It was 9:30 in the morning when my cell phone disturbed my groggy Sunday morning. It was Matt, telling me that plans were still on for the long-planned trip to the tree farm. I had barely taken a sip of my coffee, there was 6 inches of snow covering the driveway, and I had a nasty cold, but I was ready for this call. This was a trip that had been on the drawing board for years, but only brought into motion due to recent events. I finished my coffee, then immediately went about looking for my Cannon Sureshot and some fresh batteries. We were finally going to see the family tree farm, and afterwards would be making my first trip to the “Lemon Grove”.
Matt is a coworker and friend of mine whom shares many of the same passions that I do when it comes to garage projects. He is also the nephew of a man lamed Hugh Lesley, a local legend here in this corner of Pennsylvania. Uncle Hugh at one time was the owner of what was probably the largest collection of Edsels in the state, if not the world. More then 150 Edsels were scattered about his property, along with another 30 or 40 Lincolns, Mercuries and the odd Ford or two. Most of them out in the elements, among the trees, some under covers, and some of the better preserved and restored specimens in garages and barns. The sight of all of these Edsels sitting in the trees prompted the locals to apply a somewhat unfair name to his property on the border of Lancaster and Chester Counties; they called it the Lemon Grove.
Much has been written about Hugh Lesley over the years (Roadside America has this story on him and his collection (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2206). He’s appeared on television both in this country and on the BBC, and was featured in the 2007 Book “Weird Pennsylvania” by Matt Lake, part of the Weird U.S. series. Since I was not able to meet Hugh himself on this visit, I will save any attempt at a biography on him and his property for a future visit. But I have read that the origins of his collection came from his love of Edsels (obviously), and his ability to acquire them for pennies on the dollar as a result of the orphan brand panic selling that followed the culling of Edsel.
Additionally, since I have not photographed his more prized possessions, which you’ll find inside a multitude of barns and garages on the property, the majority of this post will concentrate on some of what remains out in the trees. In his 80’s now, Hugh has begun to divest his holdings in the Edsel brand; hundred of Edsels and other cars have been sold along with some of his property since much of these stories were written. Indeed, while Edsel is still well represented here, much of what remains in the trees are Lincolns, and Mercuries.
The road into the tree farm and Hugh’s property is one-lane and unpaved, and curves it’s way up a long hill; a perfect place for hiding your collection of cars. It’s not until you are well onto the property and driving past the house and wood shop that you can see any cars at all. It was at the wood shop that Hugh’s daughter Eileen met us and gave us the tour of the cars back in the trees. While she wasn’t sure that the day after a fresh snow was a good choice to go see the cars, I assured her that it couldn’t have been more perfect for photographing Edsels in the woods, on a mid-December day.
As you walk past the wood shop you are greeted by this 65 Mercury Park Lane Breezeway, standing guard over it’s sisters. It’s for sale, they thought that it was sold, but the buyer apparently didn’t realize that it needed “a paint job” and backed out.
There are several of these Breezeway Merc’s on the property,
all huddled together, waiting for warmer weather?
Here’s a couple of their older siblings frolicking in the snow.
And two even older ones.
A 1964 Mercury Montclair provided some of the best pictures of patina on an old car that I have photographed.Perfect patina..
I think that I stared at that taillight for five minutes before I realized that I’d seen less than half of cars there, and needed to take more pictures.
This 1977-ish Lincoln Town Car looks like a mighty ship that has run aground, or perhaps an icebreaker in the snow. Several of Marks and Continentals also reside here alongside their FoMoCo cousins. Nevertheless, Edsels were Hugh’s main focus and there are still plenty to be found.
Rust never sleeps in this part of the country. Many Edsels (and other 1950’s cars) had a penchant for rusting around the headlights due to the spray of slush and road salt from the front wheels. This poor 58 Edsel has it’s eye’s hanging out of their sockets from it’s advanced case of tinworm.
Is there anything more funky then the back end of this 58 Edsel wagon?
The taillight is reminiscent of the sign one might see out front of a drive-in somewhere along Route 66.
1960 marked the end for Edsel, just as this 1960 Edsel Villager wagon marks the end of this chapter on my visit to the Lemon Grove. I have more pictures to share from this visit and there are more visits planned. Most of the better preserved cars are in the garages and barns. And while there will certainly be more Edsels to share, there are some cars that you’d never expect to see from a man who devoted so much of his life to preserving the brand of car that he loves.
We did also manage to stay on track long enough to satisfy the primary mission of the day. Happy Holidays to Curbside Classics!