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Pa.‘s oldest farm in bankruptcy

Springdale Farm in Chester County, Pa., the oldest continuously operating farm in Pennsylvania (dating from 1703) is in bankruptcy, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Eighth-generation owner Frank Mendenhall owes lenders $1.76 million and is in danger of losing the 88 remaining acres of the original 200 that his ancestor bought from William Penn's agents, the article said.

The loans financed construction in 2007 of a large stable with space for 24 horses and an indoor riding arena that drew complaints from neighbors because it blocks views, the Inquirer article said. The U.S. trustee overseeing the family's Chapter 11 bankruptcy has filed a motion to have the petition either dismissed or converted into a Chapter 7 liquidation, the report noted.

Dairy operations at the farm ended in 1949, the article said; Mendenhall told a reporter in 2004 that farm income since had come from growing hay and stabling horses.

In December 2007, the Mendenhalls received $900,000 from Pennsbury Township to preserve 54 acres as open space. Also in 2007, with the real estate market swooning, the Mendenhalls planned a six-lot subdivision, presumably so the proceeds could pay off the construction loans, but note of the lots sold.

Frank Mendenhall and his wife evidently are feuding with their daughter and her husband over the involvement of Colin McKie, whose wife boarded a horse at the farm. McKie "won the confidence of the Mendenhalls, receiving power of attorney from them," the Inquirer report said. He agreed in October to buy the property, but the Mendenhalls' bankruptcy filing was entered before they obtained a forbearance agreement with the bank that was required for the deal to close.

The Mendenhalls' daughter and her husband, who had managed the horse business, later filed a motion to stop McKie's involvement, saying the elder Mendenhalls had "become unduly influenced" by McKee. McKee countered with a claim that he had found "what appeared to be significant gaps and missing funds" from the business when it was managed by the younger couple. (Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 6, 2011.)

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