Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust

The Revolution in Chester County. . . Technology Helps Shed New Light on Local History

History Buffs . . . Don’t miss this opportunity!

“A Fortnight in Chester County:
The American Revolution in our own Backyard”

~ with Sean Moir, Guest Lecturer

Thursday, February 23

Lecture: 7:00 PM

Tredyffrin Public Library
582 Upper Gulph Road
Strafford, PA 19087

Cost: Free
Info: 610.688.7092, ext. 206

What can technology tell us about the troop movement through Chester County during the Revolutionary War?

Follow the movements of the British and American Armies, hour by hour, through the Battles of 1777 – A unique electronic map brings the battles of Brandywine and Paoli to life!

Sean Moir, Chester County GIS analyst and historic researcher, will present an animated map of Revolutionary War troop movements in Chester County and Tredyffrin Township as part of the Fall Trust lecture series. The lecture will discuss the multi-award winning county project, sponsored by the National Park Service and the American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP), which included the researching, mapping, and animating of the 1777 Philadelphia Campaign conflicts, specifically the Battle of Brandywine and the Paoli Massacre.

A Tredyffrin Township resident, Sean combined his software and GIS skills with his personal interest in history to create groundbreaking animated battle maps which he has presented to audiences across the region. In addition to the military element, the project included heavy emphasis on mapping the cultural landscape of the 18th century upon which the fighting and marching occurred. The research helped to produce an 18th century road map of the region. With the help of countless volunteers, the project is driving the completion of fourteen municipal historic resource surveys for the Chester County Historic Resource Atlas project.

Community Matters Clarification on BOS and School Board Candidate Responses

It has come to be attention that some readers may be confused about the last couple of Community Matters posts and are questioning why Tredyffrin Republican supervisor and school board candidates did not respond to my questions and that the Democratic candidates did. Hope this post will offer clarification.

In early October, I sent an email to all the Tredyffrin Republican and Democratic supervisor and school board candidates. In addition, I sent the Republican and Democrat school board candidates in Easttown the same email. The email asked the candidates to (1) idenify what they thought was the most important issue facing either the school district or the township, (2) the candidate was asked what they would do to help or solve the issue if elected and (3) what in their background or experience qualifies you to help solve the issue. I was specific and asked that the 3-part question be 200 words or less and gave them a deadline that was prior to the League of Women Voters debates.

The Easttown school board candidates Pete Motel (R) and Craig Lewis (D) responded with their answers prior to the deadline and those responses were posted on Community Matters on October 19. In that October 19 post, I also explained that the Tredyffrin Republican and Democratic supervisor and school board candidates had declined to participate. Here is an excerpt from that post:

. . . Believing that it is important for voters to make an informed decision on which candidate they elect to serve us, I saw no downside to the candidates participation in May nor did I at this time.

Much to my surprise, the individual Tredyffrin Republican supervisor and school board candidates declined my offer, suggesting that voters could visit their websites for information and that, “We are more than happy to answer questions from individual voters across Tredyffrin – and are doing so while going door-to-door, attending community events, and more.”

The chair of the Tredyffrin Democratic Party Dariel Jamieson responded on behalf of the Democratic supervisor and school board candidates, declining to participate until after the League of Women Voters debates. Here is an excerpt from that email:

“Our BOS and School Board candidates prefer not to submit answers to the questions you posed to them until after the LWV [League of Women Voter] debates. The questions were all ones that were asked in the debates two years ago – as they should have been, they are key questions – but to have our answers published first is not fair to the LWV and makes the job of our candidates harder to distinguish themselves in the debates.

Following the League of Women Voters debates, I received responses to my questions from the Democratic supervisor and school board candidates. Although the responses were past my original deadline, I thought there was value for the voters in posting them. But so everyone knows, I actually sent a courtesy email to the Republican candidates last week to explain that the I had received the Democratic responses and offered the Republican candidates a second opportunity to answer the questions. My email to the Republican candidates stated that that no response was required if they were not going to participate; and for the record, there was no response to my email.

