In February, 2018 I wrote a post titled will 2018 mark the year of history at risk at the ruins of ebenezer on bacton hill road, frazer in east whiteland?
Well I am back to tell you sadly, I think I am right. Ebenezer looks like hell. Again. I am done with trying to get people to pay attention and preserve and save this site. It is pointless.
I drove past Ebenezer today and the photo above is from 2016, but essentially that is exactly the way it looks now. Perhaps worse. I couldn’t stop and take a photo as there was traffic. Ebenezer has been swallowed by the green death of weeds. The old farmhouse across the street is pending the wrecking ball as the development which alarmed me due to it’s proximity to Ebenezer was apparently approved?
These houses are going to be right next to Ebenezer on one side. A concern I still have is a lot of us have always wondered if there were more graves on each side of the fences (See blue arrows). A new development right on top of this site of ANY size puts this historic site at risk, in my humble opinion. Which is why a lot of the conversations concerning any development anywhere has to also include protecting historic sites, right? And this site is fragile so what will the vibrations of earth moving construction equipment do? My guess is nothing good.
This is a historic site that East Whiteland has never seemingly wanted to deal with (except for the historic commission as they have wanted it better preserved only how do we get there?), and the AME Church always seemingly wants to pretend it never exists. (I mean remember that promise Bishop Ingram made the Inquirer reporter Kristen Holmes to check this all out quite a while ago, right? And what do you bet he never, ever did? (Sorry I don’t see slick city bishop walking through the mud at Ebenezer, do you?)
Anyway….I am repeating myself (sorry.)
But my post in February was noticed by a lady named Patricia J. Henry who was doing Quaker research on the Malin family (and it was James Malin who deeded the land in 1831 to the then fairly new AME Church.) She was researching East Whiteland Malins in connection with “some individuals connected with Valley Meeting burial ground as well as Tredyffrin area residents.” (I have a couple of emails I am quoting from.)
To continue…this Patricia emailed Bertha Jackmon the historian at the uber historic Mt.Zion AME in Devon, PA. (I will digress for a moment and wonder aloud about Mt. Zion as it looked like it needed a lot of love when I drove by earlier this summer. I have heard like many other old historic churches they have an aging and dwindling congregation?)
Back to my topic at hand: Ebenezer.
This Patricia asked them if they were familiar with Ebenezer. Bertha replied yes. (I laughed to myself reading the e-mail chain because when I started my Ebenezer odyssey years ago I went to the Pastor of Mt. Zion April Martin. Pastor Martin was super interesting and inspiring to speak with, but nothing ever happened back then with Ebenezer via Pastor Martin.)
From this email I learned that as according to Bertha that Ebenezer was “originally known as Bethel AME Church as stated in the Deed. A/K/A Bethel Bacton Hill AMEC and names.”
Aha, I thought, quite the light bulb going off. Another link to the AME Church that seems more tangible, no? As in Mother Bethel in Philadelphia from whence the Mothership of the AME Church was born? As I have always suspected? (You see I have never been able to find definitive proof that the AME church ever divested itself of Ebenezer. It was more like over time, they just ignored it as they have ignored so many other sites across the country, right?)
Then there was discussion of me and this blog. That always amuses me when these things get forwarded. Mostly what was said was really flattering. This Patricia lady thanked Bertha and said that “this should give me plenty to follow up with.” ( I never heard from this Patricia, although not sure I was supposed to.)
Bertha next contacted Steve Brown at East Whiteland Township and eventually me as well. Apparently with Steve from East Whiteland they discussed East Whiteland and this Bacton Hill development site. Steve also gave Bertha the court reporter information for the zoning hearing on the Bacton Hill development plan I guess it was.
So then Bertha and Pastor April reached out to me again. We had a nice phone call back on February 20. I will admit being snippy at first because well, they were among the first I reached out to years ago when I started this odyssey. And back then they made me feel like the teenage girl dumped at the high school dance – they just evaporated at the time. Or at least that was my perception….
Amusingly enough, apparently East Whiteland really did not notify the AME church of this plan because well, the non-existent mailing address for Ebenezer was (as in decades ago, right?) RD1 Malvern Pa, and ummmm… hey now it’s been a long time since there were any RD rural delivery addresses around these parts due to all the freaking development, hmmm?
East Whiteland should know the address of the church was/is 97 Bacton Hill Road. East Whiteland should have maybe tried contacting the corporate offices of the AME Church or Mother Bethel in Philadelphia, right? But government is government and if something appears abandoned, how far do you go on the notification process? Especially when no one has really stepped forward to say Ebenezer is their responsibility, right?
So I did then have a conversation with Bertha and Pastor April back in February. At that time there was limited time for the AME Church to file a zoning appeal if they wanted to go that route. I do not know whatever happened, because I had no standing in the zoning matter and zero involvement because I knew I had no standing (I don’t live over there on Bacton Hill Road and I am not on the East Whiteland Historic Commission), even if I worry about the history of Ebenezer. You need standing in zoning matters.
The AME Church had they chosen to get involved with their history on Bacton Hill could have possibly sought an appeal based on ground vibrations or perhaps the impact to a historic site and also perhaps for the basic fact they did not receive good notice of a zoning hearing and should have if they are admitting the AME Church still owns the Ebenezer site, so is that what the AME Church was contemplating admitting here? Since I do not think an appeal was ever filed would that be part of why they didn’t appeal? Because then they would have to admit they let their own historic site rot and go to hell in a hand basket?
Anyway, to the best of my knowledge the development of those houses is going to happen and Ebenzer is SO overgrown that no construction crew is even going to notice what is there except a seemingly empty lot. But I am done. If the AME Church doesn’t care about preserving it’s early history, why should I care? It’s not my Church, after all. I did not expect this development plan to stop, but I was hoping that for once the AME Church would at least act to see Ebenezer’s ruins were stabilized and preserved.
