Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust

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.

House Tour, Hurricane Matthew, Fritz Lumber & T/E School District Finances!

Community Matters readers — I haven’t disappeared; it’s been a busy last month.  First there was the Trust’s 12th Annual Historic House Tour on Sept. 24 which I am delighted to report as extremely successful.  To the house tour guests and to the sponsors who support historic preservation and make the annual tour possible, we say thank you.  And a special thank you to the historic homeowners for opening their homes to the public – the historic homes really are the stars on house tour day!

Following the house tour, my husband and I went to our 100-yr. old house on Port Royal Island, SC for a few days.  On the intercostal waterways, the Sea Islands are located between Charlestown, SC and Savannah, GA, close to Beaufort, SC and Hilton Head.  We stayed on the island until Hurricane Matthew forced our evacuation and then spent the next 4 days wondering if our house survived. Although the area endured major destruction and many folks suffered great loss, I am happy to report that our house remained standing.  We did suffer some roof damage and are now maneuvering through the insurance process.

After returning from SC, my focus shifted to ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz … A Party in the Yard’ – a celebration of the Fritz family and the 153 years of the William H. Fritz Lumber Company in Berwyn on Saturday, Oct. 22, 7-11 PM. The property’s new owner Eadeh Enterprises is the presenting sponsor for the event — Company president Stacey Ballard has enthusiastically supported the event and the celebration of the Fritz family. On behalf of the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, we are excited to honor the contributions of the Fritz family to the community.  Guests will enjoy great food, live music and live & silent auctions plus the opportunity to walk the property for one last time. It really will be an evening to remember, tickets are available at www.tredyffrinhistory.org .

Here’s another historic preservation update — John Zaharchuk, owner of Summit Realty Advisors invited me to a meeting a few weeks ago with himself and Heckendorn Shiles Architects.  Summit Realty is the developer for the CVS project at the Covered Wagon Inn site in Strafford. With restoration plans and drawings now in place, it was a privilege to see the PowerPoint presentation for the Covered Wagon Inn along with samples of proposed materials.  In a word – WOW.  I was truly impressed at their enthusiasm and with the level of preservation detail planned for the 18th century inn.  Yes, we will have a CVS pharmacy on the property but the Main Line landmark is saved (and restored!) in the process!  Thank you John Zaharchuk and Heckendorn Shiles!

Supervisor and school district meetings continue and I appreciate the diligence of  my friend Ray Clarke to attend, especially given my absence of late.

Ray reports that the TE School District finance meeting this week was particularly lively and offered the following three topics of note for me to share.  I hope that you will take the time to review Ray’s remarks and offer your own comments.  As always, thank you Ray —-

  1. Substitute teacher daily rates. TE is at the low end of the rates paid by our regional peers, and the fill rates for vacancies are down in the 80% decile from last year’s 90%.  This is a nationwide issue and reflective of lower teacher graduation numbers.  The Committee agreed to the Administration request to match the rate paid by Lower Merion (not the best comparison?), which would make our starting rate of $115/day higher than 10 of the 13 peers benchmarked.
  2. Bond advance refunding. Lots of technical issues here, but a notable bottom line: the Committee is recommending that the Board approve next Monday the parameters of a bond issuance, even though our long-time bond counsel, Saul Ewing, disagrees with the investment banker (not the district’s Fiduciary) about the IRS rules, the structuring of the issue and, as a consequence, the savings.   Between now and Monday the District is going to shop for a counsel to give a more favorable opinion to approve 10 year debt service savings of at least $500,000 and hopefully over $1 million.
  3. Budgeting. There was initial discussion of a proposal to replace the (now accepted, I guess) surplus budgeting of prior years with a specific “above-the-line” (ie: in the tax base) appropriation for capital expenditure.  At current capital spending levels of $6-7 million a year and 75% funding by borrowing this would phase in an expense item of over $1.5 million a year.  A number of assumptions in this:

a) that budgeting will henceforth be accurate

b) that current taxpayers should pay an assigned percentage (of whatever size) of capital expenditures benefiting future students

c) that current residents should pay anything while the General Fund Balance contains $32 million of current taxpayer money, including $5 million already committed for capital projects and over $9 million for PSERS (for which the district can and does tax every year).

