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?
In describing the importance of the Covered Wagon Inn, Laura Hutton comments on the Save the Covered Wagon Inn Facebook page, “… This historic building adds to the character of this township, it demonstrates a continuity to our past and pride that our past is also part of our future.” Laura, your words could not be truer and only amplified by the historical findings of historian and author Margaret DePiano of Devon.
Since reading about the proposed CVS land development project which includes the demolition of the Covered Wagon Inn, Margaret DePiano has been pouring over the early history of the building. She has identified early owners, their relationships with historic events and compared multiple sources for documentation. Her research about the historic building (Covered Wagon Inn), its 18th century owners and the ties to the Revolutionary War era are fascinating.
Margaret is continuing her research on the early days of the Covered Wagon Inn but I wanted to share some of her findings on Community Matters. Thank you Margaret; your research underscores and adds to the importance of saving this building.
For those who would like to add their signature to the growing list of names on the Save the Covered Wagon Inn petition, please click here and you be taken to it directly.
The Miles Tavern circa 1747 – 1784 (Covered Wagon Inn)
Around 1720, when the Old Eagle School Road was carved out to intersect Lancaster Avenue (then Conestoga Road) the new road meandered through fields and pastures of our early farms. Those farms had many out buildings and one out building in particular is a part of the Old Covered Wagon Inn. The out building referenced here is situated within the middle part of today’s structure showing the outside chimney facing Lancaster Avenue. This out building existed on a farm that most likely dates back before 1700.
Many land records, tavern licenses, etc. before 1800 may not exist or incredibly hard to locate. According to an old circa 1776 map the particular location of this out building identified as the Miles Tavern was actually very close to the Chester and Philadelphia County border. Delaware County was not founded until 1789 and it was years later before its border could be identified on area maps. Many tavern proprietors or landowners close to this Philadelphia County border identified Philadelphia as a source of origin for their establishments. These early taverns often served as posts for military recruiting as well as for military signaling. The proprietors and their families of the many taverns along the old Conestoga Road were prominent individuals.
The Miles Tavern (The Old Covered Wagon Inn) was established around 1747 according to historical writings found within our local historical societies’ records. This tavern’s proprietor James Miles married Hannah Pugh and was a very active participant in the founding of The Baptist Church in the Great Valley. The Miles Tavern was ideally situated as a military post in the early days. It was located on the Conestoga wagon route with a direct access to Philadelphia as well as with Old Eagle School Road, which provided a short traveling distance to Valley Forge. Many unnamed Patriots are buried at the Old Eagle School Cemetery.
A possible historical association to the old Miles Tavern, which was located adjacent to or within the Philadelphia County borders that may be most impressive, was the then-Captain Samuel Nicholas who was the first commissioned officer by the Second Continental Congress on November 28, 1775 to lead a battalion of Continental Marines. Surmised by historian Edwin Simmons, Nicholas used the “Conestoga Waggon” tavern as a recruiting post however; the standing legend in the United States Marine Corps places its first recruiting post at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. This historical reference to an old “Conestoga Waggon” recruiting post at, near or within the Philadelphia borders may place the Covered Wagon in a position that quite possibly played a role in forming the Continental Navy in 1775. Today’s Old Covered Wagon Inn with a different spelling of “Wagon” may have taken its name from the early “Conestoga Waggon” tavern.
To add to the historical intrigue of the old Miles Tavern, Samuel Miles, son of James and Hannah, enjoyed a very prominent career in the military as well as in other careers that followed—A few historical snippets include: enlisted in Isaac Wayne’s Company, a part of Pennsylvania’s militia during the French and Indian War; organized a militia company of his own early in the American Revolution; entered politics and was elected to the House of Assembly in 1772 and was an advocate for American independence early on; George Washington’s dependence on Miles to secure boat transport for Washington’s army as it made it’s way south from New York to Yorktown in 1781; continued his role in history as a businessman when in 1783 he negotiated with financier Robert Morris to help underwrite the voyage of The Empress of China, the first American vessel to visit China’s mainland; cofounder of Centre Furness in State College with John Patton in 1791; was made Judge of the Appeals Court and served as an alderman and mayor of Philadelphia from 1790-1791—and there’s so much more!