Yes, I am really done.
I have ridden this pony as far as it can go. My last hope was the late Al Terrell. But he is dead more than a year and no one is stepping into his shoes to get the site cleaned up. And that is not anyone’s job truthfully other than the blasted AME Church. And they do not seem to care.
So why should I?
Some day, I predict, in the not too distant future the only records of what was Ebenezer AME will be what I have saved on this blog.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
I am tired of expecting different results. I will post news as I get it, but I am divorcing myself from this. It’s too aggravating to care about a place that no one else, let alone the church that apparently still owns it, cares about.
History is important, but time is fleeting. I am sorry to the old souls buried at Ebenezer. I tried.
But I am done.
POSTED: 03/30/17, 8:17 AM EDT
Editor’s Note: This story is from the Nov. 30, 1964 issue of the Daily Local archives.
Connie Evans was found dead yesterday afternoon.
The West Goshen Township girl’s body was discovered by a Berwyn man, out for a walk, in a shallow grave just south of Chester and Berkley roads in Easton Township.
Police said the indications were the child was strangled….
Investigators said that the girl may have been slain shortly after she was last seen on Oct. 24. That was five weeks and one day ago.
The girl’s grave was about one mile southeast of the Easttown Township police headquarters, a mile directly south of Rt. 30 and a half mile north of Sugartown Road.
It was on the estate of Theodore K. Warner Jr. , a member of the township’s board of supervisors.
The girl’s mother, who lives in a tenant house on the Jerrehian estate, just above Rt. 29 and the West Chester bypass, was visited by Sgt. Francis Kofke of the West Goshen Township police force, last night….The girl’s grave was about 150 yards south of the supervisor’s home, near a large pine tree and in a fairly open area,” according to an investigator….The grave was 36 feet in from Berkley Road, at one side of a seldom-used path which is entered through posts of a wooden gate. A wooden fence which had stretched for some distance on either side of the gate has rotted away, and most of it is on the ground….Connie had left home shortly after 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24, her 15th birthday. She walked south on Rt. 29 toward West Chester, to meet on the way a friend, John Launi, 15, of 208 W. Gay st. West Chester, as she had done several times previously….The crime was never solved though a local private detective says she knows who committed the murder.
Yes I watch way too many detective stories, so I Googled . First of all, the article mentions the Jerrehian Estate. That means this girl and her mom lived on the old Sharples Estate in West Chester – where Greystone Hall is.
(The Sharples Estate’s Greystone Hall was the brain child of architect Charles Barton Keen who was the grandfather of one of my close friends. I also remember when the Jerrehian family was fighting the West Chester Area School District over eminent domain. In more recent time, people have been up in arms about development on the Jerrehian Estate. But I digress.)
I Googled some more and came up with a Find A Grave page for Mary Constance Evans. The Find A Grave page created by a Daniel Oh (whom I do not know how to reach in a timely manner) contained a piece by a private detective. Her name is Eileen Law, and I spoke with her this afternoon. I realized as I was reading what she wrote that I wanted her permission to republish what she wrote in it’s entirety, not just an excerpt. So I looked up her office telephone number and gave her a call. What an awesome lady! She gave me her permission so here we go:
On Saturday, October 24th, 1964, Mary Constance “Connie” Evans (her family called her “Conti”) left her home on the Jerrehian Estate at 1028 Phoenixville Pike in West Chester, (West Goshen Township) Pennsylvania at approximately 1:35 p.m. It was her 15th birthday. She formerly lived on Darlington Street in the borough of West Chester and attended North Junior High. She was to meet her boyfriend, John Launi, who was going to meet her halfway, and accompany her into West Chester so that she could buy a birthday present. Later, the two were to meet with her mother and aunts in town for dinner and a birthday cake her mom had yet to pick up. When John knocked at her mother’s door asking for her, Mrs. Evans knew something was wrong…
Mrs. Evans (also Connie) contacted West Goshen Police Department immediately. The first officer who responded was a friend of Mrs. Evans – Sgt. Fran. (He did not want his last name used.) He took down all of the information and Mrs. Evans was told that they had to wait another day before they could put the information about her disappearance out in case she was a runaway. Some thought perhaps she might have left to see her father in New Mexico and stay with him awhile. Mrs. Evans knew better…
A search team was put together and well over two hundred volunteers from law enforcement, Fame Fire Company, neighbors and friends combed a four square mile area. Blood hounds were brought in and tracked her scent to the vicinity of Phoenixville Pike and Route 322. Several private airplanes and two helicopters from the Willow Grove Naval Air Station crisscrossed the area for hours and reported seeing nothing out of the ordinary. Men on horseback, scuba divers who searched reservoirs, lakes and ponds were disbursed. Law enforcement set up road blocks questioning passersby to no avail. They all believed that there is no way Connie would have gotten into a vehicle with a stranger on her own volition. Further, many told me that she would have fought like hell anyone who tried to harm her.
A man named Fred, who lived on Phoenixville Pike and who was getting his mail that afternoon, called police with some disturbing information. He told them he saw a man who appeared to be half black and half Hispanic or Italian drive by who had gone off the road a couple of times driving pretty fast. He says he got a good look at him, and what was disconcerting was that this man had an “arm lock around a girl’s neck who had dark brown hair – like he was hurting her – her head was flush up against him so he couldn’t see her face.” He was headed away from West Chester on Phoenixville Pike just before King Road.
