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Welcome to “Chapel Hill” on Devon Road  in Willistown….otherwise known as what Daylesford Abbey sold off a few years ago.

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our inconvenient history: duffy’s cut

DSC_1297I saw Duffy’s Cut today. It took my breath away. It is such a compelling story, and it is an eerie, silent,  almost sacred place. Yet it is also an inconvenient history, an inconvenient truth.

DSC_1171When I was little my one grandfather whom I called Poppy would tell me stories of how the Irish were persecuted at different times in this country (John Francis Xavier Gallen was Irish and born in the late 19th century) . When he was a little boy, my great grandmother Rebecca Nesbitt Gallen was in service and was the summer housekeeper to the Cassatt Family in Haverford. If I recall correctly, he lost a lot of family during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of the early 20th century, but I digress. Poppy would tell me of anti-Irish sentiment and tales of “Irish need not apply”.

My other grandfather, Pop Pop, would tell me of anti-Italian sentiment. Poppy’s wife, my grandmother (my Mumma), who was Pennsylvania German, would tell me tales of anti- German sentiment during both world wars.  And so did my own mother.  Yes, I am off on a slight tangent here, but for all that the United States was founded as a nation of immigrants, different sets of immigrants have been persecuted at different times throughout our history and even today. Considering the immigrant stock that runs through my veins I identify with this and am basically unapologetic about my views.

So maybe while Duffy’s Cut is one of Chester County’s most astounding and horrific pieces of history, can it also be said cruelty to various sets of immigrants is as much a part of this country’s inconvenient history as slavery and indentured servitude were?

But back to Duffy’s Cut. I heard about that from my Poppy as a little girl, yet we never learned about it in history class in school. Well one history teacher I had knew of it, but it wasn’t taught to us.

duffys cutI first wrote about Duffy’s Cut in 2013. I happened to be passing by the Duffy’s Cut historical marker at the time,  and stopped to photograph it.  Given the clouds of mystery and intrigue still surrounding Duffy’s Cut, I think the foggy afternoon was perfect. I also think that given the development occurring in Malvern (borough and East Whiteland) by developers who don’t truly give a rat’s fanny about the area, the history, or the current residents (they care about building and selling  projects) it is also appropriate to remember the history. You can never truly move forward into the future if you can’t honor the past, or that is just my opinion as a mere mortal and female.

I have always thought the tale of Duffy’s Cut to be a huge part of the history of Malvern. The Duffy’s Cut Project is housed at Immaculata. You can go see it.

The Smithsonian Channel has a special about it – called the Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut.

Duffy’s Cut is a big deal.  What was Duffy’s Cut? Most simplistically the mass murder of Irish rail workers in 1832 around the time of a cholera outbreak they were blamed for but most say in actuality didn’t cause.

 

DSC_1184There had been a cholera outbreak.  People believed the Irish bought the disease with them. They didn’t as the records for the ship would later prove, but it didn’t matter. Those 57 men (and a woman) were immigrants who spoke mostly Gaelic and lived in the shanty town created to house them next to the railroad (Philadelphia and Columbia line) they were helping create in Malvern.DSC_1340

These immigrants were different. They were “dirty Irish” and locals at the time were suspect of them and threatened by them. I am sorry that sounds awful, but it is an unfortunate truth. I think that and the murder of at least some of these Irish rail workers is why this story has taken so long to unfold and is still continuing.

For example did you know that there is an edition of a paper that was a predecessor (I believe) of the Daily Local called the Village Record.

The October 3, 1832 edition of the paper had an accurate telling of what happened down at Duffy’s Cut earlier that year. The edition of the paper disappeared. The only thing that still exists is the November 8th correction article. The more palatable version of events (yet how was any of it ever palatable or acceptable?)

So my friend and I met with Dr. William Watson at Immaculata today, and he took us to the site. I will not disclose the exact location of the site because well, shall we say, Duffy’s Cut still makes people uncomfortable. And modern day residents who live near this piece of history deserve to NOT be pestered by amateur sleuths and ghost chasers.

