Monday, 23 October 2017 03:02

What Happens When a Landmark Vanishes?

Written by  Laurel Anderson

Photos by Timlyn Vaughan Photography

You need a township, volunteers and the community to bring back a piece of history that Mother Nature destroyed.

 

Strode's Mural, in West ChesterHave you noticed something is missing along the scenic Route 52 drive, south of West Chester?

When you stopped at the traffic light at Lenape and Birmingham Roads, did you realize the red and yellow Strode’s Scrapple mural is gone? After decades of demolition by neglect, the barn and iconic mural at this historic intersection were dealt a fatal blow last winter by Mother Nature’s demolition team.

History buffs likely know the remarkable collection of well-preserved structures at Strode’s Mill Historic District crossroads, along with its connection to the Battle of Brandywine as a staging ground for General Cornwallis. Owned for 250 years by the same Quaker family, the once-thriving village was anchored by a 1723 mill (now an art gallery) that was a hub of commercial activity and joined later by Strode’s renowned sausage and scrapple-making business in the neighboring building—home to the mural.

This past winter’s intervention moved things a bit ahead of schedule for East Bradford Township, which bought the land in 2015, says Assistant Township Manager Mandie Cantlin. The township had a multi-year plan developing a vision for the property, including using eight acres of watershed as a greenway and public park along Plum Run and Brandywine Creek.

With the help of an energetic committee of volunteers—Friends of Strode’s Mill—plans continue for stabilizing and preserving historic structures and developing this environmentally important property for historical interpretation and recreational uses such as biking and hiking. This keystone parcel along the Plum Run Corridor connects existing trails, from the Brandywine Creek to West Chester, says Cantlin.

And the mural that was on the sausage plant? Plans for rebuilding the barn developed by Richard Buchanan, of Archer & Buchanan Architecture, provide space for a replica of the iconic sign. Tim Vaughan, another volunteer and local photographer, says he’s meticulously documented the mural so it can be accurately recreated on site.

Other Friends of Strode’s Mill are working to write grants, raise funds and involve the community in the project. They want area residents to have a sense of ownership of this piece of history and the planned park, says historian Mary Sue Boyle. And, among other things, for the barn’s resident vultures, Gertrude and Heathcliff, to have a safer home, adds Kean Spencer, multi-tasking marketing and fundraising volunteer.

Soliciting cash, elbow grease and expertise on their website and through fundraisers, the volunteers are finding creative ways to attract attention while giving credit where it’s due—from names on a Donor Memorial Plaque, to souvenir pieces of the barn, to T-shirts for scrapple lovers.

Interested in bringing back a landmark and getting a public park, to boot? Find out more at FriendsOfStrodesMill.com