Many taverns along the old Conestoga Road changed names frequently and at times, some taverns were acknowledged as having a shortened version of a name, given a nickname or no official name at all. Historical writings indicate that from 1747-1832 the Miles Tavern changed it name many times such as: John Miles Tavern; The Black Bear Inn; The Irish Tavern; The Unicorn (different location as the later Unicorn Tavern at Conestoga and Lancaster); The Commodore Decatur—named after Stephan Decatur Sr. and Jr. (Navy); and at times, no name.
Writings indicate that Jonathan Pugh with his son Captain Samuel Pugh were proprietors of the “older” portion of the tavern with James Miles’ son Richard owning the “newer” part until 1784. Around that time, the tavern was renamed The Unicorn. This reference about an “old” and “new” lends one to believe that the tavern had been enlarged before 1784. There was also an indication that from 1778-1784 Robert Kennedy rented The Unicorn—which was formerly named the Miles Tavern. Records indicate that Robert Kennedy purchased the establishment in 1784. There’s so much more “early” history associated with The Old Covered Wagon Inn that we as a community cannot let this awesome piece of history slip away.
By Margaret DePiano, author of the DEVON book
References: The Continental Era in History of the United States Marine Corps on Wikipedia; Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society Quarterly, The Village of Spread Eagle by Herb Fry, The Old Lancaster or Conestoga Road by Boyle Irwin and Howard S. Okie; The Radnor Historical Society Bulletin Vol. III Fall, 1977 #7; Samuel Miles, Stephen Decatur Sr. & Jr. on Wikipedia; ExplorePAhistory.com Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Road; Circa 1776-1777 Map – http://www.mapofus.org/_maps/atlas/1776-PA.html; Haverford Township Historical Society, The Lancaster Road and Turnpike
Less than three weeks ago at the January 21, 2016 meeting of the Tredyffrin Township Planning Commission, Summit Realty Advisors (on behalf of their client CVS Pharmacy), proposed a land development plan for the corner of Old Eagle School Rd.and Lancaster Ave, in Strafford, Tredyffrin Township, Chester County. The redevelopment project includes a drug store with drive-thru which is apparently the ‘new and improved model’ for all CVS construction projects. In the plans currently proposed, it is that drive-thru appendage that requires the demolition of the old Covered Wagon Inn.
After the Planning Commission meeting and my first Community Matters post on the proposed land development plan that would demolish the Covered Wagon Inn, no one could have been more surprised than me with the outpouring of support. A ‘Save the Covered Wagon Inn’ Facebook page now has over 1,500 ‘likes’, a Change.org petition opposing the demolition with 3,700+ signatures and comments, articles by reporter Adam Farence in the Daily Local and Main Line Suburban newspapers, support from Carla Zambelli on Chester County Ramblings, Caroline O’Halloran’s Savvy Mainline, bestselling historical novelists Loretta Chase & Isabella Bradford on their website, Two Nerdy History Girls, tweets on Twitter and Instagram, phone calls and emails from elected officials, historical societies, township and county staff, real estate developers and interested people from all over the country all wanting to share their personal memories of the Covered Wagon Inn and asking how they can help save it. Thank you all.
Tredyffrin Township does not have a historic preservation ordinance preventing the demolition of the Covered Wagon Inn; making every historic property in the township currently ‘at-risk’! A legal fund, as some have suggested fighting the demolition of the Covered Wagon Inn, would serve no purpose. The real estate developer has a legal right to build the CVS Pharmacy with drive-thru at the Strafford location and unfortunately, also has a legal right to demolish the Covered Wagon Inn in the process.
As someone who cares about this community, its history and the historic buildings that make it special, it has been rewarding to find so many people really do care about saving the Covered Wagon Inn.
I remain hopeful that if ‘ there’s a will, there’s a way’ and that the plans for the new CVS in Strafford can be reconfigured so as to successfully coexist with the historic building. I am not opposing the redevelopment of this site, I am opposing the demolition of the Covered Wagon Inn. Sometimes doing the right thing is a challenge but I am confident that John Zaharchuk, owner of Summit Realty Advisors, is the person that can make it happen!
Look for the next post (Update 2) which includes research on the early years of the Covered Wagon Inn by local historian and author, Margaret DePiano of Devon. Margaret has uncovered some new information about the Inn and the special 18th century owners linked to its past.