So there is absolutely no question in anyone’s mind — if the Republican supervisor and school board candidates would like to answer the 3-part question — I am now making a third offer to them. Candidates — answer the 3-part questions in 200 words or less and email them to me at: I will be happy to post your responses! I hope this clarifies the timeline and that I gave all candidates exactly the same opportunity. I am sorry if there was any confusion!

7th Annual Historic House Tour – A Success!

Many of you have asked me about last weekend’s House Tour. Thank you; the tour was a great success thanks to the homeowners, sponsors, guests and volunteers. I am hopeful that the following Letter to the Editor will appear in this week’s edition of the Main Line Media News.

Thank You to Homeowners, Sponsors, Guests and Volunteers for another Successful Historic House Tour

The mission of the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust is to help preserve and protect historic and cultural resources in Tredyffrin Township and to educate the public about the preservation and protection of historic and cultural settings. As President of the Trust and Chair of the Annual Historic House Tour, I would like to thank the special homeowners who opened their doors to Tredyffrin’s past for the 7th Annual Historic House Tour held this past Saturday, September 24.

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. Old house owners are very special people and this year’s House Tour participants were no exception. It is wonderful to live in a community that has people who cherish their historic properties and then allow others the opportunity to enjoy them!

As one of the Trust’s most anticipated annual events, the Board of Directors is extremely grateful to our historic homeowners who by sharing their extraordinary homes allow us to better understand the significant and unique history of our community. The annual house tour provides an opportunity for our historic community to showcase their neighborhood architectural heritage and demonstrate how historic homes can be a perfect fit for our modern lives. Opening their doors to 300 guests, the House Tour raised $15,000 to benefit the final phase of the rebuilding effort of the Jones Log Barn in Chesterbrook as a living history museum.

The Board wishes to thank the many corporate and individual sponsors who appreciate historic preservation and understand its importance in the community including Penn Medicine, Period Architecture, Montessori Children’s House of Valley Forge, Golden Valley Farms, Jim and Janet Bruce, Michael Heaberg, Warren Claytor Architects, Murph Wysocki, Strategic Realty Investments, State Rep Warren Kampf, Tom Hogan and Victoria Silbey, Glenna LaSalle Keene, Michelle and Michael Kichline, Pete and Bonnie Motel, Victoria ‘Tory’ Snyder, Wise Preservation Planning, Paul Olson, MJ Monahan Builders, Kristen Mayock, Tredyffrin Township Historical Commission, Liz Mercogliano,, James and Nancy Sanborn, Cottage Industries, Main Line Life Media News, Main Line Neighbors, Around Main Line and TE Patch.

Thank you to the Trust Board members and the many community volunteers who offered their time and talents; to the special historic homeowners and to the corporate and individual sponsors who helped make this another successful Trust event. And a special thank you to the House Tour visitors who through their ticket purchase showed their support for historic preservation in the community.

Following the house tour, I received many emails and calls, but think the following excerpt from a guest’s email probably best sums up the house tour for her and other visitors —

“ . . . I was on your house tour yesterday with my family and I wanted to thank you so much for organizing this. It was one of the best house tours I have ever been on. Not only were the houses interesting and diverse but the volunteers were incredibly knowledgeable. They also seemed to really enjoy the history of each house. I will definitely sign up again next year.”

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

Thank You House Tour Homeowners, Volunteers, Sponsors & Visitors!

The 7th Annual Historic House Tour is next Saturday, September 24. As President of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and Chair of the annual historic House tour, I would like to personally thank this year’s special homeowners who have allowed us to showcase their beautiful homes. It is wonderful to live in a community that has people who cherish their historic homes and then allow others the opportunity to enjoy them.

I thank the many House Tour visitors who will visit these beautiful homes on House Tour day. Please know that your ticket purchase furthers the effort of historic preservation in our community. Tickets may be purchased at the Trust website, or click here for ticket order form.

I thank the individuals, organizations and the companies for their generous financial support of the Trust and historic preservation through their sponsorship of the House Tour. The economic climate of today’s world has forced many of us to re-think our priorities, particularly as it relates to charitable giving. In that regard, it is important to give a special thank you to those who do place an importance on our local history and preserving our historic resources.

