Down on the Farm

The Hunt

Carla Westerman

01 April 2008

From the outside, The Barn at Spring Brook Farm looks like the classic Chester County red bank barn. What makes it unique is that the Barn was built especially for children with disabilities to interact with and care for farm animals.

Mary Beth Drobish, whose 17-acre farm lies in a rural area outside West Chester, welcomed her first young visitors to The Barn in the fall of 2006. "I wasn't really sure at that point how it was going to work," she recalls. "I just thought bringing handicapped children and animals together would be a special, magical experience." The Barn was designed so that the children - most of whom have all too many daily reminders of what they can't do - can succeed and have fun. Animal stalls are wide enough for wheelchairs to enter, latches are low so children can open them, halters and feed buckets are color-coordinated so the youngest child can put a carrot in a bucket and take it to an animal.

Three-year-old Megan Wood of West Grove, who has developmental delays, barely spoke when she first started coming to the Barn. Now her face lights up and she cries out "Tic Tac!'' when she sees the Barn's resident cat.

Supported by grants and donations, the programs are aimed at children ages 2 to 12 with mild to moderate disabilities. "No one pays because these families already have so many financial stresses. I didn't want to add to that," says Drobish, who is executive director of the non-profit organization. The Adopt-a-Horse program allows children such as 12-year-old Christian Garrett of Coatesville to groom and bathe his favorite miniature horse, Bonnie, in the wash stall. "I got a bath too," says Christian, who has a degenerative disease that affects his coordination and speech. His mother Martha says, "His brothers have their activities, now he has something that's geared toward him."

The children dote on the 20 barn residents that include sheep, a family of goats, two miniature donkeys named Bert and Ernie, angora rabbits, and miniature horses. Drobish, who has always loved animals, rescued many of them, such as Geronimo, a spotted 23-year old Appaloosa horse. Fifteen-year-old Erin Tatum, a Barn regular, attends Kennett High School and has been trained as a "Barn Guide." Erin, who buzzes around in a wheelchair, explains animal care to groups of able-bodied children who visit the farm. "This gives kids like us some fun. We can do stuff here that is normally to complicated for us to do," says Erin, who has cerebral palsy. "I really admire Mary Beth for taking on such an immense project."

Drobish took on the project when she was at a crossroads in her own life. Her husband passed away in 2003 and her three children were away at college and working. "I had to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life," she says. When the idea of combining her love of animals with helping children came to her, she forged ahead with the building of the two-story barn.

The Barn's builder, Kerry Thomas, was so taken with Drobish's vision that he left his family construction business to become full-time Barn manager. "I just love the program and being able to help people," he says. Hundreds of children have been helped by the non-profit program, which welcomes individual children as well as groups such as the Cerebral Palsy Association of Chester County and the Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children.

Positive feedback from parents and therapists has encouraged Drobish to expand the program. Future plans include a garden plot for the children to tend and a woodland nature trail for hayrides.

Houzz Pro Spotlight: How Rural Regulations Can Enrich Your Country Estate

A West Chester architect shares design opportunities - 27 March 2017

Archer & Buchanan Projects Win National Awards

AIA Philadelphia - 25 November 2013

50 Years of Stuckeman Works

Archer & Buchanan Architecture Feature - 1 May 2013

AIA Small Projects Structure Winner

Architectural Products
 - 1 July 2008

Please Vote for ABA's Cor-Ten Cattails

Architizer - 3 March 2015

Far from the Shire, a Hobbit House in PA

Associated Press - 12 December 2012

Far from the Shire, a Hobbit house in PA Country

Associated Press Video - 12 December 2012

Digital Underground

Bucks Life - 1 September 2013

On the drawing board

Building Design + Construction - 1 July 2013

Historic Stonework Defines New Residential Design

Building Stone Magazine - 28 June 2017

Estates of Excellence

Chester County Town & Country Living - 1 October 2001

Bucolic Beauty, Classic Charm

Chester County Town & Country Living
 - 1 June 2005

Preserving Land and History

Chester County Town & Country Living
 - 1 April 2005

An Epic in the Making

Chester County Town & Country 
Living - 23 October 2008

Unique Homes - A House fit for a Hobbit

CNN Money - 28 November 2011

Vision Becomes Reality for Tolkien Collector

Collector’s News - 1 October 2006

Fit for a Hobbit

Cottages & Bungalows - 1 February 2009

Home of the Month

County Lines - 1 March 2013

All Around Farm

County Lines - 1 February 2013

73rd Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2013

Kimberton Sanctuary

County Lines - 1 September 2012

72nd Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2012

Arts & Crafts Inspiration

County Lines - 1 February 2010

71st Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2011

Preserving & Celebrating History

County Lines Magazine - 31 January 2017

Mercer Hill Farm

Covertside - 1 December 2007

Ground broken for Lenfest Center

Daily Local News - 24 May 2012

The return of an old favorite is brewing in Greenville

Delaware Community News - 16 August 2009

Lenfest Center at the ChesLen Preserve dedication planned

Delaware County News Network - 1 June 2013

Archer & Buchanan's Cattail Fence Wins Design Award

Dexigner.com - 20 September 2012

Soundproof Theater Fits Country Lifestyle

Electronic House
 - 1 May 2008

Sounds as Good as it Looks

Fine Homebuilding - 1 March 2005

A cottage fit for a hobbit

Fine Homebuilding - 1 May 2007

Adirondack, Shingle Style

Fine Homebuilding - 1 April 2005

Mud Room's the Name, Organizing's the Aim

Fine Homebuilding Magazine - 24 September 2015

Arts & Crafts and Automobiles

Fine Homebuilding Magazine - 1 March 2017

Swarthmore's New Greenhouse

Garden Design - 24 February 2010

On the Fence

Gardening Australia Magazine - 1 June 2015

Scott's new Wister Center receives Green Building of America Award

Greater Philadelphia Gardens - 20 August 2009

Old-fashioned Entertainment

HD Living - 1 January 2008

"Home Sweet Home" in a Barn

HGTV - 23 February 2017

5 Houses Where You Can Pretend to Be a Hobbit

HGTV Front Door - 9 December 2013

Can't go wrong with...

HGTV Magazine - 1 April 2013

Converting an Old Horse Barn in Pennsylvania

Hooked on Houses - 5 September 2013

15 Dream Closets to Admire

Houzz - 23 January 2017

4 Hobbit Houses Bring Charm to the Landscape

Houzz.com - 1 December 2012

Renovation Detail: The Transom Window

Houzz.com - 3 May 2012

Staircase Landings Worth a Linger

Houzz.com - 10 November 2012

Fall in Love with Lacquer

Houzz.com - 7 January 2016

Groom your Rooms with Kentucky Derby Decor

Houzz.com - 29 April 2012

14 Gardens Straight out of Fairy Tales

Houzz.com - 31 January 2015

8 Fireplaces to Feed Your Kitchen's Style

Houzz.com - 21 January 2013

Sample Bright Color in the Kitchen

Houzz.com - 27 February 2012

Beauty Goes Beyond the Eye of the Beholder

Houzz.com - 28 August 2013

9 Ways to Boost Winter Curb Appeal

Houzz.com - 28 November 2013

25 Most Bookmarked Houzz Tours of 2012

Houzz.com - 1 January 2013

25 Dream Homes to Satisfy Your Soul

Houzz.com - 17 June 2012

Help Your Stair Landing Take Off

Houzz.com - 6 June 2012

Academy Attic Hearth Uncovered

Lower Merion Historical Society Milestones - 1 April 2009

Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd.