The Summit Realty Advisors proposed land development plan in Tredyffrin Township includes the construction of a CVS Pharmacy with drive-through window and the demolition of the old Covered Wagon Inn. What’s the saving, If there’s a will, there’s a way” …
Several people have commented on Community Matters, Save the Covered Wagon Facebook page and on the Change.or petition about a land development project on Egypt Road in Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County. That 2006 CVS redevelopment project included a proposal to demolish the Audubon Inn, an 18th century building and is eerily similar to Summit’s proposed plan to demolish the old Covered Wagon Inn for the construction of a CVS with drive-thru.
The proposed land development plan for the CVS in Audubon contained approximately 2 acres and the circa 1757 Audubon Inn was located on the corner at the intersection of Egypt Road and Park Avenue. Much like what has happened here since last week’s announcement at the Planning Commission meeting to demolish the Covered Wagon Inn, there was a public outcry of opposition and interested citizens came together to save the Audubon Inn from demolition.
The CVS/Audubon Inn developer Redwood Holdings of Cherry Hill, NJ spent several years (and no doubt much money in addition to time) working with township officials, the county planning commission, and local interest groups for resolution. In the end, Redwood Holdings was able to build their CVS Pharmacy with drive-through but also save and preserve the Audubon Inn.
The CVS drugstore in Audubon was built to resemble a traditional barn, so as to complement the existing Audubon Inn. Complementary materials, colors and architectural details were used to blend with the historic character of the Audubon Inn. A fieldstone façade, varied rooflines, window design with dormers and shutters, etc. was an attempt by Redwood Holdings to reduce the impact and create an overall appealing aesthetic for the community and Audubon Inn.
The CVS/Audubon Inn project was so successful, that the Montgomery County Planning Commission awarded the CVS Pharmacy and Audubon Inn the 2008 award in Excellence in Planning And Design! In the description of the award, it stated that the project “preserved the historic inn and successfully integrated a new drugstore into an historic setting.” According to one article I read, community input and collaboration between the township and developers was critical to the success of the project.
The Audubon Inn was meticulously restored by the law firm of Fuey & Baldassari and now houses their law offices.
I have stated and will re-state that I am no opposed to development, I’m only opposed to the unnecessary demolition of historic properties. Summit Realty Advisors has a right to build their CVS with drive-through at this location. Tredyffrin Township has no historic preservation ordinance protecting its historic buildings — not even its National Historic Register properties are not protected!) so therefore, … Summit has the right to demolition the Covered Wagon Inn. But I firmly believe in the saying, “If there’s a will, there’s a way” and the CVS/Audubon Inn project shows how successfully it can abe done!
Addendum: The National Trust for Historic Preservation is so concerned about the epidemic of chain drug stores that they have added a statement on their website in this regard. Interesting …
Chain drugstores are expanding rapidly into traditional American downtowns and urban neighborhoods. Research of the National Trust Main Street Center has shown that drugstore chains can play a role in revitalizing older downtowns. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is pleased to see these investments by chain drugstores in situations where they are welcomed by the community and do not threaten a town’s character or historic integrity.
Unfortunately, chain drugstores have frequently demolished significant structures, replacing them with freestanding suburban-style stores whose design – seas of parking, drive-through windows, blank exteriors, and one-story scale – disrupt the traditional main street. Even when stores use vacant land, their prototypical boxes are inappropriate for pedestrian-oriented downtowns. Generic design, disregard of scale, and the destruction of historic properties greatly damage a community’s unique sense of place.
There has been questions about the exact date of the Covered Wagon Inn. According to Tredyffrin Township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey, the construction date is attributed to circa 1780. A team of professionals from Preservation Design Partnership in Philadelphia conducted the municipal survey documentation project, which surveyed and documented over 350 historic resources in Tredyffrin Township.
Interestingly in 2004, the Historic Resource Survey was given the Government Award by Preservation Pennsylvania. The project was described as “providing a usable preservation planning tool for a suburban township currently under intense development and redevelopment (in the form of “tear-downs”) pressure.” The award description went on to say that, “Tredyffrin Township Historic Resources Survey represents a model for the use of technology to document and plan for the management, protection and preservation of historic buildings, sites and districts valued by a municipality.”
The township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey was funded with taxpayer dollars and was intended to aid the municipal officials and staff in the protection of Tredyffrin Township’s resources. The preservation of historic buildings like the Covered Wagon Inn is a one-way street. There is no chance to reuse or save the building, once it’s gone. Preservation and restoration is the ultimate form of recycling. What is historic, and worth saving, varies with the beholder.
Do I have absolute certainty that the construction date of the Covered Wagon Inn is 1780? The simple answer is no but does that make it less important to save?
