In 1986, the Covered Wagon Inn was saved from demolition — will history repeat itself?

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Timing really is everything!  Over the last couple of weeks, I had been working with Philadelphia Inquirer writer, Michaelle Bond on her Covered Wagon Inn article for the paper.  As often happens in the newspaper world, local stories tend to get pushed back from their initial date of publication. I had just about given up on ever seeing the article, when “Can main line history coexist with a CVS” appeared on the  front page of today’s Philly Inquirer and, as they say in the newspaper world, the story was “above the fold”.

Michaelle did her homework on the article, reaching out to the developer, Summit Realty Advisors, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society and Tredyffrin Township staff. She also spoke with the Greg Caneda, a member of the family who owned the Covered Wagon Inn from 1959 to 1986. Since 1986, the property has been owned by John G. Hoopes of Berwyn.  All parties contacted by Michaelle responded with the exception of Hoopes, who did not respond to her requests for comment.

Hoopes owned Hoopes Realty, one of the Delaware Valley’s largest residential real estate firms for many years. I did a little research on Mr. Hoopes and interestingly thirty years ago, Hoopes had plans to demolish the Covered Wagon Inn. Immediately after  Hoopes purchased the property on the corner of Lancaster Avenue and Old Eagle School Road from the Caneda family, he presented his redevelopment plans for a 9,000 sq. retail building to the Tredyffrin Township Planning Commission in January 1986.

Hoopes’ plans called for a new retail building using a mixture of exterior materials, including stone and stucco. One of the walls was to use glass brick and the building was to be topped by a clerestory tower. Hoopes land development plan included the demolition of the Covered Wagon Inn.

According to a Philadelphia Inquirer article dated January 20, 1986, ‘Building Plan Called Junk’, Hoopes proposed plan, which included the demolition of the old Covered Wagon, was called “junk” by several of the township’s planning commissioners.

An interesting read thirty years later, the article states that former Commissioner Robert Rand said to Hoopes, “You’re taking an ‘anywhere USA’ solution to what we think is a unique corner,”

In explaining his desire to demolish the Covered Wagon Inn, Hoopes said, “The building there now is very unfriendly to the public.”  Former Planning Commissioner Chair Oleg Dudkin responded, “What you’re seeing here is a unanimously unfriendly attitude now to what you’ve got!”  He further stated, “There’s an impasse here. That corner is sensitive”.

Thirty years ago, Tredyffrin Township’s Planning Commissioners stood up to Hoopes; telling him that he needed to redesign the plan so as not to demolish the Covered Wagon Inn.  Although certainly dissatisfied with the planning commissioners, Hoopes balked at redesigning and did not pursue his 1986 land development plan, The Covered Wagon Inn was allowed to remain for the next thirty years.

As was the case in 1986, and continues to be the case in 2016, there is no historic preservation ordinance to protect the Covered Wagon Inn or any other historic building in Tredyffrin Township. Will our 2016 Tredyffrin Township officials have the same commitment to preserving our local history as those who served thirty years ago?  We may have an answer to that question soon.

On Wednesday morning, I will join the developer, his attorney and engineer, township staff, a planning commissioner and a couple of supervisors for a meeting to discuss the CVS Pharmacy land development project. Here’s hoping that there’s a solution for the fate of the Covered Wagon Inn.

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  1. Let us recall nearly 20 years ago in Tredyffrin, a new developer came in with big plans to tear down the famed Valley Forge Music Fair to build a big Giant supermarket which failed/ went dark in less than 2 years, as it wasn’t needed here. While Barnes & Noble survived, the vacant Giant later became a discount Big Lots. Now they too have failed/closed and now a discount Lumber and Tile center will open there next-ugh. Not far away on Swedesford Road, the former Pathmark/ Safeway has been closed for months, and now sits vacant. Now CVS and its developer want to tear down an Historic Inn so they can put Rite-Aid out of business nearby on Route 30. All of this is a tragic and musical game of empty retail boxes, with pharmacies being next in line to fail. We don’t need another mega-pharmacy on Route 30 in Tredyffrin, and no one who lives nearby wants to see it go forward. I’ve been told the developer will do the right thing, so let’s see them shrink the mega-CVS, nix the drive-in and save the Covered Wagon Inn.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Reply:

    Thanks Dave. I hadn’t heard about the new tenant in the Big Lots store, a discount lumber and tile center? I’m curious, do you know the name?

    [Reply]

  2. Pattye, thank you for your efforts, and best of luck with the meeting. Please speak for all of us in expressing our frustration with this plan and our desire to preserve what is special about our area. A petition has limited power, and the rules are the rules, but the developers and CVS would be wise to pay attention to the over 3,000 local consumers who are on your side. If not, we have plenty of other places to buy band-aids.

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  3. Why , why is there no Preservation Ordinance in Tredyffrin? What is the process to establish an Ordinance so our historic properties are not destroyed?

    [Reply]

  4. And look! Not even in yet, and they are applying for a variance!

    Appeal #03

    16
    : Application of
    Floor and Décor Outlets of America
    ,
    1
    76 Swedesford Rd
    ,
    Berwyn, Pa., 19312, (Tax Parcel
    43

    5

    61
    ), in an
    C

    2 (Commercial
    District), for a
    Variance from
    Section 208

    126.A(2)b, in order to permit a free

    standing exceeding twenty

    five (25) square feet
    in height and fifty (50) square feet in area,
    and allowing thirty

    five (35) feet in height and ninety

    nine (99) square feet
    in area
    ; and such further relief as necessary.

    [Reply]

  5. Citizens of Tredyffrin, do what you can to preserve this beautiful building. Surely with a little effort it can be serviceable. The sad part about big box developers is they are all about profit and not about the community. I speak from experience as I argued toe to toe for our beloved elementary building to be spared and you guessed it we have a pharmacy building in its place. That side of town was labeled commercial with no historical value so we lost a local landmark:(

    [Reply]

  6. Im curious. would the citizens speaking here on the thread want the township to buy the building and rent it out maybe to Moser? do the citizens on this thread want to band together privately and buy this building? Even if an ordinance was to win the day, this property would have to be grandfathered in..
    By the way, that new house on Pugh road is ugly… with imagination and proper application of funds they may have been able to restore the original as neighbors down the street did previously… just sayin….

    [Reply]

    Pattye Reply:

    The land development plan of the Covered Wagon Inn by CVS/Summit is grandfathered regardless if there is a future historic preservation ordinance in the township or not. CVS/Summit is not purchasing the property from John Hoopes, the owner. Hoopes is retaining ownership of the entire parcel, including the Covered Wagon Inn. The property is not for sale — the Covered Wagon Inn is not for sale. Neither the township nor residents may purchase the Covered Wagon Inn, it is not for sale as the property will be leased.

    [Reply]

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