Chester County Ramblings
Sometimes in those moments between waking and sleeping, memories of childhood come floating back. This morning I awoke to memories of a pink stucco house with blueberry bushes beyond the pool, a pool where my little sister first learned to swim. The house was located at 134 Cheswold Lane in Haverford.
So, no this is not a post about Chester County. This post is about memories.
In the early 1970s, my parents were starting to think about moving from Society Hill to the Main Line. Somehow they were connected to lovely people named John and Jean Markel and they agreed to house sit for the entire summer. My sister and I were fairly little, and this was a strange idea for us because summer usually meant the beach, but this house was magical with a secret pool tucked into the back and lovely gardens to explore. Immediately adjacent to The Merion Cricket Club we could hear every day the pop pop sound of tennis balls when they hit the racquets- and an added bonus when the tennis balls sailed over the pink stucco garden walls for us to collect.
I think the summer of ’73 because I remember it was the summer they tore down the Haverford Hotel and Mrs. Sharpe’s carriage house doors with the large heavy metal (iron?) lion heads with rings in their mouths jutted out to the sidewalk on Haverford Station Road. I have distinct memories of walking along Haverford Station Road with my father and how large the lions heads and rings seemed, and the carriage house doors imposing. I also remember before they demolished the Haverford Hotel they sold a lot of things off, like furniture and fixtures. At one point, the sweeping lawns of this old hotel had rows upon rows of mattresses lined up in the summer sun like corpses.
I have looked and looked for photos of the old hotel, and the only one I can find is from an old edition of the Main Line Times:
Catherine H. Dixon Sharpe bequeathed her home and a 2 1/2-acre property at Montgomery Avenue and Haverford Station Road to the township for a bird sanctuary. In 1978 her house was razed, and fencing and trails for walking through the wooded area were added…..A Haverford landmark for sixty years was the Haverford Hotel, built of brick in 1913 at the corner of Grays Lane and Montgomery Avenue. Its stately white columns supported the roof over a wide and gracious porch entrance. Fifty rooms were decorated with Chippendale desks, Chinese screen paintings, mahogany china cabinets, brass sconces, and sparkling chandeliers. Many wedding receptions, including that of President Eisenhower’s granddaughter, balls, other parties, and meetings were held there, but in 1973 the hotel was demolished, and Gray’s Lane House, an apartment condominium designed by Vincent Kling, now occupies the site.
It was a lovely summer. My school friend Paula’s aunt I think it was, lived close by so I would see her and I remember visiting other people my parents knew on Elbow Lane, and other nearby roads and lanes in Haverford and Bryn Mawr.
My father’s job was in the city, so I remember a lot of the time he stayed in our house in Society Hill during the week, and took the Paoli Local to Haverford Station on the weekends.
The Markels house was a magical house, and there are details I remember to this day inside. A lovely wood paneled library with floor to ceiling books, a piano, a Butler’s Pantry loaded with the most beautiful and feminine sets of china and flatware. I think it was that summer I fell in love with English and French porcelain.
Outside were what were to me at the time the best secret gardens ever. The gardens were so beautiful and there was also a lovely pool. I remember the Markels had inside and outside staff who would come take care of things during the week.
Ironically this was the summer I also remember seeing Loch Aerie for the first time because I remember my parents exploring way past the borders of the Main Line. I remember driving out Lancaster Avenue into Chester County for movies and antique stores. I remember that there were also drive in movie theaters in Chester County at that time, but I digress.
The Markels house was old school Main Line beauty. The house was large and gracious, but just beautiful and subtle inside. It was also a very livable house. I think it was because of this summer that a few years later my parents eventually settled in Haverford after a year in Gladwyne.
According to Montgomery County public property records, the people whom eventually bought this lovely house from the Markels sold it to Merion Cricket Club more than a few years ago for a little over $1.5 million:
Unless you lived back on those streets, you really weren’t paying attention to who was selling and who was buying. I remember before I left the Main Line talks of Merion Cricket Club amassing neighboring properties so they could expand. I just didn’t pay much attention to it. I was never a member, only ever a guest.
Recently, someone sent me a Zoning notice from Lower Merion Township:
Wow, so now we know why Merion was buying all the properties over the past years, right? They want to become a land locked Main Line Country Club? Forget that the history of the club, and the traditions of the club do not lend themselves to this, that there already are swim clubs and country clubs on the Main Line.
But given the nouveau Main Line, I completely expect all of these lovely houses Merion Cricket has amassed in these still lovely neighborhoods will fall to the wrecking ball with hardly a whimper.
These are beautiful homes. They are also part of an increasing history of the Main Line no one cares about, or they find it is acceptable to just sacrifice these established and lovely neighborhoods. This is a change that will impact this area. For those of us with childhood memories it is sad and / or bittersweet. I am guessing my own personal memories of a magical childhood summer have surfaced because of this news.
Here is a recent article on the topic:
LM Zoning: Merion Cricket Club seeks demo of club-owned historic homes Viability of club’s future addressed in plan
By Richard Ilgenfritz email@example.com @rpilgenfritz on Twitter Apr 21, 2017 Updated Apr 21, 2017
Citing the need to attract additional members, officials from the Merion Cricket Club are seeking Lower Merion Township zoning approval of a plan to demolish seven historic homes in Haverford, including those built by famed architect Walter Durham, and repurpose others.
