Berwyn

Fritz Lumber, the oldest place of business in Berwyn, is closing its doors after 150+ years!

Sadly, Fritz Lumber, the oldest place of business in Berwyn is closing its doors after a century and a half of service to the community and is residents.

The history of the William H. Fritz Lumber Company began in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln was in office. Henry Fritz and his soon-to-be wife Mary Lobb decided to open a coal and lumber business in their hometown community of Reeseville, known today as Berwyn. Within a few short years, the business would prosper.

After 153 years, the fifth-generation of Fritz Lumber has decided to close its doors. Howard Fritz sent the following letter to the Easttown Board of Supervisors, detailing the sale of the business.

I would like to formally announce to you that the Wm. H. Fritz lumber company’s property is under agreement of sale to Eadeh Enterprises. Eadeh Enterprise is a very responsible and community minded organization as you all know. The business at Fritz, will remain open till all inventory is sold. Presumably by September 1, 2016.

This decision has been a very long and painful process. Wm. Fritz (Bill) is in his eighty seventh year and wishes to retire. I am sixty two and have health issues and concerns for both myself and my dear wife Roberta. My two adult children do not have an interest or desire to continue in this business. Neither have building experience or knowledge of it, nor do they have the required, management skills needed to sustain a viable and prosperous supply company.

It is very disappointing to have to close a family business that has been in existence since the civil war…153 years ago. With that said…I am very grateful to our community and the Easttown Township for the many years of support. The Fritz family has been active community members….past and present. From helping to start a bank, a church and Station II. To most recently, our vocation for the Berwyn/Devon business Assoc., Veteran Assoc., Easttown Tricentennial, and the park and recreation committee to name a few.

We also joyfully received the same high paying compensation the supervisors receive for all their hard work and efforts!! All jokes aside…l am honored to be allowed the opportunity to serve this very fine community which I lived in for twenty plus years. Obviously timely communications between us is an absolute must. We may be reached at our office at 610 – 644-0608 for any questions or concerns on this matter. Once again… we sincerely thank you all… and wish everyone the very best.

Sincerely, (and perhaps regretfully),

Howard Fritz

V.P. WM. H. Fritz Inc.

Redevelopment decisions by the new owners of the property, Eadeh Enterprise (another old business name in the community) will be guided by Berwyn Village zoning ordinance changes of 2013.   At that time, the plan approved by Easttown supervisors placed the Berwyn Village properties into three districts: Village Business, Village Residential and Village Transition.

The ordinance change allowed that the buildings located in the Berwyn Village could stay exactly as they were in 2013 – whether retail, multi-family or single family. However, if the building was sold, torn down or re-developed, it would need to conform to the new zoning requirements.  At the time the zoning ordinance was passed, some local residents were concerned that the neighborhood feel of Berwyn could be lost, depending how redevelopment were to occur — pointing to multi-story East Side Flats on King Street in Malvern as an example of what could happen.

For those concerned about the demands that the various land development projects are placing on the TE School District — Wayne Glen, Parkview at Chesterbrook, Station Square, etc.- the redevelopment of the Fritz Lumber site may pose another.

But regardless of Eadeh’s plans for the property, it is safe to say that after 150 years, the appearance of Lancaster Avenue in Berwyn is about to change.

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Easter Egg Hunt in Berwyn . . . Free Community Event for Children of All Ages!

Free Community Easter Egg Hunt — Children (all ages) Invited to Attend

When: Saturday, March 24

Time:  12 Noon

Where: Frank Johnson Park, 122 Bridge Avenue, Berwyn

Sponsored by: Easttown Township Parks & Recreation Board

Questions: Contact Mary Schultz at mzshultz@comcast.net

Bring your baskets and your cameras for the annual Easter Egg Hunt. Thousands of eggs and each filled with a surprise!  Children (all ages) are welcome and gift bags for all participants.

