Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 39
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: October 2002 Volume 39 Number 4, Pages 111–128
The Cassatt Mansion - Then and Now (Program Held at Upper Main Line YMCA, February 25, 2001)
I've been a member of the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club for several years, and I am grateful to the late Bob Goshorn (1919-1995) who got me inspired to talk about local history. There is a wealth of history close at hand in this community, much of it known by people who were directly involved in the events. Researching that history and preserving it for future generations is part of the aims and objectives of the Club, founded in 1936.
With that in mind, I have invited two local residents who once lived in the Cassatt Mansion to share their personal knowledge of the items on display here depicting various stages of its history. The mansion house has been the home of the Upper Main Line YMCA since 1964.
You will learn from their remarks, and the time line I prepared, that the mansion was part of an estate called "Kelso," occupied by the family of Joseph Gardner Cassatt. Mrs. Ellen Mary Hare Meigs, one of our presenters, a granddaughter of Mr. Cassatt, lived here from 1925 to 1943. The estate passed out of the family's hands in 1950 when it was sold to the Norbertine religious order.
Then you will hear from Father Ted Antry, of the Norbertine order, about his experiences after his organization purchased the estate and occupied it as a priory. Today, the order is located on the other side of Route 252, in what is still called the "Daylesford Abbey."
As we know, the archives of the History Club are indexed, and there's something that's been written in the Club's Quarterly about almost everything (often more than once)! However, we found nothing to date about the Cassatt Mansion, J. Gardner Cassatt, or the YMCA. Today's remarks, and those of Mrs. Meigs and Father Antry, will be preserved in a future issue of the Quarterly.Top
Background on the Family
The story of J. Gardner Cassatt (1849-1911) and his estate starts in the previous century. His family, many years resident of Pittsburgh, moved to Hardwicke, a country place "a mile beyond Lancaster" in 1848. He was born there on January 13, 1849, the youngest of five children who survived to maturity (two others died young). Gardner Cassatt was named for his father's brother-in-law, Dr. Joseph Gardner.
His father, Robert Simpson Cassatt, was a successful banker who, before moving east, served as mayor and president of the Select Council in Allegheny City, a suburb now part of Pittsburgh. After just two years at Lancaster, Robert Cassatt moved the family again to a newly developed residential area west of Broad Street in Philadelphia.
Gardner's eldest brother by ten years, Alexander (1839-1906) is well known not only for his work on the Pennsylvania Railroad, but also for his home in Haverford, called Cheswold, and for his horse farm at Chesterbrook. He also had a sister, Mary (1844-1926), who we know through her painting. Gardner himself founded Cassatt & Co., an investment business in Philadelphia.Top
Building the Mansion
We could speculate that Gardner decided to build his own estate along Berwyn-Paoli Road to rival his older brother at nearby Chesterbrook.
Many say he hired the well-known Philadelphia architectural firm of Cope & Stewardson. Others say the house was designed by a firm from York, Pennsylvania. But there is a record that, between 1906 and 1908, this house was constructed out of a distinctive Flemish bond brick. We are fortunate to have photographs of the house with its splendid awnings as it existed in this time period.
Also exhibited today is a watercolor of the mansion created for a YMCA 30th Anniversary poster in 1992. What I think is remarkable, and one of the themes of this presentation, is that the chimneys and the windows, and a number of architectural features inside the house, have remained the same. So we have an architectural legacy that the YMCA is carrying on, while serving the community with programs dedicated to "building healthy spirit, mind and body" (YMCA mission statement).
For background on the property, I called Gene Williams, the Easttown Township manager. He disclaimed any personal knowledge, but he did say, "I have in my office an 1880s Chester County map, and I'll lend it to you for your talk." The map was included in an atlas known as "Breou's Farm Maps." Mr. Breou, from Lancaster County, was called into Chester County to do tax maps for the County Commissioners. That 1883 map shows that the 54 acres of the current YMCA property, plus the 70-acre development which I'll talk to you about in a minute, is the same 124 acres owned by Jonathan Morris in 1883. The size and shape of the parcel is the same as the one the Cassatt family developed in 1906 as their summer estate, which they named "Kelso."