“The club has seen its membership levels drop over a significant period. In order to address the long-term, continued viability of the club, the club has, over the years, acquired the adjoining parcels and has embarked on a master planning process to develop a vision for proposed improvements to the club’s facilities. By providing for improved facilities, the club’s objective is to allow the club to stabilize membership levels, and thereafter return to and sustain its previous membership levels,” according to the application submitted to the Lower Merion Zoning Hearing Board…..The Cricket Club has owned many of the properties for more than a decade and under the plans will demolish houses on Elbow Lane near Cheswold Lane and ones near Grays Lane to the rear of its historic property. Four homes in the center of the Elbow Lane to the rear of the club will be retained and repurposed for other uses.
The Lower Merion Conservancy placed the Durham homes that date back to the early and mid-1900s on its Historic Preservation Watch List last year due to concerns that they would be demolished.
Sometimes things done in the name of “progress” are painful. But I no longer live there, so I write about this as an observer memorializing memories of a summer long ago.
Enjoy the lovely day.
Suzy Bales inspired me to truly make my current garden one of four seasons and to plant gardens around our home on all four sides. (I still consider it a work in progress, but it’s getting there.) The books she wrote titled Down to Earth Gardener and The Garden in Winter have truly guided me in my current garden to that end. They are lovely books that you can find quite reasonably priced new and used on Amazon.com. Mrs. Bales sadly passed away a year ago this time, but you can still benefit from her knowledge through her books.
David Culp is the author of The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage. You can also find his book easily on Amazon.com. He is the one that made me see the beauty of layering your garden. It is something that I have always sort of fidfled with, but his book took it to a whole new level.
I love my gardening books as much as my cookbooks.
I have been collecting vintage gardening books since I was about 19. They are well loved and well used and much like my cookbooks, I do not lend them out. I totally encourage people to look for vintage gardening books, much like vintage cookbooks they often contain basic, time honored traditions that can get lost in translation in the Internet age.
Long before there was the Internet, Facebook, or Pinterest you relied on your own research. You poured through gardening books, you went on garden tours, you belonged to a local gardening club.
I have always been a rabid gardener, and I love to learn about gardens. I discovered years ago quite by accident but every time you went to a garage sale or a rummage sale or thrift shop a lot of the books that people got rid of were gardening books and cookbooks. And many of both kinds of books were as pretty to look at as they were practical for the information contained within them.
To an extent while I am a modern woman I am also an old fashioned woman. I love what people used to call the “home arts” – or making your house a home , creating your garden, decorating your home yourself, and cooking.
Some of the gardening books I have are quite old. And a lot of the ones I have are books of actual gardens, a lot of which no longer exist due to development and progress. Families die off, properties are sold. It is a sad fact of life. Not every person moving into a house wants to garden. And sometimes depending on where something is located, the property and the gardens don’t survive. Often whomever acquires the property will give people permission to take plants, or buy them from them.
That’s how I ended up with really old hellebores years ago.
There were a pair of old Victorian houses near the Rosemont, PA train station which had been run down apartments for years and years and finally when they were totally decrepit they were sold to a developer. I contacted the developer before they razed the houses for their condominium project. For years in spite of watching these two once very cool Victorians deteriorate, I was fascinated by these lovely hellebores that I have never seen anyplace else to this day. The developer let me take a bucketful of the hellebores. And although the gardens were quite overgrown by this point there were still some remnants of the design left and that was also valuable to check out and commit to my memory for future gardens.
I still look at the photos of these gardens in my books, captured and frozen in time, and the majority of the photos are black and white. They also inspire me. The gardens of yesterday that only live in photos inside an old book.
These gardens that live only in photos of old books can so spark the imagination if you let them. They are to me as valuable as some people find the photos of gardens on Pinterest today.
Gardening is truly an art form. And how your garden looks is entirely personal. You literally get out of your garden what you put into it and as long as your garden make you happy that is what is important.
Look for garden books you like new and old and let them inspire you in your garden. Good sources for gardening books, and even cookbooks are (again) locally at a garage or rummage sale, at a resale shop or used bookstore. If you want to go online, check out both Amazon and eBay. Locally, I have also found many fabulous gardening books at Jenkins Arboretum.
I also love book swaps – if you are finished with the book swap it to a friend for another book. A gardening book swap is also a great excuse for gardeners to get together!
I do not pretend to know everything. I am constantly learning. I think gardening is good for the soul and head in part because if you garden, you are always learning.
I have beds on all four sides of our house. The philosophy is simple: I want flowers everywhere. I am going for four seasons of interest and the late Suzy Bales (who was amazing gardener and garden writer who sadly passed away last spring) inspired me to that. She is not the only gardener or garden writer who has inspired me over te years, but she will always be one of my favorites because what she wrote about speaks to me still.
My current garden is pieces of every garden I have ever had, combined with elements I have admired in other gardens. I draw a lot of inspiration from English and Irish cottage gardens, truthfully.
You get out of your garden what you put into it. A good garden is the result of trial and error, and what defines a good garden is simple: it makes YOU happy.
For me personally, given the knee injury I have been dealing with for several weeks at this point, this will be the year that tests my garden. But the up shot is I have done basically the majority of the planting, so maintenance will be the key. And hopefully I can find help for that until I am healed.
When you are putting your own garden together, it’s kind of like decorating your house – you draw inspiration from lots of places. Make a garden inspiration board on Pinterest- Pinterest is loaded with gardening stuff! I actually love using Pinterest for garden related things – it is so easy to create a virtual cork board of ideas.
In part that is why I created a gardening group and write about gardening is I believe gardeners inspire each other. And somewhere along the way when you least expect it, you develop your own gardening style.
My gardening style includes garden elements – bird baths, a stone path to dress up a hard to make look pretty area, seating areas, and so on. I also love the idea of creating “nooks”.