Rain Date: Sunday, March 25, 12 Noon

Rain date information available at: www.berwynmontessori.com

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Berwyn Fire Company’s Annual Halloween Parade – Saturday, October 30th – Public Invited!

You are Invited!

Berwyn Fire Company’s Annual Halloween Parade
When:  Saturday, October 30
Time:  7 – 8:30 PM
Where:  Parade starts at First & Bridge Ave. Berwyn and ends at the Berwyn Fire Company 

The Annual Halloween Parade in Berwyn is this Saturday and the community is invited!  Sponsored by the Devon-Berwyn Business Association, the Berwyn Fire Company is hosting their Annual Halloween Parade for the community. 

Please arrive by 6:45 PM so that the parade can begin at 7 PM.  Open to all ages there will be prizes for the scariest, funniest, and cutest costumes. Following the parade, light refreshments will be served at the fire station – and judging of costumes!

Thank you Berwyn Fire Company and Devon-Berwyn Business Association!

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Berwyn Fire Company Open House Tomorrow, Friday, October 15, 6:30 – 9 PM

Berwyn Fire Company Open House & Fire Prevention Night
Friday, October 15th

6:30-9:00 PM

The Berwyn firefighters are visiting local schools and businesses throughout the month in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of fire prevention and fire safety. 

Tomorrow night, Friday, October 15, the Berwyn Fire Company will open its doors for an Open House and Fire Prevention Event  from 6:30 – 9:00 PM. There will be live fire/rescue demonstrations, fire truck rides, and much more!  The volunteer firefighters encourage the residents to take time this month to practice your escape plan, test your smoke detectors, and check your home for fire hazards.

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6th Annual Historic House Tour – Today!

Today is the 6th Annual Historic House Tour . . . wonderful historic homes, welcoming homeowners and perfect weather!  The tour’s focused neighborhoods of Strafford and Berwyn will be alive today with 100’s of people enjoying the beautiful day and celebrating historic preservation. 

I hope I have covered all the details in the planning and organizing and by noon if will be out of my hands.  Not only is the local community supporting Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s event today, I have taken registrations from West Chester, Exton, Philadelphia, Pottstown, etc. 

If anyone is reading this and would like to go on today’s House Tour, you have until 12 Noon to register online at www.tredyffrinhistory.org I will have my laptop with me for check-in starting at 11 AM at DuPortail House and will be able to process late ticket sales. 

Support your neighbors . . . Support historic preservation! All proceeds from today’s 6th Annual Historic House Tour go toward the rebuilding effort the Jones Log Barn as a living history museum.

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Trust’s Historic House Tour – Saturday, September 25th – Please Support Historic Preservation

Saturdays are always busy, especially during September and October.  But if you are looking for something to do . . . why not the Trust’s 6th Annual Historic House Tour. 

Always a community favorite for the Trust, this year’s tour will not disappoint – there’s something for everyone!  Eights houses are featured on the tour, including 5 homes in Tredyffrin and 3 in Easttown Township. If you are a follower of Community Matters and enjoy the posts and interaction, I ask you to help me with ticket sales.  Here’s a ticket order form for the house tour, please pass it on to neighbors and co-workers.  A special thank you to Tom Murray and Blair Meadowcroft for supporting the house tour – Blair’s article on the house tour in this week’s edition of  Main Line Suburban newspaper is below.

Explore your community’s history by supporting historic preservation . . .

Stage is Set for House Tour in Tredyffrin

By Blair Meadowcroft

Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s sixth annual Historic House Tour set for Sept. 25 will feature eight homes in Tredyffrin Township. The theme for this year’s tour is a focus on Berwyn and Strafford, giving tour participants a chance to view the similarities and differences of houses that in some cases were built around the same time.

The tour, which is rain-or-shine, costs $35 and you must buy tickets in advance. Proceeds from the event have always gone towards the Jones Log Barn project, which was one of the reasons why the House Tour was started.