There are really important issues in all of this, and I hope that residents can find some time assess the pros and cons and let the Board know their opinion.

Exciting News: No Demolition for the Covered Wagon Inn!

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What’s the saying, “If there’s a will, there’s a way”.

Late tonight, I learned from Tredyffrin Township supervisor Sean Moir that an agreement has been reached to save the Covered Wagon Inn from demolition.

Over the last couple of months, there has been much discussion about the saving the old field-stone building located on the corner of Lancaster Avenue and Old Eagle School Road in Strafford.

Meetings were held with the township staff, supervisors, planning commissioners, CVS pharmacy developer Summit Realty and owner John Zaharchuk and property owner John G. Hoopes. At one point, it was suggested that a nonprofit historic preservation organization needed to step in to save the building. As President of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and with a unanimous vote of support from our Board of Directors, the Trust stepped in and offered our help in saving the building!

But in the end, Hoopes and Summit were able to come up with an agreement. The new plan will allow the construction of the CVS pharmacy but also preserves the 18th century Covered Wagon Inn.  Hoopes will retain control of the Covered Wagon Inn, handle the interior renovations and lease the space. Summit will restore the exterior of the Covered Wagon Inn as part of their CVS land development project.

The saving of the old Covered Wagon Inn is a home run for historic preservation in Tredyffrin Township! I am thrilled that the Covered Wagon Inn is to be saved and that local history will coexist with CVS.

Thank you John Zaharck, John Hoopes and CVS Pharmacy for listening to the community and saving an important part of our community’s history!

Save the Covered Wagon Inn … Say No to Demolition of Main Line Landmark!

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In front of Tredyffrin Township Planning Commissioners on Thursday night was the Preliminary Land Development application for 625/629 East Lancaster Avenue in Wayne.  Developer Summit Realty Advisors submitted a plan which demolishes the historic 18th century Covered Wagon Inn to construct a new CVS Pharmacy with drive-through and parking.

I attended the Planning Committee meeting and wanted to update on the project. But first as means of full disclosure, when it comes to historic preservation, I am biased. For the last decade I have served as president of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, (www.tredyffrinhistory.org) whose mission is to “preserve and protect historic and cultural resources in Tredyffrin Township”, chair the Annual Historic House Tour and own one of the oldest houses in the Tredyffrin Township.

On to the update:  Presenting the redevelopment application on behalf of the developer was real estate attorney Alyson Zarro, real estate attorney with Exton firm Riley Riper Hollin Colegreco. (Interestingly, Zarro’s educational background includes a BA in History and a MA in Preservation Studies in addition to a JD).  Summit’s preliminary redevelopment plan was presented to the Planning Commissioners by project engineer Joel Dellicarpini of Bohler Engineering.

According to Google Maps, the proposed redevelopment site is approx. 1.73 acres (75,358 sq. ft.), a significant redevelopment parcel. (Click here to see the aerial view of the property and note the small building in lower right corner is the Covered Wagon Inn). The historic Covered Wagon Inn is not located in the center of the property but rather its location is at the edge, on the far corner.  A tiny speck on the aerial map, the historic building is only 1200 sq. ft. in size (on the 75,358 sq. ft. parcel).

Delicarpini showed the preliminary architectural drawings for the large CVS pharmacy and its drive-through. Unlike other CVS buildings, this structure would fit its surrounds and the engineer was proud to point out the short stone wall design feature as somehow that would make up for the destruction of the 250-yr. old Covered Wagon Inn.

Following Delicarpini’s presentation, there was much discussion from the Planning Commissioners regarding the project.  Much to my surprise, many of the comments centered on the demolition plans and wasn’t there a different way that would allow the historic building to remain.  The engineer repeatedly stated that they had ‘tried’ in the design phase, but that leaving the Covered Wagon Inn would somehow impede on their ability to have a drive-through!

Once public comments were permitted, I immediately launched into an impassioned plea to the Planning Commissioners to save the old Covered Wagon Inn.  I gave the history of the township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey which was to have been the basis for historic preservation ordinance.  I was on the township’s HARB at that point and involved in the selection of the 350 historic resources that are part of the survey. The vast majority of the resources are personal residences with a handful of commercial buildings – including the Covered Wagon Inn!