DSC_1289Dr. Watson and his brother Reverend Frank Watson became intrigued by Duffy’s Cut when they were given a file that had been in the possession of their grandfather, Joseph F. Tripician.  Their grandfather had been a secretary to Martin Clement, the 11th president of The Pennsylvania Railroad. Their grandfather had Clement’s old file on Duffy’s Cut. (And it was Clement who put up the stone monument  at the edge of the tracks.)

Part of the PRR employee Julian Sachse document from the papers of Mr. Tripician from Martin Clement. This image appears many places including where I found it Duffy's Cut: The Murder Mystery of Malvern By William S. Patton III, Spring 2014 (PSU.edu)

Photo courtesy or Rev Frank Watson and Dr William Watson –  Part of the PRR employee Julian Sachse document from the papers of Mr. Tripician from Martin Clement. This image appears many places including where I found it Duffy’s Cut: The Murder Mystery of Malvern By William S. Patton III, Spring 2014 (PSU.edu)

In April 2010 Smithsonian Magazine had this amazing article on Duffy’s Cut. You can read it online today.

And articles keep being written . Especially because Dr. Watson and his brother and their team have actually gotten some of the remains returned to family descendants in Ireland to be buried with other family members.

The world has taken notice of Duffy’s Cut and what happened there. Perhaps more so than around here truth be told. However, in 2012 an Inquirer reporter named Kristin Holmes wrote a wonderful article about the Duffy’s Cut workers remains which were given burial space at West Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Long-forgotten dead of Duffy’s Cut get proper rites

POSTED: March 10, 2012

When the bodies of the 57 Irish immigrants were dumped into a mass grave in 1832, it was a secret, perhaps meant to shroud a violent end.

But 180 years later, in a ceremony to commemorate the railroad workers’ deaths, there was pomp and fanfare.

Bagpipes, a procession, and a regal, 10-foot high Celtic cross grave marker were part of a funeral service Friday meant to give five of the 57 the proper burial they never had.

The observance at West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd was the culmination of a 10-year research project, known as Duffy’s Cut, to determine the fate of the workers who stepped off a boat from Ireland in June 1832 and were dead eight weeks later.

While most died of cholera in an epidemic that swept the region, researchers say some may have been slain in an act rooted in fear and prejudice….The investigation began in 2002 when the Watson brothers, 49, read a secret file that mentioned the workers and a mass grave. The papers were left to them by their grandfather, who worked as a secretary to the president of what was then the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad, and is now part of SEPTA.

The brothers began research that would eventually involve geophysicist Timothy Bechtel; the Chester County Coroner’s Office; Earl Schandelmeier, an adjunct professor at Immaculata; Janet Monge, the keeper of skeletal collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; and others. Project researcher John Ahtes died of a heart attack in the midst of the investigation….

The men from Donegal, Tyrone, and Derry Counties sailed to the United States and were promptly hired by railroad man Philip Duffy of Willistown. The mass of workers lived in a shanty near the tracks. The washerwoman served them. Within eight weeks, they were dead – of cholera and other causes.

Four skulls unearthed at the shanty site show signs of blunt trauma, investigators said. One has a hole that might be from a bullet.

The men probably were the victims of anti-Irish sentiment, the fear of cholera, and prejudice against immigrants, researchers say.

“Their sacrifice has been our motivation,” Frank Watson said.

“Their sacrifice has been our motivation.” How beautiful a sentiment is that?

In the spring of 2013, the New York Times continued with another part of the story: they covered the remains of young John Ruddy being returned to his descendants in Ireland:

With Shovels and Science, a Grim Story Is Told

The New York Times

Decades ago, just before the Pennsylvania Railroad was auctioned off, Watson’s grandfather — who worked for the company — saved key company records before they were destroyed. Among them were documents that hypothesized the location of the mass grave and reported the deaths of 57 workers.

The documents also clearly stated that the information was intended to remain a secret.

It was a “crazy coincidence” that the railroad company’s records survived through his family, Watson said.

The papers confirmed fears of a cover up. If the men’s deaths were due to cholera, why weren’t they recorded in a local paper, like most cholera deaths were at that time? And why would some of the bodies have been brutalized?

