-11-5-2015 Why I support the preservation of the Barclay Grounds – by Senator Andy Dinniman

Why I Support the Preservation of the Barclay Grounds – by Senator Andrew Dinniman

It is local treasures like the Barclay Grounds that allow the Borough of West Chester to be beautiful and bustling at the same time.

That is why I worked so hard to secure $700,000 in state funding for the Grounds’ preservation, and why we must continue our work to help secure the remaining $147,000 needed.

It takes special commitment to preserve a community’s historic and natural resources at the same time it is bursting at the seams. West Chester’s past leaders and residents deserve great credit for preserving the Barclay Grounds from the mid-1860’s all the way through the 20th Century.

When the latest proposal to develop the Grounds surfaced in 2012, it was obvious we had an obligation to both our predecessors and our successors to stand up for the Grounds and preserve them for good.

For five decades I have driven into West Chester and been greeted by the wonderful sycamore and oaks, birches, poplars and maples that frame North High Street and make the Barclay Grounds the most beautiful of open spaces. Each and every time I arrive it is a wonderful reminder of why the Arbor Day Foundation annually bestows its “Tree City” award upon West Chester.

But the Grounds do so much more than please the eye. The 150-year-old specimen trees help me imagine what life was like back in the 1860’s.  I think of the property when John Rutter first turned it into a nursery; and after the Civil War, when Joshua Hartshorne rode his horse through the wrought-iron gates that remain to this day, past the saplings he planted and right to the door of his mansion.

As a historian, I am inspired by all who walked the Barclay Grounds. I think of those who lived there after the property became “The Barclay Home,” a Quaker boarding home for seniors in the mid-1930’s. I am reminded of the veterans who came home after World War II and undoubtedly took pleasure in the shade beneath its trees. I think of the Barclay Grounds’ many neighbors and residents who take joy in its peaceful nature every day.

It was with all this in mind that I convened Barclay Grounds supporters on the first floor of my North Church Street office nearly two years ago.

Since then the process of saving the Barclay Grounds has been like assembling pieces in a complex jigsaw puzzle. But we all got involved knowing it wouldn’t be easy.

Throughout its history, the Barclay Grounds has too often been threatened by development, with residents and friends thwarting such efforts each time. Once, a resident reportedly even stood in front of a bulldozer and said, “Over my dead body.”

It is time the Barclay Grounds receives a permanent lease on life, and we are now just $147,000 away from the finish line. With your continued help we can cross it together.

Thank you, Andy Dinniman