On behalf of the Trust, I thank the following House Tour sponsors for their generosity. If you are interested in joining the list of House Tour sponsors, click here for information.

Supporting Sponsors
Michael & Michelle Kichline
Main Line Neighbors
Penn Medicine

Contributing Sponsors
Golden Valley Farms
Montessori Children’s House of Valley Forge
Paul Olson
Period Architecture, Ltd.

Patron Sponsors
Jim & Janet Bruce
Cottage Industries
Michael Heaberg
Tom Hogan & Victoria Silbey
State Rep Warren Kampf
Glenna LaSalle Keene
Kristen Mayock
Liz Mercogliano
MJ Monahan Builders, Inc.
Pete & Bonnie Motel
James & Nancy Sanborn
Victoria ‘Tory’ Snyder
Strategic Realty Investments, LLC
Susan Levin Design
Tredyffrin Township Historical Commission
Warren Claytor Architects, Inc
Wise Preservation Planning
Murph Wysocki

I thank the Trust board members and the many volunteers who help make the annual House Tour a success – please know that your time and talents are greatly appreciated!

Historic homeowners, Trust board members, volunteers, sponsors and visitors . . . I thank you all!

TESD School Board Meeting . . . Senate & House Hearings re School Budgets Continue

Monday’s Public Hearing on the land development authority and decision for final authority to remain with the Planning Commission took up much of the conversation yesterday on Community Matters. However, there was also a T/E School Board meeting on Monday night. Ray Clarke attended the meeting and sent along his comments which are posted below. As always, I am grateful for Ray and his coverage of school board related issues. At the upcoming Finance Committee on Monday, March 28, we will look for serious budget talk from school board members re expenses, programming and out-sourcing options.

March T/E Board Talk – video TESD has a new T/E Board Talk video available online. In the 9 min. video, school board member Dr. Pete Motel provides an overview of the T/E School District’s long-range facilities plan from the Facilities Committee meeting of February 14. The Facilities Committee meetings are not generally telecast so I highly recommend that you take the time to watch the very informative video clip from the meeting. Click here to watch the podcast.

Monday’s School Board meeting was most notable for the legislative update from Dr. Rich Brake:

  1. Senate and House Committee Budget hearings will continue through next week (the 31st, I think). The School District has a form letter on its website that you can modify and send to your representatives. (Click here for the sample letter.) Community Matters readers will likely want to add their own flavor to the letter.
  2. Our own Senator Dinniman and Senator Jeffrey Piccola are working with their Senate Education Committee to come up with relief from the infamous state mandates (to which the form letter, above, refers). Apparently there will be a press release on Tuesday. (Update: To add to Ray’s comments here, there was a State Education Committee meeting yesterday and I will have separate remarks on that topic later today.)
  3. The Senate has a version of the furloughs-allowed-to-solve deficits bill (SB 612, I think). There will be (Education Committee?) hearings on this in early April.

In response to my question about a reaction to the PSEA statement encouraging local discussions about salary freezes and other cost saving measures, the Board stated that they “are in continual discussions with the union”. If the direction from the union leadership can be translated into more than a one year expense deferral (present value at today’s zero interest rates = zero), it has the potential for a significant budget impact, so hopefully there will be something to report at next week’s workshop.

Perplexingly, Kevin Buraks reported that the Policy Committee decided to retain two consultants to tell them how to take advantage of opportunities to sell advertising rights (say, at Teamer).

The County Intermediate Unit gave a rather too slick presentation about its budget for next year, and the Board asked some good questions. Whether those can translate to any cost avoidance is maybe doubtful.

MSNBC Features Tredyffrin’s Historic Bed & Breakfast Ties to Underground Railroad

Today marks the start of Black History Month. To kick-off and celebrate black history, the Destination Travel division of MSNBC published the following article on reliving the Underground Railroad at featured bed and breakfasts. Working together with, a national bed and breakfast directory, the MSNBC travel writer Tanya Mohn contacted me several months ago. At the time, she was interviewing owners of many bed and breakfasts, so I was very excited to find the Great Valley House made the final cut for the article.

