Joint Historic Commission Recommends That “Historic” Twining Bridge Road Farmhouse NOT Be Demolished
In a “Determination of Significance” recently submitted to the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS), the Newtown Joint Historic Commission (JHC) recommended that the BOS deny a “demolition permit” for the old farmhouse located at 107 Twining Bridge Road. JHC claims that “significant architectural and/or historic features” were found.
Recall that back in December, 2022, members of the JHC visited the property off of Twining Bridge Road that Toll Brothers agreed to donate to the township as part of a settlement agreement to build 45 homes nearby (read “A ‘Major’ Historic Resource Re-Discovered!”). That agreement specifically specified that “prior to offering the Township dedication of the Open Space Parcel, the Developer shall demolish the existing house on the Open Space Parcel, remove it from the Property, and grade the Property to the satisfaction of the Township Engineer.”
The question is whether or not the structure can be saved despite what the agreement says now that the JHC believes it is worth saving.
What The JHC Found
The JHC uncovered the following facts about the property:
- The original portion of the existing Farmhouse was built in 1831
- The Root Cellar adjacent to the Home is older than that
- Based on Historic Maps, there was a structure at this location as early as 1773
“While investigating the current Structure, JHC members, in addition to other Historic Restoration Experts invited to the Site Visit, came to some interesting conclusions,” said JHC in its report to the BOS. “When studying the basement foundation, we discovered that the fireplace support located to the northwestern side of the structure actually faced to the outside of what should be an exterior wall. Further investigation showed that the actual fireplace also faced the "outside" of the House. This lead us to come to the conclusion that there was most likely an existing structure where a later addition now stands which pre-dated the 1831 Structure.
“It was very common in that era to build a New Home adjacent to an existing structure and add onto Buildings as Funding became available. This earlier structure was probably a one-story building. After completing the 1831 Structure, the older building could have remained on the property until the existing, newer addition was built to extend the 1831building.”
“The most recent addition, the one-story structure furthest to the northwest, was built c. 1950 and most recently housed the Bucks County AARK, Animal Rescue (see photo below).”
To Demolish Or NOT TO Demolish, That Is The Question
The JHC believes that before destroying the building, Toll must submit a “demolition permit” to the township for approval. This permit process has been discussed at multiple public meetings and emails (see below). Now, however, the Township Manager and Solicitor both are adamant that even if a permit is required, it cannot be denied due to terms of the settlement agreement. “The bottom line is that the settlement agreement that was approved by both parties states that the structure will be demolished,” said the Manager. “If a Demo[lition] permit is required to do that [as the JHC claims], Toll will be required to obtain that permit. The permit can not be denied in accordance with the settlement agreement is the way it is understood with the current agreement."
It should be noted that on February 10, 2022, Toll Bros representative Gregg I. Adelman was informed by the township Solicitor via email that “there is a house on the open space portion of the property. A demolition permit is required to remove the existing house [emphasis added]. As part of the demolition permit, the Board of Supervisors requests that Toll Brothers appear before the Joint Historic Commission [which it did on March 27, 2023] to determine if the house is historic. If the house is determined to be historic, then no additional action need take place. If it is not historic, then Toll should remove it and grade the property prior to dedication of the open space.”
Whether or not a permit is required, there is clause in the agreement that allows it to be amended including removal of the clause to demolish:
(D) Amendment. This Agreement may be amended upon the written consent of the Parties to this Agreement, which shall not be unreasonably withheld. No waiver or discharge of any provision of this Agreement shall be effective against any party unless that party shall have consented thereto in writing.
BOS Chair Dennis Fisher said “I will see that a discussion of this recommendation will be put on an agenda for a public Board meeting in the near future.”
If the BOS and Toll agree to amend the settlement agreement to eliminate the demolition of the building, following the recommendation of the JHC, what is the future of this farmhouse?
The JHC believes that the structure is eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The JHC may decide - with the backing of Newtown Supervisors - to submit this property to be listed in the National Register, which is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.
Not yet addressed is the issue of preservation and restoration of the farmhouse if demolition is off the table. It’s important to get listed in the National Register because that would help qualified historic properties receive preservation benefits and incentives.
Posted on 01 Apr 2023, 01:25 - Category: Development