I love color and texture and how plants “fit” together. I love that you can plant almost anything in a pot, so it is not just about the garden beds. I love the smells and sounds of the garden and how nature rewards you when you plant.
Gardening is art, and trust me everyone has it in them to create their own artistic oasis.
Is this about Chester County? No, although we have our share of homeless too.
This is about the true goodness in human beings that exists in spite of mankind today.
A chance conversation between two strangers brings a homeless man off the street
Updated: APRIL 15, 2017 — 9:00 AM EDT
Jonathan Sweet knows that Jesus loves him. But until he met Michelle McHugh, he wasn’t sure anyone else did.
“I had almost given up on humanity,” says Sweet, 52, a single, childless Havertown native who was homeless for seven years until a chance meeting with McHugh changed his fortunes. “Not every homeless person is a criminal or an addict. But people treat you like you’re a second-class citizen. It gets you down.”….Last December, he and McHugh were chatting at the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby. McHugh, who lives in Havertown, was waiting for a train to Philly, where she works as associate director of Drexel University’s television management program….Christmas was approaching. McHugh asked Sweet where he’d spend the day.
“Over there,” he answered, pointing to a forested area within walking distance of the neighborhood where McHugh lives with her husband, Jim, and their preschool son, Nolan.
“I was shocked,” says McHugh, 43. “While my family was warm inside a nice house, Jon was living in the woods behind us. It was heart-wrenching.”…..On Holy Thursday, Sweet moved into his new home, which is fully furnished thanks to donations and the enthusiastic services of Havertown interior designer Liz MacDonald (who even managed to find a sofa in purple, Jon’s favorite color).
I remember when Michelle McHugh started the GoFundMe page to help.
You see, I am lucky enough to call Michelle McHugh a friend.
Michelle and I met many years ago through our dear mutual friend Sherry Tillman. Sherry, the proprietoress of Ardmore, PA’s Past*Present*Future is also the founder of First Friday Main Line.
We were planning a non-profit special event to benefit First Friday Main Line called “Foodapalooza” and Sherry tossed Michelle and I and our cameras together one Saturday to photograph chefs and local restaurants. Michelle and I had been introduced, but this was what really brought us together as friends. That and Sherry’s uncanny ability to share her friends and bring more people together. This was in 2009.
I still love the photos I took that afternoon as I felt they were inspired by the company.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Michelle (who lives with MS) was one of my cheerleaders. Her positivity was contagious and she was one of my friends who buoyed me through quite the life challenge. She always just checked in. Totally casual, no big deal, how are you doing, you’ve got this.
In 2012 when she and her husband welcomed their miracle baby, I was one of the ones who could cheer her on. She is an example of unwavering faith and goodness.
So am I surprised that my friend Michelle took on this project? No, although project is the wrong word because her efforts are so indicative of her heart and soul.
Michelle is a kind and loving and humble person and she deserves the accolades and a beautiful article by Ronnie Polaneczky.
In the world we live in, it’s easy to tear people down. What’s hard and shouldn’t be, is paying it forward just because it’s the right thing to do.
On the holy weekend that is Easter is the perfect time to hear the story of Jon Sweet and his friend, who is also my friend, Michelle McHugh.
Sometimes it is hard to believe in the goodness of others, but this is such a reminder of why we just have to believe. It is also a reminder that it’s the right thing to pay it forward, and that doing good and doing the right thing has rewards more precious than money.
This is also a story of love and friendship and the many forms they both take.
I am so very proud of my friend Michelle.
Farming is important.
At the end of February into the first days of March I suffered a knee injury .
I have to be honest, it has been awful, the pain debilitating to say the least.
I am sure I will get fixed up, we are lucky that orthopedic medicine has come a long way but lordy, to not be able to walk and do everyday things sure puts it all into perspective.
Usually about now I have lots of gardening posts, now you know why I haven’t just yet. But I will! It is just going to take a while….
In the meantime— please feel free to share your gardening tales with me so I can live vicariously through the gardens of my readers!
Chester County has been overrun by greedy developers. For perspective remember that size-wise Bryn Coed is like a giant super-sized Chesterbrook.
If not for those who care, like Natural Lands Trust, you would be seeing “coming soon” signs for developers like Toll Brothers.
These screen shots are from the Natural Lands Trust Bryn Coed Farms website.
Imagine living in an expansive, conserved landscape with a thriving nature preserve and miles of trails just next door. That is the unique opportunity available at Bryn Coed Farms.
In order to preserve as much of Bryn Coed Farms as possible, a number of large conservation properties will be made available to individual buyers. Each property will be placed under a conservation easement to be held and monitored by Natural Lands Trust, ensuring that the land is protected in perpetuity.
Seems like a revolutionary idea, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s how parts of Ardrossan are staying intact in Radnor Township and it is how large swaths of countryside and history in places like England remain intact.
It is a viable solution to developing every square inch. It’s a compromise point.
Now critics will say more land should be saved with these plans and maybe they aren’t necessarily wrong , but this IS a viable compromise in my opinion.
Imagine if the Robinson Family did this at Crebilly, for example?
Or imagine if say developers who want to develop the Bishop Tube site chose a plan like this versus doing things like picking on me for wanting the best clean-up possible?
The Natural Lands Trust has once again proven, there is another way.
And speaking of Bishop Tube it is a big story in the Philadelphia Inquirer today:
by Michaelle Bond, Staff Writer @MichaelleBond | firstname.lastname@example.org
Asleep after a long day at her social-work job, Peggy Miros was jolted awake by a booming voice through a loudspeaker urging her and her neighbors to evacuate their homes.
