Historic Odd Fellows at Risk...and So Once Again is Gladwyne History

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carla's picture
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HPIM5678
Long before the advent of the McMansion in Gladwyne it was a simpler time. Pretty historic houses, and you could even ride a horse safely on the street at all times. Go back even farther and there were farms and mills. Gladwyne was alway bucolic, but it was a working town.

Part of the fabric of Gladwyne is Historic Odd Fellows Hall, and the cemetery. I took some photos over there in 2007, which ironically was the same year the fraternal order kind of abandoned the place due to depleted membership.
HPIM5668
Well if you read this article of Cheryl Allison's, there is real trouble now. And the historic cemetery, full of veterans of various wars and Richie Asburn buried next door in the Methodist Cemetery, is at risk on the eve of Memorial Day, which is very distressing.

So I am putting it out there...and until the fate of the historic cemetery is decided, I think it needs some scouts and some angels to pull some weeds and cut the grass. And someone who will take responsibility for the property completely. Developers will always salivate over a plot of land in a juicy locale, but most of them would want to make the cemetery and people's ancestors buried there just disappear.
HPIM5672
I imagine people could reach out to Gladwyne Commissioner Jenny Brown and/or the Gladwyne Civic Assoication ( www.gladwynecivic.com ) to figure out how to make this happen, but something needs to be done.

This is no longer my home township, so I can only put this out there. I hope someone cares enough to act. And acting will undoubtedly mean interacting with the current contract purchaser of the property - someone has to cut the grass and honor the dead, but who the heck exactly do people interact with to get it done?

Don't let this history slide by. Honor the people who first made Gladwyne home so many years ago. There has to be a way. And for what it's worth, the Methodist Church next door is at risk too. In spite of the McMansion reputation, the real Gladwyne has a very unique and historic profile, and it definitely is at risk. If you go to the Gladwyne Memorial Day Parade, take the time to check out the history at risk.

Main Line Times > News

Fate of Gladwyne's Odd Fellows Hall unsure, as historic cemetery suffers

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
By Cheryl Allison

Just days before Memorial Day activities, a historic cemetery in Gladwyne that is the resting place of military veterans, along with some of the early residents of the village, lies overgrown with grass and weeds, the headstones barely visible on many plots.

But while a development proposal might have ensured that the Odd Fellows property, including both the cemetery and the badly-deteriorated 1850s Odd Fellows Hall, would be restored and maintained, its future is again uncertain.
HPIM5650
The Lower Merion Township Zoning Hearing Board last week voted to deny variances sought by developer Matthew Doelger to renovate the Odd Fellows building as three apartment units, expanding its use as a multi-family residential building.

As the contract purchaser of the parcel at 320-324 Righters Mill Road in the village center, Doelger had also proposed to take over maintenance of the cemetery, which occupies about two-thirds of its three acres.

(His plan ultimately also would have included subdividing the property for two additional single-family building lots, but only the existing building was under the zoning board’s review.)

HPIM5660The board determined that the developer had not met his burden of proving that zoning regulations inflict such a hardship that the property cannot continue to be used without zoning relief.

Its membership depleted, the fraternal order had left the building vacant since 2007. A Class 1 resource under Lower Merion’s Historic Resource Overlay District zoning, it has historically been configured as two, two-story apartments, with the large open room on the third floor serving as the lodge space.

Over the past few years, several developers have shown interest in the property, but walked away, unwilling to take responsibility for the cemetery.

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I read this in the mainlinetimes.com and it was a moment of sadness, especially the quote about “Every year, someone goes in and cuts the grass right before Memorial Day so that the scouts can put flags on the graves and make it look like someone cares.”  Someone does care, enough to cut the grass, and that's better than never cutting it all year.

I suppose it's a two-sided argument, one side says this is not what a charitable organization like the Odd Fellows ia all about.  On the other hand, if you were the Odd Fellows, and had virtually no interest for a long time in your lodge/chapter/hall in Gladwyne, they why devote your limited resources to a community that is one of the most affluent in te nation, and by any measure has an over-abundance of charitable endeavors going on. I'm talking about the upkeep of the cemetery here: Just to name a few organizations, there's the First Troop City calvary, that has some connection to Gladwyne, the Gladwyne Civic Association, the ladies who sell flowers at the Gladwyne library (can they take it upon themselves to care for the cemetary as if it were a garden?), the Bridlewild Trail Association, the Henry Foundation, the Gladwyne Fire Company, and on and on.

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Hugh Gordon's picture
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Not to mention the High Schools, which are always searching desperately for service projects.

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