The answers remain elusive.

 

Have you noticed when you mention Duffy’s Cut you get many reactions/opinions?  Ok I get it. Some day the entire truth will come out….and I wouldn’t want to be related to people who either took part in making these workers disappear or the cover up which ensued. It will be like saying you are related to Benedict Arnold. Or a slave owner. And it is something else historically wonky that basically happened in East Whiteland. (Dare I say it? Has the East Whiteland Historical Commission ever opined on this? Participated in research in any way? Or just erected a slightly historically inaccurate sign?)

But it is part of our history around here.  And for those of us with at least partial Irish lineage, well, don’t you just want to know? Will finally learning the truth be so bad? John Ruddy from Donegal and the woman Catherine Burns from Tyrone have been returned to their modern descendants and buried in Ireland. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to identify the remains of more workers so that they could be sent home to their modern day descendants and rest in peace?

Fresh research and searching for the truth is underway. That has gotten a lot of coverage the past few months in Ireland, incidentally:

Derry Journal: Duffy’s Cut: Hopes that the mass grave of Irish dead have been uncovered

IrishCentral.com: Further testing underway at Duffy’s Cut mass grave of 57 murdered Irish

Irish Echo:Work begins on Duffy’s Cut mass grave

And I can’t forget to mention the television piece done by CBS3’s Walt Hunter this fall as well: EXCLUSIVE: New Search Begins For Secret Main Line Grave Holding Irish Rail Workers

EW DCYou will notice in the Walt Hunter report the incorrect verbiage on the Duffy’s Cut sign by the stone monument – by the East Whiteland Historical Commission. I mean I guess they tried but they state the wrong year (1834 when the incidents occurred in 1832) and the well wrong cause of death – black diphtheria, and the disease was cholera. The text of the sign is “Burial Plot of Irish Railroad Workers. Died Summer of 1834 of Black Diptheria- East Whiteland Historical Commission.”

Core samples are being taken.  Amtrak seems to be cooperating a little more (I call that a true Christmas miracle – hopefully that continues.)

And oh yeah, thanks to the latest Walt Hunter story Duffy’s Cut has even made People Magazine.  So what of other local media? Since it was the paper that possibly eventually became the Daily Local (Village Record, West Chester, PA) had that article that disappeared from October 3rd, 1832 how about an in-depth update from our local paper or any of the other Chester County newspapers?

Dr. Watson took us to the little museum at Immaculata where we saw the artifacts and heard the tale.  I also find it fascinating how many songs and musical tributes to Duffy’s Cut exist. (You can buy a CD of songs on the Duffy’s Cut Project Website.) But it was when he took us to the site where it hit home ten days before Christmas.

DSC_1336The site feels almost sacred and is so quiet except for the occasional piercing whistle of a passing train or a hawk overhead. Dr. Watson told us not only the tale of the workers but his tale of his grandfather’s file and all the twists and turns it has taken to get this far.

DSC_1248And as his words floated in the air around us and I gazed at a stone monument and surrounding woods, could I heard in my imagination the sounds of the workers? Did they just sort of float in the air outside of our normal consciousness? I am not being fey or deliberately dotty but when you stand there and you hear what happened to them, you can almost see and hear the past…and feel it.

We need to put this right. We need to support this ongoing project as a community. It is part of our history on so many levels, like it or not. We can’t undo what happened, but we can help correct it on some level by finally getting the entire story told.

DSC_1246And finally we can learn from this. Every generation in this country founded by immigrants fleeing persecution, we somehow as a nation seem to persecute over and over different sets of NEW  immigrants to this country. How is that showing the religious and cultural tolerance on which this country was founded?

As a society, we can do better. We need to honor our dead locally whether at Duffy’s Cut or  the ruins of Ebenezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road, or farther out towards Kennett Square and elsewhere where other bits of our history is disappearing whether it takes the form of old houses involved in the Underground Railroad, to all the abandoned graveyards that dot Chester County and the rest of the state.