West Goshen Police Officers Lt. Tom Flick, Sgt. Fran and others, talked about a man they knew from West Chester who matched that description and whom they knew had been in trouble with the law. They also learned he frequently beat up his wife. They contacted West Chester Police Department and asked if they had a picture of the alleged perpetrator. They did, and turned over a copy to them. West Goshen put together a composite of several different pictures of various people with the same look, and then went to see Fred. Without hesitation, Fred pointed to the man in question and said, “THAT’S HIM!!!”
They learned that this man, although from West Chester, worked picking up trash for a trash collector in the Berwyn area. Lt. Flick went down to the company and picked him up and brought him in for questioning. I’ll call the man “Ef.” He brought Ef into the station and learned that he had formerly been arrested for child molestation and rape, for which he served time in Eastern State Penitentiary. Ef continued saying: “I can’t go back to jail again. I can’t go back to jail.” West Goshen received a call from Ef’s boss saying: either arrest him or release him. I have unhappy customers who need their trash picked up.” They released him…
On Sunday, November 29th, 1964, at approximately 1:00 p.m., 36 days after Connie went missing, Joseph Celsi, 37, an insurance underwriter, while walking his dog along Berkley Road on the Theodore K. Warner Estate in Devon (about a half mile away from the Devon Horse Show grounds) discovered an area where his dog started to dig at. He saw strands of brown hair protruding from this area where it appeared another animal had started to dig. He found a hand…
He flagged down a passing motorist who contacted Easttown Township Police Department. Then Patrolman Stanley Scott (now a Judge) and Chief of Police John Bunce responded. Patrolmen Scott examined the shallow grave right beneath an evergreen tree. He dug Connie’s body up by hand. She was naked from the waist down. The black leather jacket and the watch she had been wearing were never found. That night, Mrs. Connie Evans, next to her friend, Sgt. Fran, stood mute as he showed her the clothing: a blouse, knee length dungarees, undergarments, and a gold friendship ring. When he asked if they were Connie’s, all she could do was nod her head.
An autopsy was performed by Chester County Coroner Thomas Monteith and the cause of death was listed as strangulation. Further identification was made with dental records. Over three hundred people attended the funeral of Mary Constance Evans. Many, like me, had never even met her. She is buried in St. Agnes Cemetery…
Many people were questioned. Theories and rumors abounded, including one that a teacher may have been involved, or a police officer or a high profile official. Each department had their own theory. West Goshen P.D. never stopped believing it was “Ef.” In fact, they picked him up again, and questioned him. They also wondered where his vehicle was. Ef told them that someone had stolen it. Based on the information they received from the resident Fred, they arrested him for Murder believing they had enough probable cause. Ef went before Magistrate Meredith Cooper, who believed there was not enough evidence to bind him over for court, and he was released…
Sometime much later, an Officer from Tredyffrin Township Police Department discovered an abandoned vehicle which appeared to have been “torched.” They were able to determine that the vehicle belonged to none other than Ef, with a West Chester address. The address was on Miner Street, right around the corner from where Connie had formerly lived. “Mrs. Ef” who had two children – a daughter and a son around Connie’s age, told them she had been separated from her husband. He would go there to visit his children on occasion. Sadly, back then, none of the departments shared information. West Goshen was not aware that Tredyffrin found a torched car belonging to Ef and Tredyffrin wasn’t aware that Ef had been picked up for questioning, let alone arrested…
Like many of my friends and classmates, I became involved in this case when I was eleven years old. Connie lived a couple of miles away from where I grew up. I was told by my parents I was never allowed to ride my bicycle into West Chester again. Though I never met Connie, her school picture in the newspaper with a smile of what appeared to be a sweet girl haunted me. Even today, when I drive past the place she was last seen or her then home, I get a lump in my throat ~ just like so many other people I have talked with over the years…
When I became the District Attorney’s secretary, later a paralegal in 1971, I studied Connie’s file, vowing to find her killer. I met many in law enforcement back in those days from various departments, all sharing their own stories and memories. On December 23, 1998, Lt. Tom Flick, Lt. Richard Weimer, former Commander of the Pennsylvania State Police and with whom I worked as a Detective before, and Officer Phil (formerly of West Chester Police Department) stopped by my office unannounced. They saw a file I have kept on my desk all of these years with the label: “Connie Evans.” Tommy said, “How could you know anything about that case – you were a kid! I was the lead investigator.” I told him it had haunted me all of my life, and that before I died, I vowed to find out who did it. We all talked for at least four hours. I took copious notes, and we all agreed that we would form a team to prove who killed Connie. Of course, Tommy already knew. He just couldn’t prove it. We met frequently and unfortunately, Tommy and Dick passed away, Phillip who had come to work for me as my Chief of Security, retired, and I was left to do it on my own. Or so I thought…
Recently, information came to me about Connie’s case. I was told that the teacher in question had not only committed suicide, but left a note behind confessing to killing Connie, and that it had been turned over to the authorities within the past year or so. I contacted the District Attorney and several law enforcement officers from the various departments. None were aware of any such note. I spent days searching newspaper articles, pulling old records, talking to witnesses, old teachers and family members and going back over the notes I made from viewing the file many years ago, and the information Tommy had provided. I tracked down the teacher’s widow, and spoke with her, her sister and the teacher’s sister. I got to the bottom of how this rumor started and more importantly, how it snowballed and took on a life of its own. Each time it was repeated, most especially at class reunions, a new comment was added much like a “whisper down the lane” type thing. People just wanted to lay to rest unresolved questions desperately seeking answers for a young girl whose memory was forever embedded in their minds…