In my appeal, I revisited the demolition of the 18th century Ann Pugh

18th c Pugh Road House demolished January 2014

18th c Pugh Road House demolished January 2014

Farmhouse in January 2014. It was my personal hope that its demolition would have spurred local legislation to protect our historic properties.  Sadly, in the intervening two years, nothing has changed and all historic properties continue to remain at risk.  I explained that because Tredyffrin Township has no ordinances to protect its historic properties, there is nothing to prevent Summit Realty Advisors from demolishing the Covered Wagon Inn.

Of the seven Planning Commissioners, it was remarkable to have so many of them understand and appreciate my passion for historic preservation and indicate support the saving of the Covered Wagon Inn.  I want to personally thank four of the Planning Commissioners — Chair Tory Snyder, Vice Chair Bill Rountree, David Biddison and Scott Growney for their support! Snyder, a land use planner, Rountree, a civil engineer and Biddison and Growney , both real estate attorneys, all know that legally the developer ‘has the right’  to demolish the historic building yet each asked that they look for a way to save it.  I know that the Planning Commissioners hands are tied – their decisions have to be based on the existing township zoning ordinances.  Without a historic preservation ordinance on the books, their job is difficult!

Township supervisor Murph Wysocki attended the Planning Commission meeting as the Board of Supervisor liaison.  I have attended many, many Planning Commission meetings over the years and I have never known a sitting supervisor to take the microphone and offer his personal opinion on a land development project, until this meeting.  Wysocki was clear that he was not speaking as a supervisor but rather as resident. As a retired real estate attorney, Wysocki completely understands the ‘rights of the developer’ in this case but he too appealed to Summit Realty Advisors to come up with a way to save the old Covered Wagon Inn.  A former board member on Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and a sponsor of the Annual Historic House Tour, Murph appreciates the importance of historic preservation in this community and I thank him for his support!

The Covered Wagon Inn is a physical link to our past. Yes, we’ve all heard that before.  But it’s not just about saving an old stone building, but about saving the layers and layers of information about our lives and those of our ancestors.  Without that, we’d erase the stories of our past, as if the people came before us never existed.

Historic buildings like the Covered Wagon Inn in Strafford play a special role in creating the distinctive character of our community.  Historic places matter because they help tell the story of who we are and where we come from.  As suburban sprawl and roadside development make more and more places look the same, it should be more important to preserve the history that makes this community special.

The Covered Wagon Inn at the corner of Old Eagle School and Lancaster Avenue stands at the crossroads of Radnor Township, Delaware County and Tredyffrin Township, Chester County.  Do we really want the ‘gateway’ to our historic 300 year-old township replaced with a drive-through CVS pharmacy?  Where will it stop?

So what is the next step … where do we go?  There were a number of Summit Realty engineers, staff and legal counsel in attendance at the Planning Commission meeting.  They heard the Planning Commissioners, a supervisor, myself as president of a historic preservation organization and several other community members appeal to the developer to come up with a plan that would save the Covered Wagon Inn.  Time will tell to see if they got the message.

Because there is no historic preservation ordinance opposing the demolition of the Covered Wagon Inn, it may take public input to persuade the developers.  I will be sending the link to this post (and the last post with its many comments) to the president of Summit Realty Advisors, John Zaharck as well as the project engineers and legal counsel. In addition the links will go to the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors, Township Manager Bill Martin, Planning Commissioners and PA State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157).

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What can you do to Help Save the Covered Wagon Inn –

A Facebook page, ‘Save Covered Wagon Inn’ was set up at: https://www.facebook.com/SaveCoveredWagonInn  Created less than 24 hours ago and there are over 430 Likes.  Please join the growing list of supporters.

Continue to leave your comments here on Community Matters. Not everyone is on Facebook and because I am sending the link to this post to our elected officials and developer contacts, they will your comments here.

11th Annual Historic House Tour a Success!

Deilwydd rs

Deilwydd, c.1915

Thanks to everyone who helped make the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s 11th Annual Historic House Tour a success!  On Saturday, September 19, eight private homes historic homes and gardens, dating from the Revolutionary War era to the 20th century, opened their doors to the public. Over 500 tickets were purchased for the house tour — the Trust’s annual fundraising event, which raised almost $30,000 for the Living Historic Center in Chesterbrook.

