Future Of Old Playwicki Farm Barn Remains Uncertain Supervisors Decided Not To Spend $70,000 To Weatherize It. It Needs As Much As $500,000 In Repairs.

Posted: December 11, 1994

LOWER SOUTHAMPTON — The Playwicki farm's barn seemed doomed last week when a split supervisors' vote blocked a motion to spend money on repairs. But this week may bring better news for barn backers who seek to restore the building to its 19th- century charm.

Four of the five township supervisors held a special meeting Monday and decided not to spend about $70,000 to secure and weatherize the barn on Bridgetown Pike. Because the structure needs the work to survive the winter, the vote killed a committee's plan to save the barn. Or maybe it only stalled the plan.

Supervisor Susanne McKeon, who has been a proponent of preserving Playwicki farm, was absent last week. She said Thursday that she plans to be there Wednesday when the supervisors address the barn issue again.

"From what I've heard, the barn is savable," McKeon said in an interview. ''You want a barn on a farm - why not have the original barn?"

The original barn, which dates to the early 1800s, comes with a hefty restoration bill. Estimates have ranged from $250,000 to $500,000. And that, to Supervisors Daniel Fraley and Marie Wallace, who voted against the repairs Monday, is too high a price.

"My feeling is that this thing has cancer," said Fraley, who proposed dismantling the structure and building a new barn in its place. He contended that building a new barn would cost less than restoring the old barn.

Supervisors Chairman Steven Pizzolla and Supervisor Dennis O'Brien voted to make the repairs.

The barn sits on a 110-acre tract that the township purchased for $2.4 million in June. Known also as Snodgrass farm, the tract is thought to be part of the colonial Playwicki Indian village. A Temple University archaeology professor has unearthed artifacts that support that belief.

The Playwicki Farm Committee, which the township appointed to study the project, had planned to use the barn as a museum to house those artifacts. The cost has split the committee as well as the supervisors. The committee's former chairman, Mike Reitz, said the group is applying for grants that would cover some of the renovation costs.

The township has set aside $900,000 from a $5.4 million bond issue to convert the farm into a tract of walking trails and farmable fields. That money has to cover the cost of building internal roads and a parking lot as well as refurbishing the existing farmhouse. The money also would cover the barn's restoration or demolition.

Kathy Funari, a Bustleton Pike resident who attended Monday's meeting, said that although the cost concerns her, she sees the value of restoring the barn. ''I thought the point of saving this farm was to save the farm," she said, ''not tear all the buildings down and rebuild them."

Reitz said the committee needs the barn to better its chances of having the farm listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Heritage Conservancy has filed to have the property so designated. Reitz said the designation would improve the township's chances of getting grants to pay for restoration efforts.

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