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Chester County Press

Landenberg artist looking to open cultural center in Toughkenamon

11/06/2013 03:40PM ● By Acl

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer


Thomas von Koch, owner of the WGK Glass Art Studio in Landenberg, introduced the New Garden Board of Supervisors on Nov. 4 to his concept for a new, multi-purpose cultural center in Toughkenamon, just north of the New Garden Flying Field on 1259 Newark Rd.

The property, now owned by von Koch, was once owned by the DuPont family. In addition to serving as von Koch's residence, the property has three additional buildings on it, including a large bank barn, which von Koch said will become not only the home of his studio and gallery, but could be converted into a performance space for local artists, performers, theater companies, as well as be the future site of poetry readings. He told the supervisors that he envisions the property as being the site of future art festivals, featuring local artisans and crafters. 

Von Koch said that he would also like to create a small beer garden near stone walls on the property, to be operated during events held on the grounds.

The Swiss-born von Koch grew up in the German town of Wertheim, a glassmaking center upstream from Frankfort along the Main River, and has gradually become a one-glass impresario. As a student he always wanted to work as a sculptor, something three-dimensional. But since there was a long waiting list for arts school, he started his apprenticeship at Brand Scientific Glass Factory in Wertheim, Germany, as a glassblower making scientific instruments. Von Koch then started WGK Glass Art and relocated to the United States in 2001.

The board overwhelmingly approved the concept of the cultural arts center on von Koch's property, but suggested that the proposal first be reviewed by the township's zoning hearing board. Von Koch told the supervisors that he has already met with zoning officer Don Suckstorf to review the township codes and ordinances necessary to operate such a mixed-use facility.

In other township business, Jon Martin, manager of the New Garden Flying Field, shared with the supervisors the key topics discussed at the Flying Field's annual planning meeting on Oct. 22. One was the construction of the airport's west apron, which Martin estimated to be $480,000 -- the cost of which he said has been planned for and included in the capital portion of the airport's funds, drafted for 2015. Martin also said that the airport is in the early phases of several rehabilitation projects, including a "rip up and re-do" of the airport's runway surface, the repair of a runway safety strip, and repair of lighting fixtures in order to  bring them up to standards, as well as the construction of a retaining wall -- estimated to cost $1.5 million. All the projects are scheduled to be in two phases, beginning in 2014.

On Nov. 8, the township will host a History Night at the township building, beginning at 7 p.m. The event will include a presentation on the Wilmington and Western Railroad by Mary H. Simons, author of the book, "Landenberg's Forgotten Railroad," and a presentation on the Pomeroy and Newark Railroad, given by local historian Ben Marsden. The event will also include music by Scott Gantt and Friends, and refreshments will be served.

The township will host a meeting of Kacie's Cause on Nov. 21 at the township building. The event, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., will introduce attendees to the dangers of heroin abuse and its growing availability in the Chester County area, and will be headed by Andy Rumford, whose daughter Kacie died of a heroin overdose. On Dec. 6, the township will host a holiday tree lighting at New Garden Township Park, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

After deeming that the home on the Hendrickson property in Landenberg was not found to have any historical significance, the New Garden Historical Commission has been given permission to have the home demolished. Supervisors Bob Perrotti advised the members of the commission present at the meeting to solicit cost estimates for demolition and debris removal from the site, as well as volunteers to help with the demolition.

The board approved to renew its annual agreement for service with the Avondale Fire Company, as well as it annual agreement with the company's EMS Division. In addition, the board also approved a request by the company to make a one-time contribution of $10,000 to the company, which will be dedicated toward the purchase of a new pumper fire truck, estimated to be more than $600,000.

The board also approved a contribution of $81,539 to Medic 94 for 2014, and $4,332 in the renewal of its contract with the Chester County SPCA for 2014.