“I organized the first historic House Tour for several reasons,” said Pattye Benson, president of the Trust. “The Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust needed to raise money for the rebuilding of the Jones Log Barn; all proceeds from the annual tour continue to go toward that project. Additionally there was never a dedicated Historic House Tour for Tredyffrin and Easttown townships, and I wanted to share my passion for old houses with the community. Those of us that live in Tredyffrin and Easttown townships are fortunate to live in one of the most historic areas of the country.”

Benson’s love for historic houses can be seen in her own home, the Great Valley House, circa 1690. This house owned by Benson and her husband is the township’s oldest.

“Our house was on the Devon House Tour 15 years ago and subsequently I was on Devon’s House Tour board for a few years,” said Benson. “I learned a lot about house tours from both the homeowner side as a house-tour participant and from the committee side. I thought I could take what I had learned, create the Trust’s House Tour and share the beautiful historic homes. Six years later the Trust’s House Tour is one of our most anticipated yearly events.”

In the tour’s six years there have been 48 different houses exhibited, plus the Wharton Esherick Museum; the Baptist Church in the Great Valley; two schoolhouses, Diamond Rock Octagonal and Old Eagle School; and eight Revolutionary War general’s headquarters. Also, no house has been shown twice.

“The Historic House Tour has had a wide range of interest throughout the years,” said Benson. “There are old-house owners who like seeing what others have done with their houses. There are people who love history or architecture and enjoy learning all about the house’s past. We have people on the tour who have always dreamed of being an old-house owner but think that they are museums and not possibly for a family.”

According to Benson, another reason behind the House Tour is to show people that old houses can accommodate today’s families.

“Through the Historic House Tour I hope to change people’s minds and encourage old-house ownership, even for those with young families,” said Benson. “In fact six of the eight houses featured on this year’s House Tour have owners with young children.”

It is with the help of willing homeowners that the House Tour can take place each year, and it is to these homeowners that the Trust and all involved are extremely grateful, according to Benson.

“The homeowners have been wonderfully receptive to the House Tour over the years,” said Benson. “I’m so grateful that they are opening their doors to the public.”

On House Tour day, participants pick up their guest badges, maps and brochure, which gives a detailed history of each of the houses, at DuPortail House in Chesterbrook between 11 a.m. and noon. The tour, which goes from noon to 5 p.m., is self-guided and there’s no set order to see the houses.

“Each of the houses on the tour is staffed by a board member of the Trust who acts as the official docent,” said Benson. “In addition to the designated board member, the house is staffed with sufficient volunteers to make sure that guests enjoy the tour experience and are available to answer questions.”

To buy tickets visit www.tredyffrinhistory.org.

“The Trust is challenged to raise the remaining $200K needed for the Jones Log Barn project by the end of the year, so I want to encourage more people to attend this year’s tour than ever before,” said Benson. “This early log barn will join DuPortail House and the Federal Barn as a living-history museum where people can visit, learn and appreciate how agricultural life was 250-plus years ago. The rebuilding of the barn should serve as a testament that this community cares about their history and wants to preserve it.”

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HHGregg Grand Opening Today at 3 PM

Today marks the grand opening for HHGregg (www.hhgregg.com , the appliance and electronics store in our area.  Today at 3 PM they officially open their doors to the public.  They took the vacant Circuit City store.  Good to see one of these empty box stores rented – positive economic development for the community!  HHGregg is a family owned and operated business since 1955 so presumably they did their homework and Tredyffrin is viewed as a viable consumer base. 

Always interested in the glass full approach, here’s hoping that this a sign of more good things to come in the area!  Best wishes to HHGregg and welcome to the neighborhood!

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Stormwater ‘Bump-outs’ on Old Lancaster Road . . . a Burden for the Residents

I am confident that the people who designed the sidewalks and stormwater management systems on Old Lancaster Road did so with the best of intentions.  However, either the design of the bump-outs is flawed and/or the required maintenance by the homeowners is flawed.

