The next meeting to discuss land development at the Sleighton School site will be held on Monday, March 23 at 7pm. Location: Edgmont Twp. Bldg., 1000 Gradyville Rd., Newtown Sq., PA
The Sleighton Farm School property in Edgmont and Middletown townships in Glen Mills has been a local curiosity for years, capturing the imagination of photographers, historians, preservationists and developers alike.
Performing a simple Google search on “Sleighton School” returns hundreds of photos, a few videos and blogs about this property, evidence that the Sleighton School has seen its share of vandalism and neglect. Reading through the pages and pages of blogs and their comments almost brings dormant Sleighton back to life.
This part of the county used to be about as far out into the country as you could get from Philadelphia, making it an ideal spot for a farm school. Today, Edgmont is just another suburb that seems to be feeling the squeeze of development.
Sleighton School ~ Frozen in Time
Sleighton School started as a House of Refuge and/or farm school for girls in 1826. Changes in management and a series of ups and downs over the years resulted in a campus that has fallen prey to nature and decay. The long history of the school is fading and there is no one source of information on the property and the people who lived and worked there between 1826 and 2014. I have just scratched the surface and learned there is much more to Sleighton School than one blog post could do justice. A timeline can be found on the most recent Edgmont Township minutes, below.
The beauty of this property lies in the fact that it represents something we seldom see anymore in the outskirts of Philadelphia: rural-ness. I drive by Sleighton almost daily, reminding myself not to take it for granted because it won’t be here for long. Even though the buildings have been vandalized and are overgrown with weeds, the 300 or so acres of sprawling farmland with hay bales and wildlife provides a bucolic backdrop for the daily commute for many residents; a stark contrast to the frenetic activity that can be found less than five miles away. Many of the buildings were designed by the late 19th-century Philadelphia architectural firm Cope & Stewardson according to an article in Philly.com.
Preservation vs. Profit. Can we have both?
The 2002 article goes on to say that the site may be eligible for historic preservation, but the very fact it has been up for sale/sold, suggests that the historical significance has not outweighed the tax revenue that will benefit two townships or the profit to be made by the institutions who own the land and those who will develop it.
Twenty two acres have been dedicated as a public park along West Forge and Valley Roads, which is somewhat of a consolation, and a substantial part of the land in Edgmont is already under an agricultural easement.
The property owner for the project is a dual entity known as “Sleighton Inc.” which represents dual ownership of the property by Sleighton School and Elwyn, according to Edgmont Township minutes. The property is currently under agreement with Toll Brothers, who plan close to 400 new homes–or 2.4 homes per acre, not exactly what residents are used to in an area where a lot size can range from one or four acres or more.
According to the Edgmont Township website, the plan calls for “116 Single Family Homes and 19 Carriage Homes in Edgmont, and 125 Single Family Homes and 156 Carriage Homes in Middletown. The current project total is 397 proposed homes.” This would be an age-restricted community (otherwise known as 55+ communities), which is typically attractive to townships and school districts alike because the township receives real estate tax revenue without burdening the school system. But there is still traffic and infrastructure to consider on Forge and Valley Roads–simple math would put 200 to 400 additional cars on the these rural roads.
What’s Next and How to Stay Informed.
Given the desirable setting, the condition of the site and the ever-present pressure of development, it’s clear that change is imminent. The only question that remains is how will this change impact the character of the area and at what are the costs and benefits.
At one time there was a residents group with the mission to save the property and/or keep the mission of the non-profit Elwyn to serve children and a development of this size would require a change in current zoning to accommodate the high density.
It will be interesting to watch the story of Sleighton School as it continues to unfold. There has been one public meeting which attracted a handful of neighbors. Another public meeting was rumored but I found no notices as of this writing. If you would like to stay informed, see below.
Click here for a copy of the minutes of the May, 2013 land planning meeting at Penn State Brandywine Campus.
Living in Edgmont and Middletown Townships
The best way to describe this western part of Edgmont and Middletown townships is a feeling of individuality that homeowners enjoy in this low-density area. A drive along Forge Road just miles from Route 352 leads to open pasture complete with cows; you’ll find an Alpaca Farm nestled into a residential community a few miles away and you can raise your own chickens if you choose. It is not uncommon to see fox, hawks, deer and other wildlife. A fair amount of people own horses and you will see various types of housing co-existing from small ranchers to newer contemporaries and a few planned communities–it’s definitely not a cookie cutter. This area is a good choice for people who may want to build or buy a larger home but are not necessarily interested in all the rules and regs that go along with buying into a planned community.
Edgmont township covers about 9 square miles situated between Thornbury, Willistown and Middletown townships, about 20 miles west of Philadelphia. People move to Edgmont to enjoy the country locale combined with a workable commute to the city and access to major routes in desirable Rose Tree Media School District. Middletown is a bit larger, with twice as many residents according to the 2000 census and geographically heads south, bordering Aston and Upper Providence townships as you head towards Media.
If you would like more information, market reports or sales trends or would like to share information for the Glen Mills and surrounding areas, please contact me.Sources: The Daily Times, Edgmont Township web page, Middletown Township web page, Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia , Unknown Historic Sites and others. There is also a Sleighton Farm Facebook Page, which will lead you to more photos!