Developers propose demolition of 18th century Covered Wagon Inn in Strafford

Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission has a full agenda for their first meeting of 2016 tonight (7 PM, Tredyffrin Township building). The list of Items include a preliminary/final development application for the redevelopment and expansion of the long vacant Paoli Diner (Dany’s Diner, Pizzeria Uno) property as a Nemours medical office.

Developers will present a subdivision application to consolidate four lots on East Conestoga Road in Wayne to create one new parcel. The proposed land development plan on the property is the construction of Brightview Senior Living, a five-story building with 156 beds.  The four properties (293, 301, 309 and 319) are located behind Toppers Spa, across from Nudy’s Restaurant.  That section of East Conestoga Ave. angling off of Lancaster Ave. is narrow, congested and difficult to maneuver – this proposed plan is going to need road improvement/driver visibility requirements.

The last item in front of the Planning Commissioners tonight has personal interest – a land development application to demolish a building a construct a CVS Pharmacy and drive-thru.   Summit Realty Advisors will present a plan for the 1-1/2 acre property located at 625/629 East Lancaster Ave. in Wayne.  This property is located on the corner of Old Eagle School Road and Lancaster Ave – the Paddock Restaurant (previously John Harvards Brew House) property.

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I have no issue with the redevelopment of this property, including the demolition of the ‘new addition’ located at 629 Lancaster, which housed the Paddock Restaurant. But … I have a real problem with demolition of 625 East Lancaster Ave, the historic building that currently houses Thos. Moser Furniture. According to Tredyffrin Township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey, the building was built about 1780 as a private resident. John Palmer owned a farm which included this structure in 1873, indicated on the 1881 atlas map.  The structure was enlarged during the 20th century and was known as the Covered Wagon Inn.  Well-known on the Main Line for fine dining and dancing, in its heyday the Covered Wagon Inn featured big name bands and performing artists such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington and their orchestras.

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Last fall, I had a discussion with a township planning commissioner about this property and the possible redevelopment project.  At the time, I stated that I could support the redevelopment (At that point, I did not know the specifics of a CVS drive-through plan) of the property with if the historic building was saved and incorporated into the project.

I stopped by Thos. Moser, showroom for the handmade American furniture company and current tenant of the historic building. The building is beautifully restored and maintained, making it the perfect backdrop for Thos. Moser furniture!

The landlord has told the staff that the property is in the process of redevelopment and that they should look to relocate. Their lease is up in September. The interesting part of the conversation was that the Thos. Moser staff told that because the building was ‘historic, it was protected’. Unfortunately, in Tredyffrin Township, we know that our historic buildings are not protected.  Although I explained that a demolition application for the building was in front of the Tredyffrin Township Planning Commissioners tonight, it was clear that that they didn’t think it possible!

AmblerBoilerHouse (1)

                         Adaptive Reuse of 19th c. Ambler Boiler House

In a review of the Summit Realty Advisors website, there are many, many CVS Pharmacy development projects, including a similar current project in Media. However, in the midst of their drug store building portfolio, I discovered a very special project by John Zaharchuk, owner/developer with Summit Realty Advisors.  Zaharchuk oversaw the redevelopment of Ambler Boiler House, the 19th century power plant of an abandoned asbestos factory. Working with historic architectural firm, Heckendorn-Shiles (a former historic house tour sponsor) of Wayne, the project redesigned the circa 1897 brick building, preserving its architectural integrity and recycled it into a clean-and-green office development.

Mr. Zarachuk, your adaptive reuse of a landmark industrial building as a unique and distinctive office space was a stunning achievement for historic redevelopment in the Ambler community!  As you did with Ambler Boiler House, could you use your vision to save the 250 year-old Covered Wagon Inn in Strafford.  Please say no to its demolition.

44 Comments

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  1. OH NO! Please – let’s get together and save this building. Mr. Zarachuk, please – don’t demolish a 250 year old structure. Community history and its buildings should be preserved – not lost at the cost of redevelopment.

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    Pattye Reply:

    Couldn’t agree more. As I’ve always maintained, you don’t have to own a historic building to appreciate their character and history.

    I want to be clear — under present township ordinances, there is absolutely nothing preventing the developers from demolishing this historic landmark on Lancaster Avenue. Tredyffrin Twp does not have a historic preservation ordinance prohibiting the demolition of historic buildings. I had hoped that after the beautifully restored 18th c farmhouse on Pugh Road was demolished a few years ago that there would be movement to protect the historic properties. Sadly, that has not happened.

    There’s 1.5 acres on this property, surely Summit Realty Advisors could figure out a way to build their CVS drive-thru drug store and still save the historic building.

    Not to disparage CVS and its drive-thru but is that really the best use of this valuable property? I’m assuming that the corporate office has determined there is a need for another drug store at this location.

