Folks driving through Strafford have probably passed the Old Covered Wagon Inn building – as we know it – and wondered what it was. We pass it and see it as home and as a living manifestation of the American Dream.
When our parents opened the Covered Wagon in the 1950’s they had nothing but determination and a belief that their hard work would be rewarded. Their commitment to living their dream paid off. For decades the Old Covered Wagon Inn was the center of civic and social life in Wayne. The hottest big bands of the day, stars like Duke Ellington and Count Basie, stopped by to play there. Saturday days were for wedding receptions, nights were for dancing to Orr Marino and the Mainliners; weeknights were for Rotary & Lions Club meetings, Ward Marston on the piano, flambéed entrees & Caesar salad prepared table side in the colonial rooms. The Junior League held their Tinsel Ball there every year, St Raphaela Retreat house held an annual first flower of spring luncheon fashion show in the terrace, Villanova’s Blue Key society held fund raisers and Villanova boosters launched their campaign to reinstate football (they won!) at “the Wagon.” On any given day, at lunch or dinner, you would see the who’s who of Strafford, Wayne and Devon. Small business owners, whether it was Rod & Charlie Park from the hardware store, Bill Braxton, Joe Flagler (Flagler’s Citgo), Mr.& Mrs. Pugh, Mr. & Mrs. Rossi (Anro, Inc.), Russ Morgan (Main Line Printing), Mr. Eadah (Eadah’s Rugs & Ernest’s dad), The Taylors from Taylor Gifts, Sam Katz (Wayne Jewelers), Mr. Cappelli the Tailor, Mr. Fox & Mr. Roach BEFORE they became Fox & Roach, “the regulars,” all part of the history of that wonderful building.
The days when such community institutions existed may have passed, but the value of a building that reminds us of what it means to be a community has certainly not. And you can see that meaning in the memories and stories people posted online in response to the news that a developer is looking to tear the building down.
What’s more, there is real economic value in a building with the architectural surprises of the Old Covered Wagon Inn. Many of those treasures have been covered up over the years but all it takes is one visionary entrepreneur to figure out how to embrace the uniqueness of the building and its meaning as a community institution while giving it a 21st century twist.
A CVS can be built – or rebuilt – anywhere. A drive thru may be convenient but it certainly does not make our community special.
Once you tear down a historic building that meant so much to so many for so long, you do lose a piece of what makes a community special. We lose a piece of what makes Strafford, Strafford. And then what’s to distinguish us from every other town in Pennsylvania, or the United States, for that matter?
The passage of time … The following is a press release from the Sam (Severino) Caneda family, owners of the Covered Wagon Inn in the 1950’s, regarding the proposed land development plan which includes the demolition of the building.