The 2015 house tour featured a select group of remarkable historic homes in Tredyffrin, Easttown and Willistown Townships. Volunteer docents were placed throughout the homes to discuss aspects of the architecture, historic preservation, restoration and creative modern interpretation for 21st century living.   Old friends spent the day together and new friendships were forged – all while stepping back in time and learning about the rich history of the community and the families who had lived in these houses.

The Trust is deeply grateful to the owners of the historic homes featured on the 2015 tour. They not only allowed visitors to come in their homes – they enriched the experience by sharing information and stories about the historic structures.  What a truly delightful group of old house owners on this year’s tour – the effort and time spent on details by each homeowner was remarkable. Historic house-owners are very special people, and our house tour participants were no exception.  In addition to the private homes on the tour, visitors enjoyed a stop at the Diamond Rock Schoolhouse, an octagonal one-room school house dating to the early 1800’s.

The event is a community event and would not be possible without our generous sponsors, the support of our volunteers and especially without those who so graciously opened up their historic homes to the public.

The 11th Annual Historic House Tour sponsor list:

11th Annual Historic House Tour sponsors list final

“If walls could talk, what stories they could tell!” — Historic House Tour tickets available

The 11th Annual Historic House Tour (hard to believe that it’s been 11 years!) is coming up in a few weeks and final preparations are in full swing!

Tickets for the 2015 house tour on Saturday, September 19, noon – 5 PM and Jazz & Just Desserts, the house tour preview party, on Sunday, September. 13, 6-9 PM at Duportail House are available online at www.tredyffrinhistory.org . The house tour is the largest annual fundraiser for Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and all proceeds from ticket sales and sponsorships support historic preservation and the completion of the Living History Center at Duportail.

The 11th Annual Historic House Tour features an interesting mix of eight private historic homes in Tredyffrin, Easttown and Willistown Townships plus the Diamond Rock Schoolhouse, an octagonal one-room school house in the Great Valley.  Discover the beauty of historic preservation on the tour, everything from a mid-1800’s French Normandy hunting lodge on Valley Forge Mountain to Deepdale, the original 19th century stone farmhouse and the 1915 English Cotswold revival estate, ‘Deilwydd’.  Enjoy stops at two different 150-year old carriage houses and marvel at how the owners skillfully adapted the buildings to 21st century family homes.

Also included on the tour is a sprawling 1900’s brick farmhouse in Malvern built by sisters, Ellen and Rebecca Winsor. Pro-suffrage activists from Haverford, the Winsor sisters were among 17 Pennsylvania women imprisoned for their “Silent Sentinel” picketing of the White House under President Woodrow Wilson.

We are still accepting sponsorships for the house tour, which helps to make the annual event possible. Ticket and sponsorship information is on the Trust website or you can email me at info@tredyffrinhistory.org.

It’s great to see many individuals and companies supporting historic preservation through the house tour, along with a number of elected officials and candidates. Its history and the preservation of our historic buildings helps to make this community special!

As the saying goes, “If walls could talk what stories they could tell.” Each featured property on the house tour has generations of original stories to tell!  Hope to see you on the tour!

11th Annual Historic House Tour Poster

 

Paoli Transportation Center moves forward … Included in SEPTA’s 2016-17 Capital Program

The following comment and photo was posted on Facebook today by Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline  —

County Commissioner Michelle Kichline —

I was delighted to hear the news that SEPTA has announced its 2016-27 capital program proposal recently. Among its projects that have been deemed ready for the next phase of design is the Paoli Transportation Center, a project I have had the privilege of working on as a member of the Paoli Task Force. SEPTA’s 2016-27 capital program shows funding for Phase I of the project, moving us closer toward a start of construction in 2016, as well as funding for the project’s phases thereafter for the Darby Road bridge and a parking garage. Paoli is on the move!

