In connection with its approval of the construction of the pull-off space on Mill Creek Road, Lower Merion Township has required the Ardmore Church to record a deed of consolidation, taking four parcels of land that were acquired separately over the years and combining them into one tract. This required an old-fashioned title search, which came up with some items of interest.
The church acquired the land it now holds in 1909, 1913, 1941, and 1945. The original space at the corner of Montgomery Avenue and Mill Creek Road, consisting of three-quarters of an acre, had been held by the Anderson family since 1811. The seller, Corona Anderson, was the last of her line.
There were no zoning or building codes in the early part of the twentieth century, and deeds frequently provided restrictions on what a buyer could and could not do with the land. That was the case here. For example, when the lot where the Parish House now stands was sold in 1910, the deed required the buyer to build within one year “a substantial stone brick or frame dwelling house to cost not less than Seven Thousand Dollars” (DB 1385 at 9) and to be set back certain distances from Bleddyn Road and Montgomery Avenue.
The deeds for the Anderson property in 1909 and 1913 were even more detailed. The 1909 deed prohibits “any stable, garage, or similarly objectionable out-building” (DB 615 at 206) unless set back a certain distance and “built of stone and made to conform in general style and architectural design to the Church to be erected as hereinbefore said on said land” (id. at 207). And there is more. After granting the lands “to and for the only proper use and behoof of the [Church], its successors and assigns forever” the 1909 and 1913 deeds put on restrictions that fairly shout at us from the pages of the deed books. They say this:
Under and subject nevertheless to the following covenants and restrictions to wit:
The said Grantee for itself its successors and assigns, owners, and occupiers of the above described tract of land or any part thereof, hereby covenants, promises, and agrees to and with the said Grantor, that neither they, nor any or either of them, shall or will at any time hereafter erect or build, or cause, suffer or permit to be erected or built upon the land hereby granted or any part thereof, any steam mill, tannery, slaughter house, skin dressing establishment, glue, candle, soap or starch manufactory, grocery-store, hotel, or saloon for the sale of intoxicating liquors, nor shall any building thereon, at any time erected, be converted into [any of the above].
And the 1913 deed adds this for good measure:
. . . or for any other obnoxious or offensive use, purpose, or occupation whatsoever henceforth forever. (DB 615 at 206; DB 711 at 6, which adds the “obnoxious or offensive” language; emphasis deleted)
Well, Ms. Anderson, rest easy. You don’t have to worry about a tannery or a saloon. This church has complied to the letter with these restrictions for 98 years, and will continue to do so.
As for the sale prices recited in the deeds, the 1909 deed tells us that it was $1.00, but we know from H. Rey Wolf’s 1954 history that it was $7,000; the 1913 deed recites $7,000; the 1941 deed for what is now the Parish House recites $15,000; and the 1945 deed for the Cloud property recites $22,500. That $51,500 has been put to good use over the years, and on these lands there is now a complex that could not be replaced for two hundred times that amount.