The Covered Wagon Inn is on the corner of Old Eagle School Road and Lancaster Ave. This intersection marks the boundaries between Radnor Township in Delaware County and Tredyffrin Township in Chester County. There has been a story swirling that the Covered Wagon Inn is actually in both Radnor and Tredyffrin townships. The plaques face each other, one labeled Chester County and the other Delaware County. Story is that patrons dining in the old inn would want to sit at the table placed over the plaques and enjoy joking that they were sitting in different counties!
Tredyffrin Township’s township manager Bill Martin and zoning director Matt Baumann confirmed that the Covered Wagon Inn is located completely in Tredyffrin Township. The historic building probably was originally in the two counties but at some point, the property boundaries were realigned. But it still makes for a great story and the brass plaques which remain on the floor are priceless to local history.
When I visited with the staff of Thos. Moser, the current tenants of the Covered Wagon Inn, I took a number of interior photos of the building’s wonderful interior, including the brass plaques on the floor and the large stone fireplace.
The restored interior space is the perfect backdrop for the fine American handmade furniture of Thos Moser.
If these walls could only talk …
Carla Zambelli in her Chester County Ramblings blog writes in her recent post about the effort to ‘Save the Covered Wagon Inn’. Click here to read: For the Love of Community and History
Please sign the Change.org petition to Save the Covered Wagon Inn by clicking: http://tinyurl.com/SaveCoveredWagonInn In 36 hours, over 1,700 signatures. People from as far as Hawaii, Washington State, Florida, etc. are sharing memories of the Covered Wagon Inn. Please sign and share your memories.
There is a Facebook page, ‘Save the Covered Wagon Inn’ which has over 1,300 ‘likes’. Please visit the page and support the effort to save the historic building. http://www.facebook.com/SaveCoveredWagonInn
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
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).
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.
Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission has a full agenda for their first meeting of 2016 tonight (7 PM, Tredyffrin Township building). The list of Items include a preliminary/final development application for the redevelopment and expansion of the long vacant Paoli Diner (Dany’s Diner, Pizzeria Uno) property as a Nemours medical office.
Developers will present a subdivision application to consolidate four lots on East Conestoga Road in Wayne to create one new parcel. The proposed land development plan on the property is the construction of Brightview Senior Living, a five-story building with 156 beds. The four properties (293, 301, 309 and 319) are located behind Toppers Spa, across from Nudy’s Restaurant. That section of East Conestoga Ave. angling off of Lancaster Ave. is narrow, congested and difficult to maneuver – this proposed plan is going to need road improvement/driver visibility requirements.
The last item in front of the Planning Commissioners tonight has personal interest – a land development application to demolish a building a construct a CVS Pharmacy and drive-thru. Summit Realty Advisors will present a plan for the 1-1/2 acre property located at 625/629 East Lancaster Ave. in Wayne. This property is located on the corner of Old Eagle School Road and Lancaster Ave – the Paddock Restaurant (previously John Harvards Brew House) property.
I have no issue with the redevelopment of this property, including the demolition of the ‘new addition’ located at 629 Lancaster, which housed the Paddock Restaurant. But … I have a real problem with demolition of 625 East Lancaster Ave, the historic building that currently houses Thos. Moser Furniture. According to Tredyffrin Township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey, the building was built about 1780 as a private resident. John Palmer owned a farm which included this structure in 1873, indicated on the 1881 atlas map. The structure was enlarged during the 20th century and was known as the Covered Wagon Inn. Well-known on the Main Line for fine dining and dancing, in its heyday the Covered Wagon Inn featured big name bands and performing artists such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington and their orchestras.
Last fall, I had a discussion with a township planning commissioner about this property and the possible redevelopment project. At the time, I stated that I could support the redevelopment (At that point, I did not know the specifics of a CVS drive-through plan) of the property with if the historic building was saved and incorporated into the project.
I stopped by Thos. Moser, showroom for the handmade American furniture company and current tenant of the historic building. The building is beautifully restored and maintained, making it the perfect backdrop for Thos. Moser furniture!
The landlord has told the staff that the property is in the process of redevelopment and that they should look to relocate. Their lease is up in September. The interesting part of the conversation was that the Thos. Moser staff told that because the building was ‘historic, it was protected’. Unfortunately, in Tredyffrin Township, we know that our historic buildings are not protected. Although I explained that a demolition application for the building was in front of the Tredyffrin Township Planning Commissioners tonight, it was clear that that they didn’t think it possible!
In a review of the Summit Realty Advisors website, there are many, many CVS Pharmacy development projects, including a similar current project in Media. However, in the midst of their drug store building portfolio, I discovered a very special project by John Zaharchuk, owner/developer with Summit Realty Advisors. Zaharchuk oversaw the redevelopment of Ambler Boiler House, the 19th century power plant of an abandoned asbestos factory. Working with historic architectural firm, Heckendorn-Shiles (a former historic house tour sponsor) of Wayne, the project redesigned the circa 1897 brick building, preserving its architectural integrity and recycled it into a clean-and-green office development.
Mr. Zarachuk, your adaptive reuse of a landmark industrial building as a unique and distinctive office space was a stunning achievement for historic redevelopment in the Ambler community! As you did with Ambler Boiler House, could you use your vision to save the 250 year-old Covered Wagon Inn in Strafford. Please say no to its demolition.
Belated Happy New Year! Waking up to 23 degree temperatures today reminds us that we are not going to escape the winter after all. Having recently returned from holidays spent in South Carolina with balmy, sunny 83 temperatures makes the arctic cold even harder to take!
Since the start of the New Year, here are a couple of noteworthy items. The 2016 reorganization of Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors came with two surprises – recently elected at-large supervisors Trip Lukens and Sean Moir were elected chair and vice chair, respectively of the board. Except for, also recently elected, supervisor Heather Greenberg, all other currently serving supervisors had served on the BOS longer than these two newly elected supervisors. But Lukens isn’t new to leadership roles in the township, having served previously as a member and chair of Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission. Congratulations to Lukens and Moir on the vote of confidence from their fellow supervisors and best wishes in their new positions!
The TE School District held their first school board meeting of 2016 last week.The Board unanimously adopted the 2016-17 preliminary budget which contains a 4.3% tax increase. The Board decided to “keep their options open” by approving a preliminary budget with the Act 1 index of 2.4% and allowable exceptions to Act 1 of 1.9% to close the project budget deficit of $4.75 million. It should be noted that Tredyffrin Township recently passed their 2016 budget with a zero percent tax increase.
The following chart shows TESD tax increases over the last twelve years. 2004-05 was the last zero tax increase year.
• 2015-16: 3.81%
• 2014-15: 3.4%
• 2013-14: 1.7%
• 2012-13: 3.3%
• 2011-12: 3.77%
• 2010-11: 2.9%
• 2009-10: 2.95%
• 2008-09: 4.37%
• 2007-08: 3.37%
• 2006-07: 3.90%
• 2005-06: 1.40%
• 2004-05: Zero Tax Increase
Although the adoption of the 2016-17 preliminary budget does not commit the Board to a tax increase, I cannot remember the last time the Board passed a preliminary budget with a tax increase and then decreased the tax increase in the final approved budget. Because the District does not allow the archive of meeting minutes on the website beyond the current year, there is no way to access this type of information, short of a ‘right-to-know’ request. (Here’s a suggestion/request for the Public Information committee – please keep the minutes for all school board meetings on the District website; a RTK should not be a requirement to access public information.)
I want to note that although the Board voted 9-0 to accept the preliminary budget, both Scott Dorsey (D) and Ed Sweeney (R) voiced their objection to the tax increase and do not want to see a 4.3% tax increase in the final budget. It was refreshing that newly elected Board member Robert Hotinski (D) spoke up about the way the budget information is presented — asking for more details on the line items from the District’s business manager Art McDonnell. Finance and Facilities Chair Virginia Lastner (R) encouraged the public to attend upcoming finance meetings and budget workshops and to look for solutions together with the District. 2016 is a new year and maybe the tides are turning …
I received a request from the staff of the Chester County Intermediate Unit to advertise the Chester County Substitute Teacher Job Fair, Thursday, January 14, 4-7 PM. The Job Fair will be held at the CCIU office, 455 Boot Road, Downingtown, PA. Representatives for all the public school districts in Chester County will be on hand to discuss current substitute teacher job openings and to accept applications and resumes. The CCIU press release states, “… According to the PA Department of Education, the current supply of available teachers, including substitutes, is not keeping up with the growing demand.”
Walk-ins are welcome at the job fair, but interested individuals are invited to preregister for the event online: help.thesubservice.com/chester
Although the Chester County Substitute Teacher Job Fair is for candidates seeking positions in all the Chester County public school districts, I post this notice in hopes of helping some of the experienced and educated aides and paraeducators whose jobs were outsourced by Tredyffrin Easttown School District.