In reflecting on black history, it is important to recall the Civil War era and the slaves as they made their way to freedom. As I discussed the topic with the writer, I commented that many old house owners lay claim to being part of the Underground Railroad system; sometimes with very little proof. However, on the grounds of our 17th century house, we have an underground ‘keep’ with steps leading down to an underground space. Stories follow with our house, attributing this ‘safe’ room as protected overnight lodging for slaves as they journeyed through Tredyffrin.

As president of the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, and a member of Tredyffrin’s Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB) it is very important to me that we honor our local history and our historic resources. I hope that you will take the time to read the article below or click on the this link:

More than a Bed: B&Bs Have Ties to Underground Railroad
By Tanya Mohn contributor

Secret rooms. Hidden passageways. Trap doors. An underground escape route through a network of caves, surfacing at a nearby spring. Sounds like a James Bond movie, but these clandestine places actually exist in (or under) dozens of America’s oldest homes.

Today, many are bed & breakfasts and everyone from history buffs to school children can relive history — especially during Black History month, which begins Feb. 1 — by staying at places thought to have been “stations” or safe houses on the Underground Railroad, an informal network that helped slaves escape to freedom.

Bringing it home
“It is kind of special to be so close to history,” said Vince Toreno, innkeeper at Ashley Manor Bed and Breakfast, in Barnstable, Mass., built in 1699, where a secret passageway connects the first and second floors to the attic. “Staying in a room so close to where a runaway slave might have been hiding and thinking ‘Am I going to live through until tomorrow? What’s going to happen to me?,’” Toreno said, “personalizes it, it brings it home.”

Visitors can see a ladder behind a secret panel in the Queen Charlotte Suite where the passageway begins, and a bookcase that swings open to reveal it in the King George Suite, on the second floor.

The Munro House, in Jonesville, Mich., has the remains of a 100-foot-long tunnel and a trap door from the basement to a secret room between the first and second floors. “If you didn’t know it was there, you could never find it,” said Mike Venturini, innkeeper, who regales guests with stories of how more than 400 runaway slaves allegedly hid in the secret room during a 15-year period on their way to Canada.

“Kids just love being in places out of the ordinary,” said Jared Maxwell, a teacher at nearby Williams Elementary School, where each year some 100 fourth grade students visit.

Lynne Smithwood grew up in the Samuel Fitch House in Westford, Mass., and with her five brothers played hide and seek in a basement tunnel believed to have been part of an escape route. Smithwood, now the innkeeper, said her childhood bedroom has a walk-in closet with a movable bookshelf that disguises a space where, according to family lore, slaves hid next to the warmth of the chimney. When she takes young guests exploring, “I give flashlights and big paintbrushes, to make sure there are no cobwebs in the way,” she said.

Educational overnight stays
The history was a surprise to Michael Rader, of Brookline, Mass., who stayed at the Samuel Fitch House recently with his daughter, Gavriel, 7, and son Adriel, 5. “We didn’t know anything about the house until we got there,” said Rader, who chose it because of its proximity to the Nashoba Valley Ski Area. “It was great,” especially for the children, who had “not yet been exposed to the Civil War or slavery,” he said. “We all learned something.” Some B&Bs were not stations but are near historic sites, like the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Connecticut, the Harriet Tubman Museum in Maryland, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati — built near the Ohio River, a popular route for escaping slaves.

Pennsylvania had many stops on the Underground Railroad, as Quakers were active participants. Visitors to the Lancaster area can attend “Living the Experience,” a spiritually inspired interactive re-enactment at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. “We try to highlight the role of faith and the church,” and to portray the strength and courage of the slaves who fled, said the Reverend Edward M. Bailey, the church’s pastor.

The lessons of the Underground Railroad can help people today overcome adversity and become agents of change, said Katie Johnson, public programs manager at The Freedom Center, which recently opened a permanent exhibit, “Invisible: Slavery Today.” “Some of the numbers are shocking: between 12 and 27 million people are thought to be enslaved today,” Johnson said, including 17,500 people trafficked into the United States each year.

