The Whitemarsh Board of Supervisors is to consider an agreement between the arts center and the donor to purchase the Abolition Hall property. The donor revealed to be the Karabots Foundation

On April 8, 2021, the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve a sale agreement for the Township and Whitemarsh Arts Center to purchase the property that houses Abolition Hall near the intersection of Butler Pike and Germantown Pike to the Plymouth Meeting section of the township. The purchase price is $3.95 million.

The purchase was contingent on a donation from an anonymous donor who is to contribute $2 million to the Whitemarsh Art Center, which would be applied to the purchase price. The balance would come from the Township of Whitemarsh open space fund.

On the agenda of the meeting of the supervisory board of August 11, the examination of an agreement between the municipality, the art center and the donor. The agreement reveals that the donor is the Karabots Foundation. The foundation was founded by Nicholas and Athena Karabots and has donated millions of dollars to projects in Whitemarsh Township (like the William Jeanes Memorial Library) and area (like the Einstein Hospital in East Norriton). Nicholas Karabots passed away on February 1, 2021. You may also recognize the name Karabots from their ownership of Karamoor Estate Vineyard & Winery in Ft. Washington.

The Abolition Hall property once housed Quakers who offered their property as a stop on the Underground Railroad and notable abolitionists spoke there. Later in its history, it was the artist Thomas Hovenden who had a studio in the hall. In recent years the property was part of a development plan to add townhouses to a field on the property. Although there was vocal and legal opposition to the plan, it was approved. However, the developer eventually walked away and the township and art center moved in to purchase the property.

In the agreement, there are details of how the property is to be used by the township and the art center. Parts of the property consisting of open space can only be used for passive open space (no sports fields). Regarding Abolition Hall, the agreement states:

The partnership [the township and art center] is committed to seeking public input to determine the future use and operation of Abolition Hall. The Partnership and the public should explore options for the use and operation of Abolition Hall in ways that preserve the spirit of its original use (e.g., public gathering and meeting space) and its architectural relevance and historical. The Municipality will provide reasonable notice to the Foundation of all public meetings where use of the Abolition Room will be discussed and representatives of the Municipality will meet with the Foundation prior to all public meetings at their request regarding such uses and operations.

With respect to the main house, the agreement states:

The main house and its outdoor spaces will be used by the Partnership for public meeting space and for arts center and educational programs. The Partnership is committed to tailoring programming and opportunities to engage and appeal to local disadvantaged and disadvantaged youth so they can learn about the arts and other cultural and educational opportunities offered and enjoy the space and surrounding areas .

With respect to Hovenden House, the agreement states:

The Arts Center will use Hovenden House as its primary location for administrative offices, courtyards and/or gallery space. In implementing its strategic plan, the Arts Center will use Hovenden House to increase and expand its course offerings to include STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) based curriculum. As part of its expansion and expansion of classrooms and educational programs, the Arts Center will use its scholarship funds to focus on outreach programs for
disadvantaged and disadvantaged young people and children and adults with special needs. This awareness will
include summer camps for children as well as cultural events and workshops, unless otherwise specified
accepted in writing by the Foundation.

With regard to Marple Lane House, the agreement states:

The Foundation acknowledges that Marple Lane House is of no historical significance and has no operational use for the Partnership. As such, the partnership is permitted to subdivide and sell, transfer, lease or otherwise convey the Marple Lane house and its surrounding property to comply with the minimum lot size required under township ordinances, to a third party, without no restrictions on its use. of the Foundation and use the proceeds thereof to repair and maintain the remaining Buildings and/or Property.

Elsewhere in the agreement, it is stated that the township and the art center are responsible for the maintenance of the property and that the manner in which the grant from the foundation will be recognized on the property will be determined between the parties to the agreement. coming.

You can read the agreement here (scroll to page 1,322).

Photo: Wikipedia Commons