Now, how do we know it was named Kelso? Maps of the era show the name. Gardner's maternal grandmother in Pittsburgh was named Kelso. Mrs. Meigs will share more with you about the family name "Kelso." The former dairy barn located just outside the "Y" on Foxall Lane is now a private residence. Its owner has a milk bottle showing the name. So Kelso became the formal name of the Cassatt estate. (The same name had been used earlier for a country house owned by Gardner Cassatt at Ithan, not far from the Radnor Meeting House. W. W. Atterbury, later a president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, bought it from Cassatt.) The Gardner Cassatt family maintained their primary residence in town at 1418 Spruce Street.
Now, let's talk about Cassatt family life. What was it like to have a summer house out in Chester County in the early 1900s, just before World War I? First of all, you needed a farmer. A large farmer's house still exists today at the end of Foxall Lane. If you turn right when leaving the "Y" on Berwyn- Paoli Road, the first road on the right is Foxall.
Secondly, a bank barn was constructed or rebuilt adjacent to the farm house in that same area. On a winter day you can see the barn structure from right out here on the parking lot. It has been remodeled into a residence. How do we know it's connected? Well, the architecture is the same, and uses the same style brick as the main house and stable. Maps show the barn erected at the same time as the mansion house.
A third outbuilding, located just east of the mansion, is referred to as the Carriage House. Today it's called the Family Center. This structure was renovated in 1967, shortly after the "Y" bought the property. The large meeting room where we are today is called the Johnson Room, in memory of Edward L. Johnson. He was chairman of the first Capital Fund drive. Next door to us is a smaller building, now the Environmental Center, which was a garage. Unfortunately, the old brick spring house by the stream has been destroyed. However, recently a local scout troop has created a set of trails along the stream.
Finally, also on Foxall Lane, there is a small building, now a residence, which was used either as a chicken house or pheasant house. The current owner shared the following story with me. In the early 1900s, a summer estate would be self-sufficient. It would not be uncommon for a wealthy owner to raise his own poultry (in this case chickens or pheasants) for elegant meals. That would explain its use, and why that house was built of the same brick as the main house and the barn.
So, Kelso Farm became a self-sufficient summer estate around the time of World War I.Top
Did Mary Cassatt Visit the Mansion?
One bit of local lore, supported by Mary Cassatt's biographer Frederick Sweet, has it that she visited at the mansion. Sweet says, "In the fall
of 1908 she decided to come to America . . . and spend Christmas in Philadelphia with her brother Gardner. .. . At this time she had her only visit at [his] elaborate new . . . country house, Kelso, which was built in 1907 at Daylsford [sic] near Berwyn." I also reviewed original correspondence, including two letters written by Mary Cassatt during that stay, on the stationery of Gardner's Philadelphia townhouse at 1418 Spruce Street. They are dated December 22, 1908, and January 4, 1909, which establishes the likelihood that she did see his new house in the country while visiting Philadelphia.
Mrs. Meigs' mother, Ellen Mary (Cassatt) Hare, born 1894, was the painter's favorite niece and was often, as a child, the subject of her portraits. In 1926 she inherited Mary Cassatt's country estate outside Paris named Chateau de Beaufresne. It exists today as an orphanage.
Following the Death of Gardner
In 1911, J. Gardner Cassatt died suddenly in Paris at age 62 after becoming sick while traveling abroad with his wife, Eugenia. Mrs. Meigs was not born until 1925. She will tell you what it was like to live on the summer place built by her grandfather, and occupied by her mother and father, Horace Binney Hare. You will hear that the family actively used the pond, playhouse and all of the open space riding horses and having carriage rides. During World War II the cost of heating the mansion house was significant with the coal shortage of the war era, and it was occupied seasonally.
Mrs. Meigs will tell you that about 1950, the year she married, the family decided that with the reduced use and the maintenance expense, it was time to sell the estate. At that time the estate occupied the same 124 acres originally purchased in 1906, but it was no longer a self-sufficient farm.
A local broker subdivided the property in 1951. The Norbertine Order bought 54 acres, including the mansion; and the 70-some acres to the east of Foxall Lane were developed and new roads named Country and Abbey opened. The township records and subdivision maps show Tudor Construction built 54 units there in 1957. That was separate from the three houses built in 1954 by Barrett Construction on Berwyn- Paoli Road. Long-time residents, Mr. and Mrs. McGarry of Berwyn-Paoli Road remember not only those t hree houses, but also the original entry at the Cassatt estate being more grand than what exists today off Berwyn-Paoli Road.Top
The Daylesford Abbey
The next chapter in our story is the ten years when the Norbertine Order owned the property. Father Ted Antry will tell us about the religious use of the Cassatt Mansion. Father Ted and I have been through the mansion; we walked all three stories. His position at the Daylesford Abbey today is that of archivist. He has an institutional memory of what the details were of the Norbertine life here from 1950-1960, when he was a priest in training.