A cloud of toxic gas had formed when chemicals accidentally combined at the steel tube manufacturer next to her housing development in East Whiteland Township, Chester County, in the early morning hours of June 9, 1981. In the sultry air, a steady southwest breeze exported the chemical mist toward General Warren Village, 500 yards away, before the cloud dissipated. Some of Miros’ neighbors went to the hospital with nausea and skin irritation…The EPA later found trichloroethylene (TCE), a degreasing agent linked to cancer, in the property’s groundwater. The former Bishop Tube Co. site, which produced stainless steel tubes from the 1950s until 1999, now is host to graffitied and dilapidated buildings, shattered windows, cracked concrete, and overgrown vegetation, one of more than 450,000 contaminated “brownfields” across the nation.
…Given the site’s history, residents are wary of plans for the property. Neighbors say they fear their families and any new residents could be harmed if workers disturb the polluted soil without removing every bit of contamination.
Last month, 40 people gathered for the first time in the home of one of their neighbors to plan a coordinated effort to oppose the project.
“These people know what they’re talking about and they have a right to be concerned,” said Maya K. van Rossum, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, who became involved after residents asked her for help.
Read the entire article. Read where the chair of the supervisors in East Whiteland says he expects the developer will get the zoning variance. That is East Whiteland’s compromise point? Gambling with people’s health and safety? (Notice you hear little to nothing out of state officials and why are these people in office again?)
“You have to get people to value history.”
As developers take over Chester County 1 acre at a time, what makes a community? What value do history and traditions have? And why isn’t the Chester County Planning Commission doing anything except cheering on developers?
Especially note the part about Fox Catcher and what Toll Brothers did there. It will be the fate of Crebilly if that plan goes through.
This short film shown by the Newtown Square Historical Society is so thought provoking. I wish more local historical societies would record the history for posterity like this. This film is by Hanna Bottger when she was a student at The University of Pennsylvania. I believe she now resides in New York.
And I am confused because this developer refers to his neighbors in General Warren so I have to ask does he no longer live in Lower Merion Township?
As a “newcomer” resident of Chester County, am I supposed to be the perfect Victorian woman and be seen and not heard?
No, I haven’t written lovely large checks to the wonderful and deserving East Whiteland Fire Company, does that make me a bad person?
I do not write the flyers going out. I have expressed my opinions on my blog. Opinion is not against the law is it? The First Amendment still exists right?
Maya van Rossum is one of the most ethical and dedicated and smart women I have ever met, I am honored to know her. She is the Delaware Riverkeeper and it is her job to know about these sites like Bishop Tube.
The ultimate irony for me is I am a cancer survivor. I do not wish cancer treatment on anyone. Ever. That is why TCE terrifies me. So is that making me a bad person for caring?
The other thing is I have never said don’t develop the Bishop Tube site. I have said do lots and lots of clean-up based on past news articles and other documents and things like first hand accounts from former Bishop Tube employees and why is that bad? I have said I thought it was too much proposed density and why not an alternate, non-residential use but that is my opinion, yes?
So I am sorry the developer thinks I am being unfair, I think I am being justifiably concerned, and is that bad?
View this document on Scribd
Also see this:
The Delaware Riverkeeper is keeping up the pressure on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Hot off the presses find these two letters:View this document on Scribd View this document on Scribd
Bishop Tube is a crazy tale that just keeps getting more interesting, doesn’t it? Trichloroethylene (TCE) is so damn toxic. Yet you have to wonder why is seems the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) seems to play dodge ball on it at Bishop Tube, right? (Here is something the EPA put out around 2015 *I think* and something else from Arizona and how NASA deals with TCE.)
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is the agency that is supposed to protect residents from toxic hazards, yet who is supposed to protect residents from them? I hear State Senator Dinniman’s office is starting to feel the pinch of Bishop Tube phone calls but what is he actually doing? (keep calling Phone: 610.692.2112 Fax: 610.436.1721 for West Chester PA and Phone: 717.787.5709 • Fax: 717.787.4384 for Harrisburg )
Hey Erin Brocavitch can we interest you in a little good old PA TCE????
Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust has an exciting lecture coming up next week on Wednesday, April 12 with Bruce Mowday.
Bruce will speak on two of his books — “The Battle of Brandywine” and “The Johnston Gang”. A great storyteller, you will want to plan to attend. For information and to reserve tickets, call 610-647-1051.
File under April Fools’ from the Pennsylvania DEP?
At this point I can’t decide who is sleazier, can you? Developers with their perpetual sets of the emperor’s new clothes or the state agencies who are supposed to protect us?
I wonder what does the EPA think? I realize they are a Federal agency but do they care? Or are residents on their own with TCE across the country and the damage it does? The damage TCE has done already?
So yeah, Pennsylvania DEP, people ARE watching you. Remember Limerick? Remember how people rose up and demanded the DEP actually do their jobs and not just push paper around?
And while we are calling people out on toxic Bishop Tube and the fact that way too many in authority have known for DECADES about this site, should we not call out State Representative Duane Milne and State Senator Andy Dinniman?
This is a deadly, toxic site and it needs to be cleaned up properly. Those three hot spots which are the only ones that supposedly are going to get cleaned up are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg and the Pennsylvania DEP knows it, don’t they?
For more recent posts on Bishop Tube see:
Pay attention to the post containing documents above, old documents tell interesting tales don’t they?