We shouldn’t whitewash our history or pretend uncomfortable and horrific things didn’t happen. We learn from those mistakes. If you cover them up, as human beings we are then doomed to repeat them unless we break the cycle and face the past.

I have a bunch of photos from today from the site and the museum. I will get to them over the next day or so. You can visit the Duffy’s Cut Museum in the Library at Immaculata when the library is open. The actual Duffy’s Cut site is NOT open to the public it is impossibly located to do that, so kindly respect that fact because so many over the years have not.  People folly hunting for Duffy’s Cut only jeopardize the work that archeologists, geologists, and historians are trying to accomplish and that is not right.

Before I sign off, a big thank you to Dr. William Watson. He is kind of a big deal history professor and he took the time for us to show us Duffy’s Cut and tell us all about their work surrounding that. Educators like him make all the difference in how you learn and I think his students are so very lucky to have a professor with a passion for history like he has.

This has been a very long post….so thanks for reading through until the end and for stopping by.

DSC_1229

….and then like magic, the robo calls stopped

DSC_0014Election 2013, which was pretty much a local affair for us save some of the judicial retention that I never heard much about but was the flip side of yesterday’s ballot, is over.

The people have spoken.  And even the chairs of the respective political parties in Chester County should listen.

Let us start with Tredyffrin.  I am pleased to report the upset my friend Pattye Benson over at Community Matters is reporting this morning:

In a surprising upset, two Democratic at-large candidates Murph Wysocki and Mark Freed, beat incumbent Michelle Kichline (R) who currently serves as the chair of the Board of Supervisors and Trip Lukens (R), chair of the township’s Planning Commission.    In the middle District supervisor race, EJ Richter (R) beat Laurie Elliot (D).  Prior to this election, only 2 Democrats (Paul Drucker and Mark DiFeliciantonio) have ever served on Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors.  As of Election Day 2013, that number has now doubled.

I am leaving her tea party commentary out of this because that isn’t what the local election results are about.  The local results are about dissatisfaction and enough people from BOTH parties wanting people OUT of office.  I do not vote in Tredyffrin but if I had to guess as far as Kichline goes, her playing possum when Pattye was targeted by another supervisor had something to do with this vote and as far as Mr. Lukens it is a basic matter of development and what people want for their communities.  My hypothesis is simple: he did not listen well enough.

I volunteered at the polls for the first time yesterday in Chester County.  I enjoyed it and was fascinated by how different it was.  What I noticed yesterday as a newbie were the snap judgments I saw given out to people like me by some of the older volunteers because I am open with my opinion.  But if they had been targeted the way I was targeted as a new resident by a county party chair how would they feel about the way politics are done out here? And also what I discovered yesterday is to an extent political volunteers are to be seen and not heard and where are we in the political process without our individual opinions?  Are we all Stepford on this bus?

Part of yesterday I volunteered with some really nice union guys out of IBEW Local 654.  Apparently they were at many polls in Chester County volunteering for the Democratic Party of Chester County.  Honestly, these guys were nicer than a great deal of opposing party volunteers I have hung out with over the years.  They were so nice and made volunteer hours at a sleepy poll pass more quickly. These guys are Delaware County based for their union.

Here they are:

iew654 2

Malvern Borough had an upset yesterday and I am still waiting to hear what happened “officially”, but Malvern Patch shared some exciting news:

The county’s numbers have Democratic candidate for Mayor, Dave Burton, beating incumbent Gerard McGlone (R). Burton received 65 percent of the vote, 509 votes in all, nearly doubling the 266 votes received in favor of McGlone.

The three open seats on the Malvern Borough Council, however, are a little less cut-and-dry.

The three republican candidates, William Macaleer, Robert Coughlin and Zeyn Uzman all received about 210 votes, or 11 roughly 11 percent of the vote. The remaining 68 percent of the vote went to write-in candidates, 1,351 votes in all. This is no doubt due to the write-in campaigning done by candidates Todd Lexer, David Barmwell and Matt Radano

 

Now as far as I know this blog was the only one who actually reported on these three write in candidates before Election Day (please correct me if I am wrong but I kept looking and looking for coverage of what these ordinary residents were doing), and I hope they ALL prevail in the end when Chester County is finished certifying everything.

