Tour America's Treasures

An invitation to tour America's historical sites...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Black Horse Inn

View Black Horse Inn in a larger map

Visit our Tour Destination: Pennsylvania page to see the entire tour of the state’s Save America’s Treasures sites.

West view of the Black Horse Inn (Flourtown, PA) in 2008.
Photo courtesy of Springfield Township.

Black Horse Inn
1432 Bethlehem Pike
Flourtown, PA

Website:  The Black Horse Inn

The Treasure:  The Black Horse Inn is a picturesque reminder of the once-bustling inns that catered to clientele along the main 18th and 19th century thoroughfares.

Accessibility:  As restoration efforts continue, your best bet is to appreciate the exterior of the Black Horse Inn from the road. The interior is sometimes accessible during special events.

Exterior bar door at the Black Horse Inn.
Photo courtesy of Springfield Township.
Background:  Located in the center of Flourtown, the Black Horse Inn is a landmark on Bethlehem Pike, a once-major road that links Philadelphia to Bethlehem, PA, a distance of approximately 50 miles. Bethlehem Pike is still a busy road today, but it has long since lost the prominence that it enjoyed for nearly 200 years. Today (following Google Maps, Mapquest, or your GPS), you might get to Bethlehem from Philadelphia by jumping on the Schuylkill Expressway, taking the Northeast Extension, exiting to Route 309 in Quakertown, and finishing on Route 378 into Bethlehem. Altogether it takes about an hour, mostly high-speed highway driving—slowing only for a few traffic lights around Quakertown.

But traveling that 50-mile trip wasn’t so easy in colonial days. From 1703 to 1734, the British government oversaw the development of Bethlehem Pike (a.k.a. the “Great Road”), a colonial highway that stretched from Chestnut Hill to the newly established Moravian community in Bethlehem. Naturally, inns sprang up to serve the stagecoach business. The Black Horse Inn was one of the first, strategically located about ten miles outside Philadelphia at a point where the drivers would be looking for a place to rest or change the horses.

Abraham Wakerly appears to have built the first inn on the property in 1744, offering only a plain one-room building plus a kitchen. As travel and trade increased, business justified growth. There were significant additions and improvements to the Black Horse Inn in 1833, 1880, and 1908, keeping up with the times and the traffic.

The Black Horse Inn opened under British rule, flourished under President Washington, and was still going strong when Lincoln was in office and the Civil War raged. At the turn of the century, in 1901, the core stagecoach business was superseded by a trolley line set up on the Bethlehem Pike, still maintaining its status as the main corridor linking Philadelphia with sites north. When the trolley service closed in 1926, the Black Horse Inn became more of a local—rather than a regional—landmark. While it has not been regularly open to the public for the last quarter of a century, it continues to securely anchor its hometown of Flourtown, standing testimony to the area’s rich history.

The Black Horse Inn during restoration in 2007 with stucco removed from
the north side.  Photo courtesy of Springfield Township.

Other Recommended Sites:  Ten miles northwest on the Skippack Pike, enjoy a visit to the Peter Wentz Farmstead, a beautifully restored 18th century Pennsylvania German farmstead which served as General George Washington’s headquarters during the fall of 1777.

South view of the Black Horse Inn in 2009.
Photo courtesy of Springfield Township.

Tour America's History Itinerary
Tuesday:  The Pennsylvania German Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia

© 2013 Lee Price

1 comment: