Chester Springs Life Fall/Winter 2017 Edition

Page 1

Fall/Winter 2017

Chester Springs Life


Saving the Nokota horses Page 48

Inside • Sharing the history of the Downingtown Log House • The Company takes the stage • Progressive education at Charlestown Playhouse Complimentary Copy

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Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

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Blending history and a vibrant future Letter from the Editor: As we explored the many interesting stories about the Chester Springs area for this issue, we’ve gone way back in history and pointed the way to the future. The Log House has been a part of the Downingtown landscape for more than 300 years. A source of pride for many in the borough, the small home has a history that can be traced to circa the early 1700s, although no one is sure of its builder. We look at what’s inside the building, and the people who can take credit for preserving it. Speaking of long traditions, Milky Way Farm, a 103acre dairy farm in Chester Springs, has been in the Matthews Family for as long as Carolyn Matthews Eaglehouse can remember. It almost seems as though this picturesque farm was plopped into an area surrounded by roads, houses and small businesses. But it was there first. Eaglehouse said they’re considering ideas to mark the barn’s 200th anniversary. And speaking of history, after many years of work, the effort to preserve the Bryn Coed Farms property reached a new milestone in June when Natural Lands took ownership of the stunningly beautiful 1,505-acre property that is located primarily in West Vincent Township, with portions in East Pikeland and West Pikeland townships. By doing so, Natural Lands, the region’s largest conservation organization, once again played a pivotal role in preserving a Chester County treasure. We also profile Christine McGowan, whose love of horses has led her to form The Nokota Preserve in Chester Springs, a nonprofit foundation on her 13-acre Flowing Springs Farm that is dedicated to protecting one of the few wild horse breeds left in the United States. When it comes to the future, children are still being instructed at the Charlestown Playhouse. For years, early reading and mathematics were made part of preschool and kindergarten, but now many child psychologists and educators are praising play-based early childhood education. This is not news to anyone at Charlestown Playhouse. Founded in 1936, the preschool and kindergarten has always been based on the belief that children learn through play. 10

Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

Chester Springs Life Fall/Winter 2017

We also meet Marc Hayford, whose life path has had some remarkable detours – Air Force veteran, self-made DJ, former pro wrestling referee, enthusiastic promoter of healthy products, and now a motivational speaker and newly minted author, Hayford has done more in his 45 years than most people accomplish in a lifetime. Our Q&A in this issue focuses on inspiration of another kind. When Ken Beldon became the founding minister of WellSprings in 2007, he began with just 25 parishioners. Ten years later, with the help of its growing congregation and Executive Minister Lee Paczulla, WellSprings has evolved into a thriving spiritual community in the Chester Springs area. And then there’s the vibrant performing arts group founded by Chester Springs resident Beth McDonnell. Now, The Company is linking forces with NickersonRossi Dance to present new, powerful theatrical experiences. Their first collaboration will premiere at the Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center in January. We always welcome your comments and suggestions for future stories! Sincerely, Randy Lieberman, Publisher, 610-869-5553 Steve Hoffman, Editor, 610-869-5553, ext. 13

Table of Contents 12 15 22 26 29 37 44

It’s all about the cows Old-time flavors on the menu


Conservation of a Chester County treasure A new company takes the stage The power of being positive The Downingtown Log House


Q&A with Ken Beldon and Lee Paczulla of Well Springs


Determined to rescue an All-American horse


Playing their way through school


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It’s all about the cows All photos by Natalie Smith

The Matthews Family has owned Milky Way Farm in Chester Springs for more than 100 years, and it’s always been a dairy farm. But they knew diversification is what would keep them successful. Pictured are Sam Matthews and daughter Carolyn Matthews Eaglehouse. Mathews just came in from the field, and Eaglehouse oversees the creamery.


Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

Milky Way Farm offers milk, camps, ice cream and more By Natalie Smith Staff Writer


s development in Chester County marches on, and seemingly countless houses crop up where there once were pastures, there is at least one farm whose owners intend to stay put. Milky Way Farm, a 103-acre dairy farm in Chester Springs, has been in the Matthews Family for as long as Carolyn Matthews Eaglehouse can remember. It almost seems as though this picturesque farm was plopped into an area surrounded by roads, houses and small businesses. But it was there first. “My grandfather’s family bought it from my grandmother’s cousins, so indirectly [the farm has been in the family] more than 100 years,” Eaglehouse said. “And it’s been a working dairy farm for a very long time. It was originally part of the William Penn [land grant], and it was kind of carved off into smaller pieces.” Her father, Sam Matthews, had been raised on the farm. He was encouraged to leave the farming life, and served as a minister and a teacher. But the lure back to the farm was strong, so he returned. He and his wife, Melba, raised Eaglehouse and her siblings there for much of the children’s lives. Buildings on the property attest to its longevity. The springhouse, which until four years ago housed the sole source of water for the farm, was built in the 1790s. The barn, as well as the farmhouse, were erected in the early 1820s. Eaglehouse said they’re considering ideas to mark the barn’s 200th anniversary. In fact, the land predates even Penn in its cultivation. Though it was a farm as long ago as the 1760s, family members have found arrowheads on the property and believe Native Americans tilled the land before the 18th century, Eaglehouse said. Milky Way – named because in 1947 Eaglehouse’s grandmother, Frances, noted how on the farm she could see that constellation in the night sky -- has 40 milking cows and calves.

Continued on page 14 | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


Milky Way Farm Continued from Page 13

“The general rule of thumb – even when William Penn was divvying up acres – is that it was two acres per cow. So, with 103 acres and a lot of it woods, this farm can realistically support 50 cows. All the studies and statistics … the number of cows has stayed the same,” Eaglehouse said. While primarily a dairy farm, Milky Way grows hay and corn and oats for feed, but it also produces another well-liked crop: Pick-your-own pumpkins. In addition to pumpkins, the farm offers a family-friendly corn maze and free hayrides, all perfect ways to spend a fall weekend. But Eaglehouse said they try to offer a more interactive educational experience. “There’s trivia along the way, so visitors can learn facts through the maze to help guide them. Really basic kid levels, then some higher-thinking ones so the parents kind of learn as well,” Eaglehouse said. “Then obviously the animals are outside. As we do hayrides that run continuously at the pumpkin patch, we always have somebody on the wagon who’s talking about what the farm is about.” Like her father, Eaglehouse had been a teacher, so providing those chances to learn are important to her. “We’re very passionate about education,” she said, “so any opportunity we have to provide teachable moments, we’re all over it.” Since 2012, Milky Way has been offering summer day

camps for kids ages 4 to 11, during which they learn about the animals, what makes a farm work and about sustainable agriculture – all in fun, age-appropriate ways. The farm is also the location for school trips and birthday parties. “We had almost 200 campers coming through this summer, which is great. Then we have 5,000 schoolchildren who come during the spring and the fall, spread out over about eight weeks in the spring and six weeks in the fall,” Eaglehouse said. But expanding upon the farm’s original purpose doesn’t stop with camps, mazes and tours. The family opened Chester Springs Creamery 17 years ago, and the happy mix of delicious ice cream and walkable farm added to the destination’s popularity. Ninety percent of the milk from the farm is sold to the Minnesota-based Land O’Lakes milk cooperative, with the rest going to the creamery. “We were making yogurt at one time, but you start thinking about all the different projects you’ve got in the air,” Eaglehouse said. Everybody chips in to help at various times, she said. Brother-in-law Tim Ferris operates a vegetable co-op called FarmHouse Markets, which is its own separate entity. Both he and Eaglehouse’s sister, Jane Matthews Ferris, are integrally involved in various aspects. Brother and sister-in-law Thomas and Jenna Matthews have a farm in New York, but at 5,000 acres and 1,500 cows, “it’s a very different experience, with similar problems and challenges. They come down often and help with marketing ideas and are good sounding boards,” Eaglehouse said. If you think because it’s a farm, Milky Way eschews technology, this is the 15th year for its robotic milker, the Lely Astronaut A3 Classic. The cows feel when they need to be milked, stroll in from the pasture, and the machine takes care of them, giving them some grain for their trouble. Continued on page 16 Left: The barn at Milky Way Farm has been standing for about 200 years. Below: Two calves have a bite to eat on Milky Way Farm. When they reach age 2, they’re mated with a bull, have offspring, and graduate to milking cows themselves.

Easton Matthews, niece of Carolyn Eaglehouse and a Matthews granddaughter, greets Patagonia the calf. 14

Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

Old-time flavors on the menu at Chester Springs Creamery By Natalie Smith Staff Writer


hat could be more natural for a dairy farm then to serve its own ice cream? In 2001, Milky Way Farm opened Chester Springs Creamery, an extremely popular destination for area customers of all ages. “About 10 percent of our milk goes to the creamery,” said Carolyn Matthews Eaglehouse, whose family operates the farm. “We take our milk off-site to Longacres Modern Dairy in Barto, north of Boyertown. They then craft a mix for us, special to our specifications, so there’s no whey in it -- it’s a natural product, but more of a filler. We prefer for it not to be in our product, so it’s very creamy and very authentic. And then we bring the ice cream back here, and make the flavors onsite.” Eaglehouse, among her other responsibilities, is president of the creamery. She and her husband, Lou, manage the business. She said they offer more than 50 flavors, although some are seasonal and not offered all the time. The flavors sport names like Molly’s Mint Chocolate Chip, Trixie’s Toffee Crunch and Robin’s Cinnamon Ribbon. “The ice cream flavors are named after cows. The sort of ‘revered’ cows. There

The list of ice cream flavors at Chester Springs Creamery. Each is named after cows that called the farm home.

are some I would never name a flavor after,” Eaglehouse said, laughing. Crafting the flavors is one of the best parts of the job, she said. Ideas come from many sources, including creamery employees and Continued on page 17 | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


Milky Way Farm Continued from Page 14

“The cows love the robot,” Eaglehouse said. “They can come in whenever they’re hungry. We always say we promote independent learning.” Eaglehouse explained how it works. “Some are a little slower than others, some are a little quicker. It takes time. Some of them get onto it right away. Where they basically must push through these gates and it’s a one-way in only to this kind of pen -- we call it the commitment pen -- then they walk through the robot. While they’re in there, there’s nobody bothering them. They’re in their own little zone and they’re eating just the right amount of grain for how much milk they’re producing. “The robot will clean off their udders, attach using a laser to kind of sight it. We program it initially. But then it connects. It monitors the milk flow out of each udder. It’s each four distinct milking units. Then it cuts off, because if it sucks on it too long, it creates bacteria opportunities and infection. Then it will drop it off. “Meanwhile, the robot is measuring how much milk she’s giving, the temperature of the milk, her weight and

