Former meetinghouse once served as hub for abolitionists
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
Community leaders took a step back in time Wednesday as they celebrated the ribbon-cutting of the newly renovated Brandywine Valley Tourism Information Center across from Longwood Gardens.
Entertained by a trio of Kennett Symphony musicians, representatives of area businesses, nonprofits, and government entities sampled local wine, cheese, and hors d’oeuvres and learned about the historic building’s illustrious past.
Blair Mahoney, executive director of the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau, explained that the bureau began leasing the building from Longwood Gardens in 1989 as a tourist information center but envisioned a redesign that could showcase the building’s heritage and also house the agency’s administrative staff.
Mahoney said Longwood’s director, Paul Redman, immediately saw the benefits for Longwood as well as county tourism. Support from Kennett Township, Chester County, and many individuals and businesses significantly facilitated the project, Mahoney said.
All three county commissioners attended the official opening. In addition to providing the ceremonial ribbon-cutting, they spoke about the county’s myriad attractions and the positive impact of tourism, which not only generates revenue but also creates jobs.
Located near the gates of Longwood Gardens on Greenwood Road in Kennett Square, the Brandywine Valley Tourism Information Center occupies the front of the former Longwood Progressive Meeting. Built in 1855, it was home to a Quaker splinter group that was active in the Underground Railroad and other social causes of the day.
A storyboard outlining the building’s history adorns one of the inside walls. Over the years, renowned leaders of the abolitionist movement spoke at Longwood Progressive Meeting, including Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.
The tourist center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., a source of brochures, menus, maps and tips from a staff well-versed in local attractions. Information is also available online at www.BrandywineValley.com.
Founded in 1963, the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau is an independent nonprofit that serves as the official tourism promotion agency for Chester County, working on behalf of its membership to market Chester County and the Brandywine Valley to individual travelers, tour operators, meeting planners and travel writers.