A user's photo.
Coincidentally, last night was the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s Spring Lecture Series.  Our guest lecturer Greg Prichard presentation was “Pennsylvania Main Line Train Stations of Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships”.  Greg spoke about train station architecture and history, mthys vs. reality, evolution and growth of the railroad in our area and how past (and future) restoration efforts helped the stations to endure.  Discussing the train stations geographically from east to west, his presentation ended with Paoli Train Station.  During the Q & A following the presentation, I was asked for an update on the Paoli Transportation Center and I really couldn’t offer any new information.
So, after I saw Michelle’s Facebook comment,  I found SEPTA’s 2016 Capital Budget, dated April 2015 was just uploaded online. Below is a status on Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center contained in the recently released document:
SEPTA capital 2016
According to this graphic from SEPTA’s report, the $36 million Phase I design is underway with construction to begin in 2016. Phase I makes the station ADA accessible and includes a pedestrian overpass, elevators and new high level platform.
It appears that the “Paoli on the Move” website has not been updated in a year (April 2014) – perhaps with this exciting news from SEPTA, the timeline on the Tredyffrin Township website can be updated. It does look like the Paoli Transportation Center is taking steps in the right direction!

Preserving History Matters: Watershed Moment for Tredyffrin Township, Chester County

With the recent demolition of the Ann Pugh Farm and as  president of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, chair of the Annual Historic House Tour and owner of one of the oldest houses in the township, I feel a responsibility to speak out on the state of historic preservation in Tredyffrin Township .  

After a review of the history  of preservation  in Tredyffrin and the demolition requirements, the following editorial was written and appears in this week’s Main Line Suburban newspaper and and online.  As I say in the article, the people who purchased the 250-year old Ann Pugh house and then immediately demolished it did not break any laws.  There were no ordinances in Tredyffrin Township to protect the 18th century house and there are no ordinances to protect the other 350+ historic properties in this community from a similar fate.

Pugh Road House

Pugh Road Farm House front

Preserving History Matters: Watershed Moment for Tredyffrin Township

Historic buildings play a special role in creating the distinctive character of each community. Historic preservation is about protecting, promoting, and using historic places. It is also about the power of place, places that matter because they help tell the story of our community, of who we are and where we come from. As suburban sprawl and roadside development make more and more places look the same, it becomes important for communities to keep their identities intact.

In January, we mourned the loss of the 18th century Ann Pugh house on Pugh Road in Wayne.  The demolition of this beautifully restored historic treasure illustrates the plight of America’s old homes.  Historic homes are on demolition lists all over America but many of us hoped that it would never happen in Tredyffrin. As president of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, whose mission is to “preserve and protect historic and cultural resources in Tredyffrin Township”, chair of the Annual Historic House Tour and owner of one of the oldest houses in the Township, I feel it is my duty to speak out.

Typically, historic houses that have been badly neglected over the years, and are in such a state of disrepair that they are considered eyesores, are the ones targeted for demolition. However, the Ann Pugh house was neither neglected or in a state of disrepair. The stunning Georgian stone farmhouse on Pugh Road with its manicured landscaping and guest barn, springhouse and swimming pool had been meticulously restored and maintained.  The real estate company described the Ann Pugh Farm as the “quintessential Pennsylvania farmhouse – a Main Line Classic”, a family home with five bedrooms, four bathrooms and five fireplaces.

The 2.2-acre property was sold on December 12, 2013 for $1.4 million; a demolition application followed two weeks later. According to township staff, the demolition application was approved within 48 hours of its submission with no notification to adjourning property owners required.  Aside from the fact that the house demolished was historic, I found the lack of notification to neighbors concerning, especially given its location next to New Eagle Elementary School.

Mindful of private property rights, what can the township do, and what should it do (if anything) through its zoning and land use ordinances to stop the demolition of historic buildings? The issue of historic building regulation, and land use regulations, versus the rights of individual property owners has seen much debate over the years in Tredyffrin with little agreement.

Although preservation issues facing Tredyffrin Township are similar to those faced by other communities, it is interesting that municipalities like Willistown, Lower Merion and Radnor have managed to balance the rights of individual property owners with the protection of historic properties.  For instance, in Lower Merion, a demolition permit for a property on their Historic Resource Inventory list requires the recommendation of their Historic Commission plus approval from the Board of Commissioners.  The demolition process requires similar review in Willistown and Radnor townships. No such requirement for review of demolition applications exists in Tredyffrin Township.  No ordinance protects the demolition of any historic building nor does a demolition permit require the review of any township board or commission or the approval of the Board of Supervisors.