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Carolyn Matthews Eaglehouse stands next to the computer that monitors the robotic milking machine.

the quality of the milk,” Eaglehouse said. “If it’s not the right kind of quality, the robot will separate it and put it down the drain and not let it go out to the tanks so it doesn’t potentially contaminate the rest of the milk in the tank. And then it sends it immediately out to the cold tanks, and into the coldest part of the tanks so it can get Continued on page 18

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Chester Springs Creamery Continued from Page 15

customers themselves. Jingle’s Peppermint Stick was made at the request of a woman who wanted all four generations of her family to have the experience of good peppermint ice cream. “She was 95,” Eaglehouse said. “She used to come in faithfully every week. So I got some mint ingredients and they worked to craft just the right flavoring. “Some flavors are created by mistake. We can be out of a certain ingredient. ‘OK, now what do we do? Something in the machine? What can we add to it? Oh, look at that!’ And Trixie’s Toffee Crunch was born.” There was only one flavor customers mostly gave a thumbs-down. “We had a stint where we did sweet corn, Sadie’s Sweet Corn Surprise. But it was a savory flavor and customers were expecting a sweet flavor. I happened to like it,” Eaglehouse said. “What was most interesting is that our staff had never had anybody say, ‘Oh, that tastes awful.’ They were so used to people saying they loved the ice cream. You either loved it or you didn’t.” But the rare miss hasn’t stopped Eaglehouse and her staff from trying out new flavors. “We’re always experimenting. We’re running out of space in our freezer, although we don’t make everything all the time,” she said. “But I have people who say, ‘Pumpkin flavor doesn’t have to be seasonal. Why do you do that?’ We try to rotate flavors in and out, just to keep the variety there. But there are some classics that need to be there all the time.” Continued on page 19

The list of ice cream flavors at Chester Springs Creamery. Each is named after cows that called the farm home. | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


Milky Way Farm Continued from Page 16

cold very quickly so it can stay fresh.” Concentrating on businesses in addition to the dairy came out of necessity. “My parents were doing full-time farming, and then milk prices dropped in the late 1980s,” Eaglehouse said. “I was heading off to college. We either needed to do something else, or we would be done. We couldn’t afford to do this.” But help came at the suggestion of some other farmers. “We had some very good friends in Connecticut who said, ‘You know, you should consider doing pick-yourown pumpkin operations. Pumpkins are a crop that people like, it doesn’t take a lot to grow them. There are some unforeseen costs, but you can get people to come to your farm and you can use your hay wagons.’ So we just started it.” Milky Way currently dedicates seven or eight acres to growing the orange gourds. The pumpkin idea was appealing to the Matthewses on several fronts. “Again, trying to find ways to generate revenue without spending a lot of money. Still being true and genuine to the farm. We’re very mindful we’re not


Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

about glitzy entertainment,” Eaglehouse said. “We’re into authentic experiences of what a farm is all about. And to feel vested in farms and why people should want farms to be part of the community. How they can support farms by buying produce from a local farmer’s market or whatever. It’s all part of working to sustain this culture.” Participating in Chester County’s farmland preservation program ensured that Milky Way would always remain a farm. The program involves an agricultural conservation easement – a document permanently attached to the land’s deed that limits it to farming and related businesses – and pays the landowner for the property. Eaglehouse said at the time it allowed the family to pay for her grandparents’ nursing care. “They sadly passed on, but there was a little money left and we built the creamery [in 2001] to provide something for the customers to come in more than just October,” she said. “And people had been begging us for years, ‘Can’t you do something else with your product?’” Continued on page 20

Chester Springs Creamery Continued from Page 17

Eaglehouse also has her favorites: Joy’s Peanut Butter Fudge, which is a peanut butter base with a fudge swirl; Robbin’s Cinnamon Ribbon, a cinnamon base with a cream cheese swirl; and Lily’s Lemon Sorbet. They always try to have sugar-free and sorbet options available. As someone with food allergies herself, Eaglehouse has ensured that almost everyone can have an ice cream treat, which is a big hit at the birthday parties hosted by the creamery. “We have allergy charts of what you should not have if you have an allergy to gluten, to egg or to peanut, or to whatever; these are flavors you avoid,” she said. Employees also can follow a special procedure when serving the ice cream. “Whatever your allergy is, we can provide a fresh scoop, or out of a fresh box, in a fresh cup. You can enjoy the experience. It’s not a big deal,” Eaglehouse said. She related the story of an 8-year-old boy with allergies who had his first ice cream at the creamery. “His mother was crying. I was crying. He had never had the

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experience. We [accommodate] people all the time. Never be embarrassed to ask.” Ice cream seems to touch a chord with many customers, as Eaglehouse gave another example of a woman from India who was overjoyed and crying when she found out they were serving an orange-pineapple flavor, which she hadn’t been able to get in the United States. Eaglehouse acknowledged with a laugh that being able to enjoy the sweet treat sometimes stirs up emotions for her customers. “People are very vested in this ice cream,” she said. “I always say I wouldn’t want to have a steak business, because people are always unhappy with their steak. Not too many people are unhappy with ice cream.” She also believes enjoying the ice cream in such a welcoming and delightful atmosphere as Milky Way Farm adds to the pleasure. “People can walk around, see the animals outside, and kind of experience, feel the essence, of the farm. It truly is magical,” Eaglehouse said. She wrote a children’s book called “The Magic of Milky Way Farm,” now in its second printing. “I feel it is very magical,” she said. “You can feel and experience some very nice things.”

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Milky Way Farm Continued from Page 18

Of course, the broadening of the undertakings on Milky Way Farm all comes down to the bovine workforce, Eaglehouse said. “Our function right now, is a dairy farm. It’s our primary point. But we have all these other businesses to diversify to help support the farm, as well as the cows kind of supporting those businesses as well. “We have a kind of very symbiotic relationship: Between the cows and the pumpkins; between the cows and the school tours; and the cows and the creamery; and the cows and summer camp. If you imagine the cows are in the center and these are all the little spokes on the wheel. You need the center axle to go around, but you need the spokes to make it turn.” More about Milky Way Farm can be found at Natalie Smith may be contacted at or www.

‘If you imagine the cows are in the center and these are all the little spokes on the wheel. You need the center axle to go around, but you need the spokes to make it turn.’ -- Carolyn Matthews Eaglehouse, on how all their business diversifications are related

The Matthews home is on the grounds of Milky Way Farm, but is set back and visitors are asked to give the family privacy.

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—————|Around Chester Springs|—————

Conservation of a Chester County treasure is within reach

Photo by Alessandra Manzotti

The years-long effort to protect and preserve the spectacular Bryn Coed Farms property has reached a new phase as Natural Lands seeks community support to create an enduring nature preserve By Steven Hoffman Staff Writer


fter many years of work, the effort to preserve the Bryn Coed Farms property reached a new milestone in June when Natural Lands took ownership of the stunningly beautiful 1,505-acre property that is located primarily in West Vincent Township, with portions situated in East Pikeland and West Pikeland townships. By doing so, Natural Lands, the region’s largest conservation organization, once again played a pivotal role in preserving a Chester County treasure. Molly Morrison, Natural Lands’ president, described the conservation of Bryn Coed Farms as “a chance of a lifetime,” in a statement announcing the next phase of


Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

preservation efforts, which includes Natural Lands reaching out to the community for private contributions that will ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the beauty of the property. The Bryn Coed Farms property includes part of the farmlands once owned by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts. It was assembled over several decades by the Dietrich family. Three Dietrich brothers, heirs to the Luden’s Cough Drop company, acquired adjoining farms in the 1960s to begin assembling the property, eventually securing more than 1,500 acres of land in the rolling hills of northern Chester County. The brothers decided to sell the land in 2003, and various conservation and development options were explored since then. As one of the largest remaining undeveloped, unprotected

Photo by Mark Williams

tracts of land in the greater Philadelphia region, there were various times when the property seemed destined to be developed. Under current zoning regulations, it could be developed and approximately 700 homes could be built on the land, permanently changing the character of not just the property, but the entire northern Chester County community. The concerns that the Bryn Coed Farms property would be developed were certainly justified. Chester County ranks among the fastest-growing counties in Pennsylvania, and the property is near Upper Uwchlan Township, which ranks among the county’s fastest-growing municipalities. The property was always desirable to developers. Instead, Natural Lands led the effort to preserve the land. A plan was developed to establish a nature preserve on a significant portion of the property, with the remainder of the land divided into large parcels that are protected by conservation easements. The size of the Natural Lands preserve that is ultimately established on the property will depend on the amount of funding that can be raised. Preserving a property like Bryn Coed Farms is always complicated. One of the biggest challenges, of course, is lining up the funding that is necessary. Natural Lands already manages 43 preserves totaling more than 23,000 acres, including Stroud Preserve in West Chester, Binky

Photo by Alessandra Manzotti

Lee Preserve in Chester Springs, Peacedale Preserve in Landenberg, and ChesLen Preserve in Coatesville. Approximately 2.5 million people live within five miles of land under the organization’s protection. “In addition to facilitating land protection projects, an important part of our work is to find the money needed for these projects,” explained Kirsten Werner, director of communications with Natural Lands. Werner explained that the organization utilizes private donations; membership dues; monies from townships, counties, and the state; grants; and other sources to fund projects. In total, Natural Lands needs to raise $5 million to allow them to set aside approximately 500 acres of the 1,505-acre property as a nature preserve that will be open to the public Continued on page 24 | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


Conservation Continued from Page 23

for free visits every day of the year. As with the other properties owned by Natural Lands, the nature preserve would receive the highest level of care and proactive stewardship from Natural Lands’ team of land management experts. The preserve would include approximately ten miles of walking, hiking, and recreation trails. The trails would be designed with an eye toward connecting Bryn Coed Farms to larger regional trails like the Horse-Shoe Trail. Natural Lands plans to host programs at the preserve, such as bird walks, nature craft workshops, stargazing gatherings, and family-oriented outings. As for the remaining portions of Bryn Coed Farms, what isn’t included in the nature preserve will be divided and sold to private landowners as large-acreage lots that could be used for farmland or for a few single-family homes.

