TE Historical Society

The Battle of Brandywine Meets Chester County Johnston Gang — Wednesday, April 12 with Bruce Mowday

As President of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, I am  excited to announce our 2017 Spring Lecture Series kicks off with Chester County award-winning journalist Bruce Mowday on Wednesday, April 12. Bruce will speak about two of his books — “The Battle of Brandywine” and “The Johnston Gang”. The reception is at 7 PM with the lecture follows at 7:30 PM at historic Duportail House in Chesterbrook.

September 1777 was a pivotal time in the history of our nation and Chester County – the main engagement of the Philadelphia campaign during the American Revolution, the Battle of Brandywine fought on September 11, 1777 played a crucial role in shaping our country’s future.

Bruce will also talk about infamous Johnston Gang of Chester County. In the late 1970’s, the Johnston burglary ring had operated almost untouched in southern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware for more than a decade, stealing heavy farm equipment and cars and launching operations such as the theft of more than $50,000 from Longwood Gardens.

An enthusiastic invitation is extended to all for a wonderful evening with Bruce Mowday! For further information and reservations, please call 610-647-1051 or visit our website, www.tredyffrinhistory.org 

Bruce will be around following the lecture for book purchases and signing — the perfect graduation, Father’s Day gift for your personal history buff!

We appreciate that Gene Donahue,TV studio/station manager at Tredyffrin Township, will be taping the Trust lecture. Tredyffrin Township Television is offering the Spring Basics of Production (free to township residents), the basics of video production and certification. Don’t just watch TV, make it! For details, click 2017 Basics of Production flyer. Class start next week, sign-up by Friday, April 15 by calling Gene at 610-408-3633 or email TTTV@tredyffrin.org.

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.

Ford Motor Company featured the historic Covered Wagon Inn in 1956 publication!

Covered Wagon Inn Ford Times coverFord Times was a monthly publication produced by Ford Motor Company and given to buyers of new Ford cars by the selling dealership. The first issue was published on April 15, 1908. It remained in publication until 1996. Each issue consisted of several articles about sports or vacation destinations, fun stories about people

According to vintage Ford facts, the Ford Times was most known for the recipes. For many years recipes from famous restaurants across the country were published towards the back of the magazine. The Ford Times of October 1956 contained a painting of the Old Covered Wagon Inn by Ruth Baldwin and included favorite restaurant recipe chopped sirloin a la Mario and garlic bread.

I wonder if the Sam (Severino) Caneda family was the owners of the Covered Wagon Inn when it was featured in Ford Times in 1956.

A special thanks to my friend Greg Prichard, board member of Radnor Historical Society and Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society, for scanning his copy of the Ford Times and providing these historic images.

Covered Wagon Inn Ford Times

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