Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: April 1968 Volume 15 Number 1, Pages 2–7

A Bold Stride Forward in Pennsylvania

Mrs. E. H. TenBroeck

Page 2

Visitors to Valley Forge may admire, as they approach the Park from the south, an area of fine residences and suburban homes in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County. In this nine­teen-square-mile area are many houses and other landmarks of the Revolutionary War period.

In the Park are Washington's Headquarters and the original farmhouses in which lived some of his generals — Von Steuben, Knox, Maxwell — during the encampment of 1777-1778. Outside of the Park, in Tredyffrin Township, are the quarters of fourteen officers of the American Army. The area includes also the homes which were commandered briefly as living quarters for General Sir William Howe and Lord Charles Cornwallis of the British Army, and Wilhelm, Baron Knyphausen, who was commander of the Hessian troops at the time of the Paoli Massacre in September 1777.

The Township cherishes also nine eighteenth-century log cabins, fourteen old school buildings of various periods, a blacksmith shop, a grist mill, and the famous Knox Covered Bridge.

Some of these landmarks have recently been ensured pre­servation and protection by the Township Supervisors in a precedent-setting ordinance.

Tredyffrin Township is part of the 40,000 acres surveyed by William Penn in 1684 for the early Welsh settlers. The Township was incorporated in 1707. "Tre" or "tref" is Welsh for town or township. "Dyffrin" means wide, cultivated valley. Hence comes the compound "Tre yr Dyffrin" or "Tredyffrin" meaning "township in a wide cultivated valley."

Until approximately 1925, Tredyffrin was almost enclusively farm lands, rich, fertile, productive properties of quiet dignity and beauty. With the increased transportation facilities of the last thirty years, the population has quadrupled. Broad, bare highways, acres of hard top parking lots, glistening shopping centers, and hundreds of new small houses, usually jammed into a once-spacious estate or farm, have brought to this township the same inevitable problems which face citizens elsewhere in the country.

Page 3

The residents of Tredyffrin Township are well aware of the peril to their historic landmarks from urban sprawl from Philadelphia, about fifteen miles away. There is also industrial sprawl from King of Prussia, where the Pennsylvania Turnpike intersects the Schuylkill Expressway. Two eighteenth century inns on the Lincoln Highway (the old Lancaster Turnpike) have already fallen before the bulldozers.

Working through their elected township officials, citizens have taken a giant legal step to protect twenty-eight of their landmarks from destruction, degradation, desecration.

In the spring of 1964, the Township Supervisors, abetted by a handful of citizens and the Planning Commission, established a twenty-member Committee on Tredyffrin Historic Sites. This committee, comprised of architects, historians, lawyers, educators, and interested non-professionals, surveyed the township and listed fifty-five sites of historic impor­tance, and the means of preserving them.

The next step was the drafting of an ordinance. The landmarks are spotted here and there in the township. To preserve them, the ordinance does not specify an enclave within the boundaries, as in Charleston or Newport. The whole township is subject to the ordinance. This is probably a "first" in the United States.

After defining and identifying the historic properties, the ordinance provides for "the appointment of a Board of Historical and Architectural Review to give counsel to the Board of Supervisors regarding the issuance of certificates of appropriateness in connection with the granting or refusal of permits for the erection, demolition, or alteration of buildings certified to have historical significance, or located within designated historical areas...for appeals from such refusals, and for changes in the procedure in the issuance of building permits..."

This ordinance is in accord with the Pennsylvania Enabling Act of 1961 (amended in 1963): "an Act authorizing counties, cities, boroughs, incorporated towns, and townships to create historic districts within their geographical boundaries; providing for the appointment of Boards of Historical Architectural Review; empowering governing bodies of political subdivisions to protect the distincttive historical character of these districts and to regulate the erection, reconstruction, alteration, restoration, de­molition or razing of buildings within the historic districts."

Page 4

The Board of Historical and Architectural Review, appointed by the Township Supervisors to serve without compensation, shall consist of a registered architect, a licensed real estate broker, a site inspector, and at least two additional members who have knowledge of and interest in the preservation of the historic sites.

In advising the Board of Supervisors about the issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness, the Board must consider:
1 - The appropriateness of exterior architectural fea­tures which can be seen from a public street.
2 - The effect a proposed change will have upon the general historic and architectural nature of a building or site.
3 - The general design, arrangement, texture, material, and color of a building or structure, and the relation of these factors to similar features of structure in the District."

Upon receipt from the Township Building Inspector of an application for an alteration of a building or site, the Board of Review shall within thirty days hold a hearing, inviting the applicant to explain his reasons for the application. The Board will then recommend to the Supervisors that the application shall be granted or denied. Standards for their judgment are specified in the ordinance.

Should the application be denied, the Township Supervisors must send a written statement of their opinions to the appli­cant and to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in Harrisburg.

"The Building Inspector is empowered to institute any pro­ceedings at law or in equity necessary for the enforcement of the ordinance in the same manner as his enforcement of the present township Building Code."

