Marlborough Village Historic District
The Marlborough Village Historic District (354-418 Marlborough Rd) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. 
Marlborough Village is a small rural hamlet at an early crossroad close to the northern edge of East Marlborough Township as it meets Pocopson and Newlin Townships. The village is centered on Marlborough Spring Road in a generally SE/NW direction and Marlborough Road in a generally SW/NE direction. The Marlborough Village Historic District contains 132 acres and is surrounded by rolling farmland and large lot subdivisions. Included are thirteen dwellings (dating 1829 to 1988), a Quaker Meeting House (1801) and the farm (1726/1771) from which the village lots were taken. The farm lies partly in East Marlborough Township and partly in Newlin Township. All of the village lots are within East Marlborough Township and face Marlborough Road. Construction is equally divided between stucco over stone, brick, or frame. The Meeting House is exposed brick and the farmhouse exposed stone. There is one log building that was asbestos sided, but is being rehabilitated to expose the logs. The village houses are all small to mid-size domestic buildings. With variations on the theme of modest, vernacular architecture, holding few identifiable architectural enhancements until after the first World War, and with a dearth of changes to the streetscape, the village houses are a true picture of the country village of a century ago. Not until 1927 did a new style appear in the form of a Sears bungalow. Two houses, including the 1938 Cape Cod house, built from Better Homes & Gardens plans, reflect the increasing effect of mass marketing on country areas and the fading of local building traditions. Two non-contributing houses and two conversions have continued the village tradition of modest country village homes. Integrity is excellent. There are no commercial buildings nor adaptations in the Marlborough Village Historic District.
The strongest architectural feature of the village is the Meeting House which has retained all its original parts and setting except the carriage sheds, and recalls the devout gathering of a community. It is a one-story exposed brick building with steeply gabled roof and six bays across the facade which contains two shed-roofed entrances and four windows symmetrically placed. Two are between the doors and one is on each end of the facade. Made of locally-fired brick, a flush chimney is found in each gable wall with a small lip at the top of each. A brick and wood extension to the west rear contains storage space and privy. Windows are 6/9 on the front and sides and 6/6 at the back. All have wooden shutters. Each gable end has a window and door with a porch similar to those on the front. The west end has a wooden door high in the wall to reach the attic by ladder. Inside, sliding half-panels over an immovable lower wood partition divide the building into east (women's) and west (men's) sections. In 1878, the east end became a schoolroom, used intermittently through the 1890's. The men's side of the Meeting House retains all its original open-backed benches, arranged in traditional fashion with a raised platform at the front for the elders to face the congregation. The women's side retains the classroom arrangement of 1878 with single and double desks facing the front. There is accommodation for 40-50 students. Books are still on the teacher's desk and the raised front platform of the Meeting House with benches has been kept. A tall, round iron stove stands in front of the chimney. The feeling in both sides is suggestive of simply having closed for the day. Services are still held on occasion. Electric heat was installed in 1979 and candle sconces were electrified at that time. Neither water nor modern plumbing facilities have been provided. The cemetery is bordered with stone walls and iron fences. Tombstones are low and modest. Well-kept boxwood and a few other evergreens mix with ancient trees around the rim.
On the corner diagonally across from the Meeting House stands the Schoolmaster's House built in 1829. A two-story, three-bay stone rectangle, stuccoed over, it retains its hip-roofed porch supported by four posts across the full front first floor core. Attached laterally to the southeast gable is a two-story, one-bay stucco-over-stone kitchen wing. Originally a 12'x12' story-and-a-half kitchen appendage, it was extended to the rear in 1928, and the roof raised to accommodate a full bedroom above. Windows are 6/9 on the first floor, changing to 6/6 on the second floor and in the kitchen wing. Four-paned casement sash are found in the gables and the stairway beside the street door. There are two "rear" doors, symmetrically placed, with three-pane transoms which may indicate that the south facade was the original front. In 1990, a large two-story wing in beaded clapboard was added to the south for a modern kitchen and family room on the first floor and a master bedroom suite on the second. Its gable roof runs at a right angle to the core, and a one-story porch with shed roof runs the length of the west side of the last addition. This new wing does not affect the appearance of the road front, leaving the view from the street unchanged. The early outbuildings on this lot — a small frame barn, vertically sided, and a board and batten shed/stable — remain in place along with a 1990 open-gabled garage. All out-buildings are roofed with wood shingles.
On the northeast corner between the Meeting House and the Schoolmaster's House is the 1834 General Store and residence. The building faces southeast onto Marlborough Road with only a small dooryard between it and the road. At the back, across the grassed alley, the view opens dramatically onto miles of farmland. Renovated several times, this vernacular building has no specific style. Its original full front porch has been replaced by a gabled hood over the entrance; nevertheless, the core retains its early material and the house is a major element in defining the simple sturdy character of the village. Windows are mostly 6/6, randomly combined. In the store end, however, windows are 8/12. Inside, window reveals are rounded and walls are thick. A two-story ell at the rear contains the early kitchen. A 1990 family room has been attached behind it with a wooden deck and gazebo to take advantage of the extensive views.
On the fourth corner of the crossroad stands a two-floor brick building which was built in 1901 as a one-floor, two-room brick schoolhouse. Original entry was through the two doors on the two-bay northeast gable side facing Marlborough Spring Road. A square date stone is centered above the doors. When school consolidation made small schools obsolete, ca.1925, the building was sold in 1928 to a private party. At this time, it was converted into a two-floor, Dutch Colonial style residence with a gambrel roof and broad dormer. The north side, facing Marlborough Road, became the front. The footprint was not changed for the 1928 remodelling, and the original interior dividing wall, which ran from the east front to the west rear, remains to determine both original and present first floor layout. All interior and exterior changes have been traditional, modest in character, and in scale with the rural village.
At the far eastern end of the village on Marlborough Road is a small farm with a two-bay, two-story log house situated above a watered meadow on a gentle hillside. Facing south away from Marlborough Road, it has a stone basement kitchen toward the road. Both the basement and the first floor have a short frame extension to the rear which is thought to have been a double-galleried porch, later enclosed. The extensions have shed roofs while the main building has a gable roof. Windows are 2/2 on the south and west sides, 6/6 in the basement and first floor extensions, and 1/1 replacement windows in the second floor. There are no windows on the east side, where the chimney for the basement fireplace and upper floor stove pipe flues is located. Until recently, the house was thought to have been frame; upon removal of the siding, however, oak logs, v-notched, were found. Lime mortar fills the interstices. Hand wrought nails are used in the wide floor boards and in the battened doors throughout the house. An enclosed stairway curves beside the chimney to all floors. The house is indicated on a deed of 1842, but may have been earlier as a secondary dwelling. A small 19th century frame barn with steep gabled roof and flanking wings stands west of the house. Also a small 20th century wood stable stands south of the barn. Springhouse ruins exist in the meadow between the house and Marlborough Road. A modular house, as interim lodging for the family until the log house can be restored, also stands on the farm.
A row of five houses, showing vernacular interpretations of Greek Revival influence, is representative of the initial planned growth of the village. Built between 1840 and 1855, they are on narrow lots. They are not large and are two stories high and two bays wide. Kitchens were either in basements or attached sheds at the rear. Shed-roofed porches run across the fronts of most, and windows are 6/6. Windows are large in proportion to wall space and roofs are fairly low. Three houses are stucco over brick; two of these have stuccoed double dentil brick cornices. Two houses are stucco over frame; one of these has 5 bays wide but has a similarity of facade to the smaller houses and has been metal-sided on the front only. This 5-bay house is attached to the other house, but was built at a later date. Inside, these houses have original tall mantels and vertically double-panelled doors, round window reveals, 6" floorboards and tightly curved stairways. The 5-bay house has an exposed basement on three sides with a basement entrance on the southeast. There is a root cellar built into the basement. This timber-frame house was first boarded with butt-joined, horizontally-laid boards on the first floor and lapped siding on the second which was later stuccoed.
After a 1937 fire, a brick duplex was replaced as a single five-bay wide, two story house with two pedimented dormers in the gable roof. One of the previously mentioned stucco over brick houses also began as a two-bay Greek Revival in 1845, but was extended by two more bays to the west before 1900. Both halves are brick, for many years stuccoed over, but presently partly sided. The double brick dentilated cornice remains. Originally, it was probably identical to the duplex house that burned. The 6/6 windows have been changed to 2/2 on the first floor at some time. The doorway is presently a French glass door but topped by the old transom. There was a full front porch until the 1920's remodelling. Several small additions, including a kitchen, extend to the back connecting the house to a wash house and a gabled garage/stable. These vernacular houses are distinctly different from the earlier houses at the crossroad and reflect middle class late 19th century architecture.
