There’s always hope
An avenue of overarching trees leads from the road to the house which stands on a slight rise. A little to the west is St. Thomas’s Hill, thrice held by soldiers during the Revolutionary struggle. In front, to the north across the pike, the Wissahickon winds through peaceful meadows and beyond rises the long slope of wood-crowned Militia Hill-every rood of land full of historic memories. By the banks of the stream, with moss-grown dam and placid leat, is an ancient stone mill that once ground corn for all the Colonists far and near; even Sir William Keith used to send wain loads of grain hither all the way from Graeme Park at Horsham.
The state of Pennsylvania announced cuts to the state budget that have resulted in closure of several state-run historic sites. While I saw a lot on the news about how upset people were that Washington might not cross the Delaware on Christmas as he does every year at the aptly named “Washington Crossing,” I heard nary a whisper about Hope Lodge.
Don’t be quiet Hope Lodge.
Garage-sale style signs in front of the house gave dates for the annual holiday tour weekend (even though the website still listed 2008 information). Otherwise, all was silent. No going out of business signs. No Facebook page to start networking new support systems for the site or provide updates. Just business as usual, which means a lovely section of landscape on a busy road and a ghostly looking historic house.
When I heard the news, I thought they should announce a “Going out with a bang” party, something loud and racous on the front lawn, sponsored by some local corporation and the new pub across the street, complete with firing cannon and George Washington on horseback rallying the troops — and by rallying the troops I mean engaging the public imagination in imagining a new future for the site.
It’s time to get input from a broad array of local stakeholders. The challenge is getting the people who know of the site — whether they live nearby or are among the many who enjoy the vista on a daily commute — to identify themselves as a stakeholder and to become involved. And there’s nothing like indicating drastic measures are afoot to create interest.
That’s what preservation is possibly best known for — reacting to change.
Usually it’s a criticism — the lying down in front of bulldozer stereotype.
Now here’s a chance to show how preservationists can facilitate change. And part of creating a new future for Hope Lodge is getting people who don’t think of themselves as “preservationists” to become involved. (This also reinforces the need to devise a new word or redefine the existing one via this kind of outreach. See previous post.)
The local paper recently printed a letter from Jack Gumbrecht, presumably one of the Friends of... , to thank the public for their support of the holiday event. Attendance “was great” he says, though I wonder if visitation was down because people thought the site was closed? Was it up because people thought this might be their last chance to see inside? Thankfully, he also took the opportunity to announce that despite the closure, the Friends hope to develop a new plan for the site.
The Friends of Hope Lodge will be hosting a public meeting on the future of the Hope Lodge historic site on Wednesday, January 20, at 7pm. The meeting will be at the First Presbyterian Church, Bethlehem Pike and East Mill Road, Flourtown.
Hope Lodge was closed for visitation on November 20, 2009 due to the reduction in funding under the new state budget. The Friends plan to reopen the site to the public in the spring. We also want to establish a sustainable operating plan for the future. We believe the key to the future of Hope Lodge will be making the entire 40-plus acre site a more valuable community resource. At the public meeting, the Friends will present ideas for creating a Community Supported agriculture (CSA) venture at Hope Lodge, as well as some recreational and educational opportunities. We hope our presentation will spark constructive feedback, additional suggestions, and more involvement from the community. Please come to the public meeting on January 20, and encourage your friends and neighbors to come as well. If you cannot attend, you can still offer comments and suggestions through our website: www.ushistory.org/hope. Please visit the website and click on “Hope for the Future.”