willowbrook farm

historic yellow springs

The Jenny Lind House Renovation ~ She is Finding Her Voice Again

It all started with a farm table.

Six years ago, the non-profit organization that we had chosen to benefit for our Spring Barn Sale was the Historic Yellow Springs Village. I have a dear friend who puts together their very well known Annual Art Show and upon reaching out to her she invited me to meet with some of their board members and then tour the beautiful Washington Building at Historic Yellow Springs. While on that tour, I spied an unusually long farm table, 14 feet long to be exact. As I passed by it, it looked unusually familiar. So familiar in fact that I paused by it to look at the legs more closely. It was then that I realized that this was the exact same table that we had found in our barn upon moving in, legs rotten on the bottom and a chunk taken out of one of its boards on the top. Upon asking, I was told that this was one of the tables from the time period when the village was the Chester Springs Soldiers’ Orphan School after the Civil War.

Prior to finding this table at Historic Yellow Springs, we had learned earlier that the former owner and inhabitant of the entire Historic Yellow Springs Village from 1952 to 1973 was a man by the name of Irven Shortress “Shorty” Yeaworth. Shorty was a young film producer-director who bought the village to both set up his film studio and inhabit the village with his production teams, actors, staff, family and the likes. If I launched into the history of his twenty year tenure in the village, this post would read like a book, which many of mine often do, so I shall spare you. Let’s suffice it to say, that Shorty, his most well known work being that of the cult classic The Blob, sold the village in 1973 and moved to Willowbrook Farm, which is where we moved to 12 years ago and where many of you have visited during our seasonal Barn Sales.

There is evidence of his stay here at Willowbrook scattered throughout our home. A full dark room in the basement with vintage film developing equipment. A camera window and secret ledge in a closet that peers into another room. A list of categorized films that was taped to the linen closet door, where evidently the owner prior to us had still left it hanging, and we have as well, as he supposedly stored all of his films in there. Why have the two owners succeeding the creative Yeaworth felt the need to leave that paper hanging? I can speak for one of them and all I can say is that it just feels right, there is no other explanation. It feels like it would be desecration to remove it. And now… there is a farm table to link the two locations where Shorty resided…Willowbrook Farm, which spoke to us to move into and enrich her beautiful bones, and another location in the village of Yellow Springs, where the voices are talking even louder.

Before you consider me a little off kilter, being that I am stating that houses and inanimate objects are talking to me, have you ever considered the coincidences in life? The small little tidbits of life and its happenings that cause you to wonder? That sometimes causes you to catch your breath or to even go so far as to exclaim, “This was meant to be? or this is a sign?” Apart from the coincidences above, for I did not actively pursue purchasing a neglected old house in the Village of Yellow Springs, there were other happenings or coincidences that called me to purchase and take on another major historic renovation. Using verbiage that I have heard my mother state a million times growing up, “I need another renovation of this scale like I need a hole in my head.” Wait, since I already have a hole in my head, I might as well go for the renovation!

You are not seeing double. You see, the house that has been calling me happens to have been built as a boarding house/Inn in the early 1800’s and at one point in time, was possibly split into two residences. At the very least, it was built in front of an existing two story stone farmhouse. There are many pieces of the history of this house that we are slowly uncovering. For all old houses are like that. They don’t give you the complexity or the depth of its layers of years standing, at first glance. You have to peel them back. It’s almost like the house is hanging onto what it has experienced within its walls, each and every encounter with its inhabitants, and it is keeping its secrets.

For example, is the rumor true that the famed Swedish opera singer, Jenny Lind, stayed here when she was touring with P.T. Barnum to take in the healing waters of the springs in this village, like she would have in her home country? It certainly makes sense and the house has become known as The Jenny Lind House… Do tell, dear house.

Whatever the rumors may be, I’m getting back to the connections again. It is known that a woman by the name of Margaret Holman built this house and that she was quite the business woman in an age where that was not the norm. “Wait till you hear this!” I exclaimed to my husband as I found out that little bit of info. “Do you happen to know the name of the person who built the Jenny Lind House?”, “No,” he replied. “It was Margaret Holman,” I smugly stated.

“AND…” he replied.

“Her name was Margaret, just like mine,” I said definitively, like he should have known who Margaret Holman was. “It could have been Susan or Eleanor or Mary Elizabeth for that matter, but it was Margaret… like mine,” I stated again. I could see the expression on his face change from, “I am listening” to a “here she goes again” expression. Kind of like when I revealed the news to him that the longest living past owner of our now current house, whose name is inscribed on the date stone of the house in 1789, upon his death as stated in his will, gave his daughter the feather bed mattress while her oldest brother inherited the entire family farm. Guess what her name was???

Margaret, of course! (I know that the above is a run on sentence, but I kind of wanted you to experience what my husband goes through when I find these connections.)

There was one other connection falling into place as these walls were speaking to me. It turned out that there was someone else who these walls were talking to. There was an adorable little house that stood in the shadow of the Jenny Lind whose fate of falling down was saved by a man and his brother whose father loved this little house. After their father passed away, they felt the need to rebuild that sweet house in his memory. It is now an adorable AirBnB, entitled The Haly House. Bud and Rick Haly were behind the salvation of those walls and Bud is joining us in the salvation of the Jenny Lind. In joining forces, we have a renovation partner who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in renovating the bones and systems of such a house.

There have been numerous additions and changes to the house that fight against its bones, especially during its past life as a restaurant.

Walls have been added that were not here originally, that cut fireplaces in half.

We are working hard to eradicate these later obtrusions to this stone home so that again, these walls can speak to us in the manner in which they were intended.

The elements have not been kind to this beauty, especially in the areas where the alterations had been made.

We are committed to turning this beauty back in time. To a day when both laughter and tears filled these halls and life was played out with a strong foundation. For how else could a house built almost two centuries ago stand strong and tall and regally against its landscape if not built with the methods used in an era gone by? Methods that do stand the test of time if showered with love and attention.

Do not worry dear Margaret. We are showering your beauty with love and attention and will prevail in peeling back your layers to reveal your beauty hiding behind its disrepair. We will create a new purpose for your existence thus bringing back the laughter and the life to its halls. The road to doing so might create a few tears for the path is a lengthy one, filled with permits and processes that leave this beauty exposed to the elements even longer than it should be left to weather them.

The Jenny Lind, we are working on your behalf to turn things around. As we do so, the voices of these walls are turning from whispers to rumblings to all out sentences.

These floors are begging to be uncovered.

These floors are already shouting with glee, having been revealed.

This tub is laughing at how it will be utilized in the new bathroom.

The attic is beckoning.

These rooms are calling to be filled again.

Can you hear them?

I know that many of you reading this are talking too… “Are you crazy?”, you might be asking.


Crazy in love with the Jenny Lind!

Follow along on our journey to bring her back and turn her into a place where people will gather again. Where we intend for them to stay and laugh and celebrate life! They will enjoy the beauty and the history of this house and it will again find its place in this historic village.

Xoxo ~ Meg, Chris, Bud and Joann ~ Partners in bringing this beauty back!

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  1. Melissa davey says:

    The older I get the more concrete I become in knowing there are no coincidences in life. The connections between you Margaret, Shorty and the two houses are shouting at you! (In a good way)

    Since we moved here in 1994 I have been drawn to Yellow Springs and its’ little community of artists and antique buildings. The Jenny Lind house was certainly calling to you so you could breathe new life into her.

    I had no idea Shorty made movies (The Blob is a favorite!) and had his crew living in the village. Oh my!

    I cannot wait to see your efforts unfold, Meg.

    Thank you for this wonderful early morning read.

    • Meg Veno says:

      Dear Melissa,

      You are so very right in your comment about there are no coincidences in life and our cementing of that fact as we walk many more years on this Earth! I am glad that you too see the connections… thank you for your support!

      Yes, Shorty owned the entire village which is astounding and being a fellow filmmaker Melissa, you know what that entails. The house and the village have astounding histories… they truly do!
      Thank you for reading Melissa and for following along on our labors of love! We appreciate the support!

  2. Cheryl Sauder says:

    How exciting Meg! I have absolutely no doubt that your creative eye andGod given talents will turn this into a treasure . Best of luck. I’m so looking forward to following you in your journey!!

    • Meg Veno says:

      I know that you have a special place in your heart for HYS Cheryl and I am beyond thrilled to have a piece and place in keeping its history alive. Walking those wooden porticoes between buildings makes one feel like they were “back in the day”. It has stories everywhere! Thanks for following and for your support!

  3. Joann says:

    That is so wonderful and exciting ! We revisited Yellow Sorings to see a Play at the community theatre (Another hidden gem!) and love the history that many don’t know about!

    I will be “listening” to your renovation as the house talks !!!

    • Meg Veno says:

      Thank you Joann! Yes, the playhouse is a hidden gem that we hope to expose a little bit more… as well as what the rest of the village has to offer!!
      Thanks for “listening” and following along! Going to be a long process!

  4. Wow! I love old,pure, returning to the natural elements! I’m excited for you and I am feeling a calling to get back to yellow springs to check this all out!
    I also cant wait to share my idea with you… It’s kind of wild…

    • Meg Veno says:

      Yes Lisa! You have to get back there! Living where we do, we often head East and not West and there is so much beauty to offer out there. I will be in touch and cannot wait to hear your wild idea!


  5. How fortunate the Jenny Lind is to have you to nurse, nurture and give it new life! I believe there are no coincidences. You were meant to be there.
    I look forward to seeing all that unfolds as you peel back the layers and restore her to her former glory.

    Thank you for sharing.
    Robin McG.

    • Meg Veno says:

      Thank you so much for your confidence and for your comment Robin! I do feel like we were meant to be there now and have grown more and more attached to this building as the days move on. I hope that you can visit soon and continue to follow the journey!

  6. Beth curry says:

    What a great story, Meg! I am also a believer in connections and the “voices” that speak from and within historical places (part of the reason I decided to become a History teacher in the 7th grade and continued to become just that)! I remember even as a child telling my parents, when we would visit historical landmarks or even at my aunt’s 18th century farmhouse, that I wish I could be alive during the time in which these places were landmarked and built. I remember uttering the same words, “if the walls could talk.” But, as in your story, the walls are speaking now, even today and I can’t wait to see how you all respond! I know it will be a beautiful, authentic and loved-filled process! Wishing you all the best, Meg.

    Beth Curry

    • Meg Veno says:

      Thank you for reading Beth and for being a believer in connections and voices that speak to us! It makes a fellow believer feel not so alone and crazy! I too understand your love of historic places and would do the same thing when we would visit those such sites with my family as a young girl. I so appreciate you taking the time to comment, your well wishes and for your support over the years! It means a lot!
      We will be speaking soon, I am sure!

  7. Nancy Baldwin says:

    You should have the wonderful local builder do your shutters and screen doors. Chris Peeples of Vixion Hill, he also owns a house in the village and lives himself down the road a bit.
    Have fun with your project, us locals will watch your progress.

    • Meg Veno says:

      Thank you Nancy for your recommendation! I was not aware of Chris and we will certainly reach out!
      I am very familiar with Elverson where his woodshed is (I just looked it up) for I grew up next door in Glenmoore.
      Thank you for staying in tune with the renovation and I hope to see you soon!

  8. Kiki ade says:

    Such a lovely read the adventure am sure will B filled with surprises as it should be. Getting to uncover secrets bringing life back to things that where sleeping waiting to be awaken things were meant to be. All Good Things come to those who wait. ????

    • Meg Veno says:

      Thank you Kiki for both reading and your response! I so appreciate your support and yes, good things do come to those who wait and work hard!

  9. Kathy cunningHam says:

    Lovely!!!! Beautifully written Meg. I adore your energy, enthusiasm and the great work you are doing.

    In life there are no coincidences!

    Enjoy the project.

    • Meg Veno says:

      Thank you Kathy for your uplifting comment and your recognition that there truly are no coincidences in life!
      Hope to see you soon!

  10. Maireen says:

    As you know, I’m over the moon about the rebirth of this gorgeous home which you are so lovingly restoring. It all feels so very right. Xoxo

    • Meg Veno says:

      Thank you my friend! Cannot wait to collaborate on ideas for this truly beautiful little village that you have loved for so long!
      Please pass on any info that you have on the art show so that I can share!

  11. Anne ward says:

    I love what you are doing, Meg and can only imagine the enormity of the undertaking. How wonderful to experience these signs of affirmation in these aspects of your life’s work!

    Looking forward to following along in the journey via your colorful blogs. Gene and I would love to be one of the first paying guests when it is complete.

    • Meg Veno says:

      Hi Anne! Thank you for your lovely note! Yes, it is truly life affirming. I feel truly blessed to be carrying this forth and to fruition.
      I look forward to having you guys come up! Would LOVE that!
      Hope to see you in the interim!

  12. Meg cinelli says:

    What an enjoyable read. I am also a Margaret/Meg and grew up in a house built in 1740. I completely understand how a house like this draws you in and speaks to you, especially as you uncover it’s true identity. I’m so grateful you are undertaking this enormous task
    of renovating the Jenny Lind. It is truly a labor of love. I cannot wait to see the reveal!!

    • Meg Veno says:

      Hi Margaret/ Meg! There is something special growing up in an old house. We moved to an old house when I was a young teenager and while the days I spent there were not recognized for what they really were (most people don’t like to sleep in a winter hat and shower in ice cold bathrooms!) they made a definite impact on me as it sounds like yours did too. They reel you in, hook line and sinker!
      Looking forward to seeing you at the Jenny Lind!
      Thanks Meg!

  13. Lynda says:

    Thank you for sharing your this adventure, I love seeing the pictures and the progress.

  14. Denise sedor says:

    I got chills reading your wonderful story. Coincidence, I think not. I can’t wait until your next post!! You are an amazing woman! Enjoy the journey!

    • Meg Veno says:

      You know me Denise… I write like I talk… long winded run on sentences, especially when I am excited about something! And this I am! There are no coincidences right Denise? Love you and thanks for your comment! Hope to see you soon!

  15. Carla Herkner says:

    There is a special place in heaven for those who do historic preservation. Many thanks for sharing your journey with us! We love Historic Yellow Springs. It’s always been a very special place throughout time.

    • Meg Veno says:

      Thank you Carla for your note and your special place in heaven comment! It is a TRUE labor of love activity that once bitten by it…it cannot be ignored. So glad that you love Yellow Springs! It is such a hidden little gem right in our own backyard, truly a place where you feel like you step back in time! Hope to meet there soon!

    • Meg Veno says:

      Dear Carla,
      Thank you for both reading and for your “place in heaven” comment! It is a true challenge… the preservation and restoration of buildings of such age and history but it is a rewarding one as well! So glad that you Love Historic Yellow Springs and will continue to visit! It needs people who are enamored of its charms.
      Hope to see you there soon!

  16. Will Caverly says:

    As the Executive Director of the Mill at Anselma, I’m really happy to have a neighbor so enthusiastic about restoration and history. Keep up the good work!

    • Meg Veno says:

      Will, absolutely passionate about it! Thank you for the note and right back at you with the thank you’s. What you do at Anselma is pretty amazing. We should meet to discuss some collaboration ideas and a “what you can do in Chester County that is off the beaten path” brochure or social media platform. So many people who are not art or history buffs do not know what either of our locations offer. Wish we could clone ourselves a little bit so we could attack so many needed projects like this in our area! Hope to meet soon! Meg

  17. Sandy Momyer says:

    Meg, A wonderful narrative of this wonderful house The Jenny Lind. I am so pleased you and the Halys will be presenting this house back to the village of Yellow Springs in all its splendor. As Moore Archivist for Historic Yellow Springs, I am so honored to be able to assist you with history of the site. Let us work together to gather all the knowledge available. Thank you both for owning this great house and working to preserve its dignity and give it the respect it deserves. So looking forward to all that is uncovered.

    • Meg Veno says:

      Dear Sandy,

      We are privileged and honored to be in a position to bring this old beauty back to life! Thank you for both reading and commenting on my post and for supporting our actions on behalf of the Jenny Lind and the village. I have LOVED my time in the archives and look forward to pursuing all that we can find out about this house and adding any information that I can find to the archives! The Chester County Historical Society had a few items on Margaret Holman but I ran out of time yesterday but will be back. We are also doing a deed and title search to try and find the exact date in which the house was constructed. That knowledge still evades us. I look forward to working with you further on this project Sandy!
      All my best~

  18. Sandy Martin says:

    Dearest Meg,
    What a wondrous thing you are doing…a labor of love…no surprise to those of us who care about you, your family and your staff.
    And the history! We to go to the “Blobfest” at the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville every July and participate in the reenactment of the run out from the movie. Great fun! This year it will have a more special meaning.
    Thanks for sharing your journey.

    • Meg Veno says:

      Dear Sandy! I had no idea you were a “Blobfest” junkie! We have heard all about that festivity but have yet to get there… this will be the year for sure! The connections that this house has with the Yellow Springs Village and the Blob and the history of this area has slowly revealed itself with much digging and we find it throughly fascinating!We also feel honored, privileged and blessed to share it with others and hope to continue to do so. We love your visits here Sandy and absolutely appreciate your support! See you at the Fest!

  19. Thomas Dodge says:

    Hi, my name is Tom Dodge, and I grew up in Chester springs, and I know yellow springs very well. I know all the houses in yellow springs, and I remember shorty yeaworth very well. Yellow springs. Please add me to your email list. My email is tdodge2404@gmail.com. I want to stay in touch.

    • Meg Veno says:

      Hi Thomas! I moved to Chester Springs when I was 13 and I am absolutely enamored of the area. I would love to hear your stories about Shorty Yeaworth! I met his son at one of our barn sales and he was a fascinating man. We have added you to our mailing list so please let me know if you are not receiving our posts. Sometimes they end up in people’s spam folders so you might want to check there as well!

      I hope to meet you one day!
      Happy weekend!

  20. Lois A Mitchell says:

    you aren’t crazy, Meg. I could hear the whispers of old homes as i rode or walk passed them, especially at Christmas, since I was a little girl. my grandfather, born 1895, built the house where my mother and her five siblings were born, as a wedding gift for my grandmother in 1917. The house, still standing, is as lovingly cared for as are the dozen or so other homes he built in that neighborhood, and numerous others throughout Philadelphia and Bucks County.

    I’m so glad these whispers keep spurring you forward to breathe life back into these beautiful homes.