It was the around-the-world-in-a-lot-more-than-80-days tour that really raised blood pressure on Merion's Latchs Lane, a suburban street a block above City Avenue, long home to St. Joseph's University, Episcopal Academy, and the Barnes Foundation.
The great Barnes art tour began in 1993, the breakout event announcing to the world that the Barnes had arrived with Richard H. Glanton at its head. It came after several battles in Montgomery County Orphans' Court over whether it was appropriate for the art to leave home at all. But the court, which has jurisdiction in such nonprofit charitable cases, approved, and Cezannes, Matisses, Van Goghs, Seurats, and works by other masters headed out to a handful of the world's museums.
Simultaneously, major renovations to the 1925 Paul Cret-designed gallery building got under way.
Two years later, as the tour was ending, Barnes neighbors Walter and Nancy Herman, Robert and Toby Marmon, Bruce Schainker, Steven Asher, and others looked on with growing apprehension. Orphans' Court had ruled that the gallery now could be open 31/2 days a week, increasing its public-access hours nearly 50 percent. Trustees wanted even more - six days a week.
Not only that, the foundation had notified Lower Merion that it wanted a 75-car parking lot.
Asher said the parking-lot scheme would pave over the neighborhood like the King of Prussia Mall. He shuddered at the thought of downed trees. The Barnes, said Nancy Herman, was a "horticultural gem" to be preserved.
Destruction of the arboretum was not the Barnes' plan, but substantially increased visitation most definitely was. When it reopened, buses started rolling down Latchs Lane. Parked cars lined the street. The Hermans, Marmons, and others complained to the township, citing safety and zoning issues, exhaust fumes, strangers. Neighbors began to videotape buses and visitors, hoping to convince the township that the Barnes was operating as a museum, in violation of local zoning.
But these were minor skirmishes compared to the carpet-bombing laid down by the Barnes in 1996, when Glanton filed a federal suit accusing Merion and 17 neighbors of racially motivated harassment. The suit was dismissed and the foundation was penalized, but neighbors were deeply scarred.
"We have been devastated, personally devastated, by these charges, this smear," Marmon told The Inquirer in 1996. And they continued to bird-dog Barnes activities, visitation, and planning. Neighbors pushed hard on zoning compliance. They sat on lawn chairs across the street, counting people entering the foundation.
When the Barnes announced its intention to move to Philadelphia, Herman noted in The Inquirer that "if you had a 24-karat-gold splinter stuck in your [backside], you would not be sorry to have it removed."
Herman said later that he had been quoted out of context, and both he and his wife joined Friends of the Barnes in court petitions in 2007 and 2011 seeking to block the move. Both petitions were denied, and Judge Stanley R. Ott assessed a penalty for what he deemed the frivolous nature of the 2011 petition.