With the most recent rumors behind, I wanted to make good on my vow to resolve this case once and for all and, specifically, to concentrate on and learn more about Ef whom so many believed was responsible. Ef’s mother, from West Chester, had been raped by an African American man while she was married. She had other children before and after Ef was born. When Ef was in eighth grade, he had stolen money from his parents, and when he pulled a knife on his “father” that was the last straw: he was kicked out of his home. He lived on the street for a while, and went from home to home, and married a woman who was sixteen years old. I found their marriage license application for whom his wife’s father signed for her as she was a minor. They had two children who lived on Miner Street: right around the corner from where Connie lived. We believe she knew the children and their parents. Ef’s family had called him a “bad seed” as he was always getting into trouble. He had not only a juvenile record, but had been arrested for child molestation and rape and served time in Eastern State Penitentiary. Ef’s wife, now deceased, divorced him. When I pulled the records, she even listed the docket number of the Rape case in the divorce complaint. I was curious to see what address Ef had been served at: My heart pounded when I saw the address in Devon — it was exactly one block away from where Connie Evans body was found…
I learned through records, a police officer, Mrs. Evans and Connie’s best friend, that the day she went missing, she had started her period. It is our belief that Ef torched his car to hide blood and any other evidence left as a result of what was no doubt a struggle in that car. Yesterday, I tracked down and spoke with Fred, the man who identified Ef driving erratically with the girl in the car. He is 90 years old now, and says he remembers it like it was yesterday. He described the vehicle exactly like what had been found by Tredyffrin so many years ago. While there isn’t concrete proof that Connie got into Ef’s vehicle, we now know that she knew Ef, as he was the father of her friends and neighbor. She had no reason to fear him. There are so many other aspects to this story and case. I could go on for hours. I don’t believe it’s important…
Ef died in the late 1980’s. You won’t find his grave. He was cremated because his estranged family didn’t have enough money to bury him. His former wife has passed as well. So did another woman with whom he lived in Berwyn. I found and spoke with his daughter who told me she really didn’t know her father. She said he started drinking heavily in the 1960’s and became an alcoholic…
While there isn’t DNA evidence to confirm many years of searching and putting pieces of the puzzle together, Connie’s parents and those of us who have worked on the case over the years are satisfied that this can finally be put to rest. Next month will mark the 47th year she has been gone, but never forgotten…
I learned a few other things: for years, on the anniversary of Connie’s disappearance and birthday, West Goshen Police Department set up road blocks in the vicinity of Phoenixville Pike and Route 322 handing out flyers and questioning people with the hopes that they may have seen something. Sadly, I learned that Sgt. Fran was so upset and frustrated about the outcome of Connie’s case; he left the department and moved to Florida. He was instrumental in helping me. When I told him of my findings, he got so choked up he couldn’t speak and when he did, all he could say was “Thank you.” Lastly, I learned that as a result of this case and the impact it made on a young man who had volunteered on the search team to find her, he went into the legal field and has been a Court of Common Pleas Judge and sits on the bench today. He is known to be firm, but fair to all who come before him…
Mr. and Mrs. Evans wanted me to thank all of the people who searched for Connie, prayed for her, and more importantly, never forgot her. Mr. Evans specifically asked that this story be told to the news media to give people closure…
As for me, I’ve always believed that when Connie took her last breath on earth, she breathed new life in Heaven. What a life that must be! I’m cautiously optimistic that when I drive past the area where she lived, the lump in my throat will be replaced with a smile.
Detective Eileen Auch Law
President, CIA, Inc.
September 16, 2011
Saint Agnes Cemetery
Created by: Dan Oh
Record added: Jun 04, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 37913048
I know from Ms. Law that she has had people reach out to her since The Daily Local chose this particular case to highlight as a #TBT. And if you read her words above, if DNA evidence had been in effect in the 1960s, her case would be officially solved, and there would be no mystery.
This story of Connie Evans has had a profound effect of so many people. She is a teenager frozen in time ans space. A life just beginning when it was frozen in time by her murder. She could be anyone’s child. Her poor mom. Her parents were split up at a time when it was hard for a woman to be on her own, let alone raise a child on her own. Connie inspired Eileen Law to become a private detective.
These cases involving children are the worst, and even if they are adults when something happens, they are someone’s children. Like another missing person case that has interested me because it started in Lower Merion Township where I once lived – the missing person case of a nurse named Toni Lee Sharpless. (Yes, the Magic Kingdom does have a slightly sordid underbelly, doesn’t it?) My pal, writer Kathleen Brady Shea wrote about Toni Sharpless in August, 2016.
Back to Connie Evans.
Where Connie Evans was found – near or on Berkley Road in Devon in Tredyffrin is an area quite familiar to me. Especially since I occasionally photograph the old houses on the Tredyffrin House Tour for my friend Pattye Benson.
I never knew about Connie Evans until my friend who is a life-long Chester County resident messaged me the article today and said how her aunt, who was 14 at the time has never forgotten the story. Her aunt didn’t know her, but they were close enough in age growing up in Chester County and her death made an impact on so many.
What would Connie Evans have been like if she had lived? Would she have gone to college? Gotten married and had her own family? It’s so tragic.
It also makes you wonder what has become of the people who were her friends. What about her boyfriend who was named John Launi? How did this horrific event impact all of their lives?
Life is a gift. And once again after spending some time dwelling on the murder of Connie Evans today I am once again reminded of it. Love your friends and family.
The developers did not show up with very many copies of site plans. I do not think they were expecting a completely packed room which included people standing for the East Whiteland Zoning Hearing Board meeting on February 27th.
It was so amazing to see all the people turn out. General Warren Village and General Warren Village supporters did an AMAZING job.
And they had a powerful and unexpected ally in the room: Maya K. van Rossum, The Delaware Riverkeeper.
The role of the Delaware Riverkeeper is to give the Delaware River, and the communities that depend upon it and appreciate it, a voice at every decision-making table that could provide help or do harm. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network that van Rossum leads is the only citizen action organization that works the entire length and breadth of the Delaware River and its watershed, speaking and working for both its protection and its restoration. Delaware Riverkeeper Network has its main office in Bristol, PA and can be found on the web at www.delawareriverkeeper.org. van Rossum’s blog can be found at http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/blog/ – they have a Water Watch hotline and well, in an era of David vs. Goliath, they give “David” an edge.
