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Chester County Press

Township considering potential demolition, preservation of Spar Hill Farm structures

08/23/2022 03:16PM ● By Richard Gaw

Photo by Matthew Roberson               A pony barn, located at the historic 103-acre Spar Hill Farm in Kennett Township, has been recommended for stabilization, based on a recent study presented to the township’s Board of Supervisors on Aug. 17.


By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

With the precision of a diamond cutter wielding a delicate drill bit, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors and the township’s Historical Commission recently considered the structure-by-structure future of the Spar Hill Farm, including a stabilization proposal that would remove 13 buildings, barns, silos and sheds from the 103-acre, township-owned property.

The public meeting took place on Aug. 17 at the East Marlborough Township meeting room, due to repair work being done at the Kennett Township Building.

In her presentation before the board, Commission Chairperson Karen Marshall referred to a May 9 report she received from Matthew Roberson, president of West Chester-based Restoration Carpentry, Inc. that spelled out the details of his overview of the farm, done in consultation with members of the Commission and township residents.

Based on Roberson’s report, the following structures were deemed “not worthy of preservation” at the site and should be demolished: a carriage house, a barn, four sheds, a concrete silo, a loafing barn, a turkey slaughter house, two tenant houses, a wood fence and a garage – at a total estimated cost of $335,584.

Roberson and Marshall also recommended that the following structures be stabilized or retained “as is: a smoke house, the main residence, a metal silo, a silo base, a stone wall, three small sheds, a pony barn, a metal fence, a spring house, a wood bridge and concrete livestock ramps – at a total estimated cost of $142,626.

The estimated cost of site clean up is $18,061. In total, the estimated cost of stabilization and demolition at Spar Hill Farm is $478,210.

‘A cohesive story’

“In the analysis of each building, we looked at what would be the minimum [effort required] to stabilize the structure to preserve it from further deterioration,” Roberson told the board. “For a variety of structures, there are recommended upgrades to the scope of work that would enhance each in some way.”

“We are asking that the board consider their recommendations for preservation and preservation techniques as a package,” Marshall said. “Together, they will provide enough physical evidence of the historic Spar Hill Farm to tell a cohesive story about the three major periods of agriculture that we are focusing on preserving.”

From the time the township purchased Spar Hill Farm in 2018 for $3.2 million ($1 million was received by a grant from the Mt. Cuba Center), there has been wide speculation and discussion about what the township’s future plans are for it. Marshall said that the Commission has already received several suggestions from residents that include establishing an agricultural museum, a shelter for farm animals and an educational center for developing interpretive trails.

She said that the key objective of Spar Hill Farm is to meet the township’s objective to preserve the context of the township’s “heritage and character.”

“The many cultural resource studies will provide ample evidence of the history and evolution of the farm, its integrity as a locally significant resource, and its importance to the story of our township,” she said. “It meets our local historic resource criteria, because it exemplifies our cultural and economic heritage and it is a local landmark and a distinct place.”

In response to Supervisor Scudder Stevens’ definition of Spar Hill farm as a “hodgepodge” of structures from different periods, Marshall said the farm should be interpreted as an historic district that encompasses an overall history that dates back to the 1800s.

“If we were looking at a single-period farm, we would have a defined period of significance and looking to preserve the specific structures that fit within that defined period,” she said. “In this case, what we’re looking at is the entire history of the farm.

The district has its own value by its own elements. In a district, each element is less important than the whole.”

Township Director of Finance and Human Resources Amy Heinrich told the board that dependent upon its’ final decision regarding the proposal, the township will generate final estimates for approval and then enter the bidding process for the scope of work that will be agreed to.

Township Manager Eden Ratliff said that board will vote to take action on the recommended stabilization and demolition project, as early as September.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].