Sunday, August 23, 2020

Delco's First Hearse and a Group trying to save 1000 Main St. Darby. another piece of Delco History!!


An early view of the Lawncroft Cemetery at 1000 W. Ridge Rd. Marcus Hook. The cemetery was founded in 1904.

Note: The first hearse was invented in 1909, the one below is from 1911. Sadly I have no picture, it appears to have been a small bus. Originally hearse's were not very popular, cost was approx. $6,000.00 dollars when a horse drawn hearse ran about $1,500.00 a year. Not until the 1920's did hearses take off in popularity.


 Novel Conveyance Designed by Chester Undertaker Attracts Much Attention on Exhibition

            The handsome new funeral automobile for the Lawncroft Cemetery company arrived at the Times office from Philadelphia shortly before noon with Eugene F. White, vice president and general manager of the company at the wheel and accompanied by a party of friends.

            The car is a mammoth type of limousine automobile and has a seating capacity of thirty-two persons.  It is painted a deep black with not a bright line to enliven the severity of design.  Directly behind the driving seat of the car is a compartment for the casket.  Behind this compartment is a heavily cushioned compartment in which six pall bearers will ride.  This section is partitioned off from the rest of the car, but directly in back of it is a section designed to hold twenty-four persons all comfortable seated.  While the car is decidedly plain in design no expense has been spared by the cemetery company to provide comfort for their patrons and the furnishings of the auto are luxurious in every respect.

            The speed of the car is about twelve miles an hour but a higher rate can be developed when necessary in case of emergencies.  Speed was not considered in the building of the car, durability and comfort being uppermost in the mind of the designed.  Eugene F. White, in whose mind the handsome addition to the equipment of the cemetery company first had origin.

          For a week before the car was brought to this city it attracted a great deal of attention at the display room of Packard Company in Philadelphia.        

    Mr. White was accompanied to this city in the machine by Albert Levet, overseer at the Lawncroft cemetery, who will operate the car.

Friends of the Blue Bell, Inc and Friends of 1000 Main c/o 1006 Main Street Darby, PA 19023 

(610) 809-4856

 To: Redevelopment Authority of Delaware County (RDA), Darby Borough Council, and Delaware County Council RE: 1000 Main Street, Darby Borough 

The stewards of 1000 Main for the past eight years are writing to ask your help and asking to meet with you to ensure that this County-owned asset is not lost to future generations as so many have been before. 1000 Main Street in Darby Borough has been a very visible presence on the Darby streetscape for 168 years and is a rare mortise and tenon timber frame building. It was built circa 1852 by laborer/carpenter John J. White as a family home. It was purchased by Delaware County in 2000 for the Darby Transportation Center (DTC) project which took about 10 years to complete. The County commissioned a Historic Assessment by the firm of Kise, Straw, and Kolodner (KSK) in 2001 which concluded: “1000 Main Street is a significant resource in Darby. Main Street in Darby boasts a fine collection of attractive and historic properties in which 1000 Main Street is a significant contributor, and conversely, it’s loss would be significant as well. While 1000 Main Street is marginally structurally sound, it is relatively small so the restoration and renovation cost would be reasonable. Preservation efforts would enhance the quality of the street and encourage similar improvements in Darby.” Likewise, the Section 106 Review of the Delaware County Planning Department (DCPD) said “DCPD believes #1000 Main Street is a strong example of a locally significant resource, and it would make a fine contribution to the historic fabric of the upper part of Main Street. Every effort will be made to assist the community in ways to adaptively reuse this building.” After about 2/3 of the land was used for the DTC project, the remainder was leased by the RDA to the Friends of the Blue Bell (Friends) in 2012 with the specific requirement to “undertake stewardship of 1000 Main including cleaning, planning, fundraising, and restoration of the building with the goal of opening it to the public as a multi-use educational and cultural facility.” We have been working toward that goal At the time the Friends assumed stewardship of the building, the building was compromised from when the roof was blown off in 2004. The RDA made it very clear we were NOT to look to them for funding. Although the renovation is still a work in progress, we stopped the leaks into the building with EPDM, stabilized the rear porch and floors, replaced window glass, kept the lawns mowed, researched the building, improved the outside appearance, and enlisted support from many in and outside the community including the University of Delaware Center for Historic Architecture and Design (CHAD) who did a report and draft National Register nomination for the building. Other friends have joined in support of the building (see below). We have had discussions with the Purple House Project, which provides support for survivors of domestic violence, about working together to create a community space centered on healing. 

We recently sought a Blight Remediation Grant to help with rehab (replace the EPDM with a metal roof, and do other necessary work) and were informed the RDA was considering a transfer of the property to Darby Borough, and “would not consent to our grant application” This is in direct contradiction to the mandate of our lease and was done with no notice or opportunity for discussion. We have made numerous requests to meet with the RDA to discuss the future of this building which have been ignored. This appears to be part of a transfer of 5 RDA properties in Darby: four vacant lots which the Borough already maintains, 199 MacDade Blvd, 868, 879, and 881 Main Street. 1000 Main, listed on the Delaware County Historic Sites Survey was somehow added to the list. We are requesting reconsideration of that transfer. We have new members, energy, and are prepared to show how this building can serve the Borough and Delaware County economically, culturally, and environmentally. The Friends of the Blue Bell, stewards of the building since 2012, are continuing to maintain liability insurance with the RDA named as additional insured and continue to adhere to the conditions of their lease. Once again we request to meet with the RDA and the Borough to discuss the future of this important building. We also renew our request to purchase or otherwise accept transfer of the building on terms that are equitable, fair, and in the best interests of the building, the citizens of Darby Borough, and the people of Delaware County for whom the RDA holds the building in trust. We look forward to discussing this with you, via Zoom other means, at a time that is convenient to you. This is what the building looked like before we stopped the leaks. 

These are pictures of recent work and this is a brief blurb about the building 

Respectfully Signed (*) signifies individual is a Member of the Friends of the Blue Bell Board

 Pamela Andrews, Philadelphia, (community activist) (*) Jaqiira Bishop, Darby (Community activist) Christine Brunson, Collingdale (Mgr, Purple House Project/community activist) Alvin Davidson, Sharon Hill (IT Administrator) (*) Jennifer Davidson, Sharon Hill (Historian/administrator) Christine Dopson, Darby (Business woman/administrator)(*) Timothy Dopson, 887 Main Street, Darby (Business man) (*) Harold Finigan, Main Street, Darby (Teacher of building science/activist) Emily Freeman, Main Street, Darby (Designer/artist) Patrick Gallagher, Collingdale (Historian/county worker) Jan Monk Haigis, Darby, President Emeritus, (educator and administrator-Ret) (*) John W. Haigis, Darby, Secretary, former Chair, Darby Borough Historical Commission and Darby Borough Planning Commission (*) Alvin Holm, Philadelphia Historical Advisor, Former advisor to Darby Borough Historical Commission (Architect) (*) Kenneth Johnson, Darby, Project Manager (contractor) (*) Derron LaBrake, Havertown, (Plaster Instructor/Environmental Advocate) Lawrence Richardson, Darby Policeman (ret) Paula Evans Richards, Darby, (Community activist) Teddy Santil, Upper Darby, Treasurer (accountant/tutor) (*) Josh Silver, Philadelphia (Historic researcher/tour guide) (*) Martin Simkovich, Drexel Hill, (Roofer/carpenter) Jabri Smith, Darby, Volunteer Coordinator (*) Howard Stockley, Darby (Sheriff's Deputy) Dominik Thomas, 30 N 10th Street, (entrepreneur/community activist) Claire Venuto, Philadelphia (Community worker) Maryanne Venuto, Philadelphia (Community worker)


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