Why the Malvern write-in upset is so important is these are regular people who did this without the backing of the two main political parties.  Their actions are based on their desire to step up and be counted.  Their actions occurred because they want to save Malvern Borough from an ugly, overdeveloped future.  These three guys Todd Lexer ,Matt Radano  and David Bramwell decided that the residents of Malvern needed an equal voice in their own existence and future and they stood up to be counted.

I completely believe that the actions of the write-in candidates also swept the new mayor-elect into office.

What has happened in Malvern is really cool.  Instead of just complaining, these folks did something.  And truthfully, they proved local politics are truly local and neither political party can take credit.  They did this themselves.

Over in East Whiteland I expect there will be a recount.  I am told that  Vanguard employee Bill Holmes has retained his seat by NINE or TEN votes over my friend Maureen Martinez.

Maureen should be commended for running a clean and independent campaign.  Maureen didn’t run around with a sidewalk petition for a sidewalk to nowhere that probably will never happen and was just an election gimmick, nor did she have the multi-minute robo-calls bashing her opponent that you could not disconnect. She did her own door knocking and listened to what people had to say and answered questions.  I think she is a rising political star to watch.

With reluctant congratulations, I hope Bill Holmes gets the message that voters have sent him in East Whiteland.  The message is simple and clear and it is that  they want things done differently.  I listened to what people from both parties had to say yesterday at the polls and this is what I learned people want:

  • They want televised meetings and a website that is not 30 years behind the times. 
  • They want current and comprehensive meeting notes that are readily and easily available because I am told the majority of residents in East Whiteland don’t have a clue about a lot that happens.
  • They want abandoned houses and properties dealt with and some better historic preservation
  • They want the route 30 business corridor to not look so embarrassing.
  • They want all the sites with problematic environmental issues cleaned up and dealt with.
  • They want a say in development. East Whiteland might be more commercial than residential, but residents matter.
  • They want fewer conflicts.

Nine or ten votes is not a landslide victory even in a sleepy off-year election.  It’s a message.

In West Chester the upset on the school board is nothing save historic.  Congratulations to Joyce Chester and the rest of her slate. Here is the Daily Local on that race:

WEST CHESTER — The self-styled “better direction” slate of challengers for West Chester Area School Board defeated three incumbents and one other candidate in voting Tuesday.

Using the Democratic Party label, the four challengers defeated Republican Party candidates, including three incumbents.

Joyce Chester, Robin Kaliner, Chris McCune and Ricky Swalm are the four Democratic candidates who unseated incumbent board members Sean Carpenter, Ed Coyle and Maria Pimley and defeated newcomer Pam LaTorre.

 

In the Court of Common Pleas, the Daily Local is calling the race in favor   Republicans Patrick Carmody and Jeffrey Sommer.

Troubled Coatesville has two new school board members, too bad they couldn’t have tossed the entire old board out.

west vincentWest Vincent I reported on last night and congratulations to John Jacobs and the others!  These candidates had a tough road to get here and they worked hard.  Will next up be to retire Ken Miller?

Congratulations also to my favorite purveyor of local honey.  Carmen  Battavio was re-elected in East Goshen. Congrats also go out to a favorite local farmer.  Farmer Bob a/k/a Robert Lange was re-elected in Willistown. These two should teach other supervisors how it’s done.

Yesterday I was reminded again of how local politics should stay local.

I am happy that robo-call season is over and it is nice that life less political can resume!  Truthfully I do not have the stomach or tolerance for politics that I used to.

 

 

 

 

malvern’s hulking development

malvern-2Focus on Malvern Borough continues.  The past couple of weeks I have been through Malvern Borough a lot.  Just the luck of the draw. But driving up King  past the “magnificence” being created by Eli Kahn and David DellaPorta is enough to give me nightmares.

This development which they are pretentiously calling Eastside Flats is unimaginative and looks like hulky, looming Lego buildings that are creating a complete canyon effect in tiny Malvern.