The Brown House was built in 1927 and is a Sears House in the Bungalow style called "Ardara." It was purchased as a kit and is a one-story, white frame building, three-bays wide with entrance in the center. A porch that covers the entry has a bonnet hood supported by Tuscan pillars. The house extends back from the front gable section to bedroom and kitchen rooms which are under a hip roof. All cornices are generously wide. It is an especially pure example of a Sears house, unchanged from its building date, and important to the village as a house that broke with earlier building traditions.
The last contributing house within the Marlborough Village Historic District to the northwest is the Larkin House on Marlborough Road. Built on the edge of a woods, and facing west, it marks the transition from rolling fields to a community. The frame Cape Cod house was built with plans purchased from Better Homes & Gardens magazine in 1938. It is one-and-a-half stories high and three bays wide with entry hall to the side of two windows. A two-car garage/laundry is attached to the north gable over which is a two-bay dormer. Two single dormers with pedimented gable roofs are prominent over the house section. The carpenter was Seal Thorne and the fireplace mason was H. Edwin Brown. The house is virtually unchanged.
The Barnard/Wickersham farm house, built of local serpentine stone, was constructed in three sections, a two-bay kitchen section attached to a four-bay main wing. The third section was a northwest one-room-over-one-room section that filled an ell at the back of the second section. The kitchen, the first house was a two-floor, square building, two-bays by two-bays deep, has a 12' fireplace in the center of the east wall which projects 4' into the room. The fireplace has a bake oven within it and two candle niches in the wall above the fireplace. The outside of the east gable wall shows two lines of projecting stones, the higher one indicating a pent eave from cornice to cornice at one time, and the lower row suggesting probably a shed roof extending from a portion of the wall. A drain hole for a stone sink is still in the east wall. This square section is believed to have been built by John Barnard in 1726. The four-bay section was attached to the west gable in 1771. During the 19th century, the northwest rooms were added. There are fireplaces in every room, some with plain mantels and some with reeded mantels. The stairway rises to a landing and window and then turns to rise to the second floor.
The barn on this property is also built in sections. The original barn (c.1767) is evident in lines on the stone wall of the existing barn. The barn has three levels, and is built of fieldstone with a smattering of black basalt rocks. It is acknowledged by barn experts to be one of the very first barns in North America built in 1809 to accommodate a mechanical horse-powered thresher. A double-sized threshing floor and wrought iron hardware, still in place, indicates that the 1809 enlargement was designed for this purpose. There is also on the property a metal machinery shed, a one-story metal milking shed, modern milk house, several single veal calf boxes and various sheds for seeds, fertilizers, herbicides and tools. With the exception of the machinery shed, these are not included in the resource count. The farm buildings are in the center of 63.5 acres of level, prime farmland.
There are connected greenhouse buildings on the grounds of one lot which are contributing although in poor condition. A concrete block one-room, one-floor heater room and potting shed is attached at the southeast end. Along with fields once filled with nursery stock, they account for much of the mature ornamental plantings in the village.
There are only two non-contributing dwellings and five non-contributing outbuildings in the Marlborough Village Historic District. One of the dwellings was built in 1948 and the other built in 1988. The first is a small plain one-story, four-bay building, stuccoed over concrete block and set well back from the road. The entrance is centered and the windows are asymmetrically placed. Although the stucco finish blends with the rest of the village, the proportions of the whole are at variance with the traditional styles. However, its recessed siting and small size render its impact negligible.
The other non-contributing dwelling is a contemporary ranch style, modern one-story house with attached garage. It has frame construction with large floor length windows. Because its wood frame is dark, and it is sited on a hilltop above eye-level of the other village houses, it is not disruptive of the village scene. Further, it is partially shielded by natural vegetation and plantings and set apart from the other village houses by a vacant lot. The other non-contributing buildings are secondary in nature, siting behind village houses. They are three garages, the modular house in the village, and the large machinery shed on the Wickersham Farm. There are also additions to two corner dwellings, both of which increase the square footage considerably. However, the facades are not altered and the additions are well-sited at the rear of the original buildings. The additions are compatible with the village character of modest residential life styles. Therefore, the non-contributing elements do not detract from the integrity and appearance of the village hamlet cluster of the 19th century.
