Save the Covered Wagon Inn … Say No to Demolition of Main Line Landmark!

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In front of Tredyffrin Township Planning Commissioners on Thursday night was the Preliminary Land Development application for 625/629 East Lancaster Avenue in Wayne.  Developer Summit Realty Advisors submitted a plan which demolishes the historic 18th century Covered Wagon Inn to construct a new CVS Pharmacy with drive-through and parking.

I attended the Planning Committee meeting and wanted to update on the project. But first as means of full disclosure, when it comes to historic preservation, I am biased. For the last decade I have served as president of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, (www.tredyffrinhistory.org) whose mission is to “preserve and protect historic and cultural resources in Tredyffrin Township”, chair the Annual Historic House Tour and own one of the oldest houses in the Tredyffrin Township.

On to the update:  Presenting the redevelopment application on behalf of the developer was real estate attorney Alyson Zarro, real estate attorney with Exton firm Riley Riper Hollin Colegreco. (Interestingly, Zarro’s educational background includes a BA in History and a MA in Preservation Studies in addition to a JD).  Summit’s preliminary redevelopment plan was presented to the Planning Commissioners by project engineer Joel Dellicarpini of Bohler Engineering.

According to Google Maps, the proposed redevelopment site is approx. 1.73 acres (75,358 sq. ft.), a significant redevelopment parcel. (Click here to see the aerial view of the property and note the small building in lower right corner is the Covered Wagon Inn). The historic Covered Wagon Inn is not located in the center of the property but rather its location is at the edge, on the far corner.  A tiny speck on the aerial map, the historic building is only 1200 sq. ft. in size (on the 75,358 sq. ft. parcel).

Delicarpini showed the preliminary architectural drawings for the large CVS pharmacy and its drive-through. Unlike other CVS buildings, this structure would fit its surrounds and the engineer was proud to point out the short stone wall design feature as somehow that would make up for the destruction of the 250-yr. old Covered Wagon Inn.

Following Delicarpini’s presentation, there was much discussion from the Planning Commissioners regarding the project.  Much to my surprise, many of the comments centered on the demolition plans and wasn’t there a different way that would allow the historic building to remain.  The engineer repeatedly stated that they had ‘tried’ in the design phase, but that leaving the Covered Wagon Inn would somehow impede on their ability to have a drive-through!

Once public comments were permitted, I immediately launched into an impassioned plea to the Planning Commissioners to save the old Covered Wagon Inn.  I gave the history of the township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey which was to have been the basis for historic preservation ordinance.  I was on the township’s HARB at that point and involved in the selection of the 350 historic resources that are part of the survey. The vast majority of the resources are personal residences with a handful of commercial buildings – including the Covered Wagon Inn!

In my appeal, I revisited the demolition of the 18th century Ann Pugh

18th c Pugh Road House demolished January 2014

18th c Pugh Road House demolished January 2014

Farmhouse in January 2014. It was my personal hope that its demolition would have spurred local legislation to protect our historic properties.  Sadly, in the intervening two years, nothing has changed and all historic properties continue to remain at risk.  I explained that because Tredyffrin Township has no ordinances to protect its historic properties, there is nothing to prevent Summit Realty Advisors from demolishing the Covered Wagon Inn.

Of the seven Planning Commissioners, it was remarkable to have so many of them understand and appreciate my passion for historic preservation and indicate support the saving of the Covered Wagon Inn.  I want to personally thank four of the Planning Commissioners — Chair Tory Snyder, Vice Chair Bill Rountree, David Biddison and Scott Growney for their support! Snyder, a land use planner, Rountree, a civil engineer and Biddison and Growney , both real estate attorneys, all know that legally the developer ‘has the right’  to demolish the historic building yet each asked that they look for a way to save it.  I know that the Planning Commissioners hands are tied – their decisions have to be based on the existing township zoning ordinances.  Without a historic preservation ordinance on the books, their job is difficult!

Township supervisor Murph Wysocki attended the Planning Commission meeting as the Board of Supervisor liaison.  I have attended many, many Planning Commission meetings over the years and I have never known a sitting supervisor to take the microphone and offer his personal opinion on a land development project, until this meeting.  Wysocki was clear that he was not speaking as a supervisor but rather as resident. As a retired real estate attorney, Wysocki completely understands the ‘rights of the developer’ in this case but he too appealed to Summit Realty Advisors to come up with a way to save the old Covered Wagon Inn.  A former board member on Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and a sponsor of the Annual Historic House Tour, Murph appreciates the importance of historic preservation in this community and I thank him for his support!

The Covered Wagon Inn is a physical link to our past. Yes, we’ve all heard that before.  But it’s not just about saving an old stone building, but about saving the layers and layers of information about our lives and those of our ancestors.  Without that, we’d erase the stories of our past, as if the people came before us never existed.

Historic buildings like the Covered Wagon Inn in Strafford play a special role in creating the distinctive character of our community.  Historic places matter because they help tell the story of who we are and where we come from.  As suburban sprawl and roadside development make more and more places look the same, it should be more important to preserve the history that makes this community special.

The Covered Wagon Inn at the corner of Old Eagle School and Lancaster Avenue stands at the crossroads of Radnor Township, Delaware County and Tredyffrin Township, Chester County.  Do we really want the ‘gateway’ to our historic 300 year-old township replaced with a drive-through CVS pharmacy?  Where will it stop?

So what is the next step … where do we go?  There were a number of Summit Realty engineers, staff and legal counsel in attendance at the Planning Commission meeting.  They heard the Planning Commissioners, a supervisor, myself as president of a historic preservation organization and several other community members appeal to the developer to come up with a plan that would save the Covered Wagon Inn.  Time will tell to see if they got the message.

Because there is no historic preservation ordinance opposing the demolition of the Covered Wagon Inn, it may take public input to persuade the developers.  I will be sending the link to this post (and the last post with its many comments) to the president of Summit Realty Advisors, John Zaharck as well as the project engineers and legal counsel. In addition the links will go to the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors, Township Manager Bill Martin, Planning Commissioners and PA State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157).

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What can you do to Help Save the Covered Wagon Inn –

A Facebook page, ‘Save Covered Wagon Inn’ was set up at: https://www.facebook.com/SaveCoveredWagonInn  Created less than 24 hours ago and there are over 430 Likes.  Please join the growing list of supporters.

Continue to leave your comments here on Community Matters. Not everyone is on Facebook and because I am sending the link to this post to our elected officials and developer contacts, they will your comments here.

39 Comments

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  1. To the developers: One of the wonderful things about living in this area is that it is replete with the history of the beginnings of our great country. Please don’t destroy the Covered Wagon Inn. Please use your no doubt significant design skills to build your CVS while preserving the 18th-century wonder that stands at the corner of Old Eagle School Road and Lancaster Ave. Thank you, in advance, for your sincere consideration of an issue that matters greatly to this community.

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    Dianne Reply:

    Developers do not give 2 hoots about this storied property as tearing it down and Developing is how they will get paid. No, if you want to save The Old Covered Wagon Inn you will need to work hard to win politically. I have been through this before.

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  2. Ashbridge House on Lancaster Ave. in Downingtown was saved at the same time as an entire shopping center was built behind it. There has to be a way to save this beautiful and historic building in Strafford

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  3. Oh No!! Please keep this property and restore it. I worked there as a young college student for a few years. It is a landmark!! Our historic properties need our protection. A CVS .. ?? Really?

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  4. Pattye,

    Thanks for your concern about the cultural heritage of our community. This building is historically important not only because of it’s architecture but because it presents a picture of a previous era.

    It has great community significance. It’s a history book kids don’t have to read. Simply looking at it tells a story about our American history and our community’s history that most Americans living west of the PA border never see and only read about in their grade school history books.

    A community that respects it’s history, respects itself. Let’s respect our history, our community and ourselves by advocating for this historically significant building and for historic preservation that is necessary and valuable to this community.

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  5. The way to prevent a property owner from demolishing a building we would all like to see preserved is to pay them not to demolish it. Either buy the most important historic properties or just pay the owners to preserve them. Pleading with a corporation that has already decided to develop the land in a certain way is not likely to yield results.

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    Pattye Reply:

    There is a precedence by CVS Pharmacy of land development projects where they saved the historic building. As an example in Audubon, CVS still built their structure but worked around and preserved the historic Audubon Inn on the property. The CVS pharmacy and Providence Township received a land development award for their efforts on the project, which resulted in preserving and reusing the historic inn and successfully integrating a new drugstore into the historic setting. I have a strong feeling that CVS Pharmacy and the developer on the Audubon project only agreed to the design because of public attention and pushback. So … maybe sometimes ‘pleading’ can work. I’ve already located the contact information for the president of CVS Pharmacy and plan to take the situation to the top. I just don’t want to see Tredyffrin Twp lose another historic building if it can be saved.

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  6. CVS doesn’t care about this building or this community. The only thing CVS cares about is money. Threaten their bottom line and you’ll get results.

    When they see community members getting together in big numbers to fight against their soulless attack on humanity and common decency, they’ll do something different. Until then, get ready for the drive through.

    The last thing they want is ill will in the community which could spread to other communities. Power in numbers. That’s your bow and arrow. Use it.

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  7. The last thing our community needs is another generic chain drug store! This does not add to our neighborhood, but detracts from it. Please do NOT demolish the Covered Wagon Inn. Preserve our history and landmarks.

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  8. Please do not continue with development, such as a drive-up CVS, that only caters to the automobile. Let’s save historic buildings – especially ones that are beautiful.

    I personally would never shop at a CVS on that corner.

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  9. I’m on board but you never really stated any details on what this building was and why it’s historically significant. I think cvs blows but not every 18th century structure warrants saving. All I remember was drinking at the main lion many times and having no idea it was attached to something George Washington hung out in. Plus, isn’t there an existing business already in there?

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    Pattye Reply:

    The handmade American furniture company Thos Moser, https://www.thosmoser.com/ has their Philadelphia location in the Covered Wagon Inn and have a lease that runs until September 2016.

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  10. I was a bit too cynical this morning when I posted that. I’m sure you are right that if they see enough pushback that their bottom line is threatened, they can be pressured that way. But for future developers who don’t care as much about public opinion, raising cash to pay them might be the only way.

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  11. The outpouring of support for preserving this building has been incredible. It is clearly very meaningful to the community for many reasons.

    Hopefully the CVS people will be able to turn this into an opportunity, as they did with the Audubon Inn (and as Summit did at Ambler). At the Planning Commission meeting they claimed they had attempted a design for their drive-through (apparently essential to the project) while retaining the historic building, but found it impossible. Really? It is difficult to believe that a solution can not be found when the old Inn is such a small percentage of the site, located right at its edge.

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  12. When I was a new resident of Wayne I enjoyed passing by the Covered Wagon Inn and being reminded of the long history of this area. The Inn anchors the corner of Old Eagle School Rd.
    and Lancaster Ave. and lends an historic charm to a place of modern commercial buildings.
    We need those commercial buildings but the few historic gems we have left must be protected.
    They enhance the visual scene.

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  13. I was born and raised in Manhattan. Jackie Kennedy Onassis saved the old Grand Central Station Building – the then Pan Am Building (now MetLife)went up behind it, like a sentry.
    Then there’s PJ Clarke’s at the corner of 55th St. and Third Avenue – surrounded by skyscrapers that came after it.
    These two buildings are so different and yet the same. They represent chunks of NYC history that were saved and now provide people who enter them with the sense of being a part of NYC. These are two high profile buildings, but there are many others, like John Philip Sousa’s home on Washington Square.
    Save the Covered Wagon Inn for the same reason. Forgive me Thomas Moser, but maybe this building should be returned to it’s original purpose. History need not move aside for “new”, they can enhance each other.

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  14. Wegman’s price on personal care products and over the counter medicine are about 1/2 the price of stuff at CVS. I stopped shopping at CVS 10 years ago. I went recently to buy something for my wife (she told me to go there) and I was shocked at their prices.

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  15. The last thing we need is another bank/drugstore on a prominent corner of Rt 30. Theres a Wallgreens across the street from that location currently. Please let this historic building continue to stand.

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  16. Riper, Riley Colagreco what is up with Riley’s firm – representing tearing down history, represented a deadbeat dad – thought they were better than that

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  17. My parents had their wedding reception there in the 40s. But that’s minor compared to the amount of history that goes along with the property. We do NOT need yet another CVS which will simply pave over that area – it’s not as if they are actually going to build over it.

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  18. The architects should look at how the CVS in Audubon (on Egypt Rd.) was planned. Very similar to the Covered Wagon Inn situation, there is a historic building right on the corner of Egypt Rd and S Park Ave in Audubon, PA. Somehow they managed to fit the new CVS behind it, and even include a drive-through, without tearing down the historic building (currently home to Furey & Baldassari, PC Attorneys at Law). A simple google search for the address 1043 S Park Ave Audubon, PA will show the location of the CVS and how it was oriented around the historic building.

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    Pattye Reply:

    Thank you for your comment. Please see my latest post.

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    michael mctiernan Reply:

    I am dead set against cvs tearing down the covered wagon inn. I will join any group that wants the same thing and contribute to the cost of a land use lawyer to stop this.

    a bigger question that someone might answer is who is in charge of this the bd of supervisors or the planning commission

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    Pattye Reply:

    Tory Snyder is Chair of Tredyffrin Township’s Planning Commission and Trip Lukens is Chair of the Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors. At the Planning Commission, when Summit Realty presented its land development plan, Tory and other Planning Commissioners appealed to the developer to look at other options that would save the Covered Wagon Inn. And we are hopeful that the developer will come up with an option that save this historic building, The problem is because there is no historic preservation ordinance in Tredyffrin Twp, sadly the developer has the legal right to bulldoze local history :(

  19. If the CVS must be built the Inn should be saved. The residents of Tredyffrin must become more involved in preserving their history. I know that some residents are active but many more must help in the conservation of historic properties.

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    Pattye Reply:

    Agree 100% — we need more residents involved. Otherwise, we are going to continue to see a bulldozer taking our local history.

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  20. I agree with Mr. McTiernan.

    No to demolish centuries-old building!

    Urge developer and CVS to compromise as CVS did with their award-winning store development in Lower Providence Township

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  21. Save the Covered Wagon Inn!
    There are plenty of less historically significant or empty sites nearby.
    It is far too easy to raze an old building than it is to construct a new building (and never match the character of the original.

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