Of course on their  artist renderings it is a veritable Vahalla with sweeping land and streetscapes.  The reality is the street is narrow and at night it is the same canyon effect and feel that you get on dark streets in downtown Manhattan…only this is Chester County.

rendering

There is nothing about what is being built that truly ties into the quaint Borough of Malvern.  The horse is out of the barn, so no bells can be un-rung, but lordy is what is being constructed ugly with a capital U. And I can’t wait to say I told you so on the parking. I predict it will be a problem upon completion.  It looks like a problem now but I am just a mere mortal and a female. I feel sorry for any house or pre-existing small business that has to exist with this development.

malvern 4

And oh yes, the Whip has bailed so there is no cute anchor restaurant at present:

The Whip Owner Cites Design Flaws in East King Decision

‘We were really excited about Malvern,’ said tavern owner Casey Kulp, who last year had considered moving into the borough.

By Pete Kennedy Email the author March 11, 2013

malvern 3

The owner of The Whip Tavern in Unionville said design shortcomings were behind his decision to cancel plans to open a second location on Malvern’s East King Street.

In a phone interview, Casey Kulp cited an insufficient kitchen ventilation system as one of the reasons he decided against opening in Malvern, after expressing interest in the idea in 2012….

In a recent interview, Kahn declined to comment on the circumstances of the change in The Whip’s plans.

Kulp said he thinks they’ll have a difficult time getting restaurants into the space

And speaking of restaurants, what is the deal with parking at The Great American Pub at 516 King Street in Paoli?  As in how do they have sufficient parking? We almost went there last week for a quick bite to eat but opted against it because the only place to park was in that small neighborhood adjoining the restaurant and we did not want to take up residents’ parking at dinner time.

What municipality is that in?  Willistown? Wow they sure approach things in a very interesting manner don’t they?  They deny Woodlawn a business expansion in an existing structure on their property with ample parking yet they allow The Great American Pub to act like a bar leech and take all parking of a small neighborhood? The parking is a hot mess and I wonder exactly where the valets are dumping cars, don’t you?

Circling back to the original topic, one more article on Malvern’s development atrocity. Somewhat of a fluffy article from the Inquirer that buys David DellaPorta’s New Urbanism Fairy Tale hook line and sinker. (He has been spouting it for years every time he proposes anything.)  Malvern isn’t the town time forgot, it is a little borough that has a borough council that was dumb enough to think supersizing will fix all woes. Urbanization of exurbia.  Oh yeah, so fabulous because we all want to live in the inner city, right?  They are just doing suburban sprawl of a different kind.

Malvern apartment complex nears completion after 10 years in the works

By Aubrey Whelan, Inquirer Staff Writer

Posted: February 05, 2013

The developer calls Malvern “the town that time forgot” – its main street lined with Victorian-style houses, small boutiques, and local watering holes like the Flying Pig Saloon.

But Eli Kahn and his partners are betting that a $45 million apartment and retail complex on East King Street will help satisfy urban appetites in one of the region’s most venerable suburbs – and entice empty nesters and young professionals looking for a citified environment outside the city.

Construction on the East King Street redevelopment project began in June and includes two large apartment buildings with 190 units, plus first-floor retail space that Kahn envisions renting to restaurants, coffee shops, and boutiques. The complex, due for completion in August, also is to house a Whole Foods grocery.

Kahn and his partner, David Della Porta, spent several years buying 11 parcels on the site, and the project has been a decade in the making. A house on one small parcel remains because an elderly resident didn’t want to leave her home and declined to sell, Kahn said.

Kahn said developments such as his – projects that emphasize urbanization over suburban sprawl – could be the wave of the future in the region…

On Thursday, Kahn sidestepped mud puddles and several employees in hard hats as the wind whipped around the corner of the almost-completed apartment complex. Construction was slightly behind schedule because of a cold snap followed by windy weather, but Kahn was optimistic.

“This has been a 10-year journey,” he said. “It’s incredibly satisfying, to add to a little town like Malvern. It’s exciting.”