There are two historic sites within the Marlborough Village Historic District. One is the Meeting House cemetery, partly enclosed by a stone wall and iron fence, which adds greatly to the village character. Nestled against an oak woods, it has ordered rows of small headstones ranged perpendicular to the Meeting House. The burials are further cloistered by tall evergreen and other trees along Marlborough Spring Road. Interments are still made. The other site contains the remains of a springhouse. Once the source of water for the house and barn, it fell into disrepair when no longer used. Foundations and the spring itself are all that remain. The integrity of Marlborough Village is remarkably high. Only two non-contributing dwellings exist. The village is an excellent representation of the non-business oriented villages across the country that sprang up with a period brightness, but for one reason or another did not grow. Seemingly content with its lot, Marlborough Village is still a living community and evokes a less hurried way of life.
Marlborough lies at the intersection of Marlborough Spring Road and Marlborough Road in East Marlborough and Newlin Townships, Chester County. The village was founded and existed as a rural agrarian Quaker community reflecting social characteristics of that sect: education, social justice, simplicity, and ability and desire to locally express and act upon commitment to one's beliefs in order to bring about social change. The village schools, dwellings, and farmhouses continue to reflect the essence of an active, well established Quaker community from before the era of abolition through simply designed homes dating to the 1920s and 1930s. There are no commercial buildings or adaptations in the Marlborough Village Historic District. The Village possesses architectural simplicity, integrity of location, design, size, setting, feeling, and association, reflecting the persistent practice of Quakerism throughout the history of the village.
The township of Marlborough was laid out about 1700 in right of purchases made by English Quakers in England. The first tax roll in 1715 listed names that are still in the township: Barnard, Wickersham, Martin, Pusey, Pennock and others. It was divided into East and West Marlborough in 1728/9. The farm included in the nomination was the home of Joel Baily (Bayley) before the first assessment, then of Richard Barnard by 1726, and is presently owned by George Wickersham, a descendant of an initial settler. For three-quarters of a century, farmers busied themselves with the necessities of clearing a heavily wooded region and making homesteads such as they had known in England. Log buildings were quickly replaced with stone houses and barns. The Barnard/Wickersham farm with its 1726 stone house, enlarged in 1771, and 1767 stone barn, is typical of the building tradition in the township.
Marlborough Village Historic District is important because it has distinctive characteristics of a mid-19th century crossroad hamlet, an example of conscious planning by a farmer, John Huey. The lots he sold at the edge of his property and the store he built, caused a village to be born. Since the turn of the 19th century through 1944, that village has reflected the religious and educational patterns of East Marlborough Township. As one of the earlier settlements in the township, these Quaker farmers influenced both religious and non-sectarian growth for more than 200 years. Good husbandry, thrift and participation in religious communion were basic tenets. Worship was practiced in private homes and at more distant quarterly or yearly meetings until 1801 when Richard Barnard and neighbor, Isaac Baily, each gave two acres on a wooded knoll to build the Marlborough Friends Meeting House. An informal Meeting had gathered in the schoolhouse on Barnard's farm in Newlin Township since ca.1781. By the 1790s, this gathering of Friends had grown so regular and so close in spirit that it was felt a formal Friends' Meeting should be established. Recorded Meetings were held after 1798 and petitions made to Kennett, London Grove and Bradford Monthly Meetings, from which membership would be drawn, for an Indulged Meeting at Marlborough. The building seen today as Marlborough Meeting House was the first Meeting House in Marlborough Township, East or West, and stands today as it was built. It followed the teachings of Elias Hicks as a Hicksite Quaker Meeting. Meeting Houses at Doe Run (in West Marlborough Township) followed in 1804 or '05, Kennett Square Meeting in 1812, and Unionville in 1845.
Building of the Meeting House in 1801 drew importance to the site which was not then a crossroad, but simply on the Wilmington Road, now called Marlborough Spring Road. Following Friends' deep commitment to education of the young, early expressed as a desire for "pious Education of Youth, [and] the Restoration of Primitive Plainess," a schoolhouse was built in 1804 on the southern portion of the Meeting's four acres. The stone school, a replacement for Barnard's 1781 school, was 20' square. In 1829, the Meeting bought six and a half acres across Marlborough Spring Road on which they built a stone house to be the schoolmaster's dwelling. Five years later, in 1834, a larger school was built on this parcel, but it too, eventually proved inadequate.
