Flood of 1971- Could Swifter Action by CHB Council have Saved Mr. Martin's Antiques?
On Tuesday, September 4th,1971 the Chester Heights Borough Council met at a regularly scheduled meeting. It was during this meeting where "Aldon Industries requested Borough approval to have the Corps of Engineers
remove the Lenni dam in order to alleviate the flooding hazard at that location. The letter was referred to Dr. Wood for his recommendations and comments."
Mother nature didn't wait for Dr. Woods recommendations. Beginning on September 11th, less then a week later, heavy intermittent thunderstorms pummeled Delaware County for 3 days. The storms produced 12 inches of rain in the basins of Skippack, Stony, and Chester Creek resulting in record-breaking flooding not seen in the area since August of 1843.
The Delaware County Daily Times reported on the destruction of the storm in their September 14th,1971 edition and dedicated a full feature to the floods on September 24th, 1971 edition. The later edition added more color and a cleaner timeline to the story for those of us who did not live here when it happened on page 3.
"On the east or the main branch of Chester Creek, residents in the Lenni Road Bridge area got another flood scare eight days later as the Lenni Dam broke. The muddy waters rose again but subsided before doing any appreciable damage. The area had been hit hard by the initial flooding.
Alfred Martin's 11 room stone home next to the creek ate 95 Lenni Rd, Chester Heights was a depressing sight. Martin, a Philadelphia Electric Co. employee who is also an antique dealer at Booth's Corner, Bethel, had his first floor jammed with antiques. "I’m an antique man," he said. "That’s what hurt me. Old doll and gun collections, 15 antique wall clocks, 11 antique plates, a China cabinet for which I had been offered $1000 and a number of valuable antique dining room pieces – they all washed award or were ruined.”
The best stuff I had was here.” He said.
Westlake Plastic Co, where the Victoria Plush Mills once flourished, stands above Martin’s home. It suffered considerable damage.
Across Lenni Road in Aston a brick building of the old Aldon Rug Mills No 1 plant was so many bricks on the ground, simply demolished."
The destruction to Mr. Martin's property was also recognized in the Mayor's report by Chester Heights Mayor Kelly at the next Council meeting held on Monday, October 4th, 1971.
"Mr. & Mrs. Martin on Lenni Road had their basement two-thirds filled
with silt and debris as well as other serious damages. In the light of their
unfortunate situation, the Borough declared their house a health hazard and Mr.
Mitchell of Lenni removed this silt and debris from the basement."
Would having removed he Lenni dam sooner as proposed by Aldon Industries on Sept 4th, 1971 have alleviated the to the flooding experienced by Mr. Martin and the residents of Chester Heights, Middletown and Aston in September of 1971 or would it have made the flooding worse?
I cannot answer that question, because I am not an engineer.
But I would like to note that DER studied the flooding problem at Lenni in Middletown and Aston and issued a report entitled Flood Protection Project Planning report in February of 1968. The report recommended the construction of a levee and channel modification project at Lenni, the project was never constructed.
In the summer of 1976 the DER did conduct a stream improvement project to improve flow conditions and reduce minor flooding.
Maybe it's time to take another look.
A quick note for your personal consideration: I sent a request to Chester Heights Borough Council to place all 75 years of borough minutes on the website. They have all already been scanned and are easily able to be uploaded to an indexed page. I may be alone in this, but I enjoy reading through how we evolved as a borough. The idea was not met with a warm and fuzzy feeling by the communication committee in charge of the website. What do you think? Let me know here.