A brief history of 311 Cedar Lane
To the Editor:
311 Cedar Lane is my family’s house, owned by my uncle Robert Keighton. The address of the adjacent property is 409 College Avenue, which backs away from Cedar Lane. 409 was originally owned by my ancestors as a single dwelling around the 1870s, and 311 was built onto it as an addition in 1899. My great-grandfather Charles Paxson, an amateur architect, designed 311.
After the back half was sold to Swarthmore College in the 1950s, it was occupied by faculty families for 20 years and then became vacant for some time in the 1970s. In 1979, the College granted Swarthmore Friends Meeting use of the property to operate the Refugee House, which ran through the 80s and early 90s. My mother, a Cambodian refugee, lived there for several years after arriving in the States in 1988. Eventually the Meeting couldn’t afford to continue the program anymore, and the College has left 409 vacant for the past 25 years.
In 2013, we were forced to vacate 311 because 409 was in a state of partial collapse and we were told it was unsafe to stay in our home. The College provided us with temporary residence at a neighboring property on Chester Road, and this is where we have been living for the past six years. Originally, the College had drafted plans to stabilize their structure so that we could move back. This was then changed to a partial demolition plan where they would take down their side and construct a new exterior wall to 311. After presenting us with a contract and blueprints for this plan, they backed out before we could finalize the details, citing high cost. The College then argued that 311 was not salvageable even if they were to proceed with the work.
Despite several reasonable offers, we retain a strong historical interest in our house. We believe any deficiencies with respect to our side can be addressed, which is why we are appealing the Borough’s decision.