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  2. I can’t believe that the township I pay taxes for had no historical preservation rules! That’s disgraceful! Residents can’t even change out a toilet seat without the township stepping in requiring freaking permits!!! TE, get your priorities straight!!

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  3. If you allow the demolition of that structure and every other one like it, to make room for car dealerships and pharmacies, TE township turns into just another causality of suburban sprawl. No character, no distinction to its borders, just another “drive through” area off of Lancaster Avenue. Come on TE, lets respect the structures that were built by the people that settled this area and made it what it is today. If we ignore and destroy the past, we cannot learn from it for the future!

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  4. If Tredyffrin Township or Chester County do not have laws regarding the protection of historic buildings then the state should step in to protect this building. No development should be allowed to proceed until this building is protected from demolition. According to the article it is in good condition. It should be preserved for its historical significance and beauty.

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  5. Please find an alternative to the destruction of this historic building. If it is not possible to repurpose the building, at least relocate it.
    How can you think of destroying it. My family has roots in Tredyffrin Township going back to the 1600’s.

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  6. I can’t believe this is the best use of that space! There’s a CVS two minutes from there in either direction. What a waste of an historic building and a prime location.

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  7. I am not happy with nor am I in agreement with the plans for this location. If this is an historical building, which I believe it is, It should not be demolished. Where are our representatives when we need them? Another CVS…really?

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  8. I have no objection to the CVS if, and only IF, they preserve the building, and incorporate it into their site plan either as a stand-alone, or as part of the store itself. Historic buildings should be protected by the township so that, while their use can be changed, the original building can be preserved.

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    Joyce Berman Reply:

    That last phrase should be “must be preserved.”

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  9. I would like to use this forum to encourage our township supervisors to review other township plans and ordinances that are protecting history and historic structures. Perhaps they can find a model that would be a close fit for the needs of Tredyffrin. Then they could take some action instead of doing nothing year after year as our history is destroyed. Perhaps they could start here:
    WEST CHESTER COMPREHENSIVE HISTORIC PRESERVATION PLAN
    http://www.west-chester.com/DocumentCenter/View/184

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  10. It was an unimaginable human effort it to build a stone building using tools available in the 1700s. They fitted these massive random shaped stones together carrying them higher and higher as the walls were raised. These structures were built to last ‘forever’ and should be looked at as monuments to our past human achievements rather than potential parking lot space. Other countries around the world protect their heritage, so should we.

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  11. We already lost the historic Mile Post Inn building across the street & a convenience store was put in its place. Save this historical structure, known locally as Covered Wagon building. We don’t need more nondescript strip mall buildings on the Main Line.

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  12. These enormous drug stores are popping up everywhere because the belief is that once liquor sales are privatized in Pennsylvania, it will be allowed only in free-standing buildings, not in strip shopping centers. That’s why we’re seeing so many huge CVSes and Rite Aids and, I believe, Wawas. To demolish this beautiful building to make way for yet another CVS behemoth/liquor store would be tragic.

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  13. Development is always a positive, especially if the the development yields positive results! In this case I would strongly urge Tredyffrin Twp to pursue the development with a caveat. The caveat being CVS maintain the current Thos. Moser Building as part of the “new CVS” Thank you

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  14. This is a beautiful old building that has been restored and has a tenant. Even if this were not so, I would not want another drugstore there. Between Wayne and Paoli, there are already 3 CVS stores, 2 RiteAids, and 3 grocery stores with pharmacies. I plan on writing to the president of CVS and letting him know that as a resident here, I do not want our historic landmarks destroyed.

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  15. THE SAME PLANNING COMMISION TURNED DOWN AN APPLICATION IN THE EIGHTIES FOR A THREE STORY OFFICE FOR JOHN HANCOK INSURANCE BECAUSE OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF BLDG

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  16. This would be a travesty. We have precious little of our history remaining….tear it up and build crap is what happens. As everyone has noted, there are pharmacies all over the place, but few historic buildings. This is not progress in my opinion. I won’t shop there if that building goes…no matter what goes in there.

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  17. Everyday as I turn down my street, I am so pleased and proud to live in an area that has such a beautiful building. Please do not even consider changing this property.

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  18. I have a problem with all these senior living buildings going up – Is thee truly no one keeping their homes anymore? They totally take all your money and the food and care is not acceptable. They do not pay help so you can imagine what the help is like. I have spent the past 5 years in out and with both moms!!! I also have a problem with a CVS pharmacy going up – they can’t handle what they have. They are always short of help and the lines can be crazy – let’s not push any more drugs in our area – please

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  19. Good grief. This is horrible. For a CVS with a drive through? Destroy a historic building that contributes to the character of the area? What are they thinking?

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  20. They’re going to destroy this beautiful historic building?? To put in a drug store?? I am appalled. The commissioners should buy it and make it into a museum.

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    Dianne Reply:

    You are right, it would be a great place for a historical society and museum. Make it happen.