As of now there is a meeting hosted by East Whiteland Township on Bishop Tube on April 19. Note the careful wording of the notice because they have invited all the below parties to show up and hopefully all the below parties will show up considering the fact that some of them are now contacting residents right? I think this meeting is a demonstration of good faith on the part of East Whiteland Township. Here’s hoping all invited show up to the party, can’t we all agree?
why does west chester borough hate the west chester growers market? why are they trying to hurt the market again?
APRIL 2 UPDATE: The Borough of West Chester has posted something I am assuming because I posted the letter people kept sending to me yesterday.
I am posting the borough response in an effort to be fair. Which is not saying I believe them, is it?
Pursuant to that effort to be fair would it also be fair to say that the Borough of West Chester is casting aspersions upon my character because I dared state the opinion that every year it seems to be something else that is an impediment to one of the most popular and beloved markets? Why is it West Chester Borough can never seem to just renew the lease prior to opening day of the market? Is that small business friendly? Is that farmer friendly? Family friendly?
Also the Borough of West Chester letter was sent to me by PATRONS of the market some of whom are RESIDENTS of the Borough of West Chester. And last time I checked I can connect the dots and express my opinion unless we are all Pravda on this bus?? Do we still not have a First Amendment or is that also subjective to the capricious whims of small-town politics?
Here is their say and to them I say, if nothing nefarious is afoot the lease should have just been renewed without incident and the market should have merely been treated as the valuable community asset it is , correct?
But hey it’s ok if I think the Borough doth protesteth too much right? Keep those calls and emails up people, apparently they are feeling the heat? And pack that meeting because at the end of the day those borough council folks work for YOU right? Maybe next election cycle instead of recycling the political status quo residents should consider other options?
Can someone kindly explain to me WHY West Chester Borough seems hell bent on destroying the West Chester Growers’ Market? They seem enamored of the politically connected yet essentially not really anything other than an occasional pop-up food “co-op” (I touched on that in this post months ago) and why is the “co-op” the favored child?
Today is opening day of the market, and it is supposed to be a happy day. But once again something happy and festive feeling is once again marred, yes marred by the shenanigans of West Chester Borough. See this:
Once again, West Chester Borough is trying to rid West Chester of one of the area’s longest standing markets, doesn’t it?
Every year there is some sort of B.S. about the parking lot lease, isn’t there?
Every year this market is punished for being a successful market run by nice people, isn’t it?
Please turn out your support from far and wide for this market. Contact every member of West Chester Borough Council. Contact the media. Please help the market!
This is the meeting that the above letter says will discuss the fate of our favorite market:
Sign me disgusted.
POSTED: 03/30/17, 8:17 AM EDT
Editor’s Note: This story is from the Nov. 30, 1964 issue of the Daily Local archives.
Connie Evans was found dead yesterday afternoon.
The West Goshen Township girl’s body was discovered by a Berwyn man, out for a walk, in a shallow grave just south of Chester and Berkley roads in Easton Township.
Police said the indications were the child was strangled….
Investigators said that the girl may have been slain shortly after she was last seen on Oct. 24. That was five weeks and one day ago.
The girl’s grave was about one mile southeast of the Easttown Township police headquarters, a mile directly south of Rt. 30 and a half mile north of Sugartown Road.
It was on the estate of Theodore K. Warner Jr. , a member of the township’s board of supervisors.
The girl’s mother, who lives in a tenant house on the Jerrehian estate, just above Rt. 29 and the West Chester bypass, was visited by Sgt. Francis Kofke of the West Goshen Township police force, last night….The girl’s grave was about 150 yards south of the supervisor’s home, near a large pine tree and in a fairly open area,” according to an investigator….The grave was 36 feet in from Berkley Road, at one side of a seldom-used path which is entered through posts of a wooden gate. A wooden fence which had stretched for some distance on either side of the gate has rotted away, and most of it is on the ground….Connie had left home shortly after 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24, her 15th birthday. She walked south on Rt. 29 toward West Chester, to meet on the way a friend, John Launi, 15, of 208 W. Gay st. West Chester, as she had done several times previously….The crime was never solved though a local private detective says she knows who committed the murder.
Yes I watch way too many detective stories, so I Googled . First of all, the article mentions the Jerrehian Estate. That means this girl and her mom lived on the old Sharples Estate in West Chester – where Greystone Hall is.
(The Sharples Estate’s Greystone Hall was the brain child of architect Charles Barton Keen who was the grandfather of one of my close friends. I also remember when the Jerrehian family was fighting the West Chester Area School District over eminent domain. In more recent time, people have been up in arms about development on the Jerrehian Estate. But I digress.)