Between 1834 and 1850, Isaac Martin, long-time village resident, taught school intermittently in the 1834 building. Although Martin was a well-thought-of instructor, the village school was only moderately successful. Martin fell into disfavor with the Meeting and its School Committee because of his abolitionist sympathies. After about 1850, the village Quaker school closed until 1861 when it was leased to the township and reopened as a public school, In 1851, Martin opened the Marlborough Female Academy in his new house, but the school did not survive long.
Still not satisfied by some of the teaching, Friends arranged the east room in the Meeting House as a schoolroom for their children, This room opened in 1878 as a Quaker school run concurrently with the public school. Continued education was encouraged, and young people were sent to near and distant universities from which came teaching personnel when needed. One of these, Cora Canfield, a Vassar College graduate with no prior affiliation to the village, was teacher at the Meeting House school much of the time. This was stiff competition for the public school, and a checkered pattern of opening and closing of the public school ensued to the end of the century. The township built a completely new brick school in 1901 on Meeting House property. Considered "pretentious" by some, it nevertheless caused the Friends' Meeting House schoolroom to close. The new brick public school served the community until about 1923, when school consolidations sent the children to a new and larger school in Unionville.
At various times, six schools in five different buildings operated in the tiny village of Marlborough. Two of these buildings have been demolished, a third was converted into a two-story home, Martin's private school (part of a house) and the Meeting House room remain. Only the Meeting House east school room can testify to the great importance given to education in Marlborough Village. Desks, each with an inkwell for quill pen, still face the teacher's desk, reminders of a 19th century commitment to religious education.
Independent thinking put Marlborough Friends in the forefront of the local Abolitionist Movement. Many believed that social consciousness was important as religious doctrine. They acted on their beliefs, including pacifism and hatred of slavery. Meetings were split between supporters and opponents of the Underground Railway and its related activities. The 1845 Unionville Meeting was begun in protest by those Marlborough members who disagreed with the growing sentiment for abolition. Longwood Progressive Meeting was established about 1852 for those who supported abolition. This period reflects a time of turmoil for Quakers: were they really men and women of peace or would they stand militant against a perceived injustice to fellow human beings? These questions were to unsettle the Quaker mind for generations to come, and in fact, still present a dilemma to be answered by the thoughtful Quaker believer.
The "Marlborough Disturbance" in 1852 split on issues of human bondage and assistance to run-away slaves. When Oliver Johnson, a radical abolitionist, and others came to Marlborough Meeting to speak, conservative Friends had him arrested for disturbing a religious service, even though he had been invited by other members of the Meeting. Meeting House locks were changed and general unrest prevailed for a year or more, bringing about the Longwood Progressive Meeting. Marlborough was considered a hotbed of Abolitionism, and many Longwood supporters were "read out" of their home meetings. Some Marlborough members, either less contentious or undecided, seem to have attended both Longwood and their home meeting. This spectrum of opinion is revealed in the burial ground at Marlborough cemetery, for many took up arms to bring the hated institution of slavery to an end.
Early in the 19th century, patterns of transportation shifted in Marlborough township. The Wilmington Road receded in importance as Unionville grew as a market town and Red Lion, on Route 926, became an active and large cattle auction. Intended for the convenience of farmers, a new road was laid out in 1821 from Unionville to Red Lion in counter-direction to Marlborough Spring Road. The new road was called Marlborough Road and gave the village the status of a crossroad. Coupled with the Meeting House and the school, the new crossroad sparked further development. In 1828, the Barnard farm was sold to William Huey. His son, John, built a store with attached dwelling in 1834 on the "new" corner which he operated until 1849. It continued long after as the local general store and post office. By 1840, Huey had laid out and offered for sale small lots on the north side of Marlborough Road along the edge of the Huey farm. These were gradually taken up with the houses seen there today. Across the road were the schoolmaster's house, the now-demolished school and the log house.