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  21. The problem is if the township denies what is a contemplated use in that zoning district, it will amount to a taking which means the township has to pay fair market value for the property. That means our tax dollars going up. Many of you that are complaining about the possibility that this building could be torn down are the same people who complain about tax increases.

    Just because something is old, it doesn’t necessarily give it historical significance. That corner isn’t suburban. It’s urban with high density.

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    Pattye Reply:

    To be clear, I am not suggesting that PC or BOS deny the application because there are no grounds. As I said in my latest post, the Planning Commissioner hands are tied — they cannot deny the development project because it includes the demolition of a historic building. There is currently no township ordinance protecting historic properties so cannot be used as a reason for denial. Even National Historic Register properties are not currently protected from demolition in Tredyffrin Twp. The best we can hope for is that the developer heard the suggestion that they see if there is a way to rework the CVS plan and drive-through which would save the historic building. Even though the proposed CVS is directly across the street from a large Rite Aid, the property is zoned C-1 and they have a right to build it. I AM NOT suggesting that the township purchase the property!

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  22. YES!! Good for you. You know how this works. Like you I will not use any CVS nor would I use any store on that property if it were demolished. Rally your community and take a stand against demolition of this beautiful historic property.

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  23. Don’t tear down history, I grew up there many good times with my parents ,they saw count basic there if you do I’ll never shop at cvs and tell everybody why
    .sorely the is another place to make your money how much is enough?

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  24. This building and its location at the main crossroads of our community is a landmark, a vital, anchor location. It is Strafford’s tie to its historical past. The Covered Wagon Inn structure dates to Revolutionary times, when Washington’s army marched by in 1777. If we raze it, we risk loosing the historical charm of this small community forever.
    I would be in favor of redevelopment of this property, but with a plan sympathetic to the preservation of the original historic building. What bewilders me is why CVS wants to build a Drive through there, with a modern Rite Aid about 100 yards west and another CVS about 1-2 miles East on the very same road.

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    June Hamilton Reply:

    Chatham MA on Cape Cod fought a battle with CVS who wanted to close and take over the only grocery store in town a couple of years ago. There are any number of people who walk to this excellent little market and the next closest food store is a Stop and Shop in Harwich, several miles away. There was a huge petition/letter writing campaign which (including me) which ended with a new Chatham Village Market being constructed next to the CVS and adequate parking for both. The campaign not only saved this market, but also save jobs.

    I realize this is a different situation not involving historic buildings, but I believe if enough pressure is applied to CVS management the Covered Wagon Inn will be saved

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  25. Preserving the Covered Wagon Inn is an act of respect for our region’s historic legacy. The name Covered Wagon probably refers to the Conestoga Wagon. I have appealed to my daughter, a Conestoga High School grad, to join me in signing the petition.

    I am more than a sentimental Main Line Matron…I am an economic participant. If CVS is going to disrespect the wishes of the community to preserve this historic legacy…I will take all of my future business to Walgreens. Sign the petition and give this effort economic impact.

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  26. I’m all in for preservation! I am a Radnor resident so have no sway in your township, but I live very close to this historic building and have always appreciated its character. I know there are many others in the same boat. Is there a formal petition or other movement that I/we can sign onto? Do we contact the developers? CVS? State reps?

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    Pattye Reply:

    Thanks Lisa. I know that many residents in Radnor Township feel similarly to residents of Tredyffrin Township about historic preservation and saving the Covered Wagon Inn. Radnor Township has done a much better job with historic preservation than Tredyffrin Township. I know that I sound like a broken record, but every historic building in Tredyffrin is ‘at-risk’ for demolition. There is no preservation ordinance and nothing to protect the buildings from development, whether commercial or residential. If nothing else, the “Save the Covered Wagon Inn” movement has brought much-needed awareness to historic preservation issue. I remain hopeful that in the case of the Covered Wagon Inn, we may be able to save it — it’s too early to tell. There is a ‘Save the Covered Wagon Inn’ Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/SaveCoveredWagonInn and the Change.org petition that you can sign located at: http://tinyurl.com/SaveCoveredWagonInn The petition has nearly 4,100 signatures and growing daily. Please pass the link to friends and neighbors. Although not a legal document, the petition is certainly an indicator to Tredyffrin Township and the developer, how important this building is to its residents (and neighboring residents in Radnor). Thank you for your support.

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  27. so there is a cvs in wayne, one in paoli and a rite aid in wayne( new) catty corner from the wayne cvs..it seems with the demographics changing, as demonstrated by the rise of assisted living properties, there must be a need for a drug store on just about every cornere as well.. at least they aren’t planning a car dealership!
    I dont think we should tell private owners what to do with their properties as long as their plans conform to the rules and regulations of our township. but clearly the flavor of our neighborhood is changing, arguably not for the aesthetic good… will we end up looking like bristol? ( no offense intended to them up there!)

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