I Googled some more and came up with a Find A Grave page for Mary Constance Evans. The Find A Grave page created by a Daniel Oh (whom I do not know how to reach in a timely manner) contained a piece by a private detective. Her name is Eileen Law, and I spoke with her this afternoon. I realized as I was reading what she wrote that I wanted her permission to republish what she wrote in it’s entirety, not just an excerpt. So I looked up her office telephone number and gave her a call. What an awesome lady! She gave me her permission so here we go:
On Saturday, October 24th, 1964, Mary Constance “Connie” Evans (her family called her “Conti”) left her home on the Jerrehian Estate at 1028 Phoenixville Pike in West Chester, (West Goshen Township) Pennsylvania at approximately 1:35 p.m. It was her 15th birthday. She formerly lived on Darlington Street in the borough of West Chester and attended North Junior High. She was to meet her boyfriend, John Launi, who was going to meet her halfway, and accompany her into West Chester so that she could buy a birthday present. Later, the two were to meet with her mother and aunts in town for dinner and a birthday cake her mom had yet to pick up. When John knocked at her mother’s door asking for her, Mrs. Evans knew something was wrong…
Mrs. Evans (also Connie) contacted West Goshen Police Department immediately. The first officer who responded was a friend of Mrs. Evans – Sgt. Fran. (He did not want his last name used.) He took down all of the information and Mrs. Evans was told that they had to wait another day before they could put the information about her disappearance out in case she was a runaway. Some thought perhaps she might have left to see her father in New Mexico and stay with him awhile. Mrs. Evans knew better…
A search team was put together and well over two hundred volunteers from law enforcement, Fame Fire Company, neighbors and friends combed a four square mile area. Blood hounds were brought in and tracked her scent to the vicinity of Phoenixville Pike and Route 322. Several private airplanes and two helicopters from the Willow Grove Naval Air Station crisscrossed the area for hours and reported seeing nothing out of the ordinary. Men on horseback, scuba divers who searched reservoirs, lakes and ponds were disbursed. Law enforcement set up road blocks questioning passersby to no avail. They all believed that there is no way Connie would have gotten into a vehicle with a stranger on her own volition. Further, many told me that she would have fought like hell anyone who tried to harm her.
A man named Fred, who lived on Phoenixville Pike and who was getting his mail that afternoon, called police with some disturbing information. He told them he saw a man who appeared to be half black and half Hispanic or Italian drive by who had gone off the road a couple of times driving pretty fast. He says he got a good look at him, and what was disconcerting was that this man had an “arm lock around a girl’s neck who had dark brown hair – like he was hurting her – her head was flush up against him so he couldn’t see her face.” He was headed away from West Chester on Phoenixville Pike just before King Road.
West Goshen Police Officers Lt. Tom Flick, Sgt. Fran and others, talked about a man they knew from West Chester who matched that description and whom they knew had been in trouble with the law. They also learned he frequently beat up his wife. They contacted West Chester Police Department and asked if they had a picture of the alleged perpetrator. They did, and turned over a copy to them. West Goshen put together a composite of several different pictures of various people with the same look, and then went to see Fred. Without hesitation, Fred pointed to the man in question and said, “THAT’S HIM!!!”
They learned that this man, although from West Chester, worked picking up trash for a trash collector in the Berwyn area. Lt. Flick went down to the company and picked him up and brought him in for questioning. I’ll call the man “Ef.” He brought Ef into the station and learned that he had formerly been arrested for child molestation and rape, for which he served time in Eastern State Penitentiary. Ef continued saying: “I can’t go back to jail again. I can’t go back to jail.” West Goshen received a call from Ef’s boss saying: either arrest him or release him. I have unhappy customers who need their trash picked up.” They released him…
On Sunday, November 29th, 1964, at approximately 1:00 p.m., 36 days after Connie went missing, Joseph Celsi, 37, an insurance underwriter, while walking his dog along Berkley Road on the Theodore K. Warner Estate in Devon (about a half mile away from the Devon Horse Show grounds) discovered an area where his dog started to dig at. He saw strands of brown hair protruding from this area where it appeared another animal had started to dig. He found a hand…
He flagged down a passing motorist who contacted Easttown Township Police Department. Then Patrolman Stanley Scott (now a Judge) and Chief of Police John Bunce responded. Patrolmen Scott examined the shallow grave right beneath an evergreen tree. He dug Connie’s body up by hand. She was naked from the waist down. The black leather jacket and the watch she had been wearing were never found. That night, Mrs. Connie Evans, next to her friend, Sgt. Fran, stood mute as he showed her the clothing: a blouse, knee length dungarees, undergarments, and a gold friendship ring. When he asked if they were Connie’s, all she could do was nod her head.
An autopsy was performed by Chester County Coroner Thomas Monteith and the cause of death was listed as strangulation. Further identification was made with dental records. Over three hundred people attended the funeral of Mary Constance Evans. Many, like me, had never even met her. She is buried in St. Agnes Cemetery…
Many people were questioned. Theories and rumors abounded, including one that a teacher may have been involved, or a police officer or a high profile official. Each department had their own theory. West Goshen P.D. never stopped believing it was “Ef.” In fact, they picked him up again, and questioned him. They also wondered where his vehicle was. Ef told them that someone had stolen it. Based on the information they received from the resident Fred, they arrested him for Murder believing they had enough probable cause. Ef went before Magistrate Meredith Cooper, who believed there was not enough evidence to bind him over for court, and he was released…
Sometime much later, an Officer from Tredyffrin Township Police Department discovered an abandoned vehicle which appeared to have been “torched.” They were able to determine that the vehicle belonged to none other than Ef, with a West Chester address. The address was on Miner Street, right around the corner from where Connie had formerly lived. “Mrs. Ef” who had two children – a daughter and a son around Connie’s age, told them she had been separated from her husband. He would go there to visit his children on occasion. Sadly, back then, none of the departments shared information. West Goshen was not aware that Tredyffrin found a torched car belonging to Ef and Tredyffrin wasn’t aware that Ef had been picked up for questioning, let alone arrested…
