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Chester County Press

Township OKs $478K to stabilize, demolish Spar Hill Farm structures

09/13/2022 03:00PM ● By Richard Gaw

Photo by Richard L. Gaw        This metal silo will either be stabilized or demolished in the future, as part of a Sept. 7 decision by the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors to stabilize and demolish a total of 27 structures at the historic Spar Hill Farm in the township.


By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

In a 3-0 vote, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors agreed at their Sept. 7 meeting to authorize the township to prepare and present request for proposals (RFPs) for the demolition, remediation and historic preservation of 27 structures at Spar Hill Farm.

The township purchased the 137-acre farm in 2018 for $3.2 million, of which $1 million of the purchase cost came from a grant from the Mt. Cuba Center.

In total, the township is projected to spend an estimated $335,584 – or 70 percent of the total estimated cost of $478,210 – to demolish 13 structures at the site. The remaining 30 percent of the estimated cost -- $142,626 – will be spent to stabilize seven structures, as well as retain an additional six structures in their current state. As part of the overhaul of the historic site, the township will also spend $18,000 on overall clean-up.

The decision served as a follow-up to an Aug. 17 presentation by the township’s Historical Commission that spelled out the findings and recommendations of a May 9 report it received from Matthew Roberson, president of West Chester-based Restoration Carpentry, Inc.

“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 on Aug. 17. “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,” said Historical Commission Chairperson Karen Marshall. “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.”

Based on Roberson’s report and the Commission’s recommendations, the following structures have been deemed “not worthy of preservation” at the site and will 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.

The following structures will 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.

Spar Hill Farm, originally owned by William Penn, has had several incarnations throughout its history. Originally called the Way Farm, it was managed by Quakers for over 100 years and was one of the most productive farms in the township. For a time in the 1800s, Feldspar, a group of non-metallic minerals used in ceramics, was mined from two quarries on the property. From 1925 to 1940, it operated as the Shutt Dairy Farm and from 1940 until 1960, it became known as the Spar Hill Turkey Farm.

As a result, the property is dotted with structures from its different periods with little age delineation separating them from one another. One such building – a metal silo built in the 1930s – stands at the edge of the conglomeration of sheds and barns that were built during an earlier time. To some, it is the primary architectural centerpiece of Spar Hill Farm, while to others, it is a conical-roofed tower of rust.

After discussion about its relative merits in the future of the township’s plans to “tell the story” of Spar Hill Farm, the board agreed that the metal silo will receive RFPs for both stabilization (estimated at $15,488) and demolition (estimated at $15, 616).

“All of what we are talking about – if we stabilize or demolish -- will take money in order to figure out what to do in the future, and in five or ten years, will probably require more money,” Chairperson Richard Leff said of the project. “This maintains options and allows the process to move forward. It will then allow us a little more time to figure out the options for the metal silo.”

“To me, it’s an eyesore, but to other people, it’s an icon,” Supervisor Geoffrey Gamble said of the metal silo. “I think our presumption with any historic building in the township --- even one built in the 1930s – is that it be preserved. We can overcome that presumption by recommendations from the Historical Commission.

If we’re going to preserve it, it needs to be re-galvanized, and the tin can doorway with jagged metal needs to be remediated.”

In other township business, the board agreed to the appointments of Linda Dillow to the Historical Commission and Anne Verplanck to the Planning Commission, and accepted the resignation of Michael Guttman from the Land Conservation Advisory Committee.

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