Since its founding by Welsh settlers in 1707, Tredyffrin Township has enjoyed a rich inventory of historic resources. In the 1960’s Tredyffrin Township was the first municipality in Pennsylvania to establish a Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) and they had authority over a Historic Site List of 29 historic properties. Unlike the conventional historic society, the HARB is a regulatory body with the legal authority to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors for building permit applications that involved the reconstruction, alteration or demolition of these 29 properties.  Some of the historic properties on the list included the one-room Diamond Rock Octagonal School, Old Eagle School, Great Valley Mill, Wharton Esherick Museum, Baptist Church in the Great Valley, Lee & Bradford Quarters (Picket Post Swim Club), Van Leer Cabin next to Conestoga HS, Strafford Train Station)

In 2003, an award-winning Historic Resource Survey, recognized by the Pennsylvania Historic Museum Commission, was completed for the Township. The study provided a detailed inventory of 356 important historic resources in the Township.  A database and Geographical Information System (GIS) were included to link the historic resources to the Township’s existing GIS tax parcel data.

The survey listed and classified historic properties into three categories – Class I, Class II, and Class III.  The recently demolished Ann Pugh house was listed as a Class II property in the Township survey with an additional recommendation for potential listing on the National Register of Historic Places. As an aside, National Historic Register properties are not protected from demolition in Tredyffrin Township. The Federal government recognizes historically and architecturally important properties but leaves their regulation to local municipal government.

After the completion of the Historic Resource Survey in 2003 and the updated Comprehensive Plan and Historic Preservation Plan in 2009, there was discussion about adding historic properties to the list of 29 protected properties. It was determined that the easiest way to add to the list would be to replace the HARB with a Historical Commission which occurred in June 2011.  Unfortunately, a list of protected properties in Tredyffrin Township no longer exists and the protection for the original 29 properties is gone.

Over a decade ago, Tredyffrin Township’s elected officials acknowledged the importance of our historic buildings, hired a consulting company to catalogue, and document them for the Historic Resource Survey. However, other than receiving accolades from Harrisburg … nothing further was done with the survey results.  If the Township had used the Historic Resource Survey as a tool to protect historic properties, the Ann Pugh house would probably still be standing.

Tredyffrin Township is always mentioned when discussing Philadelphia’s Main Line historic suburbs. In fact, the Township has the distinction of the highest number of historic properties of all municipalities in Chester County. Seven years ago, the Township celebrated its first three hundred years of history (Tredyffrin 300), the same year that it received Preserve America designation for “protecting and celebrating its heritage”.

For historic preservationists, the destruction of any historic property is difficult but is compounded when it occurs in your own backyard.  What makes Tredyffrin Township truly unique is its rich architectural heritage:  the old homes and buildings that tell the story of the community’s past, that continue to bring pleasure in the present, and will, if properly cared for, inform and inspire the future.

To be clear, the people who purchased the 250-year old Ann Pugh house and then immediately demolished it did not break any laws.  There were no ordinances in Tredyffrin Township to protect the 18th century house and there are no ordinances to protect the other 350+ historic properties in this community from a similar fate.

For historic preservation to matter, and for our local history to be meaningful, it needs to be supported. A watershed moment for historic preservation in Tredyffrin Township, will the loss of the Ann Pugh house serve as the needed impetus for change.  Or, will it send the message that Tredyffrin Township values individual property rights and development at all costs and allow the destruction of our historic buildings to continue.

We understand that change will occur as the future unfolds, but this does not have to happen at the expense of our community’s historic properties. A community that respects its history respects itself.

Pattye Benson
President, Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust
Chair, Annual Historic House Tour

Ann Pugh Farm … an 18th century Tredyffrin Township historic treasure lost to demolition

Pugh Road House

Demolition of Ann Pugh farmhouse

For historic preservationists, the destruction of any historic property is difficult but is compounded when it occurs in your own backyard.  What makes Tredyffrin Township truly unique is its rich architectural heritage:  the old homes and buildings that tell the story of the community’s past, that continue to bring pleasure in the present, and will, if properly cared for, inform and inspire the future.

In 2003, Tredyffrin Township’s Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) undertook what would become an extensive award-winning architectural survey, identifying more than 350 historic resources in the township.  As a member of HARB, I was involved in the review and cataloging of the township’s historic buildings for this project.

According to this historic resource survey, the William Pugh Farm (also called Ann Pugh Farm and A. Glass Farm) received a historic survey Class II structure rating.  The primary architectural style was listed as Georgian and identified the structural system as stone with shake roof.  In the report on the Pugh farmhouse, the surveyor comments include, “recommendation for potential individual listing on the National Register of Historic Places”.

