Building on Frolic’s vision

It was five years ago, November of 2014 when the Brandywine Conservancy and Chadds Ford Township began public talks about something called Walkable Chadds Ford. But the seed of the idea began almost 50 years earlier when George A. “Frolic” Weymouth brought together a number of entities to preserve Potts Meadow — across Route 1 from the Barn Shops — to keep it from becoming a metal fabricating plant. Some people still refer to that as the “Second Battle of the Brandywine.”

That was 1967 and Weymouth, et al were successful. A year later, there was fear that Hoffman’s Mill was going to become a bulk oil plant. Once again, Weymouth and friends, including Andrew and Betsy Wyeth, joined forces, secured the mill and turned it into the Brandywine River Museum, now Brandywine River Museum of Art.

A simple sketch showing in green the first vision of preservation in Chadds Ford believed to have been drawn by Frolic Weymouth more than 50 years ago. The Brandywine Conservancy has now preserved more than 66,000 acres in the past 52 years.

Potts Meadow, the N.C. Wyeth home and studio and the Andy Wyeth studio on Murphy Road, Hoffman’s Mill and the rest of the conservancy’s campus became iconic pieces of preservation in Chadds Ford. And from those modest beginnings, the Brandywine Conservancy has now preserved more than 66,000 acres in Chester, Delaware, New Castle counties and beyond.

Virginia Logan, the executive director of the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art, now says Walkable Chadds Ford — at least what is under consideration for the conservancy property — is the natural next step in continuing Weymouth’s original vision. Exactly what will be done, though, is still under consideration.

“We want the campus of the Brandywine to be a treasured resource for our local community — and for people from a much broader region — who want to come and experience the natural beauty, the history and the inspiration for great works of art,” Logan said.

Right now, “we’re up to our eyeballs” in a master planning process that is looking 30 years into the future. “Most people want to hear conclusions but we don’t have them right now,” Logan added.

She knows people would love to have an outdoor gathering space but isn’t sure where or how that might happen. All she can share now is the process. That process includes looking at all the property the conservancy owns in Chadds Ford Township, properties that total more than 300 acres.

“What we’re [asking] is, what are we going to need to be the very best resource to our community and for our broader constituents over the next 30 years,” Logan said.

To that end, the conservancy has hired a team of professional consultants — master planners, landscape architects, engineers, ecologists and others — to develop that plan. Right now, the focus is on the inner campus area, the conservancy properties west of Creek Road and south of Route 1.

“We’re always mindful of how whatever it is that we might wind up doing will integrate with a trail network and other resources in the area, she added.

What she hopes to come out of the current process is a master plan that would provide facilities on the campus that make the property even more inviting and engaging. Whatever that might entail, Logan said it would definitely include expanding the conservancy’s current trail network to complement that of the township. And the conservancy is involved with the township in making that work.

She also said the conservancy is very mindful of working with different parts of the community. As an example, the conservancy has worked with the Barn Shops in having the now annual Potts Meadow Tree Lighting for the last three years.

“That’s the way Potts Meadow is part of the community today. And we’ve opened the trails in Potts Meadow and Founders’ Grove to the community,” she said. “The beauty of Potts Meadow is why we came into being. Protecting that is very important to us. It’s an important part of our history.”

And that loops back to the preservation efforts that began with Frolic Weymouth. Logan said she likes to think back to how a young Weymouth, in his 30s, had such insight, vision and values and how “He’s so much in our hearts even now. I feel his presence.”

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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One Response to “Building on Frolic’s vision”

  1. Matt DiFilippo says:

    The Walkable Chadds Ford project is an amazing idea, but will require participation and compromise from all of the property owners also located at the intersection of Creek Road, US 1 and Station Way. The Conservancy and the Township are spearheading a walkable village for the future along a stretch of Route 1 that needs it for various reasons. Imagine a town with walkability that is comparable to Kennett Square or Media – although not nearly as large – and in between the two towns along the Brandywine Creek? It’s possible, but it will take time and require patience. I hope it happens for this town. Besides, what’s the other option? More concrete barrier-like medians?

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