Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Bob Byrne

Hundreds of Patch employees laid off via phone today!

Unfortunately, the ax has come down at Patch locations across the country today. Our own Bob Byrne at TE Patch was on the AOL call this morning along with hundreds of others including Sam Strike at Radnor Patch as they were told today would be their last day. From what I understand, the layoffs were focused mainly around editorial staffing and heard estimates of between two-thirds and one-half the Patch workforce lost their jobs. This is the second major round of layoffs in six months – last August 400 Patch employees lost their jobs.

AOL sold a major stake in its hyperlocal news outlet to Hale Global on January 15th with AOL retaining a minority state. Initially at the the time of the announcement, Hale Global had assured the Patch employees they would continue to have jobs. However, two weeks later, there was an abrupt change in plans.

Hearing you are laid off with hundreds of others on a conference call is not anyway to treat employees. Patch employees were told to call in this morning so that they could hear the following:

Hi everyone, it’s [Patch COO] Leigh Zarelli Lewis. Patch is being restructured in connection with the creation of the joint venture with Hale Global. Hale Global has decided which Patch employees will receive an offer of employment to move forward in accordance with their vision for Patch and which will not. Unfortunately, your role has been eliminated and you will no longer have a role at Patch and today will be your last day of employment with the company. …Thank you again and best of luck.

The above is a transcript, listen at

The call went on to say that, effected employees would receive their yearly AOl bonuses, a payout for accrued vacation time and two months’ severance. By taking the severance package, the employees are agreeing not to sue AOL. Employees were told that their Patch email address would work until 5 PM today and the use of technology (phones, computers) until Friday and that their severance package will arrive within 48 hours.

Is this any way to treat people … gather up hundreds of employees on a massive phone call to tell them “today’s your last day of work”. Wow.

Bob Byrne is one of the good guys and AOL was lucky to have this hardworking, dedicated employee. In my opinion, they lost a real gem! Best wishes for the future Bob and may this only be a momentary bump in the road!

The Return of Bob Byrne as TE Patch Editor!

For those that follow AOL’s local-news network Patch, specifically TE Patch, there have been changes in the last several months, both personnel and formatting wise. On the formatting side of Patch, there’s a recent new look on the 900-plus Patch sites. Although the idea behind the changes was to make the site easier to use, I’m not sure if AOL was successful. For me, the jury is still out on the latest redesign.

On the personnel side of TE Patch, we saw the departure of Bob Byrne as the local editor. Bob was the founding editor of TE Patch and for those that knew and considered him a friend, it was difficult to see him leave.

As often happens in corporate structures, once an area is successful, they move whoever is responsible for that success to a struggling area of the company, in hopes that he/she can improve the situation. My guess is that is exactly what happened in the case of Bob Byrne. Known for taking the time to “find the story behind the story”, Bob quickly became a fixture in our community … he seemed to be everywhere. Whether it was Election Day, the opening (or closing) of a resturant or local business, the Board of Supervisors or School Board meetings or a local house fire, you could always find Bob, the ‘Patch guy’, in the crowd.

In early 2013, Bob was moved from TE Patch to manage and serve as editor of Havertown and Springfield Patches. No doubt he took over the two community Patches with the same enthusiasm and spirit as he had while covering the stories of TE. Bob’s replacement at TE Patch was Pete Kennedy, the Malvern Patch editor, who saw his territory extended with the addition of TE Patch. For the last few months, Pete juggled the duties of Malvern and TE Patches, with the issue of not able to be two places at once often interfering. Pete sent me a note last Friday — it was his last day with AOL, he was moving on to a new position with another company. (Pete also shared the exciting news that he and his wife are soon to become first-time parents!)

As Pete Kennedy exits our community as Patch editor, we are lucky to see the return of Bob Byrne this week to TE! Because I had followed Bob’s byline when he went to Springfield and Havertown Patches, I knew that corporate decision makers subsequently moved him to Phoenixville Patch and also West Chester Patch. Wherever his assignment, Bob’s work reflected the same level of enthusiasm in getting to know the people of that particular Patch community. In TE, we have missed his personal touch and willingness to go the extra mile with stories. Here’s hoping that in the case of our local Patch, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies and we can look forward to seeing Bob Byrne’s byline for a long time to come.

Your Holiday Twinkle Lights Could Net You $500 & T/E School District Could Win $100,000! (owned by AOL) is running a special nationwide holiday “Deck the House” contest for their 860 local Patch sites. Our local patch site is TE Patch and Bob Byrne is the editor.

All of us that have holiday decorations and lights on our homes should enter the contest. Contest entry period is open until Monday, December 26 at 11:59 PM. Nominate your home by uploading a photo for the contest and entering the contest. Here’s the link to enter:

At the conclusion of the entry period, a employee will judge one winner chosen from each of the 860 local Patch sites. Judging will be based equally on the following “judging criteria”:

  • Creativity
  • Festive nature of decorations
  • Capturing the spirit of the winter holidays

The Judge will select 24 finalists that will proceed to the National Voting Phase which begins starts at 9 AM on December 30, 2011 and ends at 11:59 PM on January 8, 2012. The twenty-four (24) high scorers are named the finalists and each will receive $500 to use for December electric bills. For the Grand Prize Winner who receives the highest number of votes, Patch will donate $100,000 to the public school system where the winning home is located.