Prior to the purchase in the early 1950s, they were a new organization of about a dozen brothers, based in Wisconsin, whose mission was down in South Philadelphia teaching at Southeast Catholic High School (now called Bishop Neumann High). They would come out to this area in the summer. Somehow they learned that the Cassatt family was selling their estate. So the Wisconsin-based order bought the house and adjoining 54 acres, which is still what the YMCA has today. They were also involved in the St. Norbert Parish in Paoli.
The years that Father Antry lived here as one of the "brethren" saw use of the estate for religious services, study, walks about the pond — essentially a quiet retreat. There was one tennis court here at the time. Father Ted was kind enough to show me a few photographs taken then . . . of beautiful azaleas, members of the order in their white robes, a wonderful setting for a life of contemplation and meditation.Top
Upper Main Line YMCA Takes up Residence
The last chapter you know well. The YMCA bought the property in 1964 as the site for a complete, multi-purpose community activity place, and also raised the money to upgrade the mansion and build their facilities, including the Family Center where we are meeting today. As recently as this winter, the YMCA has invested over $100,000 in replacing the aging roof and, in so doing, protected the architectural integrity of the roof line, which has the wonderful chimneys and the gargoyles on top. This effort stabilized the mansion so the third floor will be watertight and secure, and the roof's appearance continues a wonderful legacy of the past architectural style.Top
Reminiscences by Former Residents of the Mansion
Now we will proceed with our interviews with two persons who lived in the Cassatt Mansion: Mrs. Meigs (from 1925 to 1943), a Cassatt granddaughter; and Father Antry (from 1957 into the early 1960s), a member of the Norbertine religious order.
SD (Steve Dittmann): One picture I love is the one with the white house by the pond.
EM (Mrs. Meigs): It was the swimming pool which no longer exists. It was fed by a stream — cold water.
SD: Where on the property would the pool have been?
EM: Well, it was above the present pond. You had to walk from the house, down through the fields. There was a driveway that came all the way through to Sugartown Road. A pair of brick gate posts still stand there surrounded by vegetation. The pond would have been down by Sugartown Road, and the swimming pool would have been up closer to the house.
SD: Is that the same pond that exists today?
EM: Yes. I even have some pictures. This little hut was our playhouse, but not here. It was up where the swimming pool was. We got it from Bryn Mawr College when they had their May Day in 1936. TA (Ted Antry): We used it to put our bathing suits on; a changing room.
SD: Mrs. Meigs, when you were growing up here, you had several brothers and sisters?
EM: One brother. We were very isolated. We had no one to play with but ourselves — and a friend across the way and two more friends down the road. I was taught at home until I was eleven. Then I attended Leopard School, run by Mrs. Cameron MacCloud, for one year to get used to school before entering Shipley School.
SD: What kind of support staff did it take to run the house? Did you have a cook, housekeeper?
EM: Yes, we had a cook and a waitress and a parlor maid, and there was a chamber maid and a "floating maid," who took over the chores of whichever staff member had a day off. Each one of them got 24 hours off every two weeks. All their families lived in Philadelphia, so they had to take the train at the Berwyn station into town, spend their time off, and come back. They lived in the house, on the third floor. The cook, who was the highest paid member of the staff, earned $60 a
month. Stable and garden work was done by a gardner and a groom. The groom and his wife lived over the carriage house and stable, which has been converted into what is now the Senior Center.
SD. Were there occupants in the farm house?
EM: Yes, over on the farm. That was rented; we had nothing to do with that. We would go over and look at the cows and feed the pigs.
SD: Was the estate known as Kelso at the time?
EM: It was known as Kelso. That was a family name of my great grandmother Cassatt, Katherine Kelso Johnston. The Johnston family came from Kelso-on-Tweed in Scotland.
SD: What do these pictures show?