This development in Malvern has never in my humble opinion really been about the town of Malvern.  If this was really about the town, the design would have been more complimentary.  This project is all about developer pork and profit.  Let’s not delude ourselves to the contrary. What will eventually happen here is people will start to avoid going through Malvern like they are starting to avoid going through Ardmore, Bryn Mawr, and even Wayne because of a lack of parking and congestion.

no apples growing there, that’s for sure

OMG so sick of Toll! They are creating Barbie’s Plastic Dream Villages all over Chester County! And you can’t get traffic lights or directional arrows on existing lights where you need them, but Bryn Mawr Rehab gets a traffic light???

Yes indeed, much to the dismay of many, Toll Brothers got conditional approval from those ratable loving supervisors in Willistown to build more Applebrook Meadows (where are the apple trees incidentally?)

Yes, yes indeed…because you know Chester County won’t survive if Toll doesn’t add 53 more plastic homes. And as noted before, this is nothing compared to all the other Barbie’s Dream Villages they are planning for other parts of Chester County….

Once open space and farmland is gone, it’s gone.  And I still do not understand how it is the economy supports ALL this development?  After all it is not like there is not an ample housing supply is there?

Applebrook Meadows Phase II Gets Conditional Approval

The second stage of the Toll Brothers project will add 53 new homes in Willistown Township.

By Pete Kennedy Malvern Patch

The Willistown Township Board of Supervisors gave conditional land use approval to Toll Brothers to build 53 new homes in the second phase of the Applebrook Meadows development….Applebrook Meadows, located near Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital off Line Road, will eventually include 138 units in three phases. In 2011, the township approved the first phase of the development, which included 54 homes….Shoemaker, responding to a question from a resident, explained that there will be a new traffic light on Paoli Pike at the driveway to Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, which will be installed by PennDOT. Shoemaker also serves on the township Planning Commission

 

(Please note my photo is of plastic houses farther out in Chester County, not Applebrook.  I was merely trying to make a visual point of the McPlasticness of it all)

 

a community garden grows

This post isn’t about Chester County.  It’s actually about something going on in Radnor Township. 

It’s about a community garden.

And that’s a good thing.

A few years ago, a group called Greener Partners showed up and asked Radnor if they could farm some public land at the Willows at Skunk Hollow.  At the time, I thought this was a mistake, because they were farming the land for their pricey subscription CSA – their shares were around $700 – $800 per family if memory serves.

I had tried them on for size with friends one of the first years they existed and the share was $500 for the season. And we spent most of the season NOT getting the produce that was on our produce list.   I mean I like Bok Choy and all, but when I got a list saying I was getting specific veggies and I would get 3 giant heads of Bok Choy instead, it got old fast.

Skunk Hollow at the Willows Summer 2010 (Greener Partners on site)

Greener Partners, was able to use 2 acres of land at the Willows and to use the Willows Cottage in essence for free or darn close to it. It went under the guise of Saving The Willows Cottage, but for free use of township, therefore public taxpayer owned land for in essence a private enterprise kind of smelled.  I thought it should be at least in part a community garden where people could have shares.  Instead it was an odd kind of arrangement, complete with housing their farmer close by.  Yes, their farmer.  And all the farmer did was complain.  Was the farmer really a slacker?  Not sure, but under his farmitude, the Skunk Hollow Farm was a weed pit (see photo I took in 2010 at right – those weren’t veggies, those were weeds.)

Around this time (or maybe slightly earlier) Greener Partners was also out in Willistown – again on in essence non-profit land.  Don’t know whatever happened there. In 2011 CSA shares at Greener Partners were $750.  Pricing is similar for 2012.  They seem to be out of Chester County and seen to have crept over to the other side of Montgomery County around Collegeville and they are still around Media.    Save your money with these people.  I believe in organic farming and CSAs and farm markets, but not these people.  Greener Partners was founded by a guy named Jason Ingle, whom I believe is also a former venture capitalist. He was part of that Radnor Hunt area dust-up a few years ago with M. Night Shyamalan and his fencing.  I at least agreed with that.

