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Save And Protect The Wyola School

Jan Elston, of Newtown Square, submits a Letter to the Editor about saving and restoring the Wyola School in Newtown Township.

I am writing this letter as a long-time activist in the often lonely campaign to save the old homes and other historic structures in , dating from the 1600s to early 1900s.

These mostly beautiful buildings and the people who built them are the ones who laid out and planned the roads, boundaries, built the schools, churches and mills, fought in the wars and endured the hard times that made us what we are today.

The beautiful farms that made up most of the landscape in the earlier years have slowly been replaced by new homes and business. Very shortly, they'll be completely gone. Scattered here and there amidst all the progress are nearly 100 buildings, mostly old houses, churches, schools, mills and so forth.

With the help of our township administrations we've managed to save a lot of these buildings. A great many of us are very concerned about the planned sale of one of those very important structures: Newtown Public School No. 1 (the Wyola School, c. 1870).

This old school is one of our most important buildings–owned by Newtown Township and the citizens and taxpayers, who are the township. The Newtown Square Historical Society has sold hundreds of ceramic replicas of this school and other historical buildings in the township.

Jean Austin DuPont cared enough about it to completely restore the school, even found the original bell for the cupola. We have all thought it was safe when the township acquired it from the Gambone Development Company.

Everyone realizes that the township is in a financial bind due mostly, or partly, to mismanagement by a former group. But shouldn't the people in the township have a say in this matter. We own it!

I really feel that this sets a dangerous precedent–what's to stop the sale of to a developer or the by a future administration?

The historical society has restored and maintained this township-owned Paper Mill House building and it is now an asset to the community. How many of you have actually toured the Mill House and seen what a bunch of determined volunteers can do with a building that was a complete wreck from top to bottom, at no cost to the taxpayers I might add?

Our open spaces, parks and public buildings belong to all of us! I respectfully ask the supervisors to please explore other options before selling this precious School House.

One idea is to use it as an historical research library for old deeds, documents, books, maps and so forth, maintained and supported by volunteers, open to the public. At least, give the citizens a chance to find ways to keep from selling this valuable, historical, useful and preserved treasure.

We've nearly always had great support from our supervisors in matters like this. To give up title to part of our history for short-term gain is shortsighted, and not what we all (citizens) had in mind when we packed meetings to save this and other buildings on the property, now owned by .

I know that the supervisors and administration are putting in long hours for the good of our town–sometimes a thankless job, I'm sure. I, personally, thank you all for your past help and concern in matters of our history and hope to have it in the future.

Part of what makes Newtown such a great place to live is its reverence for our past and places, and the volunteers who give precious time to all the activities to promote family and community life.

Jan Elston

Newtown Square resident/member of the Newtown Square Historical Society

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