Photo by Mark Williams 24

Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

Each lot will be placed under permanent conservation easement before sale, ensuring any new construction will be limited to one house in a specified location. Natural Lands will monitor the properties annually, as they do the other 385 properties on which they hold easements, to ensure the terms of the legally binding easements are being upheld. Currently, 35 percent (14 out of 40) of the available lots are under agreement of sale. The effort to conserve Bryn Coed Farms received a significant boost when the William Penn Foundation of Philadelphia offered a $2 million challenge grant, requiring that Natural Lands raise an equivalent amount. That milestone was reached on June 1 when the total raised surpassed $4.2 million after just four short months. “To date, we’ve received gifts from nearly 500 households, ranging in size from $5 to $500,000,” said Morrison on June 1. “It’s been a wonderfully moving experience to see this tangible outpouring of love for this iconic property.”

She added, “We are tremendously grateful to those who got us to this point.” Over the summer, Natural Lands reached the point where about $540,000 still needed to be raised in order for the organization’s vision for Bryn Coed Farms to be realized. Once the property is transformed into a preserve, it will certainly go down as one of the largest land conservation successes in the five-county region surrounding Philadelphia. It will have a big impact in a variety of ways. Andrew Johnson, program director for watershed protection at the William Penn Foundation, explained in a statement that, “the scale of this project and its impact on water quality in Pickering Creek, a tributary of the Schuylkill River, make this a regionally significant opportunity to create permanently protected open space with substantial public access that will also have lasting effects on our clean water. It is truly exciting that Natural Lands has demonstrated its expertise in making this complicated

transaction happen, and that the community has stepped up with significant funding.” It took a long time and lot of hard work to reach the point where conservation of Bryn Coed Farms is within reach. But the effort will have a lasting impact. “Land conservation takes place over decades,” Werner said of the process. “Natural Lands is in the perpetuity business.” Werner commended the Chester County government’s leadership and support for land conservation. “Chester County has been a leader in terms of conservation,” Werner said. “It’s really part of the county’s DNA to protect open space and the rural feel of its communities.” Donations to help Natural Lands reach its goal to conserve the Bryn Coed Farms property can be made at To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email editor@

Photo by Alessandra Manzotti | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


—————|Chester Springs Arts|————— A new production group, started by a Chester Springs resident, has a goal to bring bold musical theater and plays to audiences throughout Chester County and beyond. Its first show goes up in January.

5, 6, 7, 8:

A new company takes the stage By Richard L. Gaw Staff Writer


ast year, when Chester Springs resident Beth McDonnell was in the beginning stages of forming The Company, a Chester County-based theater production group, she knew that its first production had to leave an ecstatic imprint, one with an exclamation point that leaves audiences with a lingering sense of having been through not just a show, but an experience. Then she met Michael Nickerson-Rossi. In 2008, Nickerson-Rossi founded his own modern dance company and became its artistic director, and the only really honorable way to define its impact is through the use of modern vernacular. It has blown up. Nickerson-Rossi Dance messes with convention. It takes the vision of its founder and spins it through the genres of modern dance, jazz, ballet, and hip-hop. It is passionate and complex and emotional, and in every one of its productions and performances, it aims to take each audience member’s senses and take them on a ride, and free them up and light them on fire. Since its beginning, Nickerson-Rossi Dance, based in Palm Springs, has also defined itself through collaboration, working with professional dance companies, universities, high schools and dance conservatories, both nationally and


Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

internationally. Now it is here in Chester County, serving as the resident dance company of Uptown! Entertainment Alliance in West Chester, with a goal to bring the same electricty to local audiences. So when Nickerson-Rossi first met McDonnell several months ago, it had all of the energy of a well-timed collision of like minds, both searching for the same thing. Immediately, the ideas between them began flying about, and the result of that collaboration -- 5, 6, 7, 8...A Cabaret of Music and Dance! -- will receive its premiere at Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center this coming January 26, for a four-performance run. The show will merge together professional dancers from Nickerson-Rossi’s company and a talented ensemble of amateur and Equity canidate vocalists, for a tribute to Broadway musicals. “When I was first thinking about starting a production company, I was referred by a colleague from the Chester Valley Dance Company to Michael,” McDonnell said. “We soon connected, and when I saw his first production of Blueprints at the Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center, I thought, ‘This is amazing.’ I was blown away by the level of his talent. We are so lucky to have teamed up with someone of Michael’s caliber.” “I want to create a dance-centric theme, and I want to pay homage to the composer Jerome Robbins,” said Nickerson-Rossi, who will choreograph the production. “I think that this is an audience for it. I am creating

contemporary dance, but I am also entertaining. Together, I’m confident that we will be able to bang something out. It will be big and full, and be accompanied by beautiful voices.” That two creative energies -- one established and the other emerging -- will soon find their way to the stage is not a new concept, but in the case of Nickerson-Rossi Dance and The Company, it’s a local one. The board of directors all have their artistic roots deep in the Chester County arts scene. In addition to McDonnell, the board includes artistic director Drew Boardman, Erin Dixon,

Caleb Duffy and Jaclyn Kossor, as well as members at large who have experience in every aspect of theater. Dixon and Boardman met at Kutztown University, where they were both part of the school’s theater program. Duffy, who was in the dance program at West Chester University, cut his artistic teeth by choreographing local productions. Kossor got her start in Los Angeles, later served as a makeup artist and hair stylist for Off-Broadway shows, and has worked in local theater for the past two years. “I wanted to put these talented people into spaces and Continued on page 27

All photos courtesy

Founded in 2008, Nickerson-Rossi Dance is now the resident dance company at Uptown! Arts Alliance in West Chester. | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


The Company Continued from Page 27

venues and shows that I thought they could step up to,” said McDonnell, whose own career took her to Broadway, where she performed in several large-scale musicals. “I wanted to take the reigns of putting these people together and elevating their theater experiences. “We recognized the commitment that we were giving to shows, so when it came to launching our own production company, we all thought, ‘Why not create the idea of a collaborative effort, where we work individually on projects and also come together as a production team and partnering with shows?” For now, The Company has no theater or performance space for audiences to come to, but that’s intentional. Its mission is not to bring shows to them, but connect performance venues, companies and individuals to opportunities to co-produce musicals, plays and other theater-based events. With its first production now in the works, the members of The Company are meeting with other theater groups and arts organizations in Chester County to hopefully plant the creative seeds of collaboration elsewhere. There is a proposed co-production scheduled for next year in collaboration with the School of Rock in Downingtown; and a production with the Steel River Playhouse in Pottstown that is in its early stages. The Company is also planning educational programs in theater, and will also produce improvisational shows. If there is a plug-in, have talent-will-travel component about The Company, it is seen in the wide variety of theater skills and backgrounds each member brings to the group, and the wish to broaden those skills. “Up until last year, I prioritized myself as an actor and as a performer,” Dixon said. “When the light hits me, that’s when I feel most at home. I’ve realized over the past year, however, that I also want to put the time in behind the scenes in order to make something that’s bigger than myself.” “Theater is such a welcoming environment, and our mission is to be able to take people as high as they want to go,” Kossor said. “That’s what I think is going to define us -- creating the ability to bring in these people, all of whom are on top of their game, in order to make something that’s amazing, while being able to put our stamp on it.” Nickerson-Rossi said that his dance company’s collaboration with The Company is a product of his belief in community enrichment and development. “I think it’s very wise, artistically and in business, to work with another organization in order to create the overall product,” he said. “What I appreciate most about dance is to trigger stimulators that confirm that we are all alive. I want to feel it and taste it. If you attack the senses, you 28

Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

can reach people on so many levels. I appreciate beautiful dancing, but to have that complete package of collaboration creates another avenue of expression.” The bottom line prerogative of The Company is to challenge audiences and uplift communities, McDonnell said. “The arts, whether it be professional or community, is Chester Springs resident Beth about emboldening an area. McDonnell founded The It’s about bringing commu- Company with a mission to nities together. It’s about link audiences, venues and offering enrichment that peo- performers with opportunities for new and exciting theater. ple normally wouldn’t see,” she said. “Art should push you to wake up and get in touch with something that’s real and in front of you. “And that’s what we plan to do.” To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email rgaw@

The Board of Directors for The Company are (from left) Jacklyn Kossor, Drew Boardman, Beth McDonnell, Caleb Duffy and Erin Dixon.

To learn more about The Company, visit, email, or call 484-341-8127. The Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center is at 226 N. High St., West Chester. (610-356-2787). To learn more, visit To learn more about Nickerson-Rossi Dance, visit

————|Chester Springs Life People|————

The power of being positive

Marc Hayford is proof that determination pays off By John Chambless Staff Writer


arc Hayford is making a point. He leans in, focuses on you, and speaks without hesitation. “There have been studies that say we have about 60,000 thoughts in a typical day,” he says. “Up to 80 percent of those are negative thoughts. We are wired negatively. How many people don’t fulfill their dreams because they believe what people told them? Winners are not made by accident,” he concludes. “Winners are people who set themselves up for success.” And Hayford is a prime example. In his 45 years, he has done more through sheer force of will that most of us will ever accomplish. During a rapid-fire interview at the Applecross Country Club in Downingtown, where he regularly polishes up his golf game, Hayford laid out a life path that has had some remarkable detours. He grew up in northern New Jersey, within sight of the New York City skyline. His first big break was a year-long stint doing security for the New York Giants. “It wasn’t just the Giants, though,” he said. “It was also the concerts and the games at the arena. As far as the players coming on and off the field and the locker room, that was what I handled. I had interactions with Lawrence Taylor. Now, at the time, I didn’t realize that we weren’t allowed to give the players rides on the golf carts,” he said, chuckling. “But when Lawrence Taylor jumps in the cart and says, ‘Go,’ I did. I went back and told my boss and he said, ‘What? You can’t do that!’ He said, ‘Did anybody see you?’ and I said, ‘No, we’re fine.’ Well the next day, in the New York Daily News, there’s a photo of me and LT in the cart.” Unceremoniously let go by the Giants, Hayford next figured he could find his way in the Air Force. “My dad was an Air Force Vietnam vet,” he said. “I didn’t have the mindset that I have today. I didn’t have a direction.” He was stationed in South Korea in 1992 and 1993, but

Photo by John Chambless

Marc Hayford at the Applecross Country Club in Downingtown.

