A colorful ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this month capped a four-year leasing process that brings major benefits to the park and its community. Dangerously derelict historic buildings were rehabilitated through a multi-million dollar investment of private funds and now have a vital new use as a pre-school. This investment serves the park’s dual mission of preservation and education, and serves the community by providing a vibrant home for a long-time community institution.
The National Park Service signed a 40-year lease with the Montessori Children’s House of Valley Forge, a 501(C)3 organization, for the David Walker Farmstead, a 3.7-acre site located on the southern boundary of the park, adjacent to a residential neighborhood. The property had been the subject of a 25-year use-and-occupancy permit until 2003, and was in extremely poor condition.
Following a complete rehabilitation of the property, which was supervised by park staff, the ribbon was cut on May 4th.
The project provides major advantages to the park. Historic structures were brought into good condition using non-federal funds. The structures were removed from the park’s backlog list of deferred maintenance, since the school now is responsible for maintenance. Maintenance will be performed in accordance with a maintenance and preservation plan approved by the NPS. The partnership provides opportunities to develop educational programs that the park can use for all young children.
The project also provides advantages to the community. A highly visible and dilapidated eyesore for which there was no likelihood of federal funding was rehabilitated and brought into good condition. A pre-school which was part of the neighborhood for four decades can continue to serve families in the community.
The rehabilitation was carried out with both historic preservation and sustainability in mind. The main house was restored and the original portion of the barn was rehabilitated. Modern, collapsing additions to both were demolished. A 1958 concrete-block house and garage were demolished and the disturbed area now is the location of the parking lot. The driveways into and exiting the site occupy the same location as the former driveways. Storm water management facilities, constructed under the parking lot, exceed the state’s best management practices.
Respect for the environment is a fundamental principle of Montessori education. The park and the school look forward to continuing to learn from each other.