Many spaces where runaway slaves hid were originally built to store guns, hide valuables, or function as root cellars. Some spaces were thought to be hiding places during Indian raids or the Revolutionary War.

Reinforcing history’s important lessons
Because they were rarely built solely to help slaves, “it makes it very difficult to tell whether or not a home was a station on the Underground Railroad,” Johnson said, adding, “historical accounts backed by contemporary research have shown that there are many examples of these features being used for hiding escaping slaves.”

Some innkeepers say they have little if any proof that their B&Bs were once stations, but dates and ownership provide important clues. Venturini, innkeeper of the Munro House, said the deed shows that the house was built during an active time of Underground Railroad activity in the pre-Civil War period by George Clinton Munro, a known abolitionist, and newspapers accounts of the era serve as further documentation.

“It’s exceedingly difficult to separate out what’s true and what’s not” said Ian Finseth, associate professor of English at the University of North Texas, specializing in 19th century American and African American literature.

While scholarship is important, visiting places where slaves may have stayed can reinforce important lessons of history. “By imagining the ghosts of people who didn’t make it and walking in the footsteps of people who did,” guests can “feel the human qualities of history,” said Finseth, who is also editor of “The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First-Hand Accounts,” a new abridged version of a book by William Still, originally published in 1872.

Pattye Benson, innkeeper of the Great Valley House of Valley Forge, Pa., recounted how such a visit once impacted a guest from Colorado, an elected official, who had her photo taken in front of the remains of a former tunnel believed to have sheltered slaves moving north. The woman used the photo for holiday cards, which she mailed to constituents. “She was really moved by the experience,” said Benson, who tells the house’s history to guests over breakfast in front of the walk-in fireplace, built circa 1690 (no cell phones allowed). “It was almost a sense of triumph.”

Debunking myths
Some B&Bs tell stories of how quilts were laid out to air but would also signal the home as a “safe house,” and how the interlocking patterns were coded maps to direct slaves.

But James O. Horton, professor emeritus of American studies and history at George Washington University, and other historians say the legend has been debunked. “There may have been some incident when someone, somewhere, used a quilt as a signal, but there is no historical evidence that there were elaborate quilt codes that helped many people escape from slavery.”

At the Amelia Island Williams House, in Fernandina Beach, Fla., a secret room, once accessible from a trap door in the dining room, is closed up now. But Deborah McCutchen, innkeeper, relishes telling guests how an earlier owner was “friends” with Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. “While Davis may have been dining at the dinner table, slaves hid in the safe room,” she said.

In addition to learning about the Underground Railroad, many B&Bs offer other activities. Guests at the Williams House can visit the local museum, housed in an old jail, take horse-driven carriage rides to see the historic homes built in the 1800s, and walk to the nearby seaport. “It’s like taking all the historical parts of Savannah and Charleston and just putting them on a little island,” McCutchen said. “It’s just so beautiful.”

If you go … has a list of B&Bs thought to have been stations on the Underground Railroad or near historic sites.

For information about the Underground Railroad, visit

Tredyffrin Shows Support for Historic Preservation

Last night was the annual In the Mood fundraiser for Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and I am pleased to reported that it was another successful Trust event. The stone barn at King’s Grant Farm was transformed, 1950’s style for the evening. Owned by Jeff and Cindy King, we thank them for their generosity and support. In addition to the use of the barn for In the Mood, the Jeff and Cindy King Foundation has made a very generous donation to the Capital Campaign of the Jones Log Barn rebuilding project.

It was wonderful to have many community members show their support for historic preservation — the event attracted some of our former and current elected officials from the school board and board of supervisors. Former State House Rep Carole Rubley, a member of the In the Mood committee, attended with her husband as did current State House Rep Paul Drucker and his wife. Many local historic preservation supporters attended the Trust event as did guests from Exton, Bryn Mawr and Villanova.