Continued on page 30 | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


Marc Hayford Continued from Page 29

returned home to New Jersey on a “humanitarian assignment” request when his father, suffering from multiple sclerosis, was facing severe complications. His mother handled all of his father’s care at home, showing the kind of fortitude that has shaped Hayford’s own life. He met his future wife, Christina, in Pennsylvania 20 years ago. They married in 1999 and now have three children – Kane, 16, a musician; Jayda, 14, a model and actress; and Harrison, 12, a three-sport athlete. They live in Glenmoore. When their children were young, Hayford was working in internet technology support for Siemans, a job he basically trained himself for. With the family depending on his income, “we found ourselves one holiday season not knowing if we were going to have Christmas or pay our bills,” Hayford recalled. Working was “a doldrums lifestyle, living paycheck to paycheck,” he said of that time. “I was on this hamster wheel, in my late 20s. I’m not fulfilled. I’m thankful – I love my wife and kids – but there was something missing.” Taking the same road to work and back every day, he passed the Phoenixville Lanes bowling alley. One day, there was a sign outside: “DJ Wanted.” “I was always a music junkie,” Hayford said, grinning. “I

had a billion CDs. But that voice that we all have in our heads started telling me, ‘You’re too old. You’re not good enough. You don’t even have DJ equipment.’ “I think there’s a big battle that goes on in people’s lives between their head and their heart,” Hayford said. “And at that time, my heart said, ‘No. We’re going to do this.’” Hayford walked in, met the manager, and convinced him that he’d be the ideal DJ. Hayford debuted that Saturday night, and became a regular fixture at the bowling alley, eventually getting a loan and buying decent equipment for his regular gig. “I went in with the mindset that I was absolutely going to dominate,” he said. That showcase led to private DJ jobs, and today, “Almost 20 years later, I’m still booked a year in advance,” he said. “It’s all word of mouth. I’m actually booked in 2020 for a Sweet 16 party. When I DJ, I’ve had the honor of getting to see the greatest moments of people’s lives.” But at the time, overextended and beginning to struggle, the family took a turn when Hayford’s wife discovered Arbonne, a home-based company that eventually eclipsed Hayford’s income from his day job. After two years, Christina is a national vice-president with the company. “When Harrison was born, I got to stay home and be

All photos courtesy unless otherwise noted

Hayford speaks to school students at one of several assemblies he has led locally. 30

Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

Hayford in the ring with pro wrestlers during his time as a WWE referee.

a full-time dad,” Hayford said. Regularly involved in his children’s lives and schools, he was still working as a DJ in 2006 when he found out about a pro wrestling school based in Phoenixville. “I thought it would be fun if I came out and played music for the wrestlers as they made their entrances,” he said. “So I called them.” Hayford found out that the school already had music. What they needed, though, was referees. “I figured I had watched wrestling with my dad as a kid,” Hayford recalled. “I watched Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan, but I never paid attention to the refs. So I started training there in Phoenixville a couple of nights a week for about six months.” That included lessons in how to get hit with a chair and how to land correctly, and how to get “body slammed by a 400-pound guy without getting hurt.” While referees in professional wrestling are nominally there to maintain order, their jobs mostly involve starting the match and then getting out of the way while the wrestlers perform maneuvers toward a predetermined ending. While Hayford said the “sports entertainment” hybrid is largely scripted, wrestlers can get hurt if they get angry and hit each other the wrong way. “My job as a referee was to bridge the gap between the guys, and know when to stay out of the way and when to be present,” Hayford said. Overseeing the matches locally was one thing, but Hayford soon set his sights on the WWE. Like countless others, he submitted a video of himself refereeing to the wrestling organization and, not surprisingly, got zero response. During his brief stint in college, Hayford had met a young man “who went on to be a WWE champion in the

A stint in the Air Force in the early 1990s taught Hayford discipline.

‘90s,” he said, declining to name him. Hayford sent his audition videotape to the wrestler and was told, “‘This sucks,’” Hayford recalled, laughing. “He told me, ‘You’re too stiff, you’re either too slow, or you’re jumping the gun on things.’” At 35, Hayford felt that he had to act right away or lose his shot. “In July 2006, I heard that the WWE was having tryouts in Houston,” he said. So he went, with vague plans of crashing on his friend’s couch for the night. “On Sunday morning, I pulled up at this warehouse where they were having tryouts, got out of the car and saw all these giants,” Hayford said, shaking his head. “I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’” But he walked in, introducing himself as if he had been invited, which he hadn’t. There were three wrestling rings set up in the warehouse, which was not air-conditioned in the Texas swelter. “It had to be 95 or 100 degrees in there,” Hayford recalled. Eventually, someone called for a referee, “And I jumped in without asking,” he said. He presided over four matches. Then a fifth, a sixth and a seventh. Nobody was stopping him. “Then I decided to do a slide on the mat with my arm extended,” he said. “I completely dislocated my shoulder. I remember fear overtaking me – ‘This is the end.’ It was the longest 30 seconds of my life. But nobody was paying attention to me. They were all watching the wrestlers. So I took my wrist,” he said, demonstrating the wrenching move he performed on himself, “and it popped back into the socket. The most excruciating pain you can imagine.” Continued on page 32 | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


Marc Hayford Continued from Page 31

Then he refereed an eighth, In his school presentations, ninth and tenth match. Hayford tells students, “If Eventually, the men in suits you’re a bully, you’re actuwho had been watching asked ally weak. I tell them to be who he was. “My name was advocates for other kids. not on the list,” Hayford said. Help the weaker ones. That’s “One of them said to me, what leaders do. You will be ‘Son, if you change your travel more popular if you support plans, I’ll give you the opporothers.” tunity to change your life.’ He also shares the story of “So I walked out of the place a childhood friend he calls and called my wife and said, Freddy. “He was my closest ‘I did it. The idiot made it,’” friend as a kid, through my Hayford said, laughing. “Four teens,” Hayford said. “I tell hours later, I was refereeing in kids that when they’re introfront of 15,000 to 20,000 peoduced to drugs – and they will ple. If I could take the energy be – to be careful. They’ve of walking into an arena full heard that all before. What Marc Hayford of people screaming and put they want to know is, ‘Why that into a bottle and sell it, I are drugs bad?’ I tell them would be a multi-zillionaire. The energy is unprecedent- about Freddy. He just wanted to have fun, and now he’s ed. I can’t put into words what it’s like.” 45, lives with his mom, and his brain is scrambled, like He toured with the WWE for months, a different city eggs. All because he just wanted to have fun and went the every night, and didn’t return home all that time. Missing wrong way.” his family, he eventually decided to leave, but he has no Hayford also speaks to prisoners, who are seeking a way regrets. “I got to be one of a small fraternity of people who out of their mistakes once they return to society. “I sit get to experience that from the ring,” he said. “Just to be down with groups, and tell them, ‘You are not your past. part of the show at that level was humbling.” You need to get a view of the future.’ We’re all here to lift That experience of living with the larger-than-life stars each other up.” of the wrestling world has come in handy in Hayford’s Hayford reaches out to everyone with a series of current direction – being a motivational speaker to young YouTube videos called “Monday Mornings With Marc students, some of whom still share a passion for wres- Hayford,” during which he lays out some of his motivatling. While the names of the stars have changed since tional principles and success stories. He has even taken on Hayford’s days, he is happy to tell kids that he once had the daunting task of speaking to groups of laid-off people the guts to get into the ring. “I use it as a launch pad with and convincing them that they can pick up and move on. kids,” he said. “The one thing that scares me to death is And he’s nearly finished with a book, as yet untitled, in regret. When I’m 95 and I wish I had just done something which he tells his life story and motivates readers to follow when I could. The message I have for people is to step their dreams. over your doubt and fear.” Through it all, Hayford credited his wife’s support. While Thanks to his contacts with local schools, Hayford he laughed and admitted she seriously doubted his WWE began volunteering to speak to young people in the audition crashing, she has been “my biggest supporter,” Downingtown School District, as well as in New Jersey he said. “She is always telling it like it is, but has my back. and Delaware, about peer pressure, avoiding drugs and She’s the backbone of our family. And we are in step when focusing on goals. And he’s very convincing. it comes to our kids. We teach them to think differently “Right before your biggest breakthrough is your biggest and to be extraordinary.” resistance,” he said. “When you’re being tested by the For more information, email or universe, you have to push back just as hard. The people call 610-551-4776. who refuse to lay down and take ‘no’ as an answer are the To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambones that push through and deserve to win.” 32

Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |





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—————|Chester Springs History|—————

The Downingtown Log House: More than 300 years and counting History traced to borough’s namesake

A plaque on the side of an entrance to the Log House. The house earned its status on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

By Natalie Smith Staff Writer


inny Pierce has very fond Christmas memories of the Downingtown Log

House. Pierce, who has lived all but six months of her life in the borough, recalled the Yuletide tradition of Santa Claus sitting on an overstuffed chair in front of the historic building. Children – including Ginny herself – would clamber onto his lap and confide to him what they wanted for Christmas. In case you missed his appearance, Pierce said, “There was a mailbox out front where you could put your letters to Santa.” But that holiday turn in the 1940s is just one of the ways area residents’ lives have been interlaced with the Log House. After all, it’s been a part of the Downingtown landscape for more than 300 years.

Photo from the Downingtown Area Historical Society

An earlier photo of the Log House, circa 1910. | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


Downingtown Log House Continued from Page 37

A source of pride for many in the borough, the Log House on Lancaster Avenue has a history that can be traced to circa the early 1700s, although no one is sure of its builder. The Log House has passed through several different owners over the years, most notably Thomas Moore, who purchased the property in 1713, and later Thomas Downing. Moore brought the first industry to town. He built a two-story water corn mill across from the Log House in 1716. “It was huge,” said Carol Grigson, archivist for the Downingtown Area Historical Society. “There were only three [grist mills] in all of Chester County, and this was the fourth. “It has always amazed me that Moore had enough knowledge to look at the Brandywine Creek, realize the slight elevation, and realize that it floods in the spring in just the right way, so that you could just get enough force to turn water wheels,” she said. Business was booming in the early 18th century, so the Log House started to play a larger role. The Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike was developing, and the Log House – not “cabin” because it has more than one floor – was the last stop on the road before “the wilderness,” according to Grigson. The location made it a logical stopping point for weary, westward-bound travelers -- a situation of which Moore was clever enough to take advantage. As proof of Moore’s business acumen, the Downingtown Borough Historic Commission, which is responsible for overseeing the care and promotion of the Log House, has a copy of a Moore’s tavern license. It is believed the structure also served as a trading post, and perhaps a place where a few guests might spend the night. In 1739, Thomas Downing purchased the land where the Log House stood, Grigson said. Downing was a man of means and vision. “Downing came and he had money and the business knowledge” to develop many dealings in the area. His influence was apparent; after being known for many years as Milltown, people started referring to it as “Downing’s Town.” “Members of the Downing family lived in the Log House for some of the 1700s, but pretty much for the 1800s [and early 1900s] it became a rental property,” Grigson said. “The last Downing who was born there was William Worrall Downing, who ended up building a very big stone house next to the Log House that’s no longer there.” As the Log House passed from tenant to tenant, the

All photos by Natalie Smith unless othewise noted

Ginny Pierce is a member of the Downingtown Borough Historic Commission. The commission oversees the promotion, upkeep and care of the Log House.

