Tredyffrin, Chester County. It also is an ongoing example of adaptive reuse. No matter who rents or owns the site, it endures.
The last item in front of the Planning Commissioners tonight has personal interest – a land development application to demolish a building a construct a CVS Pharmacy and drive-thru. Summit Realty Advisors will present a plan for the 1-1/2 acre property located at 625/629 East Lancaster Ave. in Wayne. This property is located on the corner of Old Eagle School Road and Lancaster Ave – the Paddock Restaurant (previously John Harvards Brew House) property.
I have no issue with the redevelopment of this property, including the demolition of the ‘new addition’ located at 629 Lancaster, which housed the Paddock Restaurant. But … I have a real problem with demolition of 625 East Lancaster Ave, the historic building that currently houses Thos. Moser Furniture. According to Tredyffrin Township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey, the building was built about 1780 as a private resident. John Palmer owned a farm which included this structure in 1873, indicated on the 1881 atlas map. The structure was enlarged during the 20th century and was known as the Covered Wagon Inn. Well-known on the Main Line for fine dining and dancing, in its heyday the Covered Wagon Inn featured big name bands and performing artists such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington and their orchestras.
I personally also have no issue with redevelopment per se (although I will admit I do not see the need of yet ANOTHER big box of a chain drug store or a big box store in general) but like Pattye I have a HUGE issue with razing this historic building. The old Covered Wagon Inn has stood for 250 years. It’s a local landmark in use currently, means something to the area, so why demolish it? Especially when the Summit Group ironically was involved with a very special adaptive reuse in Ambler, PA as Pattye continues:
In a review of the Summit Realty Advisors website, there are many, many CVS Pharmacy development projects, including a similar current project in Media. However, in the midst of their drug store building portfolio, I discovered a very special project by John Zaharchuk, owner/developer with Summit Realty Advisors. Zaharchuk oversaw the redevelopment of Ambler Boiler House, the 19th century power plant of an abandoned asbestos factory. Working with historic architectural firm, Heckendorn-Shiles (a former historic house tour sponsor) of Wayne, the project redesigned the circa 1897 brick building, preserving its architectural integrity and recycled it into a clean-and-green office development.
Now…what to do with this? You see a major stumbling block is Tredyffrin, like many Chester County municipalities, historic structures are NOT protected (you know like Linden Hall and Loch Aerie in East Whiteland for two other examples?)
So what can we do? Quite simply raise awareness and try to change the developer’s mind. Can we do it Chester County and beyond? The answer is we can darn well try! The building is in good shape and occupied and has been basically continually throughout the course of time.
In less than 24 hours we have just shy of 500 signatures already on the petition (and growing!) and well OVER 1000 Facebook page likes and growing. Thank you to those who have joined us already and here is an invitation for any of you out there wherever you are to join us!
#ThisPlaceMatters so we have shared our early efforts with The National Trust For Historic Preservation too! In addition to the petition and Facebook page we invite anyone who is preservation minded especially when it comes the the old Covered Wagon Inn to take a photo outside the building with a simple hand lettered sign on a pie of copy paper that says #THISPLACEMATTERS and either post it on the Save The Covered Wagon Inn Facebook Page or post it on Twitter to @SavingPlaces @tredyffrin @TredyffrinTwp .
Also we are looking for photos of the Old a Covered a Wagon Inn throughout the years. You can send them to Pattye Benson directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on or message them to the Facebook page.
One thing that has come out of this since we launched the Facebook page is people sharing memories of The Old Covered Wagon Inn throughout the years. My friends and I in our early 20s danced many a night away at the then “Main Lion” . Here are some of the other memories:
“My parents met at the Covered Wagon! It was a family favorite…..for so many reasons.”
“I have a personal connection, it was the site of my wedding reception. More long term, my family, Davis’, have a long history in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County ,dating back to the 1600’s as shown by Graves in the Valley Baptist Church off Valley Forge Rd, Devon. Please preserve and protect the history of this area and this building in particular.”
“My mother took me to see Harry James at the Covered Wagon. She convinced me to go backstage to get his autograph. He must have been in his 70s but he could really play. Nicest guy you’d ever want to meet.”
“They can’t do it!!! Our Saint Katharine of Siena eighth grade graduation celebration was there!! It’s like tearing down Independence Hall, or Betsy Ross’s house. Buildings that involved very very important people and/or events MUST be preserved, cherished and maintained.”
“I remember the 70’s when Mt. Zion AME Church Devon had many Fashion Shows at The Old Covered Wagon Inn. It was gorgeous. So much history. Hopefully it will be restored.”
“The Old Covered Wagon was a frequent advertiser in the Radnor Historical Society Bulletin years ago; feel free to use this ad if you wish to post it.”
from the Radnor Historical Society
There is also another post on Community Matters you should read: