Past Perfect

Profiles on some of the more compelling players in the ongoing battle to keep history alive on the Main Line.

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"Pollard's Projects" continued ...

The Radnor Community Preservation Coalition emerged in 2007 out of efforts to save Ithan, a village of roughly 10 buildings that was the commercial center of Radnor Township 300 years ago. Once called Radnorville, it served as a crossroads during Revolutionary times.

After development was successfully halted there, calls began coming in from West Wayne and Garrett Hill. “We need help, too,” the callers told Pollard. “We thought, ‘Why reinvent the process all the time?’” he recalls. “We began reaching out to all communities [in the township], inviting them to help us—to use us.”

The economic downturn’s lone saving grace—at least in the coalition’s mind—is that it’s helped halt or stall development, giving opponents time to regroup and galvanize. In the past year, the Garrett Hill Coalition spearheaded 80-100 community meetings to force changes in the planning process and development of its master plan and overlay district. It even formed block captains, who knocked on doors like modern-day Paul Reveres. “It’s the way it used to be, when you always had town meetings, when all the voices were heard,” says Pollard. “It’s still the way many New England towns operate.”

Pollard doesn’t want any community to be dumfounded when a zoning issue arises. “We have the resources to help,” he says. “But we’re also informing and educating government as to why we need to maintain the integrity and vitality of our communities. If you build a monstrosity in the middle of a Victorian community, the whole area is diminished.”

Pollard’s first project was a log cabin at Eastern University, just down the street from his home. Four years ago, caution tape prompted a meeting with Eastern’s president—not only to save the cabin, but also to “instill a sense of institutional stewardship,” Pollard says. “You can’t just go willy-nilly, abandoning structures. If they’re in bad repair, fix them. It’s often a matter of who gets there first—the developers or the preservationists.”

Cabrini College, by contrast, just had its restoration of the Woodcrest Estate Mansion—a piece of Drexel, Paul and Dorrance family history that houses its administrative offices—placed on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s also been a garden restoration there. “None of this is going to make the college money,” Pollard says. “But it will create a sense of pride.”

Then there’s the Shipley School’s Beechwood House, another scheduled demolition that’s now been restored. “There could have been a parking lot there,” says Pollard.

Pollard also has restored his 105-year-old Renaissance Revival home in St. Davids three times since 1985. It’s been for sale for more than four years. “You get to see the woodwork, the massiveness of the stones, the brass, the workmanship—and it puts anything today to shame,” he says.

While historic preservation isn’t within the mission statement of the Radnor Historical Society, members did decide to form a subcommittee and cultivate an appreciation for the area’s history. “Our goal, really, is to make the community interested in itself,” Pollard says.

For three years now, the society has been giving out preservation awards to homeowners, builders, architects—“those with vision,” he says—as part of the Mad Anthony Days of Wayne celebration. “It has enhanced the fabric of the community,” says Pollard. “In Radnor Township, we’re really winning.”

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