Enter right now as the Deadline is Monday, December 26, 2011 at 11:59 PM!

Rules and details of the contest:

A Speakeasy, 2 Goats & a Haunted House . . . Find them all on the Annual Historic House Tour on Saturday!

Just a few days remaining until Saturday and this year’s over-the-top Historic House Tour. But it’s not too late to purchase your tickets; go online at for credit card purchase and further information. Not only are the historic houses on this year’s tour amazing but their owners are even more remarkable! Supportive of historic preservation in our community, the homeowners are generously opening their doors to visitors on Saturday and on behalf of the Trust, we thank them!

I want to thank all the media outlets for their advertising of the House Tour. Kathleen Brady Shea, staff reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer included an article in yesterday’s paper with photos, following up with Facebook and tweets. Main Line Neighbors and AroundMainLine have advertised the tour with articles, notices and updates using their online presence and Facebook and Twitter. Bob Byrne at TE Patch has included articles on the House Tour in his daily online news information. Susan Greenspon, editor of the Main Line Media News has run articles both online and in print on the House Tour for the last couple of weeks in the Suburban and King of Prussia Courier. I thank each of these media outlets — they didn’t have to help advertise the House Tour but they did!

Alan Thomas wrote the following article for the Main Line Media News which appears today. Here’s hoping it inspires some more ticket sales!

Historic House Tour is Saturday

Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Main Line Media
By Alan Thomas

The question was “Why?”

“They’ve never repeated,” the voice on the phone said. “She’s asked me year after year after year.”

Michael and Corinne Ackerman’s home, Tivoli Farm, will be in the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s 7th Annual Historic House Tour this Saturday, Sept. 24. And, according to Corinne, this is it. You may never have the opportunity to visit Tivoli Farm again.

“She” is Pattye Benson, owner and proprietor of the Great Valley House of Valley Forge, the circa 1720 bed and breakfast that is older than the house that George Washington stayed in at Valley Forge, and “She” is also president of the Historic Trust.

The Trust is a nonprofit 501c3 organization established in 2002 in response to the threat to demolish the historic 18th-century Jones Log Barn, a Colonial Welsh-American architectural treasure. The Trust’s mission is to preserve and protect historic and cultural resources in Tredyffrin Township for the benefit of present and future generations and to educate the public about the preservation and protection of historic and cultural settings.

The tour’s historic homes and gardens will be open from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, rain or shine. Knowledgeable guides will be staffing each home on the tour and the tour admission includes an individual house history with a map and parking details. Tickets are $35 and advance purchase is necessary, as there will be no tickets sold “at the door.” Tickets are available online using your credit card, or you may quickly download an order form and mail with your check to Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, P.O. Box 764, Devon, PA 19333-0764. At this late date, however, going online is advised.

Much of the story of Tivoli Farms, involves the efforts of the Gretz family, a Philadelphia beer-baron family, that today still makes its name in the beer business, being the Anhueser Busch distributor for the four counties surrounding Philadelphia.

“There are three buildings on the property,” Corinne Ackerman said. “The carriage house,” visible from windows in the main house, is special. “I love looking out at that.”

There are also “the high ceilings, the pocket doors and the pine floors.” Ackerman also described some of her home’s historic flaws. “It’s got some bumps in the walls, uneven ceilings, those sorts of things.” she admits she could never do a perfect house tour with “curtains and furnishings.”

Like so many of the other tour houses, Tivoli Farm has stories, like the tale of its “speakeasy” history, long before its eventual acquisition by the Ackermans.

During Prohibition the Gretz famly turned to managing the dairy farm at Tivoli. However, an outside entrance to the basement, on the east side of the house is said to have been the entrance to a speakeasy.

The Montessori Children’s House of Valley Forge will be the ticket pick-up point for this year’s tour. One of the sponsors for the tour, MCHVF is one of the only schools located in a U.S. National Park; it officially opened its doors last year after spending $3.8 million to renovate the 3.5-acre property known as Ivy Hollow Farm, circa 1750. The Ivy Hollow farmhouse has been converted into a meeting room and a residential apartment for a staff member. The barn was transformed into the school building. Both the farmhouse and the barn will be available for visitors during the house tour.

According to Benson, this year’s sponsors have already “contributed about three-fourths of the total for last year’s house tour.” The 28 sponsors, Benson said, include State Representative Warren Kampf and also Penn Medicine. She added quickly that the local political scene has actually produced “representatives from both sides of the aisle,” along with several architectural and business firms and others.

Last year, Benson said, there were 350 tickets sold. This year, she’s shooting for 500.

“Over five hours [of the tour], it’s doable,” she added.

That number just might set the record for visitors to a farm that at one time was also a speakeasy.


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