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?
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.
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.”