Could Chester County Lose A Piece of Its History?

The historic Loch Aerie mansion goes up for auction next week. Local preservationists vow to save it.

Loch Aerie as it appeared in 1958. Photo | Ned Goode for the Historic American Buildings Survey

Loch Aerie as it appeared in 1958. Photo | Ned Goode for the Historic American Buildings Survey

The once-grand estate of shirt-collar magnate William Lockwood, Loch Aerie, is now just a large house on a small plot of land with a Home Depot for a neighbor. After a nearly 20-year restoration attempt by an architectural curator failed to result in a sale of the property, the home has been quietly moldering since the mid-2000s. Now its owners are putting it up for sale at auction again, and local preservationists are rallying to save it.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported April 10 that the family of Daniel Tabas will sell the home in East Whiteland Township, Chester County, at auction April 21. The minimum bid for the property is $200,000, a fairly modest sum for this grand gabled home.

The Tabas family has passed on two previous attempts to buy the home. Architectural curator Anthony Alden, who moved into the home in 1980 and poured thousands of dollars of his own money into restoring the home as an “undertaking of love,” failed to reach an agreement of sale with the Tabases and moved out in the mid-2000s, and the family turned down a bid of $600,000 for the home at a previous auction. This time, the family will accept the minimum bid.

Daniel’s son Robert told the Inquirer that this auction represents an opportunity for someone with “ideas and vision” to improve the home. East Whiteland Township Historical Commission Chairman Timothy Caban called the auction “a great opportunity” and vowed that the home would be razed “over my dead body.”

Some of the ideas already being floated for a restored Loch Aerie: a bed-and-breakfast inn, professional offices and a house museum.

Loch Aerie was originally called Glenloch when Lockwood commissioned architect Addison Hutton to design it in 1865. The house was originally the centerpiece of an 836-acre parcel that included three farms, four tenant houses and four stations on the Pennsylvania Railroad; Lockwood angrily changed the name of the home when the PRR named one of those four stations after it without his blessing. The railroad would ultimately drain both the estate of all its water and Lockwood of all his money when he sued it, but the home remained in the Lockwood family until 1967, when the Tabases bought it. In the 1970s, it was for a while a hangout for a notorious motorcycle gang, the Warlocks, as well as the scene of a shootout between the Warlocks and a rival gang.

Over the years since, most of the estate’s land has been sold off for development, including the Home Depot next door. There is the risk that the home could fall into the hands of a buyer with no interest in preserving it, but local preservationists, mindful of the home’s beyond-local significance, will do what they can to keep it from falling to the wrecking ball.

Squeezed by development, grand Chester County mansion goes on the block (The Philadelphia Inquirer)