Luxury Home Quarterly - 1 April 2011

Mod Men

Main Line - 1 October 2009

A Celebration of Preservation

Main Line Suburban Life
 - 1 September 2010

Custom Cozy

Main Line Today - 1 December 2003

Peeling Back the Layers

Main Line Today - 1 December 2003

Country Living

Main Line Today - 25 January 2011

A Newtown Square Home with German Inspiration

Main Line Today - 5 February 2016

Handmade Marvel

Main Line Today - 1 December 2006

Homage to Okie

Main Line Today - 14 January 2009

Artsy Elegance

Main Line Today - 1 June 2008

Element of Surprise

Main Line Today - 22 January 2010

Going to The Whip

Main Line Today - 1 March 2008

101 Reasons to Love the Main Line and Western Suburbs

Main Line Today Magazine - 1 March 2015

Music Recording, Down on the Farm

Mix - 1 August 2002

The New Hampshire House

Montco Homes, Gardens, & Lifestyle - 1 November 2016

Take a Tour of the Lenfest Center…

Natural Lands Spring/Summer 2013 - 1 June 2013

Chester Co. Hobbit House Belongs to Lifelong Tolkien Fan

NBC 10 Philadelphia - 14 December 2012

Okie Inspired

New Old House - 1 April 2009

Starry Night Farm

New Old House - 1 January 2008

Small Comfort

Period Homes - 1 July 2007

Built to Last

Period Homes - 1 January 2007

Pure and Simple

Period Homes - 1 November 2009

Fluid Forms

Period Homes - 1 September 2006

Equestrian Lifestyle

Period Homes - 1 May 2013

Palladio Through the Years

Period Homes - 1 January 2011

A Place in the Sun

Period Homes
 - 1 March 2006


Stable R&R

Period Homes
 - 1 July 2005

Great Expectations

Philadelphia - 1 June 2009

Making New Look Old

Philadelphia Business Journal - 8 June 2007

Finding an Architect

Philadelphia Home & Garden - 1 January 2007

Cool Rooms

Philadelphia Home & Garden 
 - 1 October 2003

Safe Harbor

Philadelphia Home & Garden 
 - 1 June 2006

Decorator unleashes the potential of her own home

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 July 2011

Born to Love Barns

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 June 2011

Come Along To See Their Party Barns

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 May 2014

A Newfangled, Old-Fashioned Mash Up

Philadelphia Inquirer - 6 July 2013

Jawdropper of the Week: Nirvana in Devon for $8M

Philadelphia Magazine - 9 February 2017

The Stunning New Farmhouse on Historic Ardrossan Estate

PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE - 14 June 2017

Back to the barn

Philadelphia Style - 1 November 2007

Archer & Buchanan Receives 2014 Palladio Award

Press Release - 10 March 2014

Architectural Portfolio "Outstanding Designs"

Press Release - 1 November 2008

Christian Activities Building

Press Release - 1 May 2009

Wister Center Wins GOLD

Press Release - 1 November 2010

Archer & Buchanan’s Land Preserve Wins Design Award

Press Release - 23 September 2013

Archer & Buchanan Student Activities Center Opens

Press Release - 1 October 2012

Archer & Buchanan Projects Win National Awards

Press Release - 1 November 2013

Archer & Buchanan Names New Senior Associate

Press Release - 1 August 2012

New Life for Water Works Building

Press Release - 1 November 2011

Archer & Buchanan Receives Best of Houzz 2014 Award

Press Release - 4 February 2014

Archer & Buchanan Bring on New Principal

Press Release - 1 June 2012

Archer & Buchanan Architecture Wins First Outstanding Firm Award

Society of American Registered Architects, Pennsylvania Council honors firm and new project - 30 November 2015

Remaking History

Suburban Life - 1 March 2012

Big Building Projects at Grove City College

The Business Journal - 9 February 2011

The Custom Home - Five Trends to Watch

The Hunt - 1 December 2012

Down on the Farm

The Hunt - 1 April 2008

Giving Antique Objects a Second Chance

The Hunt Magazine - 19 January 2017

The Custom Home: Five Trends to Watch

The Hunt Magazine - 1 December 2013

Lenfest Center Opens at the ChesLen Preserve

The Hunt Magazine - 22 July 2013

Hillandale Farm Provides an Oasis for Empty Nesters

The Hunt Magazine - 12 August 2016

Modernizing an 18th Century Farmhouse

The Hunt Magazine - 20 June 2017

A Barn For all Reasons-- Especially Parties

The Hunt Magazine - 4 May 2016

Hillandale Farm Provides an Oasis for Empty Nesters

The Hunt Magazine - 12 August 2016

The Wister Education Center and Greenhouse

The Journal of Green Building - 1 April 2010

Pet Projects

The Philadelphia Inquirer - 11 December 2015

A 'modest proposal' could save Eastern's log cabin

The Suburban and Wayne Times - 13 March 2008

Stars Align to Spotlight Preserve’s Latest Addition

The Unionville Times - 18 June 2013

Complementing History

Traditional Building Magazine - 23 June 2014

Planting Ideas

Traditional Building
 - 1 October 2010

All-Around Adaption

Untacked Magazine - 4 May 2015

Happy Days

Veranda - 1 January 2013

Loading tweets...