Maya was an incredible addition to last night, and I will get to that later. (she is FIERCE!)
We did have one of the three supervisors in attendance last evening, which I found heartening.
East Whiteland also sent a solicitor to represent at the zoning meeting on Bishop Tube.
Here are some notes taken on the fly – so feel free to add to them or correct:
(NOTE: very abridged version of above – expert was speaking so very quickly and I don’t take dictation professionally so I did my best – I know I missed one of the conditions – feel free to add or clarify in comments. It would be helpful if media had covered meeting, but I did not see any media there at all.)
In January there was a follow up article in Daily Local about Bishop Tube:
Now one of the most interesting parts of the meeting occurred between Maya The Delaware Riverkeeper and one of the developer witnesses (some sort of engineer I thought). It was at the end of the meeting before they called it to continue March 15th.
I was taking notes like crazy and this one exchange was so interesting – I did my best to be accurate but again I do not take dictation and I am not a court reporter, although there was one there:
Maya: “I would have you speak to what in fact what is left for DEP to to review and decide upon and what process is still left?
Two – There also seems to be this suggestion that anytime additional contaminants are found that they are going to be cleaned up, and so this site is going to be cleaned up…and so I would like you to speak to this issue of whether or not in fact when you are done at this site that all of the TCE and toxic contaminants will be removed, so people don’t have to be concerned about it, or in fact is that not true and you have specifically and carefully with all your communications with DEP actually limited the scope of your remediation including not going to uhhh saturated soils for example, 12 feet below ground surface, etc?”
Witness for developer: “That’s absolutely correct.”
Maya cuts back in “You are not? You are limiting, you are capping how much work you will do and you will intentionally leave contaminants on the site and people need to know that.”
Witness “That is correct. Allow me to explain in a way that is no way nefarious…”
He (witness) goes on to explain liability and an old consent order (??is that right???) with DEP and state version of hazardous clean up – PRPs – potentially responsible parties. He goes on into known contamination beyond the scope of their legal responsibility – about how they will clean up so much and then it seems it will be up to DEP to enforce clean up by PRP potentially responsible parties that I guess are former manufacturing occupiers of site?
Witness acknowledges issues, discusses how developer will be doing more beyond satisfying their part of old (?) consent order (?) and will excavate three known soil contamination issues of the site above water table, excavate, clean up according to most stringent PA standard, residential statewide heath standard…acknowledges caused contamination of groundwater on site that migrates off site, affects tributaries of Little Valley Creek. They believe their soil excavations will have a beneficial effect towards clean up.
I do not think enough monies being set aside by developer to pay for experts East Whiteland may need to hire are much because experts are expensive – environmental lawyers and environmental engineers. Monies quoted could disappear quite quickly – those experts bill expensively, right? And what about any monies for future HOA? How does East Whiteland know if THAT is sufficient?
Other questions that I have include the fire department – as the plans are currently drawn up are there any indications from East Whiteland Fire Department about cartways and whatever you call them? Will all fire apparatus be able to navigate site? I feel that this is VERY important – it is not just abut emergency access from General Warren, but will ALL of their apparatus safely navigate the plans as currently available? Those big rigs need room!
A related aside – here are the LLCs on the developer side:
As I said previously, O’Neill knows how to do brownfield developments, but what about Benson Companies? I can only find Benson on Houzzz, no current website. No mention of Bishop Tube on O’Neill’s website so that is somewhat concerning and want to know why? Two words: Linden Hall. Remember when Benson was thought to have been the savior of old Linden Hall? If they received their approvals for townhouses at Linden Hall, how they were going to restore Linden Hall itself as a new office for them? What did we see instead? Wasn’t it selling approved plans to Pulte and no rehabilitation thus far only minimum maintenance?
And then there is the issue brewing in Tredyffrin Pattye Benson alerted everyone to. Historic Howelleville being their location for yet a total community destroying cram plan? And what of how Radnor residents feel about Benson? I have to ask can Benson actually be trusted here? Or will residents go through all the heartache and meetings to have these plans sold off to someone else?
I do not recall last evening that the developer’s attorney got into the whys of it all concerning WHY the developer is seeking zoning variances, so will it be the battle cry of “economic hardship”? Or, they can’t build without a variance which would increase density in an already dense plan? And why is any developer’s potential economic hardship a burden a community getting a plan inflicted upon them not by their desire in the first place?
This site is going to be developed, I am not arguing that. I have never argued that. But it is a very toxic site because of the TCE and whatever else was left behind and is lodged in the land, the aquifer. How the site gets developed has always concerned me and I ask again, is this the best use for the property?
What of impact on the school district? How are a few more hundred to potentially few thousand kids from this plan combined with Atwater and any other development large or small going to affect the school district? Has the school district weighed in on this?
Traffic lights proposed? Who is paying for that if variance is waived? The previous zoning is in place to help preserve open space or farms or industrial from being over developed.
And what kinds of complementary businesses will be added to the surrounding area to support these new homes? Will that zoning need to be changed too? What is it costing East Whiteland residents in legal fees for all of this now (let alone the future)? Will this plan be one that is truly economically viable for East Whiteland or become another millstone around East Whiteland’s proverbial neck?
Why always townhouses instead of single family homes? Lighting and noise? How will this development affect General Warren Village with regard to those issues?
I do believe that the Zoning Hearing Board is weighing this all carefully, but I would say that residents MUST keep up the pressure. Packing the boardroom last evening was a great start. But there is a while to go.
I have done my best to relay my meeting notes accurately. Others may add to them. Of course it would be helpful if the media took an interest. And it would be helpful to hear what development happy Brian O’Leary of the Chester County Planning Commission thinks? Does he have an opinion? He was around serving in Lower Merion when ROHO and O’Neill’s now defunct Rock Hill Road project came about, so realistically he knows a similarly dense plan THERE was horribly unpopular as was the B.S. developer driven zoning overlay that allowed it, doesn’t he?
And what of the PA DEP? Don’t they have an obligation to make the PRP (Potentially Responsible Parties) freaking clean up the Bishop Tube site??? After all the developer will not be responsible for all that should be done so why when discussion of clean up started here so long ago, it has never happened? Remember that Law360 article from 2014 in addition? Or the memorandum from the case that was in Federal Court over this site most recently? How is it a Federal judge did not get the gravity of Bishop Tube?
There you have it in conclusion – the worst part about Bishop Tube is the longer this goes on the more we have to ask ourselves how we got here and what exactly is the PA DEP going to do about it, let alone the EPA on a Federal Level? Or what about state elected officials? Duane Milne and Andy Dinniman? Duane Milne was all Mr. Press Release in 2007 but what has he done for anyone lately?
Where is Erin Brocovitch and Tom Girardi when you need him? Call me crazy but I think General Warren Village and neighboring Malvern Borough residents deserve the best thing possible with regard to this plan, don’t you?
Sigh…to be continued….feel free to leave comments anyone who was in that packed room last night.
Please do not misunderstand; I support economic redevelopment if thoughtful and well-planned.
I concur, but the sad truth is we rarely see thoughtful and well-planned redevelopment or infill development (are you listening or hearing anyone yet Brian O’Leary and Chester County Planning Commission???)
So the other day I wrote a post about more bad development planned for Tredyffrin Township. My main focus was Benson’s plan for Howellville (he’s the guy who said he would restore Linden Hall in East Whiteland if he was allowed to build townhomes, but all he did was sell his approved plans to Pulte who is still cramming them in on Lancaster Ave in Frazer ….And yes everything is Malvern now much like everything further west is Chester Springs even if it isn’t, but I digress.)
Anyway, there were a couple of other things on Tredyffrin Planning, including a cram plan for shoehorning in an apartment building on Chestnut Road in Paoli.
Wonder where this is? Here is a Google aerial view to help:
Paoli, as a village, was larger but similar to places like Ardmore with residential neighborhoods which were planned and existed off Lancaster Pike (Lancaster Ave). People still live in them today, and on Chestnut there are quite a few restored houses.
Tredyffrin like East Whiteland has no historic preservation ordinance in place and in spite of near losses like that of the Covered Wagon Inn (which if it wasn’t for my friend Pattye would be a pile of rubble), there seems to be no discernible forward movement in this area.
Chestnut Road in Paoli is still a neighborhood even if you also find mixed use and commercial in and around it. So what about these neighborhoods? Not fancy enough to save? What happens when all the inventory of starter homes and downsizing homes are gone?
This is why I have several philosophical differences with those who run and govern Tredyffrin and neighboring townships like East Whiteland. The zeal for development and ratables combined with a lack of real community planning that communities actually want mixed with a disregard for historic preservation is just a big problem.
Paoli’s orginal roots were 18th century and Joshua Evans’ Inn – General Paoli’s Tavern – named after a Corsican General Pasquale Paoli. General Paoli also inspired the American Sons of Liberty. Paoli is also famous for the Battle of Paoli/Paoli Massacre (battlefields stretch into Malvern as we all know).
Where we are talking about is not 18th century Paoli, but 19th century Paoli. 19th century Paoli grew out of the railroad. First the village grew with the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad, which became the Pennsylvania Railroad and their famous “Main Line” which ended at Paoli….you know why we still say the Main Line ENDS at Paoli? Paoli was the western terminus.
Paoli has quite a few small neighborhoods like this and it terrifies me that they could all just cease to exist through a lack of historic preservation and proper planning.
And the most terrifying thing of all? THESE PROPERTIES ARE ALREADY UNDER ONE OWNER which means unless stopped, this plan could move FAST!
This is where I let Pattye’s post take over, and I will join you for a last word about continuing issues in Tredyffrin’s panhandle adjacent to Radnor Township.
If a developer in Tredyffrin has his way, we are going to lose four historic houses in Paoli to make way for a multi-story apartment building!
Developer Lancaster Chestnut LLP presented a preliminary land development plan LD-03-2016 “Chestnut Road Apartments” at the Planning Commission. The application seeks to consolidate four parcels into one parcel for the development of a multi-story, 17 unit apartment building with 1 and 2-bedroom units.
The site for the proposed apartment building is Chestnut Road, south of Lancaster Avenue and is located within Paoli’s TCD (Town Center) district. Demolishing four 19th century homes to ‘make way’ for a new apartment building was not volunteered by the developer – but rather as response to a Planning Commissioner question regarding the age of the buildings.
I visited Chestnut Road to see where see the location of this proposed apartment building. Assuming the land development plan moves forward, the four historic houses slated for demolition are 35, 37, 39 and 43 Chestnut Road. Driving past these four houses on Chestnut Road, there are three additional houses which are restored and occupied.
A reminder, this is the way Howellville could look:
Tredyffrin, like neighboring East Whiteland needs to slow their development roll. George Washington sure wouldn’t want to sleep there today, would he?
Now the last word. Historic Mount Pleasant.
Mt. Pleasant is a historically important part of Tredyffrin adjacent to Radnor Township in Tredyffrin’s “pan handle”.
Because Tredyffrin also did not deal with student rentals for so long, this is also where student housing slumlords have set up quite the slumlord student rental shop, and well suffice it to say, the college students who rent there have historically treated an entire historic area like animal house.