I think most residents living along Conestoga and Old Lancaster Roads have been favorable about their new sidewalks.  There have been some rumblings about loss of trees, shrubs, etc. but with the understanding that the township will replace their landscaping losses in the fall, I think most have been positive about the sidewalks.  Old Lancaster Road has been closed lately, except to local traffic so until yesterday I had not been down this road.

Following the public Sidewalk Committee meeting last Thursday, a couple who live on Old Lancaster Road, in Berwyn between the cemetary and Daylesford Train station spoke about their new sidewalks.  They were very positive about the sidewalks and commented that more and more people were using the sidewalks.  They had not come to the meeting to complain but rather to inform about a specific aspect of the sidewalk project that most people would probably not be aware. (I certainly was not).

To give a bit of background . . . Old Lancaster Road did not have curbing or appropriate stormwater management system in place.  As part of the sidewalk project and stormwater management design on Old Lancaster, 2 foot wide concrete bump outs were installed next to the sidewalks in the road.  According to information I found on the township website, the design of the curbed underground seepage/infiltration beds was to control runoff from impervious sidewalks, as well as a portion of the existing roadway runoff on Old Lancaster Rd. which had been uncontrolled.  The bump outs were thought to  have an additional benefit of traffic-calming.

All of this sounds like a good idea, right?  Well, here is some of the problems with the concrete bump outs.  First off, the residents on Old Lancaster Road knew that they were responsible for keeping their section of the sidewalks maintained, shoveled in the winter, etc. but were not informed that they would be responsible for the maintenance of the bump outs. (I have now been told that homeowners were informed that the bump outs would be their responsibility.}

There was some concern from some of the elderly homeowners that live along Old Lancaster Rd in regards to sidewalk maintenance; but somehow these residents would get the necessary help to keep the sidewalks cleared and maintained.  Clearing sidewalks is one thing but these long concrete curbed areas are in the road are an entirely different matter. How does one manage the maintenance on the bump outs?  Here’s a problem . . . there’s curbing on all sides so you would have to pick up your lawnmower and put it in the bump out.  But even if you tried that, you would discover the area is too narrow for a lawn mower!  So you either have to use hand clippers or a string hedge trimmer on the bump outs. 

It is my understanding that township staff planted grass seed in the bump outs but the heat killed the grass seed and apparently there has been mention of wildflowers to be planted in the fall.  No grass . . .  no wildflowers . . .  but even in this summer heat, what does grow — weeds, and lots of them!   The weeds in some of the bump outs are 3 ft. high and still growing.  As was explained by the couple who attended the Sidewalk Committee meeting, they have elderly neighbors on either side who have to have their grown sons come from Downington and Phoenixville to maintain their bump outs. 

Another difficulty –  the bump outs are in the road and therefore do not align to property lines so  . . .  if you and your neighbors are not particularly good friends, you may maintain your section of the bump out but your neighbors decide to leave his/her section of the bump out overgrown!

One of the overgrown bump outs is next to a side road and could create a visibility issue for drivers entering or exiting Old Lancaster.  Interestingly, visibility was one of PennDot’s concerns about the bump out design concept. The Old Lancaster Rd. couple stated that they have attempted to have PennDot help with the bump out problems but were referred to the township staff.  The township staff says that Old Lancaster is a state road and therefore the problem has to be taken up with PennDot. Homeowners on Old Lancaster are just going around and around in circles over these bump outs.  And how must the residents on the other side of Old Lancaster feel who must look at the overgrown bump outs from their front yards?

Solution? In my opinion it’s simple . . .  no way should the ‘care and feeding’ of these bump outs be the responsibility of the residents. Period.  My suggestion is that public works staff remove the weeds from the bump outs and then fill these long concrete areas with layers of small river rock.  River rocks are very inexpensive, will still permit appropriate stormwater runoff and there is no further maintenance required by homeowners, township staff or PennDot!

