Brief History of the Black Horse InnHistory index
The Bethlehem Pike or "Great Road" was petitioned for in 1698 and opened in 1703. Part of a highway system from Philadelphia to the Moravian settlement in Bethlehem, it was completed by 1734. Starting from the Germantown Pike in Chestnut Hill, it runs for a mile and a half through Springfield Township. Eight inns were located along this stretch with the most centrally located of these at the 11-1/2 milestone were the "Black Horse" and the "Eagle," the first dating to 1744 and 1833 and the second to 1762.
Over this road, local lime was carried to the city and grain was carried from as far away as Salford to be ground at a number of nearby mills on the Wissahickon Creek.
By 1763, a stagecoach line ran between the City and Bethlehem and by 1820, nine stage lines traveled through Flourtown daily. As Flourtown was approximately 10 miles from the City and horses were rested or changed at about 10 mile intervals, this was the first stop outward bound and the last stop inbound.
With the most extensive accommodations for farmers and lime carriers as far as stabling went and with blacksmiths, wheelwrights and harness makers immediately adjacent, the "Black Horse" and the "Eagle" captured the major portion of the commercial trade.
The "Eagle" ceased operations after 1883; the "Black Horse" continued into the present century. Architecturally, the "Black Horse" appears today virtually as it appeared in 1908.
The early portion of the "Black Horse" was built by Abraham Wakerly in 1744 consisting of a 2-1/2 story, one over one room building measuring 16' by 18' with a 1-story kitchen attached in the rear measuring 15' by 15'. This first section served farmer, lime carrier and traveler and, after 1763, stagecoach passengers.
With the growth of trade and travel, a new owner, Jacob Meninger, added a 3-story addition on the north end in 1833. In addition to the above mentioned, from 1901 to 1926, the Inn also served passengers and crews of the trolley line running from the City to Bethlehem.
Of the eight inns mentioned, the "Wheelpump" c. 1725 and located near the 10-1/2 milestone but on the west side of the Pike, probably started out as a private dwelling and, of necessity, the owner extended the courtesy of the road to travelers. This was a common practice in early times. It was licensed by 1742. This was a "commercial" inn. By 1798, it was listed as being 50' by 30', 2-story, stone with a frame barn.
Next northward was "Stinger's" on the west side. Built in 1743, this was originally a private dwelling then opened as a "Gentlemen's" Inn to serve those traveling by stage or horseback.
The same can be said for the "Evening Rest" built in 1746 on the west side north of "Ottinger's."
At the 11-1/2 milestone, the "Eagle," 1762, was on the west side and the "Black Horse" on the east, 1744 & 1833. In 1798, the "Eagle," later "Slifer's" was a 2-1/2 story stuccoed stone building measuring 50' by 33' with a kitchen measuring 25' by 13'. It had two stables, on 30' by 25' of stone and on e 40' by 12' of frame.
The "Black Horse" at the same date still had its 1744 proportions with a stone barn measuring 52' by 30'. It should be noted that shortly after 1796 a frame barn was added that measured about what the stone barn did. With the 1833 addition, the "Black Horse" rivalled the "Eagle" in size. Both of these inns were "commercial" and it is interesting to note that both inns were owned, alternately, by the same two men, Abraham Slifer and Michael Baun in the 1800s.
A short distance north of the southwest corner of the intersection of Bethlehem Pike and W. Mill Rd. was the "Wagon & Horse" built by Christopher Rex in 1765. Also a "commercial" Inn it was later known as "Kline's," In 1798 it was listed as 2-1/2 story, stone, 30' by 20' with a stone barn measuring 65' by 25'. Directly across the Pike from this was a "Mason's." Built about 1744, this began as a private dwelling and became a "gentlemen's" inn.
At the northwest end of Flourtown near the Whitemarsh Township line and on the east side of the Pike was the "Green Tree" built in 1811 by John Bitting. It was a "commercial" inn and of comparable size to the other "commercial" inns.
The significance of the "Black Horse" in terms of transportation runs from 1744 when it served the farmers and lime-carriers to 1763 when it picked up the stagecoach traffic to 1901 when it served the trolley lines to end and 1926 when the trolley lines were discontinued.
Its architectural significance rests in its integrity. Retaining the form of a typical nineteenth century inn, the importance lies in being a continuous transportation center into the twentieth century.