Like many of my friends and classmates, I became involved in this case when I was eleven years old. Connie lived a couple of miles away from where I grew up. I was told by my parents I was never allowed to ride my bicycle into West Chester again. Though I never met Connie, her school picture in the newspaper with a smile of what appeared to be a sweet girl haunted me. Even today, when I drive past the place she was last seen or her then home, I get a lump in my throat ~ just like so many other people I have talked with over the years…
When I became the District Attorney’s secretary, later a paralegal in 1971, I studied Connie’s file, vowing to find her killer. I met many in law enforcement back in those days from various departments, all sharing their own stories and memories. On December 23, 1998, Lt. Tom Flick, Lt. Richard Weimer, former Commander of the Pennsylvania State Police and with whom I worked as a Detective before, and Officer Phil (formerly of West Chester Police Department) stopped by my office unannounced. They saw a file I have kept on my desk all of these years with the label: “Connie Evans.” Tommy said, “How could you know anything about that case – you were a kid! I was the lead investigator.” I told him it had haunted me all of my life, and that before I died, I vowed to find out who did it. We all talked for at least four hours. I took copious notes, and we all agreed that we would form a team to prove who killed Connie. Of course, Tommy already knew. He just couldn’t prove it. We met frequently and unfortunately, Tommy and Dick passed away, Phillip who had come to work for me as my Chief of Security, retired, and I was left to do it on my own. Or so I thought…
Recently, information came to me about Connie’s case. I was told that the teacher in question had not only committed suicide, but left a note behind confessing to killing Connie, and that it had been turned over to the authorities within the past year or so. I contacted the District Attorney and several law enforcement officers from the various departments. None were aware of any such note. I spent days searching newspaper articles, pulling old records, talking to witnesses, old teachers and family members and going back over the notes I made from viewing the file many years ago, and the information Tommy had provided. I tracked down the teacher’s widow, and spoke with her, her sister and the teacher’s sister. I got to the bottom of how this rumor started and more importantly, how it snowballed and took on a life of its own. Each time it was repeated, most especially at class reunions, a new comment was added much like a “whisper down the lane” type thing. People just wanted to lay to rest unresolved questions desperately seeking answers for a young girl whose memory was forever embedded in their minds…
With the most recent rumors behind, I wanted to make good on my vow to resolve this case once and for all and, specifically, to concentrate on and learn more about Ef whom so many believed was responsible. Ef’s mother, from West Chester, had been raped by an African American man while she was married. She had other children before and after Ef was born. When Ef was in eighth grade, he had stolen money from his parents, and when he pulled a knife on his “father” that was the last straw: he was kicked out of his home. He lived on the street for a while, and went from home to home, and married a woman who was sixteen years old. I found their marriage license application for whom his wife’s father signed for her as she was a minor. They had two children who lived on Miner Street: right around the corner from where Connie lived. We believe she knew the children and their parents. Ef’s family had called him a “bad seed” as he was always getting into trouble. He had not only a juvenile record, but had been arrested for child molestation and rape and served time in Eastern State Penitentiary. Ef’s wife, now deceased, divorced him. When I pulled the records, she even listed the docket number of the Rape case in the divorce complaint. I was curious to see what address Ef had been served at: My heart pounded when I saw the address in Devon — it was exactly one block away from where Connie Evans body was found…
I learned through records, a police officer, Mrs. Evans and Connie’s best friend, that the day she went missing, she had started her period. It is our belief that Ef torched his car to hide blood and any other evidence left as a result of what was no doubt a struggle in that car. Yesterday, I tracked down and spoke with Fred, the man who identified Ef driving erratically with the girl in the car. He is 90 years old now, and says he remembers it like it was yesterday. He described the vehicle exactly like what had been found by Tredyffrin so many years ago. While there isn’t concrete proof that Connie got into Ef’s vehicle, we now know that she knew Ef, as he was the father of her friends and neighbor. She had no reason to fear him. There are so many other aspects to this story and case. I could go on for hours. I don’t believe it’s important…
Ef died in the late 1980’s. You won’t find his grave. He was cremated because his estranged family didn’t have enough money to bury him. His former wife has passed as well. So did another woman with whom he lived in Berwyn. I found and spoke with his daughter who told me she really didn’t know her father. She said he started drinking heavily in the 1960’s and became an alcoholic…
While there isn’t DNA evidence to confirm many years of searching and putting pieces of the puzzle together, Connie’s parents and those of us who have worked on the case over the years are satisfied that this can finally be put to rest. Next month will mark the 47th year she has been gone, but never forgotten…
I learned a few other things: for years, on the anniversary of Connie’s disappearance and birthday, West Goshen Police Department set up road blocks in the vicinity of Phoenixville Pike and Route 322 handing out flyers and questioning people with the hopes that they may have seen something. Sadly, I learned that Sgt. Fran was so upset and frustrated about the outcome of Connie’s case; he left the department and moved to Florida. He was instrumental in helping me. When I told him of my findings, he got so choked up he couldn’t speak and when he did, all he could say was “Thank you.” Lastly, I learned that as a result of this case and the impact it made on a young man who had volunteered on the search team to find her, he went into the legal field and has been a Court of Common Pleas Judge and sits on the bench today. He is known to be firm, but fair to all who come before him…
Mr. and Mrs. Evans wanted me to thank all of the people who searched for Connie, prayed for her, and more importantly, never forgot her. Mr. Evans specifically asked that this story be told to the news media to give people closure…
As for me, I’ve always believed that when Connie took her last breath on earth, she breathed new life in Heaven. What a life that must be! I’m cautiously optimistic that when I drive past the area where she lived, the lump in my throat will be replaced with a smile.
Detective Eileen Auch Law
President, CIA, Inc.
September 16, 2011
Saint Agnes Cemetery
Created by: Dan Oh
Record added: Jun 04, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 37913048
I know from Ms. Law that she has had people reach out to her since The Daily Local chose this particular case to highlight as a #TBT. And if you read her words above, if DNA evidence had been in effect in the 1960s, her case would be officially solved, and there would be no mystery.