Tredyffrin Township supervisors held their last board meeting of 2015. Some of the newsworthy items to report from the meeting:
- The supervisors approved the 2016 budget with no tax increase! This is news because the board of supervisors had unanimously approved the 2016 preliminary budget in November with 3.05 percent tax increase. Citing larger than expected dollars from commercial and resident real estate transfer taxes, supervisors will not raise township taxes. (Those same unexpected transfer dollars to the township also affect the economic outlook for the TE School District! I hope that the school board is paying attention.)
- The supervisors approved the settlement agreement between Tredyffrin Township and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. Malvern resident Stephen Kline spoke in opposition of this agreement, claiming that it is wrong not to hold the Turnpike Commission to the same stormwater standard as required of residents in Tredyffrin Twp. As a resident on Salem Way whose property (and value?) will be affected by the actions of the turnpike, Kline (himself an attorney) stated he will take legal action against the township, supervisors (current and those serving since 2009), the solicitor, township manager, assistant manager and engineer as a result of the agreement. Kline has been a constant at township meetings regarding the turnpike project. (Click here to read the agreement). *** See comment below for clarification from Mr. Kline ***
- The supervisors approved Project #15-05, the township front and rear entrance steps rehabilitation project! These was the third time the township had bid the project for the steps and as township manager Bill Martin said last light, guess that the third time was indeed the charm! (Two earlier RFPs regarding the steps project failed due to technical glitches.) The total cost for the rehabilitation project is less than $400K and here’s hoping that the working will be done in the spring. The steps have long been an eyesore for anyone visiting the township building – am glad for this news!
Last night marked the final meeting for three supervisors, Kristen Mayock, John DiBuonaventuro and chairman Mike Heaberg; newly elected supervisors Trip Lukens, Sean Moir and Heather Greenberg will take office on January 4, 2016. The township will particularly miss the financial expertise and time commitment of Mike Heaberg, whose kindness and patience in his leadership style will be hard to replace. Thank you to all who give of their time to elected service.
PA Governor Wolf signed new legislation last week (Act 57) which allows first responders to solicit donations at stop signs or traffic signals. Fire companies will need to get written permission from the local municipality and the solicitations are to drivers are limited to controlled intersections (stop signs or traffic signals) and are required to have the necessary liability insurance. The new law goes into effect within 60 days.
This new fundraising legislation may be a useful tool for some volunteer fire companies in Pennsylvania; particularly rural or areas suffering severe economic issues. But the question for Tredyffrin residents is whether we want to see our volunteer firefighters soliciting drivers on the side of the road as a way to fill budget gaps.
Representatives from fire companies (Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor) that serve Tredyffrin Township residents have repeatedly voiced concern about the increasing demand for fire and rescue services and the lack of reliable funding. As a result, T-E Fire Companies Funding Coalition comprised of fire companies from Berwyn, Paoli, Radnor and Malvern was formed with a mission to work with government officials to provide sustainable and adequate funding.
The ongoing need for recruitment and retention of volunteer first responders remains a concern. The time demands for volunteers are so severe, both fire-related and otherwise. Because people are spending more time on their ‘day’ jobs – there’s just less discretionary time to do anything else, including being a volunteer. For those who do manage to carve out time for serving as a volunteer firefighter, they want that time to be directed towards firefighting responsibilities not used for fundraising.
The cost to maintain a fire company; its building, equipment, training – continues to increase, with the cost of a new fire truck running in the tens of thousands of dollars. With the growth of both residential and commercial development in the area, the demand for fire and emergency service also continues to escalate.
According to the Berwyn Fire Company, less than 25 percent of fire service funding comes from the government. If the fire companies shuttered its doors, the township would still be responsible for providing fire protection. The old formula is no longer working … there is a need for sustainable funding.
Tis the season for budget discussion, including fire department funding – the Board of Supervisors meeting at 7 PM tongiht includes the ‘2016 Preliminary Budget and on Thursday, November 19, 10 AM – 12 PM, the public is invited to attend the Budget Open House at the township building.
Our volunteer firefighters should not be forced to close budget gaps with car washes, turkey raffles, spaghetti dinners or soliciting drivers on the side of the road. These young men and women need to know they can count on our elected officials to provide adequate and sustainable funding.