EM: That's the formal garden. It covered the area that today is swimming pools and indoor tennis courts. A wrought iron gate to the right of the front door opened into an area of tall oak trees and flowering crab apple. Delphinium, larkspur, zinnias, peonies, baby's breath and Sweet William bloomed behind a privet hedge. It was a wonderful place to play.
SD: Is the building just east of the main house the carriage house?
EM: It was [also] the stable.
SD: When you were here, what kind of horses did they keep?
EM: They had hunters. They would go fox hunting.
SD: What was it like inside the mansion when you were growing up here?
EM: Well, the hall was exactly the way it is now; it's been beautifully saved and preserved. The only thing that is different is not having the staircase. If you go in today around that desk, and you were to turn
and face backwards, the way you came in, the staircase went straight up to that landing where the colored glass window was located.
SD: Speaking of the windows and colored glass, there was an article recently in The Suburban about the mansion. They came out and photographed the stained glass. Do you have any stories about the glass?
EM: I wish I did. I don't know where the windows came from. They might be Tiffany. I have no idea.
SD: Today they're in an office built on the landing; you can see the glass from outside. In your time they were in the open stairway?
EM: Yes. Have they been moved?
SD: They're still there, but the internal space is an office. Before we shift to Father Antry, do you have a favorite story about an elevator or a meal or something that went on in the house?
EM: Well, there is a story about the elevator. Luckily it turned out all right. We had an elevator; there is a space where the elevator was, and it says "Danger, elevator."
SD: That's right; if you go over by the main desk, there is such a sign.
EM: There is a sign, but this elevator was situated in the back hall and it went all the way up. I don't know if it went to the third floor or not — but it went to the second floor anyway. One day my nurse walked into it by mistake thinking she was going to the linen closet and unfortunately fell to the ground floor. The poor woman had the presence of mind to grab the rope, and she slid down avoiding serious injury. All she did was skin her hands; terribly lucky!
Just to show you how parents were in those days, though the house was fully staffed, it happened to be this nurse who was to take care of me that night. My parents were supposed to go out to dinner, and they gave it up because the nurse was MY nurse, and they didn't trust anybody else to take care of me.
SD: Did you ever have any paintings or sketches done by Mary Cassatt in your family?
EM: They had quite a few, but they're all sold now.
SD: You personally never remember meeting her?
EM: No, she died in June of 1926 and I was born in September 1925. All I have is a telegram that my parents received. Her country house in France is now an orphanage; my mother gave it to a group in France.
SD: Before we transition to Father Antry, we thank you Mrs. Meigs for your time and being available today.
Father Antry, can you match that story with your experiences living here for ten years during the 1950s and 1960s?
TA: Well, I have an elevator story too, but it's more on the humorous side. When I lived in the house, it was a different situation than when Ellen Mary lived there. It was a religious community, and it was before Vatican II, and things were very strict. At the end of night prayers at 9:30 p.m., there was absolutely no talking until after breakfast the next morning. There was a bathroom on the second floor. Between the first hour of office, which was the prayer service, and the meditation, I went up to use the bathroom. The door knob came off, and I thought, well, one of our priests goes out to say mass in Berwyn. He will get me out. The bathroom was over the back porch roof, so I figured I'll holler down in a stage whisper, "I'm locked in." Well, it was the prior going out — I thought, "No way. I'll stay here forever." Finally after about half an hour, I managed to get the door knob turned. I came back downstairs again, and somebody whispered, "Where were you?" I said, "I was locked in the bathroom!"
The elevator story is humorous, but everything was very strict in those days. When we came into the order back in 1957, we were 18 years old. We were right out of high school, so we tended to fool around a little bit. One night we were trying to get a gallon of ice cream up to the upstairs, and somebody outside the kitchen put the
tub of ice cream on the elevator, and they were pulling it up. That's why I think it went to the third floor. All of a sudden one of the priests was coming down the stairs. We had to let go, and the ice cream went crashing to the first floor again.
SD: What was it like in the 1950s out here? Was it a rural area? Were there estates with the horses and carriages, the hunting that Mrs. Meigs spoke of, or was it essentially a quiet retreat?
TA: For us it was a quiet retreat area. We had the same property boundaries that the YMCA has. There were some houses since built to the east which we did not have. Of course, we were kind of confined to the area, so the whole property was prayer, work, recreation. In the winter we would skate on the pond. In the summer we had the pool and really used to wander around this whole estate and not see a car go by even if we went to the front road. Now cars go by all the time.