Setting aside politics for the evening, this was an opportunity for some real fun . . . whether answering trivia questions provided by DJ Dick Spindler, dancing to 50’s music supplied by a wonderful vintage jukebox; demonstrating your expertise at the hula-hoop; following co-chair Judy DiFilippo’s lead in the Bunny Hop or taking your turn to strut your stuff for ‘The Stroll’ . . . In the Mood provided something for everyone. Poodle skirts, pony tails, black leather jackets, letter sweaters and penny loafers were the dress for the evening! One of the crowd favorites was Paoli resident Gio D’Amato and wife Fran, both dressed to perfection in vintage 50’s style!

Judy and I thank the King’s for hosting the event, the Trust Board of Directors, our sponsors and contributors, the community members who attended and a special thank you to the volunteers of the In the Mood Committee — it was a magical night and thank you all!

In the Mood . . . Poodle Skirts, Blue Suede Shoes & Rockin’ to the Oldies

Counting down to Friday night and In the Mood, the Trust’s annual fundraiser. This year’s party is 50’s themed and the committee is working hard to make it a night to remember. I am hoping to fill the remaining spots for the night – would you please consider attending. You can visit our website, to order tickets or send me an email at and I will add your name to the ‘will call’ list and you can pay at the door

Be ready to shake, rattle and roll. Dust off your blue suede shoes, whip out your poodle skirt, roll up your dungarees, polish your saddle shoes, curl your ponytail, and grease back your hair . . . the evening promises fun, laughter and rockin’ to the sounds of the 1950’s.

Date: Friday, October 22
Time: 7 PM
Location: Barn at King’s Grant Farm, 869 Yellow Springs Road, Malvern, PA 19355
Tickets: $75 Purchase tickets online at
Questions: Pattye Benson, 610.644.6759 or Judy DiFilippo, 610.688.772.

The evening promises to be a great party and all proceeds of the event go toward a great cause – Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s Phase II of the Jones Log Barn reconstruction project at historic DuPortail. Phase I that includes the barn’s foundation and stonework is completed and with the public’s help, we can complete the final phase of the project. Once reconstructed, the Jones Log Barn will be living history museum for the entire community to enjoy for many years to come! Will you help us with the final phase of the Jones Log Barn project . . . by purchasing a ticket to In the Mood?

I hope that you will show your support of the Jones Log Barn project and historic preservation in our community by purchasing a ticket to In the Mood.

6th Annual Historic House Tour — 85% Jump in Ticket Sales from 2009!

Looking outside today, what a difference a day makes! Yesterday was one of those magical days that will be remembered long after the final guest departed. This year’s old house owners on the Trust’s annual historic house tour were amazing – the effort and time spent on details by each of the homeowners was truly remarkable. With blue skies, summer-like temperatures and help from many volunteers, the house tour surpassed my wildest expectations.

Using Community Matters, email blasts, the support from the local press – Main Line Media News, and, Conestoga Woodlea Civic Association, Facebook, Twitter, and word of mouth, this year’s tour literally ‘jumped’ in attendees and in dollars raised. There was a 85% increase in attendees from last year – 278 people paid for tickets! If I add the volunteers and homeowners, close to 350 people were on the tour.

Proceeds from ticket sales, contributions and sponsorships totaled $11,000 from yesterday’s house tour and benefit the Jones Log Barn rebuilding project.

6th Annual Historic House Tour – Today!

Today is the 6th Annual Historic House Tour . . . wonderful historic homes, welcoming homeowners and perfect weather! The tour’s focused neighborhoods of Strafford and Berwyn will be alive today with 100’s of people enjoying the beautiful day and celebrating historic preservation.

I hope I have covered all the details in the planning and organizing and by noon if will be out of my hands. Not only is the local community supporting Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s event today, I have taken registrations from West Chester, Exton, Philadelphia, Pottstown, etc.

If anyone is reading this and would like to go on today’s House Tour, you have until 12 Noon to register online at I will have my laptop with me for check-in starting at 11 AM at DuPortail House and will be able to process late ticket sales.

Support your neighbors . . . Support historic preservation! All proceeds from today’s 6th Annual Historic House Tour go toward the rebuilding effort the Jones Log Barn as a living history museum.

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