A bed and other sleeping-room items in a second-floor room of the Downingtown Log House give visitors an idea of what it would have been like to live there.

The large stone fireplace in the Log House was used for cooking and to warm the home. 38

Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

Boggs family was among the last to have lived there in the early 1900s. In 1937, the Log House and an adjacent property were left to Downingtown Borough in the will of Thomas W. Downing. Following his death in 1940, the borough took possession. “After the borough got it, [officials] said, ‘OK, what do we do with it?’ They had it during World War II and it needed work,” said Grigson, referencing information she found in newspaper clippings of the day. “The borough wasn’t going to put anything into it, because they had the war effort. There were editorials [posing the question], ‘What should we do with this thing? Maybe we should just give it back or tear it down.’ There wasn’t a lot of feeling for history at that point.” Funds were eventually obtained to complete the restoration in 1947, and three years later, the historic structure became headquarters for the Downingtown Chamber of Commerce. That lasted until 1988. But it was time and location that eventually got the best of the Log House in the 1980s. Its closeness to a car wash and to Lancaster Avenue made for a destructive combination of moisture and road issues. The Log House was deteriorating quickly, and it was determined that it needed to be moved and restored. Funding spearheaded by the Downingtown Area Historical Society Continued on page 40

Wesley Sessa stands in front of the Downingtown Log House that his company restored in 1988-89.

Lots of work, historical accuracy involved in refurbishing Downingtown Log House By Natalie Smith Staff Writer


n the process of returning the Downingtown Log House to a structure that would have fit quite comfortably in the Chester County landscape 300 years ago, experts were brought in. “Our mission is historic preservation in the Delaware Valley, although we’ve sometimes gone farther for important structures,” said Wesley Sessa of 18th Century Restorations, Inc., in Coventryville. Sessa and his team – which currently includes four specialized carpenters and two preservation masons – work diligently to coax the past out of a building’s old bones. After the Log House was moved about 70 feet further into Kerr Park, in 1988, Sessa’s company started work on both the interior and exterior of the structure. In the little over a year the restoration took, the largest project involved replacing most of the logs on one side. Its previous location had damaged the building. The proximity to a car wash, a former paper mill and Lancaster Avenue all converged -- particularly at one wall of its structure. “The location created a perfect storm for rot,” Sessa said. “First, it’s the east side. So it would normally dry out with the rising sun, but the car wash blocked it. And the car wash produced steam and water and

Continued on page 41 | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


Downingtown Log House Continued from Page 39

and concerned residents was joined by money from the borough to pay for the renovation and relocation, 70 feet away. Historical building contractors 18th Century Restorations, of Coventryville, South Coventry, were tapped to take the Log House back three centuries. The work was completed in 1989 and the Log House was rededicated in 1990. Ginny Pierce, whose childhood experiences with the Log House also include attending her Girl Scout meetings there (“We learned how to sew buttons on fabric. And darn socks!”), is a member of the borough’s Historic Commission and has been involved in some capacity with the group for nearly 20 years. As part of the commission, Pierce is joined by three others and a member of Borough Council. They are entrusted with managing the upkeep and care of the Log House, often coordinating with the Public Works and Parks and Rec departments. The commission also does fundraisers to go toward Log House expenses, most notably the Rubber Duck Race every summer during Good Neighbor Day, a day-long borough celebration. Money in the borough operating budget is dedicated to outdoor building maintenance, said Downingtown Director of Public Works Jack Law. “Every three to five years, we do the whitewash on the outside the way they would, to preserve the building back in the day,” Law said. The whitewash is made primarily of limestone, which protects the wood from insects and decay. The cedar-shingled roof has also been replaced. But Law said every repair made must be done with care, ensuring it’s keeping in character with the 18th-century building. “We built the [outside] steps, and although we used pressure-treated lumber, we didn’t stain them, we didn’t paint them,” he said. A few concessions to modern life were made: the Log House is wired for electricity; it has running water for a bathroom in the basement, heaters and a fire alarm. Law’s favorite part of the Log House is the trading window. It’s believed that traders would come to the back of the house and the occupants would trade for furs or other goods through an approximately yard-wide horizontal window. “Sort of like an early McDonald’s,” Law said with a laugh. In maintaining the house, the adjacent Brandywine Creek is always a concern, Pierce said, because it’s not Continued on page 42


Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

Carol Grigson of the Downingtown Area Historical Society goes through some photos of the Log House. The society was the driving force behind the major renovation and relocation of the house.

A pitcher and bowl was placed in the second-floor bedroom to show what occupants might have used.

Refurbishing Continued from Page 39

humidity. And there was a paper mill across the street, pumping out humidity. Then there was Route 30, that was sending cascades of water [after it rained] toward the front door of the building.” Street vibrations didn’t help. When it was determined that many of the building’s logs had to be replaced, the question was where do you get just the proper, intact white oak? But when you’re in the historic preservation business, you learn to keep your eyes open. “The challenge was finding white oak logs of a certain size that were dry enough,” Sessa said. But nature provided the solution. “We were lucky that we were not too far from the gypsy moth epidemic of the early ‘80s, which left a lot of standing dead trees. Those logs came up near French Creek State Park, in the [Hopewell] Big Woods.” Fortunately, with the use of some preservatives, some of the original logs were also saved. Although the Log House’s construction date has not been specifically nailed down, Sessa agreed it was among the oldest buildings in Chester County. “Nails were still wrought -hardware still had to be wrought,” Sessa said. “One of the key things here is that the building is of round logs, not hewn. The tree was cut, the bark was removed with a barking spud, because they did know if you did leave bark on a building, you would provide habitat for insects. “But it’s a round-logged building. What does that suggest? Certainly time. It suggests that each log had to be faced on the front or back, a day or half a day per log. It would be done with an adz, which looks like a garden hoe for wood. What you might have done is sawed every eight to 12 inches, then the adz would have shaved off little platters of wood. You can see hewn marks on logs that are left.” The logs were joined using the saddle notch method, as opposed to dovetail or peak-and-notch. When Sessa and his team approach a restoration, respecting the character of the structure and its era encourages the use of both modern and historically inspired tools.

The Log House was moved to its current site in 1988. It was previously closer to Lancaster Avenue.

“To be expedient, we use power tools to get things started, but we used traditional tools -- not necessarily antique tools, but similar -- to fashion them, so no modern tool marks are left,” he said. “You have to cut a semi-circle at the bottom of the logs, and we used a chainsaw. But then we used the adz to sculpt it out. It’s like when you’re making butternut squash and you have to get the seeds out.” An architectural find in the Log House was a nook that came into view after a piece of plaster fell. The in-wall masonry shelf was 12-by-13-by-14 inches. “It could have been a place for a candle for light,” Sessa said. “It would have been surrounded on four sides at least by masonry. “I’ve been in Chester County barns of later periods where they have these so the farmer could put in a lantern, I believe, or they could have been in a barn for curry comb or curry brushes for horses, but that wouldn’t be these here. And who’s to say it’s not for your water pitcher?” But the change that got the most immediate public reaction at the time was when the Log House was returned to its original whitewash exterior, the restorer said. People of the late 20th and early 21st centuries had been so used to seeing the natural logs show through on the house that some were disturbed by the change – and let Sessa’s team know it by yelling and gesturing out their car windows, he recalled with a laugh. The whitewash – composed primarily of treated limestone – was used as a wood protectant and very commonly employed at the Continued on page 43 | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


Downingtown Log House Continued from Page 40

uncommon for it to flood its banks. A wall next to the stairs in the Log House basement bears witness to that; marked are the heights the invading water reached, along with the dates. Hurricane Floyd broke all records on Sept. 16, 1999, with the water reaching 7 feet, 2 ¼ inches. But lessons were learned. As far as basement storage goes, “we’ve thrown everything out that could possibly float,” she said. One of the casualties? A very waterlogged, overstuffed chair that Pierce recognized as the special seat that Santa used to occupy. Pierce, who with her husband, Robert, raised a family of four in Downingtown, believes it’s important for the area’s children to learn about the piece of history in their own back yards. For many years, the fifth grade of East Ward Elementary School has been welcomed each May for a Field Day and their Colonial Days, she said. Pierce said she’s very grateful that nearly 30 years ago, the decision was ultimately made to move and repair the Log House. “I give much credit to the longtime and past members of the Downingtown Area Historical Society for raising the funds to have the house restored and moved and put on a basement raising it above the street level,” Pierce said, “as well the borough and all the private donors who saw fit to donate toward the restoration. Without that project, I do not think the house would be standing today. It would

have been less costly to tear it down. Thankfully, it was restored.” The Log House is a source of fascination for many. One recent afternoon, the open door was enough to draw in curious passers-by. They go by all the time, they told Ginny Pierce, and always wondered what it was like inside. Pierce was happy they stopped by, but told them visiting hours were the first Sunday of the month. “Please come back,” she told them. The Log House is open to visitors the first Sunday of the month, from April through November. Santa Claus makes an appearance from 1 to 4 p.m. the first Saturday of December. More information is available at Natalie Smith may be contacted at DoubleSMedia@ Looking down the spiral staircase from the second to first floor.

Above: This window on the back wall of the Log House may have been a trade window, where furs and other goods were exchanged. Left: A door that had been used in the Log House is on display in a corner of a first-floor room of the Log House. 42

Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

Refurbishing Continued from Page 41

time. Traces of the lime wash were found in some of the logs, so 18th Century Restorations knew it called for a return to that color. “I’d say from our experience of approximately 30 years of doing this, it’s rare to find a log house that has residual whitewash,” Sessa said. Depending on its treatment and other additives, the limestone can be made into lime paste or putty, lime wash or whitewash, mortar or pointing material. As a former English teacher who moved into a historic house that needed repair, Sessa considers himself fortunate to have a necessity turn into a life’s work. “After I The purpose of the nook found in an interior wall of the bought a house and couldn’t afford to hire someone to Downingtown Log House remains unclear. It might have fix it, I learned to fix it on my own,” he said. “An interest been for a candle, or perhaps it was a resting spot for a became a hobby, a hobby became a passion, a passion water pitcher. became a profession. “But I still think this job I have allows me to periodically know what you’re going to find, but every day you hope share and to tease out things other people know. There’s you learn something else.” certainly an academic sense to what I do, and certainly Natalie Smith may be contacted at DoubleSMedia@ a thrill that comes from discovery. It’s not that you never



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ng ni es an ic Sc erv S | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


————|Chester Springs Life Q & A|————

Ken Beldon and Lee Paczulla, WellSprings

Photo by Richard L. Gaw

Lee Paczulla and Ken Beldon, of WellSprings in Chester Springs.


When Ken Beldon became the founding minister of WellSprings in 2007, he began with just 25 parishioners. Ten years later, with the help of its growing congregation and Executive Minister Lee Paczulla, WellSprings has evolved into a vibrant spiritual community in the Chester Springs area. Recently, Chester Springs Life spoke with Ken and Lee, to hear more about their vision for WellSprings and how, with the help of their faith, they plan to get there.



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Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

Chester Springs Life: Ken, you were raised in the Jewish faith, but you left when you were in your early twenties. What were some of the reasons that pulled you away from that faith? Beldon: I grew up in a form of Judaism that was largely based in cultural values, but it was a form of Judaism that didn’t provide much in the way of spiritual depth. It was ironic that I had to go to Christian seminaries and become a Unitarian Universalist to understand the depth of the Jewish religion. There was a sense of warmth and connection, and we celebrated the holidays, but ultimately, I was looking for something that would appeal to my heart. On the shadow side, it was an antsy energy, and on the sunny side, it was a quest to know more about the world and find my place within it. You attended the Yale Divinity School. Beldon: I was drawn to religion and the study of ethics, and wanting to attend to matters of significance, in a search to have my values show up in my life. For the first time, I was really looking for something that I couldn’t find in a book. So, for the first time, I was around people who had keen intellect and at the same time, led active devotional lives.

What led you to Unitarian Universalism? Beldon: I came around to a realization that a faith tradition that professed that the supreme or most fully realized form of truth can be found in one set of texts and one sacred teacher...was not a strong fit for me. Most profoundly, Unitarian Universalism says that revelation is unsealed, and that we are co-creators with the universe. Lee, talk about your spiritual journey. Paczulla: I was raised non-religious, and I grew up thinking that religion was something that other people did. To be honest, I primarily connected religion with the politics of the religious right, and personally, those aren’t my politics, so I spent most of my teens thinking that spirituality had nothing to do with me. I studied psychology in college and was always motivated to pursue some kind of healing or helping profession. When I graduated, I moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue those paths to work for a non-profit organization, and I just happened to live around the corner from a Unitarian Universalist church. Continued on page 46

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Q&A Continued from Page 45

I showed up there on a Sunday in the winter of 2005, and I quickly realized that this was a place where there were a lot of people like me. I had always wanted to have a helping and healing impact on what was broken in this world, but in going to the church, I realized I had a spiritual life that I was never really aware of. Unitarian Universalism has as its first principle the idea that we all have inherent worth. Beldon: When a sense of identity is lacking, sometimes the people who get listened to are those with the loudest voices, or those who can write the largest checks. There has to be something deeper than that. Let’s say we’re well compensated for our job or recognized for something. We get internal and external rewards, and while that can be a wonderful thing, it can also inhibit our developmental changes that we go through in life. WellSprings wants to focus on things that allow us to thrive and grow on a spiritual level.

Do you ever feel that the burden of our religious institutions is on fixing and repairing the individual, rather than serving as a guidepost? Paczulla: We don’t approach WellSprings with the idea that we fix anything. We have a strong orientation towards listening, towards opening doors of growth and connection, and towards healing. One of the things that makes us different than many other progressive religious communities is that we’re open to talking about the ways that people may feel broken. Increasingly in our world, everyone is not okay. We see the huge division. We see the things that are not working. We are very consciously open to people who come here and say that they are seeking something, but we don’t approach it from the standpoint of trying to fix anything. We hope to create a community that can hold people through the growth journey that they are on.


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Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

WellSprings is not just about Sunday services. There are several teams that roll up their sleeves and work on drug and alcohol recovery, outreach programs, service in the community, youth workshops and family ministry. There is a practical application of the faith here. Beldon: We don’t want people sitting on the sidelines. We want them to get in the game. It’s not just getting wisdom from on high. It’s about showing up, serving and sharing. Paczulla: That’s what makes us different, because we truly invite people to come here with not only their hearts open but also their hands. We don’t require it, but we invite that kind of participation in a shared ministry, all together. What is your favorite spot in the Chester Springs area? Paczulla: Marsh Creek Lake in Downingtown. Having access to nature helps keep me grounded. Beldon: Marsh Creek State Park and the campus at West Chester University. I love public places where a wide variety of people gather. Both places speak greatly to who I am.

Who would you want to attend your dinner party? Paczulla: I would like to have other spritual leaders who are trying to do things differently, people like author and podcaster Rob Bell; Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor; and Carlton Pearson, who is doing some exciting things in the Black Pentecostal church tradition. Beldon: Malcom X, Thomas Merton and Coretta Scott King. Each of them in their own way was open to recognizing that the nature of life is one of change, and each of them stood for movements for justice that were larger than they were. Each of them had to navigate between the health of the whole and the health of their individual lives. What can always be found in your refrigerator? Beldon: Though it’s not stored in my refrigerator, it has to be high quality extra virgin olive oil. Paczulla: It’s not in my fridge either, but I’m always well stocked on boxed macaroni and cheese. WellSprings holds its services at Bell Hall at the Montgomery School, 1141 Kimberton Road, Chester Springs, Pa. To learn more, visit -- Richard L. Gaw | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


————|Chester Springs Life People|————

Determined to rescue an All-American horse A local woman opens a preserve for rare Nokota breed By Natalie Smith Staff Writer


or the love of horses, Christine McGowan found a life’s passion. McGowan is founder and president of The Nokota Preserve in Chester Springs, a nonprofit foundation on her 13-acre Flowing Springs Farm that is dedicated to promoting and protecting one of the few wild horse breeds left in the United States. She said her first encounter with the intelligent and even-tempered Nokota, described as “wild but mild,” introduced her to a very different kind of horse. In her comfortable farmhouse kitchen, with

family and friends going in and out and friendly dogs underfoot, McGowan told her “absolute favorite story.” She and her family had lived in a Victorian home in Malvern before moving, in 2010, to the “fallingdown, train-wreck farm” at the corner of Flowing Springs and South Beaver Hill roads in West Vincent. “It had been subdivided into a [housing] development,” she said. “The portion that was left became my project. It was an overwhelming task, but I was absolutely determined that I would going to raise my children [daughter Neva, now 17, and son Keegan, 14] on a farm, home-school them and have a different kind of life.”

Photos by Jie Deng


Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

‘With any kind of animal situation, I feel that if you’re going to take the wild out of something, you’d better be prepared to take care of it.’ Christine McGowan, on establishing The Nokota Preserve

The family brought its horses with them. A Thoroughbred, which McGowan rode English-style, was the first she owned. “I had a very, very basic traditional horsey background, and I was always struggling with my Thoroughbred,” she said. “You know, we all fall in love with the beautiful image of the horse, and then there’s the actual horsemanship piece. What made one person successful on a horse and what made some person struggle? I wanted to get to the source of that.” McGowan, a woman with a farm-earned tan and a thick ponytail of long, blonde curls, grew up in Gladwyne. “I never had that really big equestrian Continued on page 50 | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


All-American horse Continued from Page 49

lifestyle growing up,” she said. “I rode, but I hung out at a barn and worked for my lessons. I was a ‘barn rat.’ And I had a great time there.” One September day after moving to the farm, a woman came up McGowan’s driveway astride a beautiful gray horse, her baby in a sling at her side. The day was windy, but the animal remained calm, which McGowan said can be unusual for horses when the weather is breezy. “Our neighbor rode up on this horse,,” she said. “And the horse was by itself; you know, horses usually like to be in pairs. And she had her infant in front of her! I found out the horse that she was on was a Nokota.” It was a significant moment. “I said to my husband as I was wrestling my orangutan Thoroughbred, ‘The next horse I get is going to be a Nokota.’ But I didn’t even know what I was talking about,” she said. Nokotas lived on the northern plains of North Dakota, descendants of animals belonging to the Lakota tribe. Sitting Bull, the Lakota chief and medicine man born in 1831, was also a horse breeder, and bred the horses for their “intelligence, endurance, easy-going temperament, compactness and curiosity,” according to the website of the Nokota Horse Conservancy, which has trademarked the Nokota name. The small and sturdy horses were prized by the Lakota for their adaptability and compatibility. They were trusted to carry children and the elderly, and were sometimes brought inside the tee-pees as cherished members of the family. Through the years, the horses ended up becoming feral, and were often regarded as pests by ranchers and others working the land. Some herds were “inside the fence” after the establishment of a national park in the late 1940s. Those herds were ultimately the last of their kind. Wanting to preserve the breed and its unique pedigree, in the 1980s cowboys and brothers Leo and Frank Kuntz of Linton, N.D., started purchasing the horses from the park service. The Conservancy was later formed, with the aim of promoting and maintaining the bloodlines of the animals, which had been catalogued through DNA testing. After McGowan made her declaration about wanting a Nokota, her husband, Christopher, 50

Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

‘They are inquisitive, curious; these horses have a sense of humor. They are not like traditional horses. And the fact that they’re not domesticated means they’re not dulled-down.’ -- Christine McGowan contacted Leo Kuntz. “Leo said, ‘We’re going to be holding a colt start clinic in Ohio this fall. Maybe she would like to come and meet the Nokotas and participate in the clinic,’” McGowan recalled. After some research, she and her family went to Ohio, and had an experience that would change her life. A colt start, McGowan explained, is the beginning of training for an untouched horse. But because Nokotas are feral as well as untouched, it takes some additional skills. Observing horse trainer Aaron England, who has since come to work at McGowan’s farm, McGowan saw him “use a style of natural horsemanship that made everything fall in place with us. In four days, we had these untouched horses -- who were shy and sort of in a corner of the big pasture there -- we had them moving with us, haltered, leading, and we were riding them in four days. This was revolutionary to me.” Her experience cemented her love and fervor for the breed. “I ended up not getting one Nokota, but two. I wasn’t planning on that,” she said, laughing. The mares, Moon and Kachina, are among a herd of seven Nokotas at The Preserve. Five others are also there, in active training with Continued on page 52 | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


All-American horse Continued from Page 51

their owners, and there are four non-Nokota horses who share the pasture of Flowing Springs Farm. “Their carriage is strong and athletic,” McGowan said of the Nokotas. “They’re very broad in the shoulder. Their heads are traditionally a little larger, not as refined-looking as a Thoroughbred. They are inquisitive, curious; these horses have a sense of humor. They are not like traditional horses. And the fact that they’re not domesticated means they’re not dulled-down.” But realizing these horses are among the last of their breed drew McGowan to the Nokota Horse Conservancy and its mission to support these truly All-American equines. Her decision to bring Nokotas to her farm and establish a preserve was her effort to keep the horses flourishing. “With any kind of animal situation, I feel that if you’re going to take the wild out of something, you’d better be prepared to take care of it,” she said. “I realized very quickly that they went way past my little farm and what I was inspired to create here. I felt like I needed to create something that had some sustainability so that this can continue.” McGowan’s enthusiasm was infectious. Good friend Carole Borden, who has a farm a few minutes from McGowan’s, has two Nokotas among her five horses. One


Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

horse, Pila, is “something of an escape artist,” Borden said, laughing. Borden recalled how Pila got out of the pasture and led the merry band of four horses down the road, much to the surprise of local police, who received concerned phone calls. Pila’s destination? McGowan’s farm, where his Pennsylvania adventure started and he still had friends. Even though the two women live nearby, there are several streets between them. Borden noted that her clever horse had to make a few navigational decisions before leading the little crew to its ultimate destination. Borden’s girlhood interest in horses had been rekindled after her husband, Michael, seeing photos of her riding as a child, gave Borden the gift of a trail ride. Her meeting of

McGowan through mutual Nokota-loving friend Lewis Brandolini eventually had the three of them comprising The Nokota Preserve’s Board of Directors. “I think part of the mission is to bring the visibility to this gem,” Borden said. As CEO of her own transportation firm, Borden credits working with Pila, and second Nokota, Mr. Black, in helping her find a bit of tranquility in her very busy world. “Nokotas are very zen-like,” Borden said, comparing them to her more excitable Thoroughbred. “We all talk about being present. We have all sorts of things pulling at us. You always want to say, ‘If I only had more time, I could’ ... I found that working with the Nokotas, you must slow down. If you have that list running in your head, they’re going to feel that, and they’re going to react very differently than you want them to react. You want to be in that state of quiet with them. “Working with them really does cause you to check yourself, and that’s what I really came to love and look forward to. I still have to try and find the time sometimes, but when I do ... it really puts me in a much better place.” Continued on page 54 | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


All-American horse Continued from Page 53

In the seven years that McGowan has been working with the Nokotas on her farm, she and others have grown increasingly troubled about the fate of the horses in North Dakota. The Conservancy herd there needs maintaining. They are living mostly on leased land, and getting enough hay is a concern. “The Conservancy did as much as it could do,” McGowan said. “[North Dakota] is in this massive drought.” McGowan said they’ve found a source of hay in Minnesota – enough to fill three trailers. The Preserve is holding a Nov. 4 fundraiser to pay for the hay, its transportation and the pasture. But many of the Nokota that have come East have fared well. “There are more Nokota horses outside of North Dakota in Chester Springs than anywhere else in the world,” McGowan said. “We probably have about 23 Nokota within a five-mile radius, including Carole’s farm. And we have placed, I think, 20 Nokota off this farm. “Each year I host a clinic, a colt start, here, which gives other people a chance to do what I did -- have that


Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

incredible ‘aha’ moment,” she said. Eleven horses needing placement will be arriving at the farm for this year’s foundation clinic, Nov. 2 to 5, with trainers Aaron England and Michael Battenfield. Participants and daily auditors are welcome, she said. Carole Borden said she’s hopeful the public will embrace the undertaking of The Nokota Preserve. “The bigger purpose for what we’re trying to do is bring awareness,” she said. “You can take these wonderful horses from completely feral to something that is your best friend. And they are treasures.” Tickets are on sale for The Nokota Preserve Chester Springs “Green for Grass” fundraiser, Saturday, Nov. 4, from 4 to 10 p.m. at Flowing Springs Farm. There will be a catered dinner and dessert, a silent art auction, and a 45-minute presentation by Frank Kunz about the history of the Nokota breed. Singer/songwriter Liz Longley will be performing. The cost is $250 per couple. All proceeds go toward hay and pasture for the Nokota horses. More information is available by visiting or calling 610-731-1706. Natalie Smith may be contacted at or

‘The bigger purpose for what we’re trying to do is bring awareness. You can take these wonderful horses from completely feral to something that is your best friend. And they are treasures.’ – Carole Borden, Nokota owner and Preserve board member | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


—————|Around Chester Springs|—————

Playing their way through school Progressive program was way ahead of its time

All photos by Nancy Johnson unless otherwise noted

The Yellow Room students enjoy fruit salad that they made themselves.


Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

By Nancy Johnson Correspondent


or years, early reading and mathematics were made part of preschool and kindergarten, but now many child psychologists and educators are praising play-based early childhood education. They say it’s an environment in which children gain self-confidence and a curiosity that stays with them throughout their lives. This is not news to anyone at Charlestown Playhouse. Founded in 1936, the preschool and kindergarten has always been based on the belief that children learn through play. Elizabeth Stonorov, better known as “Miss Betty,” built the school around that principle, combined with a cooperative atmosphere in which children learned to appreciate what each individual brings to a community. Continued on page 58

‘Their cr is natur eativity is not al for th s em to c quashed down ideas.’ ome up , with th so it e i r own – Faith K oons, a dminist r

ative d irecto


Jean Lacy poses with a composite of photos highlighting her 75 years at Charlestown Playhouse.

Loving a life with Playschool


his year, the school honored a woman who has been involved with Playschool in one capacity or another for 75 years. Jean Lacy, who celebrates her 90th birthday in September, distinctly recalls the first time she came to Playschool. “I was about 10 years old and my friend, Alice Umstead, who was a couple years older, wanted to come here to see a boy. I was just so taken with the openness of this place; with a huge window looking out onto the outside play area,” she said. For a few years, Lacy would come by in the summer and play with the younger children. “I remember I was playing with the Cannon twins, and I saw Miss Betty looking at me in the stern way she would. I thought, ‘Uh oh, she’s going to tell me I have to leave.’ Instead she said, ‘If you’ll come every day, I’ll pay you $7 a week.’” So for the next several years, Lacy, who lived on a nearby 100-acre dairy farm, would get a ride to Playschool – often in the milk truck with her dad – and do whatever she could to help. After graduating high school, Lacy thought she should get “out in the world,” so she attended Pierce Business College and then worked briefly in Philadelphia. Continued on page 59

Charlestown Playhouse was reconfigured and redesigned from a church by renowned architect Oskar Stonorov. | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


Charlestown Playhouse Continued from Page 57

Although its official name is Charlestown Playhouse, the school is more often called the Charlestown Playschool, or just Playschool. Stonorov designed it as a cooperative school in which a parent from each family was expected to assist in the classroom one day each week. In addition, all families helped throughout the year with fundraising events and maintenance at the school. This allowed a much higher adult-to-child ratio in the classrooms, kept tuition costs down, and built a strong community. Playschool evolves with family life In the early years of Playschool through the 1950s and 1960s, most mothers did not work outside the household, so the co-op obligation was easy to fulfill. Today, administrative director Faith Koons said that Playschool has evolved the co-op obligations without sacrificing the benefits for children. “We’ve become very flexible over the years so we can meet the needs of our current families,” she said. “The basic premise is that one parent from each family would help in a classroom, not the one in which their child is, one day a week for the whole school year. However, if they can’t do that, there is a buyout option. They can pay for someone to take their place and yet we still have the ratios of children to adults that we prefer.” Koons was a teacher at Playschool for 16 years before moving into her current role of administrative director that she has held for the past 10 years. She has two grown daughters who attended Playschool and is also an alumnus herself. She remembers when families told her they were sad that their children could not experience Playschool, but that two working parents made it impossible. “But now they can! Playschool has evolved over the years because of the needs of our applicant families,” she said. “No family should feel uncomfortable about using the buyout option; they are still part of this wonderful program and many help in other, behind-the-scenes ways.” Koons added, “This is a director-run co-op, as opposed to a parent-run co-op. [Parents] don’t run the school, but they help us to maintain the property and the grounds Continued on page 61

Photos courtesy of Charlestown Playhouse

Dress-up is as much fun today as it was in the early days of Playschool. 58

Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

Photo courtesy of Charlestown Playhouse

Snow is not a deterrent to fresh air and outdoor time.

Photo courtesy of Charlestown Playhouse

Bubble fun in the Blue Room.

Loving a Life Continued from Page 57

“I got that out of my system pretty quickly,” she said, laughing. “I came right back to Playschool, certain that it was where I belonged. And basically, I never really left since. “Betty made me a part of her family,” Lacy said, recalling her dear friend who passed away in 2003 at age 97. “She was such an idol to all of us. And I am so glad that [Playschool] is still so much the way she wanted it.” Over the years, and against her protests, Lacy advanced from being a helper to a teacher. She credits Stonorov and Ruth Bacon, who was an early teacher and big supporter of

‘At P la helpi yschool, ng in I kno w all you j t h e ust d on’t g classroom the famili es et tha s t at p and at e from ublic vents ; sch – Loo ool.” p er, p


Photos courtesy of Charlestown Playhouse

Dear friends Betty Stonorov and Jean Lacy at Playschool in 1981.

‘Miss Jean’ with some rambunctious Playschool kids in 1971.

Continued on page 61 | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


Excerpts Courtesy of Chester County Life Magazine

Applecrosfs new Gol in Clubhousineg! Full sw

Breaks Br rea ak s New Ground NICKLAUS DESIGN

Chester County’s Most Progressive & Innovative Country Club opens new Clubhouse! PROGRESSIVE & INNOVATIVE Applecross Country Club is as unique and sets apart amongst the world of old line country clubs in the Philadelphia area. It’s a new, modern, state-ofthe-art club, with a charter and mission specifically designed to be diverse, inclusive, and family-oriented from its very beginning. All of the club’s exceptional facilities, operations, amenities and programs work in harmony to fit the needs of today’s Member’s lifestyles. HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NEW GOLF CLUBHOUSE For golfers, this is the ultimate Clubhouse. Three exceptionally appointed levels work in great harmony to make the golf

experience extraordinary before and after each and every round. The main level is the new spacious home of the Applecross Pro Shop, the heart and soul of the Golf operations. The pro shop’s perimeter features a deck for that all important panoramic, up-close view of the 18th and 19th holes accessible by a new pedestrian bridge crossing from the new Clubhouse. On the ground level, golfers are welcomed by the engaging comfort and leading-edge conveniences of the Men’ss aand Ladies’ Locker Rooms.

Nest resides. This adult only lounge features the services and amenities of a full service bar and bar menu, and a covered deck with a wonderful view of holes 18 and 19 (and peeks at a few others) and magnificent vistas of the rolling hills and charm of Chester County. With its new golf clubhouse in full swing, Applecross enters a new era with what will be Chester County’s most amazing set of Member facilities and services.

The finishing touch is atop at the third level where the grandeur of timber framed Eagle’s


Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

Charlestown Playhouse

Loving a Life

Continued from Page 58

Continued from Page 59

with work parties and our bi-annual Charlestown Sale and other fundraisers. All this enables the teachers to give the best program to the kids because there are enough adults to do various activities with different children. For example, we can have the sand and water area and a paint station open at the same time. Children can choose if they want to paint for 30 minutes or only five minutes, versus if you only have two teachers and 12 children, they all paint at the same time because they can manage it better.” Play-based philosophy in practice “It’s important to realize that we are licensed by the Department of Education and we are not a licensed childcare center, said Amy Saia, education director. “So we have the flexibility to be able to support many things as a private, independent school, but one limitation is that we do not have extended morning or afternoon care [beyond 2:30]. So we look to our community to help working families with shared care or other arrangements for child care.” Saia, who holds a doctorate in early curriculum development and child and youth studies, said, “I do have a hesitation in saying that our program is play-based, as that is very catch-phrased. I really think in essence what the program represents is progressive education.” She added that progressive education began with John Dewey, the “grandfather” of early childhood education. “Miss Betty was so far ahead of her time,” Koons said. “The value of a play-based program eventually became recognized through research many years after she founded Charlestown Playhouse.” Koons and Saia have both been told repeatedly by elementary school teachers that they can identify children who attended Playschool. “Children can learn anywhere and they are OK anywhere, but what we have learned is that children come away [from Playschool] with a greater self-esteem and better critical thinking skills, so when they go on to other schools they may be more of an enthusiastic learner,” Koons said. “A lot of other programs don’t give children the autonomy that they have here; to think for themselves, make their own decisions.” Koons gave an example of their approach to developing critical thinking skills. “A teacher in another program would put some objects in a dish of water and say to the children, ‘Let’s put these outside and freeze them because it will be cold overnight.’ Whereas, here, the

Playschool, for coaching her and giving her confidence to take on the role of head teacher in the two-year-old classroom. Although she taught or assisted in all the classrooms, Lacy said, “I have always felt most at home with the youngest ones.” Among the young ones she taught was future star Kevin Bacon. Although he and older brother Michael (who spent time as a camp counselor at Playschool) both went on to illustrious acting and music careers, they sent “Miss Jean” letters of thanks and congratulations that were read at the party held in her honor. Lacy plans to be back at Playschool in the fall. “They’re expecting me,” she said with a grin, explaining that she is volunteer now and “they let me do my own thing. Mostly I sit and I read to the kids. It’s like a little refuge corner when they need some quiet time.”

Continued on page 62

Photo courtesy of Charlestown Playhouse

Founder ‘Miss Betty’ as she opened the door to greet the children.

Fourteen years since her passing and ‘Miss Betty’s’ chair remains in its place of honor. | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


Charlestown Playhouse Continued from Page 61

teacher would say, ‘Let’s put these the Phoenixville, Great Valley and things in a dish of water and look at Owen J. Roberts school districts, but them tomorrow morning.’ Then in the over the years, parents have drivmorning, she would say, ‘Oh, what en from Downingtown, Pottstown, happened?’” Collegeville, King of Prussia, and even By letting the children experience Media so that Playschool could be something for themselves and figtheir child’s first school experience. ure it out, they are learning critical Five classrooms, designated by colthinking instead of being “spoon fed” ors rather than age, are housed in the information. historic building. Playschool is situ“They retain it better,” Saia said. Children learned about mixing primary colors ated on more than two wooded acres, “Plus, the children’s families are try- by ‘driving’ cars through paint. allowing for lots of outdoor play and ing to create the same model in their exploration of nature. home environment, so it’s fostered in the school environParents praise the program ment and the home. That’s where the partnership really is “I used to drive down Charlestown Road on my way to at its pinnacle. The child sees the continuity and tries to be work at QVC and would pass Charlestown Playhouse,” a problem solver at home as well.” said Andrea Guild. “I just assumed it was a theater group “Children are also allowed to explore their own creativ- that performed plays. It wasn’t until I had a child and was ity here, more than in other programs,” Koons saed. “For looking into preschools that I discovered it was a school!” example, they don’t do ‘cookie cutter’ art. Instead, the It turned out to be a great discovery for Guild as her son children are given materials for a project and they can Jack, 3 ½, is just completing a great first year at Playschool. make it any way they want without someone saying, ‘No, She is a parent helper in the Blue Room (kindergarten) one the jack-o-lantern only has two eyes.’ They can make it day each week. with eight eyes.” “My son is an only child, and while we wanted him to “Or not make it all,” Saia added with a chuckle. be in a preschool program, I worried that five days a week “Their creativity is not squashed down, so it is natural for might be too much and that maybe I should look for a prothem to come up with their own ideas,” Koons said. gram that was two or three days,” Guild said. “But it was a When a family first visits Charlestown Playhouse, Koons wonderful transition and the progression from September and Saia stress the school’s philosophy that the grounding to now is amazing. Jack is much more interactive with the of all learning is social-emotional development. Key to other kids and even knows the names of many of the childeveloping a sense of well-being is having the opportunity dren in other classrooms. to discover and investigate to determine if things are right “It’s been great for me to have one day a week in the or not. kindergarten classroom and experience what it is like,” “When you are truly providing a play-based envi- Guild said. “I will have to make a decision, when the ronment, there has to be the intention of what is the time comes, whether to send my son to public school for objective,” Saia said. She finds it important for parents to kindergarten or stay here. I would love to be able to sit in understand this, so they can see the transformation of the a public school kindergarten and see what it is like. Just learning taking place. to see the difference; the rhythm of the day, how it flows, “We explain to parents that, when a child is playing how much playtime there is.” with a particular toy, why it is a language arts, science or Guild found the Playschool community very welcoming math activity,” Koons said. She pointed to a large piece of to parents as well. It was discovered at a parents’ meeting artwork hanging in the stairwell with a title posted above that her background would be an asset to the annual aucit -- Color Theory with Race Cars! “This is where the chil- tion, and Guild became donations chair for the fundraiser. dren were learning what happens when you mix colors “It was a really great way for me to meet so many of together, but they did it by driving their [Matchbox] trucks the parents and put faces with the names I know from the through it,” she said, smiling. kids,” she said. Guild also praises Playschool’s Facebook Playschool serves about 75 families, with some families page as a tool for meeting other families. “Someone will having more than one child attending. Most live within post, ‘Hey, anyone want to go for a walk after drop-off 62

Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

today?’ or ‘I am looking to borrow something. Does anyone have one?’ It’s a great way to get to know the Playschool community,” Danielle Looper is a longtime Playschool parent of three children. She’s on year eight, and sad to think that her children’s time at the school is nearing its end. Although she only has one year left, she is sure that she, like many other families, will stay involved with Playschool. She recalled that when her children went on to elementary school, both of their teachers told her, “They knew they were ‘Playschool kids’ because they were kind to friends and had a certain self-possessed way about them. That’s more important to me than going into first grade reading or doing math, because they all get that eventually. “As a mom, I think of Playschool as such an open door place,” Looper continued. “In public school, it is so hard to get to know the families of other kids unless they live in your neighborhood. But at Playschool, I know all the families from helping in the classrooms and at events. You just don’t get that at public school.”

I really t represe hink in essen nts is p ce wha t th – Amy rogressive e ducatio e program Saia, Ed ucation n.’ Dir

ector Lifelong family friends are formed at Playschool. Most of the teachers were previously Playschool parents or even students there. Looper said, “We came to Photo courtesy of Charlestown Playhouse A little bit of paint never hurt anyone. Playschool for that reason. My husband had a friend who had gone to Playschool as a child. He insisted we look into it for our children, insisting, ‘You have got to go there. They were the happiest years of my life!’ We came and met Faith. That was all it took – she was just so passionate.” For more information, visit www.charlestownplayhouse. org. | Fall/Winter 2017 | Chester Springs Life


Learn about STEM and Manufacturing careers The emphasis on STEM education continues to take on a more prominent role in the national discourse about the direction of education in the United States. Simultaneously, there is an equally important discussion about the necessity of STEM skills required to drive economic growth. One such growing industry which is in need of workers with a solid foundation in STEM is the advanced manufacturing industry. Unlike the industrial-based manufacturing industry of the twentieth century, the advanced manufacturing industry of the twenty first century is driven by STEM skills and sophisticated technologies. In order to meet the rapid growth of this industry, more workers with the right set of problem-solving and analytical skills are needed. The Advanced Manufacturing Premier (AMP) on October 5, 2017 at the Technical College High School (TCHS) Pickering Campus is a collaboration between TCHS Pickering and advanced manufacturing partners throughout Chester County. AMP will give students, parents and those looking to change their career an opportunity to see the connection between STEM and advanced manufacturing! For more information, please check for more information coming soon!

SALT Performing Arts sets season SALT Performing Arts in Historic Yellow Springs just kicked off an exciting Fall season! They are hosting a SALT’s Got Talent singing competition whereby 24 contestants ages 18 and under will compete across 4 different nights in September and October towards a $1,000 grand prize! Judges include Broadway Performers & Directors, as well as Film/TV Producers. The rest of the Fall months


Chester Springs Life | Fall/Winter 2017 |

are chalked full of fun activities for all ages: Oct. 7: Rogers & Hammerstein Night of Cabaret (a free bring-your-own food and drink fundraiser) Oct. 28: Catered Costume Dance Party Nov. 13-18: Cinderella KIDS by Stagelight’s students Dec. 1-10: A Christmas Cabaret.

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