I have a friend who lives there and the stories over the years have been appalling. Things like urinating on children’s toys in some someone’s yard. Beer cans and party debris littering the streets. Out of control parties. Residents being shall we say, intimidated?
As my friend said around 2009:
I would like Tredyffrin to take a look at the historic value of Mount Pleasant.
The Carr House on the corner of Upper Gulph and Radnor Street Road was built c. 1774. The Carr School was built in 1833. My house, according to the deed was built around 1789. 961 Mt. Pleasant Avenue was built around 1810. 941 Mt. Pleasant was built around 1860.
And what about the significance of Mount Pleasant over the past 100 years as a historically african-american neighborhood?
As was said in 2010:
The Mount Pleasant neighborhood is located on the north side of Upper Gulph Road, across from St. Davids Golf Club…. several unsettling changes taking place in their neighborhood – the influx of investors converting family homes into student housing, and developers buying and razing properties to build new housing…..
Another issue troubling many in Mount Pleasant is the amount of land that has been snatched up in the past few years by developers. The demolition of homes and clear-cutting of land are viewed as detracting from the history and character of this predominately African-American community.
One developer reportedly clear-cut trees and shrubs despite a development plan that spared mature trees. In the process, some private property was cleared without the homeowners’ permission. Another developer demolished a house at 958 Mount Pleasant Rd., leaving the lot debris, trash and weed-filled, attracting rodents. This mess has sat unattended for over a year.
The property under development at the foot of Henry Avenue appeared recently tidied and covered with erosion-control netting. However, at least three homes marked for demolition at this site continue to sit abandoned and a danger to neighborhood children. One is the century-old home (shown left) of revered community leader and civil rights activist, Mazie B. Hall.
Now this where I have always been puzzled about Tredyffrin. They have bragging rights to Mazie Hall since she lived in Mt. Pleasant. I think they named a park after her. So why not honor her 103 years on this earth by trying to preserve the community she fought for and called home? Every time I hear anything about Mt. Pleasant I feel like they are trying to erase it.
Obituary: Civil-rights activist and educator Mazie Hall dies at 103 Date: 2005
Suburban and Wayne Times
By Ryan Richards
Mazie B. Hall – educator, mentor, civil-rights activist, community leader and friend to many – passed away Sunday evening at age 103.
She was affectionately known simply as “Miss Mazie,” and until only recently she called the Mt. Pleasant section of Tredyffrin her home since her birth in 1902. According to those who knew her, Miss Hall left a legacy of caring and compassion.
“She lived her life and she lived it greatly,” remarked Kevin Stroman, a native of Mt. Pleasant and close friend of Miss Hall. “She was just a living legend; her legacy was how many lives that she touched, not just through education but personally.”
“She was an inspiration and beacon to us all through educational, civic, horticultural contributions to the Main Line community, and especially her beloved Wayne,” said Mrs. Arnelia Hollinger, a Wayne resident of nearly 35 years and former chair of Radnor Township’s Community Awareness Committee…..Yet, according to Rector, she was humble, not “stuffy,” and modestly talked about her life. She fondly recalled her luncheon visits to her Mt. Pleasant home, where Miss Hall was a genteel host. She baked a special dessert, Sally Lunn cake, a slightly sweetened teacake, reminisced Rector, serving it with the proper silverware and glasses. The gracious host also took her guest on a tour of the grounds.
“She showed me trees that her father had planted,” she remembered.
Miss Hall graduated from the former Tredyffrin-Easttown High School and then graduated from West Chester Normal School (West Chester University). Until her death, she was the university’s oldest graduate. The school maintains a scholarship fund in her honor.
She taught school for many years in New Jersey’s Camden School District. Her career as an educator also included serving one year as principal at the former Mt. Pleasant School in Tredyffrin in the 1930s. When schools in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District became segregated, she was involved in the movement for desegregation.
She teamed up with long-time friend Margaret Collins to crusade for fair-housing practices on the Main Line during the 1950s. Their efforts influenced the formation of the Pennsylvania Fair Housing Act, the basis for federal fair-housing laws.
Now I knew Miss Collins as I called her. I used to wait on her when I worked at Bryn Mawr Feed & Seed a million years ago. She loved to garden. She would show up in her crazy beat up old station wagon and I was the one who would wait on her. I worked there at that nursery after I stopped working in New York. I was totally disenchanted at that time by the financial services industry and decided to explore my passion for gardening professionally. (Suffice it to say working for the widow who inherited and eventually shuttered the business almost killed my joy of gardening for a while, but that is a story for another day.)
Miss Collins, by the time I met her was a very old lady like her friend Mazie Hall. But what a career they had. Read about some of what they did on the website Housing Equality Center of PA. Also the papers of Mazie Hall are curated and archived by Temple University, while her friend Margaret Collins’ papers are at Swarthmore College.
So sorry for going off on a tangent, but when I think of Mazie Hall and all that she accomplished, I think of Miss Collins. And when I think of Mt. Pleasant, I think of Mazie Hall.
Back to Mt. Pleasant. It still suffers from off campus student housing and now it also apparently suffers from developers who get away with crazy stuff. Like this photo I am about to show you:
Mt. Pleasant has been photographed in the past HERE and HERE. I am wondering if it needs to be photographed again? (Residents can feel free to message the blog’s Facebook page with any photos they care to share)
If you lived in a neighborhood of small homes, would you want this thing next to you? And how is that garage a basement?
Tredyffrin has zoning and development issues. They are hardly alone in Chester County with this as I have mentioned before. Developer driven zoning and zoning overlays eats communities one road at a time like an army of Pac-Men. Community input should actually be taken into consideration, not just paid lip service to. And these smaller neighborhoods like you see in Paoli being threatened are often representative of a community’s more affordable housing.