"An applicant, if his plan or alteration is denied, may appeal from the disapproval as provided by law and the Build­ing Code of the Township."

Copies of the proposed ordinance were sent to the Valley Forge Park Commission, the Chester County Historical Society, The League of Women Voters, and local civic associations, all of whom approved it. The public was invited to an open hear­ing on this precedent-setting action.

On a stifling night in June, 1966, more than a hundred residents assembled. Nineteen representatives of township organizations spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance. No one opposed its basic purpose. Six men favored its aim but objected to its methods.

Page 5

Some objectors feared that individual property rights might be unfairly restricted. A debatable detail in the or­dinance stated that the ordinance shall apply to "those buildings or sites listed as historic, and the area within 500 feet of the building." A property presently within 500 feet of a historic site, but not in itself historic, could not be drastically altered without the approval of the Board of Historical and Architectural Review. Possibly the recommendations of the Board might not be feasible for the property's owner.

The owner of one of the historic properties must also comply with the advice of the Board before making any surface or structural changes. Possibly this ordinance could create hardships for owners of non-historic, as well as the specified historic sites. "It will not be feasible," observed one editor, "to make Tredyffrin so historic that it is all a monument to the dead without room for the living."

Although not legally required to do so, the Supervisors advertised and conducted three more public hearings on the ordinance. After further study, some of the school buildings, all of the cemeteries, and some privately owned houses were deleted from the list, eventually reducing the number of sites to twenty-eight. The distance limit from a site was reduced to 250 feet.

In December 1966, the ordinance was passed unanimously, and submitted to the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Dr. Sylvester K. Stevens who wrote:

"This is an admirable job...The sites are carefully selected and of an importance which certainly justifies their protection. It is written also with proper attention to the general state statue... which governs these procedures.

"The proposed ordinance has our complete approval. It might be added that it would create a precedent for badly needed action in other townships...The value of the property of every person in the township is going to be improved, once it is established that in Tredyffrin Township it will not be possible to move in with the types of development which will threaten the fine historical values and the community atmosphere for which the area is noted."

Now protected are twenty-two houses, two schools, a grist mill, a covered bridge and two former taverns. Authorities assert that the ordinance would stand, if it were ever tested in the courts.

Page 6

The twenty-eight historic properties which the Supervisors of Tredyffrin Township seek to preserve are works of art of their periods, important enough to justify this ordinance. Tredyffrin's residents may now envision a profitable, orderly development of the township. Their descendants may see these land marks virtually unchanged and in an authentic environment.



1- Stirling's Quarters on Yellow Springs Road, owned by Robert C. Ligget.

2- Knox's Quarters and Maxwell's Quarters on Rt. 363 and Valley Stream, owned by the Valley Forge Park Commission.

3- Lafayette's Quarters on Wilson Road, owned by the University of Pennsylvania and occupied by Mr. and Mrs. E. P. Raum.

4- DuPortail's Quarters on Rt. 363, owned by the University of Pennsylvania.

5- Wayne's Quarters on Walker Road and Anthony Wayne Drive, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. Haas.

6- Pulaski's Quarters on Walker Road, owned by Dr. and Mrs. Edward L. French.

7- Poor's Quarters on Thomas Road, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph M. McCreadt, Jr.

8- Potter's Quarters on Thomas Road, owned by Mr. and Mrs. T. Richard Buters.

9- Greene's Quarters (Rehobeth Farm) on Swedesford Road, owned by B. Nathaniel Richter.

10- Howe's Quarters on Old State Road, owned by Robert Bruce Balbirnie.

11- Knyphausen & Woodford Quarters on Contention Lane, owned by Mr. and Mrs. James N. Rice.

12- Cornwallis' Quarters on Cassatt Road, owned by Mrs. William Baird.

Page 7

13- Lee and Bradford's Quarters and Capt. John Davis' home on Chesterbrook Farm, owned by Alexander J. Cassatt.

14- Octagonal School House, corner of Diamond Rock Hill and Yellow Springs Road.

15- Old Eagle School House, on east side of Old Eagle School Road, Strafford.

16- De Addio Cabin on the east side of Church Road north of Swedesford Road.

17- Mrs. M. S. Davis Cabin, east of Parson Currie Road.

18- Heyburn-Clark-Roye Cabin on the west side of Long Lane, Daylesford.

19- Wetherby-Hampton-Snyder-Atlee-Wilson Cabin 251 Irish Road, Berwyn.

20- Van Leer-Curwen Cabin on the east side of Irish Road Berwyn.

21- Mrs. Edward Browning's Cabin on the west side of Rt.363 1/2 mile north of Conestoga Road.

22- Drexel Paul- Tompkins cabin on Upper Gulph Road.

23- The Blue Ball Tavern on the north side of Old Lancaster Rd. at the Daylesford R.R. Station.

24- The Older Blue Ball Tavern on the west side of Glenn Road in Daylesford.

25- Great Valley Mill on North Valley Road.

26- Knox Covered Bridge on Yellow Springs Road.


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