One other suggestion – if these bump outs are part of any future sidewalk/stormwater design plan, they should not be the responsibility of township residents. 

Below is a photo which shows a bump out that is maintained so that you can see the concrete curbing design and the narrowness of the area. Interestingly, this particular bump out is not a shared bump out but is located directly in front of a resident’s home.

 

 The following 2 photos show overgrown bump outs on Old Lancaster Road – one of the bump outs is now affecting visibility from the side road. It appears that this bump out may be a ‘shared bump out’ – where it crosses the property line of two homeowners. 

 

 

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Brandywine Conservancy Easement on Hawkins Property Cannot be ‘Undone’

I continue to receive interesting information on the Agnes Irwin’s proposed land development plan in of playing fields on the Hawkins property in Berwyn.  As I have previously explained, Berwyn neighbors to the Hawkins property have received anonymous emails and letters from supporters of Irwin’s proposed playing fields.  Some of the communication makes claims of other possible buyers, including the Tredyffrin Easttown School District.  Much discussion has circled around the Brandywine Conservancy easement and the suggestion by some that the conservancy easement could be broken to allow for other usage of the land.

This may help to set the record straight. I have received a copy of a letter dated March 22, 2010  from Sherri Evans-Stanton, Director of Brandywine Conservancy to the Board of Supervisors, Easttown Township. In reading the letter, there should be no misunderstanding on the issue of the easement protection of the Hawkins property – see excerpt below:

A conservation easement is a restrictive covenant voluntarily placed on land which allows a legally qualified conservation organization (in this case, the Brandywine Conservancy) to enforce it.  Conservation easements usually run with the land in perpetuity, as does the Hawkins easement.  For many years, conservation easements have been recognized and enforced by the Pennsylvania courts as valid property restrictions, and the Pennsylvania legislature codified these legal principles in 2001 in the Pennsylvania Conservation and Preservation Easements Act (Act 29 of 2001).

The Brandywine Conservancy has over forty years of experience upholding and defending the conservation easements it holds and will continue to do so.  It is simply not true (as we have been hearing) that the easement can simply be ignored or “undone” and a housing development, large or small, built on the property.

On the subject of Tredyffrin Easttown School District’s interest in the Hawkins property, I received some new information.  I was told that this information is widely known; however it was news to me. Apparently the T/E School Board passed on buying the Hawkins property because they did not want to challenge the open space easements. (In order to build a school would have required the School Board to challenge the conservancy easement).  I had previously suggested that the current school budget situation would not have been financially possible at this time.  Apparently I stand corrected.  I have been told  that the School Board could afford to purchase the Hawkins property as the District has a AAA bond rating, but it was determined that the land was not suitable for a school (due to the restrictions associated with the property). 

If the T/E School District did not think that T/E could change the easements on the Hawkins property, . . . how is that Agnes Irwin School thinks it has any better chance?  Also, remember that our School Board has the ability to condemn property for government need whereas Agnes Irwin’s does not enjoy that same ability. 

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Township Retail Space Left Empty by Circuit City Getting a New Tenant!

Circuit City’s bankruptcy left a large box store vacant along Swedesford Road in Berwyn and this large empty box store is getting a new tenant!  I’m excited to report that HH Gregg, Inc, a Midwest consumer electronics star, is moving in to the space. 

A recent article in Business Weekly is reporting that HH Gregg is moving aggressively to capitalize on cheaper rents during the economic downturn by building a nationwide presence to challenge their much bigger rival, Best Buy.  The Indianapolis based company will open 40-45 stores in the Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Baltimore areas in the coming months as part of a broader plan to expand to 600 stores this decade from 127 currently.

The local business community is grateful that HH Gregg decided on the Berwyn location . . . I’m taking it as a sign that the dark cloud is starting to lift. In addition to filling an empty box store space, HH Gregg will provide many new local jobs!

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