SD: Where was the main entrance you came and went from?
TA: The main entrance was on Berwyn-Paoli Road east of where you come in now — where you have the YMCA sign. If you go out and take a right, there is an entry way farther to the east. I think there is a chain across now. That was the main entrance.
SD: There is a color photograph of some of your colleagues — would you comment on it?
TA: It shows the pond. It was taken from the other side of the pond in the direction of where the pool was. A little further to the south you have the brick pilasters, or whatever they are, on Sugartown Road. All along there were dogwood trees. [Antry to Meigs: I believe you said there was another tree. Meigs to Antry: Well, there were originally lovely poplar trees, and they were all dying.] Dogwoods, yes. We would skate there in the winter.
SD: Would you customarily wear the white robes?
TA: Oh yes. Yes, the only time you ever took the white robes off in
those days — we call it a habit — we took them off if you were doing some kind of manual labor or for recreation. I mean, if you were playing basketball or something like that.
SD: What were the circumstances that led, after ten years, to moving over to South Valley Road?
TA: We had a number of lay brothers who would not be priests or clerics, and they usually did the manual labor. We had a prior at the time, the second prior, and he thought if we had a bigger piece of property, we could do some farming and raise our own food. So he looked for another place and that's when the order acquired the Hessenbruch property in Paoli and we moved over to South Valley Road. It's a larger area. He was only there two years, and then some of you may know Abbot Neitzel. He was the third prior, and it was during his tenure that we moved from here over to where we are now.
SD: I indicated in my talk that that was about 1961 or 1962, and you were in residency here at that time. Is that right?
TA: Yes. We bought this property (it was sold in 1950 — a year later we bought half of what was sold). So we came here in 1951. For the first three years it was used as a kind of summer residence. They could have the retreats out here.
The reason they came out here in the first place was to find a peaceful environment. When the Norbertines came to Philadelphia, they were at Southeast Catholic High School, which is now Bishop Neumann High School, in South Philly. It was right by the the Italian Market. These guys came from Wisconsin, a farm area with wide open spaces, and they were looking for a place where they could come out and get fresh air and just get away from all the noise. So they'd come out here.
Then in 1954, three years after they bought it, they opened up an addition here, a place for training of new people coming into the order.
SD: About how many residents all told were situated in the house at that time?
TA: The first class was ten that came in; I believe there were three priests here. I was the fourth class. I came in 1957. There were seven of us. The first year I lived here we had about 28 people.
SD: All living in the mansion? Essentially in bunk rooms?
TA: Well, some had their own rooms upstairs, the smaller rooms. My first year I was on the second floor; I had a room overlooking the circle, right at the corner. There were four of us in there.
SD: How was the downstairs used at that time in terms of having the chapel and the dining room?
TA: If you go in the main door now, there's a registration desk there. That's where the main staircase was. Also, I think there's still a door to the basement, the door is there anyway, that would go down into the basement. And if you went around and then came up the main staircase, that went up and then circled around on either side.
But if you go straight in, there's a hallway down to the right. Beyond the hallway, also on the right, the large room which faces the field was our chapel. The room to the left, opposite it, was our dining room. Off the hallway there's another large room with a very large fireplace. That was what we called our Chapter Room. It was for meetings, and it was part of the divine office too. The fireplace is still there. In fact, many of the rooms had fireplaces.
SD: Yes, the YMCA has tried to maintain the interior in a satisfactory fashion. About a month ago we had a walk through — Mrs. Meigs, Father Ted and I. We identified some of the fireplaces, and some of the wonderful hand carved woodwork images which are still intact.
Father Ted, tell us about any life style issues. Did the members of your order play tennis? You mentioned that you went skating.
TA: Basically it was a regimented life. You got up at 5:00 in the morning, you started morning prayer at 5:30, you had meditation, and then you would attend mass after that, followed by breakfast. Then you
would have classes. Then somewhat later in the morning, as novices, you would have a work period. It could be various things; it could be cleaning windows, dusting downstairs, mowing the lawn, or whatever.
Then you would have another segment of the divine office. Then you would have lunch. Afterwards, you'd have recreation. Then in the afternoon you would either have study time or work period, followed by more office, study time in the evening, dinner, back and forth like that.