The township’s historic survey description of the property states that the original owner, William C. Pugh, made iron augers in his blacksmith shop at this farm in 1873 and is responsible for the road’s name.  A 1980 survey date suggests that the Pugh farmhouse lists a date of 1750 for the first section and 1830 for the later wing.  This date associates with the date stone of the springhouse of 1832 and that of the barn showing 1839 (see photos below).  According to the historic survey records, “the blacksmith shop was extant in 1980 close to the road, but appears to have been demolished.  Pugh’s property was sold by 1883 to A. Glass, who held 20 acres in 1887.  The complex is distinctive as a combined farmstead with a farmer blacksmith shop and barn.”

When completed, Tredyffrin Township’s award-winning historic resource survey received statewide attention with the 2007 Preservation Award from Preservation Pennsylvania.  At the December 2004 Board of Supervisors meeting, former State Representative Carole Rubley presented the Government Initiative Award on behalf of the Commonwealth to Jim Garrison, who was the Chairman of the Historical Architectural Review Board at that time.  In the minutes of that BOS meeting, Rubley stated that the survey “will be a planning tool for preservation practices in the Township. Mrs. Rubley congratulated the HARB for this great honor, and said it made her proud of the Township.”  A longtime supporter of historic preservation in Tredyffrin Township, I don’t know that the demolition of the 18th century Ann Pugh Farm would make her proud.

In 2009, the township staff, representatives of the Planning Commission and HARB and members of the community took on the arduous task of updating the Comprehensive Plan & Historic Preservation Plan. At that time, I was a member of HARB and served on the citizens committee that helped create the revised planning tool.

In the description of purpose for the Historic Preservation Plan, the document states, “…the Township recognizes the importance of its existing historic resources and the role they play in contributing to the Township’s character. The Historic Preservation Plan will assist the Township and its residents in appreciating the importance of preserving and protecting historic resources.”

Given the township’s stated support of historic preservation, then I must believe that something went terribly wrong regarding the Ann Pugh Farm, insofar as there were no red flags raised before granting the demolition permit on this property.  According to Bill Martin, the township manager, the permit was applied for and reviewed by township staff.  In an email he stated, “Unless the home is protected, the code department has no ability to deny or delay these applications.” 

The township has the  historic resource survey book that documents, by street address, the 350+ historic properties, with descriptions and photographs.  When the township staff receives a demolition permit request, it would only take a couple of minutes to check whether the property is included in the historic resource survey.  The property was only purchased last month, how is it possible that a demolition permit can go through the township in less than 30 days?  It’s too late to make a difference for the 18th century Pugh Road house but going forward, something needs to change.

Unless the process changes regarding notification of demolition applications, there’s nothing to keep this from happening over and over. Although I am no longer a member of the Historic Commission, I continue to serve as the president of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and chair of the Annual Historic House Tour.   I was disheartened to read on that township website that starting in 2014,  the Historic Commission is no longer holding monthly meetings but has instead decreased its meeting schedule to quarterly. And unfortunately, the township no longer has a HARB which may have helped protect this historic property from demolition.

For historic preservation to matter, and for our local history to be meaningful, it needs to be supported.

In 2007, I had the pleasure of co-chairing the township’s Tredyffrin 300 celebration with my friend Judy DiFilippo.  The community came together that year to celebrate our three hundred years of history.  Our history was important when the township was founded in 1707, it was important when we celebrated the 300th year of its founding in 2007, and …  its history and its historic resources should be important to preserve in 2014.   

In the words of early preservationist William Morris, “These old buildings do not belong to us only, they belong to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not in any sense our own property to do with as we like with them. We are only trustees for those that come after us.”   

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Remembering the Ann Pugh Farm, circa 1792 with a few photos — a loss of an 18th century historic treasure

Pugh Road Farm House front

  Ann Pugh Farmhouse, circa 1792

Ann Pugh Farm Barn and Swimming Pool

Barn and swimming pool

Barn date stone

Barn date stone

Great room of guest barn

Great room of guest barn

Beautiful 18th c dining room

Beautiful 18th c dining room

Pugh farmhouse kitchen

Pugh farmhouse kitchen

Living room at Ann Pugh farmhouse

Living room at Ann Pugh farmhouse

Ann Pugh farmhouse bedroom

Ann Pugh farmhouse bedroom

 

 

 

Beautiful 18th Century House is Demolished in Tredyffrin Township — Why?