So why am I telling you about these days gone by?  To set the stage.  Last summer, Skunk Hollow at the Willows was a shambles.  Weeds and thistle and all sorts of stuff had invaded the 2 acres left at this point utterly untended save a few pathetic tomato plants.  It was amazing the disarray.  I mean even if Greener Partners was leaving, they should have in my opinion left the land at least tidy.  If you are even a temporary steward of public land, treat it with respect, right?

So one of my friends, Sara Pilling, a wonderful lady and talented gardener had an idea.  So she planned and measured and drew up plans….for a community garden in Radnor on the site of Skunk Hollow Farm at the Willows.  I used to hear about the plans for the garden when she took turns with my other friends driving me to radiation treatments for breast cancer.

So to speed the story up, Sara got approved for the garden (see YouTube below from Radnor Patch )

Shares of the garden new for 2012 went fast.  So now Sara and many other volunteers and future community gardeners are hard at work.  They have cleared the weeds and been working diligently.  What a bunch of volunteers have already accomplished versus what Greener Partner’s farmer and Greener Partners was supposed to have done at the Willows is amazing. And there is a new sense of community being fostered along with this garden.

(Sara also founded Common Ground community garden in Garrett Hill at Radnor United Methodist Church.)

Sara is a very modest person, a true Quaker and hates when she gets public props.  But I am going to do it anyway.  I have learned a lot from my friend and I am proud of her and the volunteers who have now brought two community gardens to Radnor Township.  (Read all about it in Main Line Media News today too.)  

I think this is something other municipalities should pay attention to and create within their own borders.  Especially out here in Chester County.  I have seen some small community looking gardens here and there, but I think this is something municipalities should encourage and should also sponsor these gardens.  Not pay for them, but to allow the space if there is an interest.  It is a good thing economically, and surplus can go to local food banks.

Of course one other thing that community gardens accomplish is that they literally build community.  That in and of itself, considering the world in which we live, is priceless.

Besides, digging in the dirt is just good for the soul.   I did some of that today myself.

AQUA Coming To Willistown Starting March 5th

I *hate* utility company surprises and I know from experience they often neglect to inform people, so I thought I would pass this on from Malvern Patch:

Dear Customer,

As part of our continuing infrastructure improvement program, Aqua  Pennsylvania will install a new water main on the following streets in  Willistown Township, Chester County:

  • Greentree Lane between Third Avenue and Sandy Lane
  • Sandy Lane between Paoli Pike and Greentree Lane
  • Third Avenue between Sandy Lane and Greentree Lane

The $317,000 project is scheduled to begin the week of March 5, 2012  and will involve the isntallation of 2,381 feet of 8-inch ductile iron  main, replacing the existing 6-inch cast iron main. We expect the main  installation and individual service connections to be complete in June  of 2012. The final paving restoration will be completed in July of 2012.

 

The work hours for the project will be 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.  The roadway will be closed in the area of construction. Access will be  provided for essential services including emergency vehicles, school  buses, and mail and trash service. Residents will have access to their  properties.

We ask that you avoid traveling through the construction zone when possible. Temporary “No Parking” signs will be posted in the area of construction during working hours.

We will notify you 24-hours in advance of a scheduled shutdown. If an emergency shutdown should occur, we will restore service as soon as possible.

If you have any questions or concerns during the project, please  contact our Superintendent of Construction, Michael Fili at  610.430.0747. Should you have an emergency, please contact our Customer  Service Department at 1.877.WTR.AQUA.

 

Thank you in advance for your cooperation throughout the project.

Sincerely,

Mark Heavener Manager Great Valley Division

If they use Utility Line Services as the subs on the job, watch them.   The other subcontractor companies like Danella aren’t so bad, but I got  stories on stories about Utility Line Services.  If you have problems, feel free to leave a comment and location and your friendly neighborhood Chester County Blogger will pass your concerns on…..this is a long project and the thing that drives me the most bananas are the gopher-like tunnels of cold patch.  They are hell on car suspensions, and if they sink, hell on tires.

The typo in the AQUA announcement is not mine.  I left it in for amusment factor purposes….