Two afternoons a week you were free. Now that "free" is a relative term. We would play baseball, or on a nice day a couple of us could go out for a walk. In the summer you could go swimming, or ice skating in the winter. We would have visiting day once a month so your family could come out. You either visited with them on the first floor inside in winter, or in summer they had a lot of benches outside so you could sit around in groups.
One of the nice things about it, because we were so many people there, you didn't have everybody with the same visiting time. You got to know the parents of the guys you came in with. So I might have the first Sunday of the month as visiting Sunday, and my buddies would come over and visit with my parents, and the following Sunday I'd be visiting with theirs, something like that. We all got to know each other.
SD: Thank you Father Antry for sharing these recollections with us.Top
I'll conclude with a review bringing us up to the present from 1962. I had the opportunity, at the YMCA office, to examine their archives and learned that the earliest beginnings of operations took place in May of 1962, when the state organization assigned its Southeast District Secretary, Mr. Dana Burnett, to work on a part-time basis with a committee toward establishment of a YMCA in the Upper Main Line area. Prior to that time, the area had been served by the Ardmore, Phoenixville, West Chester and Norristown YMCAs. Due to the suburban increase in population, and the need for local community activities, these YMCAs could no longer adequately service the Upper Main Line area.
The Upper Main Line YMCA was formally incorporated in Chester County on October 15, 1962. The program office was then located on Howellville Road in a white farmhouse on the property of Tredyffrin/Easttown Junior High School. Instead of having their programs at different school gymnasiums and swim lessons at other YMCAs, they took the bold step of acquiring the present property.
A former board member, Bob Borst, informed me that this property was originally thought of as an opportunity for Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital, but the community preferred it to be developed as a YMCA. Father Neitzel, Head of the Norbertine Priory, whose order then owned the former Cassatt property, was most helpful in working toward a sales agreement which the YMCA could match. On December 31, 1964, the sale was completed for $210,000. Most of the amount was represented by pledges. A capital campaign was started.
The campaign accumulated enough funds to pay off the note to the Norbertines. It was very unusual to acquire that much property at that time. Thanks to the foresight of a number of individuals, including the late Owen B. Rhoads, whose daughter, Betsy Stull, still lives in the area, the necessary funds were raised successfully.
The "Y" then renovated the mansion house, at an additional cost of $80,000. The carriage house was renovated in 1967, three years later. Tennis courts were added, followed by improvements necessary for swimming. In April of 1974, during the presidency of Paul Staley, the Y acquired the facilities of Great Valley Swim and Tennis Club located at Bodine and Howellville Roads, further expanding its ability to serve the community. That property was sold in 1999.
When you enter the YMCA today, behind the main desk in the spacious paneled entrance hall, there is a plaque dedicated to the memory of J. Gardner Cassatt by his daughters, Ellen Mary Cassatt Hare and Eugenia Cassatt Madeira. In 1964 the family donated money to the Capital Funds drive to restore the mansion, and in turn the YMCA has done a wonderful thing by preserving that estate and his legacy.Top
Anonymous one page memo from YMCA files, "A History of the Upper Main Line Y Association," undated, probably 1990s.
Chester County Historical Society Library, Newspaper Clippings file and Pennsylvania Historic Resource Survey file. (West Chester.)
Conn, Joanna B., "The Upper Main Line Y," in Main Line Life, August 15, 1996.
Craze, Sophia, Mary Cassatt. (New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1998.)
Cummin, Katharine Hewitt, A Rare and Pleasing Thing: Radnor Demography (1798) and Development. (Phila.: Owlswick Press, 1977.)
Davis, Patricia T., End of the Line: Alexander J. Cassatt and the PRR. (New York: Neale Watson Academic Publications, 1978.)
Easttown Township real estate development records. (Township Office.)
Goshorn, Bob, "A. J. Cassatt's Chesterbrook Farm," in Tredyffrin Easttown History Club Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 4, October 1981.
Hale, Nancy, Mary Cassatt. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975.)
Interviews: Father Ted Antry, Fall, 2000. Mrs. David Eisenhower, December, 2000. Mr. and Mrs. William McGarry, January, 2001. Mrs. Ellen Mary Meigs, Fall, 2000. Mrs. Richard Phillips, December, 2000.
Maps — Breou's Farm Maps of Chester County, 1883.
Obituaries: J. Gardner Cassatt, in The Philadelphia Press, April 5, 1911. Mary Cassatt, in Daily Local News, June 16, 1926.
Philipp, Sue, "Now a home for the YMCA, once a home for a little girl," in The Suburban and Wayne Times, September 4, 1986.
Raftery, Kay, "Its family long gone, mansion stays lively," in The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 18, 1995.
Sirna, Anne Lorimer, "Kelso," in Main Line Life, June 25 and July 9, 1998; "The Hare Family," in Main Line Life, February 4 and 11, 1999.
Special Advertising Supplement to the Daily Local News, September 23, 1992, "Across the Generations: The Upper Main Line YMCA Association at 30."
Sweet, Frederick A., Miss Mary Cassatt, Impressionist from Pennsylvania. (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966.)
Unpublished letters of Mary Cassatt. (Archives, Phila. Museum of Art.)
YMCA to Buy Norbertine Tract In Daylesford for New Center (from The Suburban and Wayne Times, March 19, 1964)
The YMCA of the Upper Main Line has announced that it has agreed to purchase the 54-acre Daylesford property of the Norbertine Fathers for $210,000 as the site for a complete, multipurpose community activity center.
In announcing the purchase, YMCA president Robert Gleason of Devon, said: "The opportunity to purchase this property was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to obtain the last ideal location for a true community center that can serve the Upper Main Line for generations to come.
"It is our hope that every organization in the community with present or future needs for physical facilities will join with us now to build a complete social, cultural and recreational center which can be used by all the residents of the Upper Main Line."
The Norbertine property, originally the estate of J. Gardner Cassatt, is located just south of Lancaster Avenue in Daylesford, at the junction of Glenn Avenue and Berwyn-Paoli Road. The partially wooded tract is an irregular rectangle which extends almost a half-mile from Berwyn-Paoli Road on the north to Sugartown Road on the south. On the east and west it adjoins recently developed residential areas. Near the center of the tract is a 30-room brick mansion which the YMCA announced would be preserved and utilized as a part of the Community Center development.
"In seeking a location for the Community Center," said Gleason, "our committee has searched for more than seven months and inspected properties from Strafford to Frazer in Tredyffrin, Easttown, Willistown and East Whiteland townships. From the beginning we wanted a property large enough to accommodate not only the YMCA but also other compatible community organizations that need space for activities and facilities. And we wanted to locate ourselves as near as possible to what will be the center of population of the Upper Main Line when it is fully developed in another 20 or 30 years.
"The Norbertine property not only meets all these requirements, but it is also very probably the last tract of such size that will ever become available in such a good location," he said.
The Norbertine Fathers, who have operated a priory on the estate for the past 12 years, are moving to a larger tract in Willistown, where they plan to operate facilities for training novices for the priesthood.
The property had been taken under option by Bryn Mawr Hospital last fall, but the purchase was not completed when it was learned that the Easttown township zoning ordinance specifically forbids hospital use of the property.
Gleason said he has 'been assured by the Supervisors of Easttown township that use of the, property for a Young Men's Christian Association is permitted under the zoning laws.
No immediate timetable for development of the property has been established, according to Gleason. "Our first step," he said, "will be to conduct a communitywide feasibility study over the next 60 days to determine both the scope of the needs for facilities and the base of support that is available to finance the development.
"During this study community leaders and organizations throughout the area will be contacted to determine fully the needs and desires of the Upper Main Line area."
The YMCA committee that will contact other organizations during the feasibility study is composed of Mrs. Lawrence Johnson, of Malvern; J. Ewing Kennedy, of Paoli; Russell B, Spencer, Jr., of Berwyn, and Weld Coxe, of Strafford.
The financial survey will be directed by YMCA vice president, Harland J. Martin and Allan A. Weir, of Berwyn, and Arthur E. Bone, of Paoli "When the feasibility study is completed," Gleason said, "the YMCA Board and the boards of all interested organizations will then join in planning the steps leading toward actual construction."
The YMCA will be only the fourth owner of the property in this century. Cassatt interests acquired the property in 1906. The original farm house was razed and the present mansion constructed in 1908. Known widely as "Kelso Farm," the Cassatt family lived on the grounds until 1943.
Page last updated: 2012-08-07 at 20:23 EDT