Red Rose Inn supporters ponder options

posted Sun, Dec 5, 2010

By Chris Barber, Daily Local News

LONDON GROVE — A group of folks concerned about the fate of the Red Rose Inn at Jennersville put their heads together over pancakes and scrambled eggs Saturday morning at the Perkins restaurant.Red Rose Inn community meeting December 2010

The meeting had been called by Tracy Culgan, a longtime Penn resident who has attended affairs and had meals through the years at the now-abandoned landmark. Fearing that the building at the intersection of Route 796 and Old Baltimore Pike will fall victim to demolition, she called the gathering in hopes of brain storming and finding a starting point to save what many say is a valuable piece of Chester County history.

About 40 people showed up, many of them holding diverse concepts of the outcome for the Red Rose. On one thing most agreed, however: They didn't want to see the building, whose roots go back to William Penn and the historic days of colonial America, demolished.

Culgan at first announced that she was open to ideas of usage, including a ghost-themed inn, a restaurant, a hotel or a dinner theater. She later clarified and said she would like to see it remain as an inn and a historical place in Jennersville.

Much of the discussion centered on having the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Mary Sue Boyle, a certified national register consultant, spoke at length advocating that a committee be formed to pursue the designation for the inn. She said that the inn, being older than 50 years old, is entitled in its entirety to apply, even if there have been changes and alterations to the building through the years.

Penn Township Supervisor Victor Victor Mantegna, said the board and its historic commission had looked into the process. They even applied for Jennersville to be named a historic district, but were told the integrity of the area as a whole did not qualify. He suggested turning the process over to the township manager, scheduling meetings of a core group at the township building and checking on the work that has been done by solicitor Sam McMichael.

Likewise, Charlie Humkey of New London agreed that a small group of people should meet to form a strategy. "We need people who have expertise. Maybe four or five people could prepare a game plan," he said.

When the question was raised about the ultimate goal of the preservation effort, Patricia Horrocks of Cochranville said the building need not be limited to a restaurant or inn.

"It could be turned into something useful. You have to think beyond food," she said.

The question of costs came up but did not persist. Culgan said "the bank" owns the inn -- which has been foreclosed on -- but she was not sure which bank it was. She also said she heard the asking price was $2.5 million, but was unsure of the figure.

Lawrence Waltman, a longtime Jennersville resident and owner-manager of the famous old Sunset Park, said the inn can be saved. "You need somebody with money. You need somebody who knows how to run it. And you need the service clubs to get back meeting in there," he said.

At the end of the meeting, Culgan collected the name, addresses and phone numbers of all who attended. She said she would pursue the goal of forming a dedicated core committee.

"Everybody is interested in doing something. I still want to get my committee together. It's the start of a grassroots movement to save the Red Rose Inn," she said.

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