I am sorry but not sorry in my thought that people do not move to Chester County to live crammed in like lemmings in overpriced squished together townhouses and apartments.
Here’s hoping townships like Tredyffrin and East Whiteland which share borders, history, and apparently developers learn to hit the pause button before what makes each of these municipalities special is eradicated one bad plan at a time.
There are still some spots left for this lovely event!
Tea Party with Chester County Women of Historic Distinction this Sunday, May 1, 2-4 PM at Duportail House, Chesterbrook
The tea party will feature presentations from women of the past that either lived or passed through Chester County. The distinguished women of history will be portrayed by members of the Trust and Springton Manor Farm, both nonprofit historic preservation organizations. The historic characters include Rebecca Lukens, first woman CEO of Lukens Steel, Dr. Ann Preston, first woman dean of the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia; Hannah Marsh, who ran an Underground Railroad station and Marion Bartol, one of the last residents of Springton Manor. Tea party guests will also learn about Sarah Carmichael Blair, Indian Hannah Freeman and Ginevera Harrison Potts as well as the significance Mary Todd Lincoln had to Chester County.
Following the historic presentations, guests will enjoy assorted teas, sweets, fruit and savory sandwiches. And Spread Love is doing the catering, so this will be delicious and informative and fun!
This is a joint effort between the Trust and the Friends of Springton Manor Farm, a Chester County park. Several of the Springton Manor board members, including their current president Robin Spurlino, are participating as historic characters plus Judy DiFilippo (Trust Board member and former township supervisor) will play Mary Todd Lincoln.
Support historic preservation and do something very civilized this Sunday!
It was the Ann Pugh Farm
And then it wasn’t.
The property was idyllic. And updated. It was in short, amazing. But although historic, there was nothing in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County to protect it. I wrote about it twice, Tredyffrin Community Matters wrote about it. At the time both blogs took an enormous amount of guff for doing so. We were being mean and unfair and so on and so forth.
A quote from one of comment leavers on Commuity Matters at the time:
You are losing sight of the issue, is it preservation, or is it simply opposition to new construction?
I thought Pattye Benson summed up everyone’s thoughts who were distraught at what we felt was wanton destruction when she replied:
Not opposed to new construction — just support the preservation of our community’s historic resources.
And that is the truth. You can’t save every old mansion, house, farm, barn, and storefront. But we need to preserve more in our communities than we are. We need balance between the old and the new and progress should not erase our history. (Speaking of preservation, check out Savvy Main Line’s shout out for a preservation buyer for Chester County’s La Ronda known as Loch Aerie in this week’s column and news round up.)
The friend who sent me the photo of the Ann Pugh replacement today remarked that whomever built the house might still have their former home on Pugh for sale? I have no way of knowing, and do not really care but what I will never understand is living down the street from something that was as beautiful as Ann Pugh Farm and then tearing it down to make your mark on the landscape, can you?
The other thing I find so sad with all of this is the fact that in the two years between Ann Pugh coming tumbling down and today, Tredyffrin has not changed the way they protect historic assets in their township. After all, if they had, perhaps the Old Covered Wagon Inn in Strafford would not be at risk for demolition, right?
And the thing is that Tredyffrin Township is home to some amazing historic preservationists that are active and visible in the community. But when zoning and planning and ordinances don’t match up and the Municipalities Planning Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania do not match with a community’s desire to protect at least some of their history and architectural heritage what can you do? (The short answer is not much and you have to get lucky.)
I keep hoping East Whiteland will wake up before it’s too late. As a municipality they are facing essentially wanton commercial and residential development, and it is not necessarily what the majority of residents want but does that matter? The East Whiteland Historical Commission has made a couple of public utterances lately, but what exactly is there to back up what they are saying? Do they have a game plan? Or are they just beating their chests because they were awoken from their relatively inactive slumber?
Or they love their history and work to preserve it actively like East Goshen and Willistown? Like the beautiful and historic homes lovingly preserved in the Boroughs of West Chester and Kennett Square? Wouldn’t you love more preservation like Historic Sugartown, Goshenville, and Yellow Springs Village?
West Vincent is another municipality in the throes of development. There residents are worried this once idyllic township is disappearing one development at a time and where you used to smell the smells of crops and live stock, on a sunny day if you are close enough, you smell plastic. The new plastic smell of tract houses and development with no soul. In West Vincent residents are wondering what it would take to get the zoning found in Willistown and Charesltown townships and other places in Chester County where they wisely added lot size requirements to their codes in an effort to at least retain some of the open space if they can’t save the old houses and farms.
People in West Vincent are terrified over huge tracts of land like Bryn Coed. Bryn Coed is roughly twice the size Chesterbrook was amassed to be before original development, correct? And it is an estate in more than one municipality, right? So what happens if Bryn Coed gets developed? Or is it more like when? It is a huge amount of land for people to be caretakers over in today’s economy, so I am just being practical as I do not see it surviving and neither do most people. But what will it become? The new Chesterbook? A Bensalem lite?
And that is the problem throughout Chester County: there is not enough to save the history and barely enough to hang on to some of the open space. If we all do not come together in this county, what we love about Chester County will literally cease to exist. And what of the farming? What happens when you develop away all of the farms? Or add chemical plants where they once stood?
It’s a lot to think about, but we must. We have an opportunity in a Presidential Election Year to demand more transparency from candidates for every level of office when it comes to open space preservation, land conservation, environmental conservation, farming, development, historic preservation. Ask the candidates. Whether running for a local supervisor to Congress, to State House to State and U.S. Senate it doesn’t matter who you are, ask the candidates the tough questions and make them earn their votes.
It’s time to #SaveChesterCounty before what we love is all gone.