This story of Connie Evans has had a profound effect of so many people. She is a teenager frozen in time ans space. A life just beginning when it was frozen in time by her murder. She could be anyone’s child. Her poor mom. Her parents were split up at a time when it was hard for a woman to be on her own, let alone raise a child on her own. Connie inspired Eileen Law to become a private detective.
These cases involving children are the worst, and even if they are adults when something happens, they are someone’s children. Like another missing person case that has interested me because it started in Lower Merion Township where I once lived – the missing person case of a nurse named Toni Lee Sharpless. (Yes, the Magic Kingdom does have a slightly sordid underbelly, doesn’t it?) My pal, writer Kathleen Brady Shea wrote about Toni Sharpless in August, 2016.
Back to Connie Evans.
Where Connie Evans was found – near or on Berkley Road in Devon in Tredyffrin is an area quite familiar to me. Especially since I occasionally photograph the old houses on the Tredyffrin House Tour for my friend Pattye Benson.
I never knew about Connie Evans until my friend who is a life-long Chester County resident messaged me the article today and said how her aunt, who was 14 at the time has never forgotten the story. Her aunt didn’t know her, but they were close enough in age growing up in Chester County and her death made an impact on so many.
What would Connie Evans have been like if she had lived? Would she have gone to college? Gotten married and had her own family? It’s so tragic.
It also makes you wonder what has become of the people who were her friends. What about her boyfriend who was named John Launi? How did this horrific event impact all of their lives?
Life is a gift. And once again after spending some time dwelling on the murder of Connie Evans today I am once again reminded of it. Love your friends and family.
So a reminder that the next Crebilly meeting is Wednesday, March 29th, 6-10PM Rustin High School and it will be the second Conditional Use hearing. Here is the link to a printable flyer my pal Mindy Rhodes made with additional dates we all encourage you to share with others:
But what is really and truly exciting to me is something I have wished a school district out here in Chester County would do – take a stand on wanton development, and that is exactly what West Chester Area School District has done. Here is hoping more districts follow suit because it gets a bit much when taxpayers watch school districts behave like ostriches with their heads in the sand. Chief ostrich in my opinion is Great Valley School District, but I digress.
Anyway, Mindy Rhodes wrote to all of us this morning not only about the meeting tomorrow but also about this:
Party Status will be determined for a number of groups and then testimony continues. I had a dream last night only five people came to the hearing and the auditorium was empty with the exception of a full stage that included the BOS and Toll Brothers. There are 850 seats in Rustin Auditorium. Please do what you can to attend any part of the hearing. Every bit helps… and don’t forget to bring water:)
Last evening, Dr. Scanlon, Superintendent of the West Chester Area School District, issued a letter to the community that included a resolution from WCASD and the impact the Crebilly development by Toll will have on the schools in the district:
Dear Community Members,
The West Chester Area School District has passed a resolution at its March 27 board meeting to allow the Superintendent to request an annual impact fee of $645,000 from Toll Brothers developers for the added expenses the district will incur from the proposed Crebilly Farms housing development.
Crebilly Resolution.docx – REVISED 3-21-17.pdf
Currently Toll Brothers is seeking approval from Westtown Township to build more than 300 homes on the Crebilly Farms tract of land at the corner of Routes 202 and 926. Working with an experienced demographer, we have determined that this development will generate at least 172 students who would attend our school district. (This estimate already excludes the number of students we believe would attend private schools, based on our previous experience.)
It is common practice for school districts to request impact fees from developers when a large development is proposed. Simply put, a public school district cannot fairly shoulder the entire cost of a huge surge of students at one time. We will need to find additional space in our schools with modular units or additions, we will need to hire additional teachers and other staff, and we will need to provide additional transportation. (In addition, we are bound by law to also provide transportation for any students who choose private schools located within 10 miles of our borders.). We anticipate approximately 56 private and/or parochial school students from this proposed development.
Final approval of this development rests with Westtown Township. We consider it our duty to keep you informed as this matter relates to our school district. Public hearings are continuing, and we welcome your voice in this matter.
Dr. Jim Scanlon, Superintendent
I am so thrilled by this letter and resolution. I have often been impressed with Dr. Scanlon’s writings in the past; in my opinion, a thoughtful and very sensible voice of reason. This creates yet another hurdle for Toll Brothers to comply with. It is my hope others in similar positions will stand up to this company and hold this developer accountable in every way possible.
If not you, then who?
I have been critical of the WCASD school district in the past, but today I admire them. I admire their chutzpah in being real and saying to a developer “Hey this is not OK.”
Municipalities and School Districts are separate entities they are autonomous of one another, so basically neither consults the other ever about anything that in the end affects taxpayers and residents….and kids in a school district. Development looks really great on paper to politicians. They can say they brought in ratables end it helps them build the legacy to themselves that they all seem to crave. And no, I am not saying that is the case here with Westtown, it’s just what I think about a lot of municipalities.
Municipalities tend to look at new development like a fresh and shiny toy, but sometimes they need to have more thought as to what that toy will cost taxpayers and residents and members of school districts down the road.
Finally, a school district in Chester County is standing up and saying not no to developers per se, but who is going to pay for the side effects of development after developments are built. This school district is being responsible to residents, children, the taxpayers. And might I add this is something the Chester County Planning Commission should be doing with every development proposed in Chester County? As well as State Senator Andy Dinniman? After all it is not just about land and historic preservation, it’s about the other long term impacts of development, isn’t it? Why do residents always seem to have to do the heavy lifting ?
Here is what WCASD said: