The Borough of Modena is a great municipal partner in the Brandywine Creek Greenway. The Borough has been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save a prominent historic house and property that helped shape early Modena. Built in the late 18th century, the Mode House—now more commonly referred to as the McCain Property—once held a distinguished position in Modena’s economic and historic landscape. Left abandoned for many years, the property shows considerable signs of age and deterioration, but with the possible purchase of the property comes the hope that the house can be restored and once again hold a distinguished position in Modena and its future.
The Mode House is thought to have been originally built in the late 18th century by William Mode, a well-respected Quaker and descendent of some of the earliest settlers in the area. He was also a member of the prominent family from which the name of the Borough is derived. The home sat near a Brandywine-powered mill—which processed grist, wood and wool—established and run by the Mode family. At the time, the Mode family owned several hundred acres in the vicinity of Modena, and William Mode’s strong commitment to his Quaker faith led him to establish the Fallowfield Friends in nearby Ercildoun. In the early 19th century, William’s sons, Alexander and William, learned how to manufacture paper and converted the mill for this purpose. They continued to operate the mill in this fashion until its purchase by the Megargee Brothers in 1882. Paper and paper-related manufacturing continues to this day in the Borough of Modena.
In 2018, the property the home sits on was purchased by Four Brothers Empire, LLC with the plan of sub-dividing the 2.5-acre lot and building two, double-family units on the property. If this plan had moved forward, it would have resulted in the demolition and loss of the historic Mode House. Upon learning of the proposal to develop the property and lose this historic house, officials with the Borough of Modena sought to meet with the developer to gauge their interest in either conveying or selling the property to the Borough for public use. After a site visit had been arranged, the two parties—along with representatives from the Brandywine Conservancy—met to discuss possible scenarios for preserving the property. Recognizing the importance that the property held for the Borough of Modena, Four Brothers Empire graciously agreed to suspend development activities and enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), effective May 1, 2019, that would provide the Borough with six months to raise the funds in order to purchase the property. A purchase price of $52,000 was agreed upon as part of the MOU.
Unfortunately, the Borough is without the funds in their operating budget to immediately purchase the property, so a combination of grants, donations and fundraising efforts are planned to raise the required funds. A Friends of the Mode House Facebook page and a fundraising page on ioby.org have been created to raise awareness and solicit funds for the purchase.
The Future of the Mode House
Upon the completion of a successful fundraising campaign and conveyance of the property to the Borough of Modena, the Mode House and surrounding acreage will offer a variety of opportunities for the Borough and its residents. First and foremost, it will represent the successful preservation of a key historic structure that played an important role in Modena’s history and industrial legacy. The property the house sits on will also provide opportunities for Borough residents to passively recreate, meet and enjoy the outdoors as part of a future Borough Park. The potential to also fully restore the Mode House itself offers opportunities to house a future Borough Hall and office, host public meetings and events, as well as providing space to present historical interpretation of the building and the Borough of Modena more generally.