During the second half of the 19th century, horticulture became a viable adjunct to farming in the Marlborough area. Isaac Martin sold fruit and ornamental trees and shrubbery side-by-side with his educational pursuits. Followed by his son, Walton, their growing fields spread to the parcels across the road. Nurseries were numerous and profitable in East Marlborough Township, Kennett and West Grove, and surrounding areas, notably Longwood Gardens and the Conard-Pyle Nurseries. The climate and the soils were conducive to such pursuits. Much of the present fine plantings, particularly the large, mature Japanese maple specimens found in the village are the result of these horticultural endeavors. The greenhouses were built in the late 1920s and are now overgrown and abandoned.
The significance of the village covers a long period — 1771-1944 — which might suggest a variety of architectural styles; however, Marlborough Village is unusually uniform in its characterization. The vernacular architecture found there is important because it has changed so little since the 1850s. Ornamentations are not found, size is rudimentary, function is the most dominant reason for design. Not until 1927 did any element other than function become a factor in its architecture. Buildings were well built, warm and friendly, and some, particularly the Meeting House, show proportion and grace.
The Wickersham farmhouse at 1771, however, had both size and internal decoration in mantels and staircase. But even then, function was playing a role. A farm needed many hands and the house, therefore, had to have enough size to accommodate them. The village houses, on the other hand, needed only enough room for a few people in each...many times just a couple or an unmarried or widowed lady. There is an air of plainess and frugality in their appearance. The log house, coming late for such, indicated a tenacious use of earlier methods.
But with the Sears house in 1927, the rebuilding of one house in 1937 after a fire, the remodelling of the 1901 schoolhouse, and construction of the 1938 Cape Cod, the village took on a more up-to-date appearance. However, all of the newer houses, and even the two that come after the period of significance are within the same general size of the older houses. The village architecture is a true representation of a mid-19th century village, residential in nature, uncommercialized and self-contained. It remains true to its agrarian inception as a Quaker religious and educational community.
Of the two non-contributing houses, one introduces a modern architectural statement into the village scene. If it stood in line with the older houses, it would break the continuity of their simplicity. However, the house is separated by an unused field and is on a rise that sets it apart from the village. It is modern in style and non-intrusive by its dark color, use of glass and planted site. Potentially more disturbing to the village ambiance are the additions to the Schoolmaster's House and the back portion of the General Store; however, these have been carefully attached to the rear of the buildings and do not affect the streetscape.
Ownerships changed, but development in Marlborough Village progressed little after 1855. The 1883 Breou Farm Atlas map for East Marlborough Township shows the Meeting House, the 1861 school and Schoolmaster's House, the log house, and the six dwellings along the northeast side of Marlborough Road. The same map shows Unionville (N.R.) on PA Route 82, however, as a thriving town of more than 50 buildings, and Red Lion, PA Route 926 (Street Road), once a place of large cattle auctions, as a hamlet the size of Marlborough Village. Today, however, Red Lion has lost all semblance of its early character, and has become an area of urban, single-family development embracing the atmosphere of nearby Longwood. The old Red Lion Tavern, while still standing on Street Road, is scarcely evident as more than a house. Kennett Square, Avondale and West Grove on Route 1 became boroughs before 1883. Willowdale, a crossroad community (PA route 82 and 926), began as a post office in 1869. Today it is still a crossroad village with houses on three of the corners and a large convenience market on the fourth. In a non-connected way, it includes the Unionville High School and Junior High School complex, the township building and several housing developments. These communities are each located on more heavily travelled roads than is Marlborough Village.
The most similar village is that of London Grove in West Marlborough Township, which also centers around its Meeting House and has remained small and rural in character. Evolving around its Meeting House, the village houses date to approximately the 1850s. The two villages are alike in that they are set in the midst of surrounding farmland and do not have commercialization. Both villages placed an emphasis on careful education of the young through guidance from their Meetings.
Marlborough Village is an important segment of the history of East Marlborough Township. Newer state and local roads bypassed the village, leaving it off the beaten path. The tranquil setting in beautiful rolling farmland has been preserved. The village and its farm make up a small geographic area that historically has been shaped by human activity and still possesses significant continuity of land building use. It has retained its original appearance and integrity, perhaps more by location than intention, and stands today as a reminder of rural Quaker Pennsylvania in the 19th century...plain, sturdy, honest, appreciative of the natural world and God's care over all.
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