When I was looking for houses for the  9th Annual Historic House Tour last year, there was a beautiful 18th century home at 523 Pugh Road in Wayne that was for sale.  The stately home, known as the Ann Pugh Farm, has its early roots in the 1700’s.  The stone farm house, garage, barn and springhouse were all wonderfully restored and and 2.2 acres of beautifully landscaped lawn.

Described in the real estate brochure as a a “historic estate property with stately farmhouse”, the stone house was fully restored with five fireplaces, a ‘guest’ barn,  swimming pool with spa, 5 bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, library, 4500 square feet and all the modern amenities for the 21st century family.

The property was absolutely stunning and a perfect house for the annual historic house tour!  I contacted the real estate agent in June to see if the owners would consider having the house on the tour in September.  Occasionally there are houses for sale on the house tour and sometimes the ‘perfect buyer’ for the old house is on the tour. And with a location next to the elementary school, this  home would be a real attraction as a family home and the house tour a perfect opportunity for more potential buyers to see it.

Although flattered to be asked, I was told by the real estate agent that the older couple who owned house  declined the house tour offer, stating that they were very private people and were not interested.  I was disappointed — neighboring Avonwood Farm (c.1750) also on Pugh Road was already scheduled to be on the 2013 house tour and the addition of the Ann Pugh  Farm would have connected the histories of those two early farms.

The 9th Annual Historic House Tour occurred in September — with Avonwood Farm and without the Ann Pugh Farm, which was still for sale at that point.   It sometimes can take longer for historic homes to sell so I assumed that the house was still on the market — that was until I learned otherwise yesterday!  I was shocked when Tredyffrin Township resident Christine Johnson posted a demolition photo of  this beautiful historic home on her Facebook page yesterday.  It seems impossible to believe that this could happen here in Tredyffrin Township and no one cared enough to try and save it a piece of our local history!

According to Zillow, the Ann Pugh Farm was sold for $1.4 million on December 12th.  Although less than the original asking price of $1.7 million, certainly a significant price tag. In less than a month after the purchase, the house is being demolished.

  • Doesn’t a demolition permit take longer than 30 days?  
  • Where was the township’s Historic Commission and the Board of Supervisors?  
  • Was there even a pause by anyone on the township staff before the permit was granted?  

It would be one thing if this 18th century house had been neglected and in disrepair but that was not the case. The former owners purchased the house  in 1982 for $230K. They lived in the house for thirty years, raised their family and lovingly restoring their historic treasure, down to every detail! With their children grown and out of the house, they decided to downsize and sell the family home.

I cannot imagine how the former owners must now feel knowing their beautiful historic home has been demolished. I wonder if they had any idea what the ‘new’ owners intended to do when they signed that sales agreement in December?  Beyond the purchase price, the ‘new’ owners have the demolition and rebuilding costs of their new McMansion.  It’s hard for me to understand why anyone would spend $1.4 million on a completely restored historic home, only to turn around and knock it down.

From the Tredyffrin Township website — “Few townships in Pennsylvania are as rich in history as Tredyffrin Township, which is located at the easternmost edge of Chester County, Pennsylvania … The Township had its beginning in 1682 when a group of Welsh Quakers went to William Penn in England and purchased, at a price of ten cents an acre, forty thousand acres of land in southeastern Pennsylvania. Penn promised the Quakers that here they could enjoy their customs and language in a little “barony” of their own…”

As president of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and chair of the annual historic house tour, the destruction of the Ann Pugh Road Farm is more than just a sad day for me; it’s a loss to the community.  Historic buildings serve as reminders of the past. This is one of the reasons preserving historical buildings is important. Understanding the past and having reminders of the past allows people to understand there they are and where they are headed.  When people understand what the community has gone through and have visual reminders of their past then they can feel more connected to the place. Preserving our past gives us more understanding and hope for the future.

The loss of the Pugh Road farmhouse is a loss of our local history … and represents a very sad commentary on the value of  historic preservation in Tredyffrin Township.

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