Inns, Mills Attracted Settlers to FlourtownHistory index
September 6, 1961, Unmarked origin (Found in the Springfield Historical Society archives)
Inns, Mills Attracted Settlers to FlourtownThe grist mills of the Wissahickon and the inns along Bethlehem Pike were perhaps the two strongest drawing points which brought colonial farmers to a centralized point -- Flourtown.
The hotel-inns of Flourtown can claim a long history. Several predate the Revolutionary War.
The mills in most cases are older than the inns, since it was flour-making which brought farmers into the area first. They extended along the creek banks from above Ambler to the confluence of this creek with the Schuylkill River.
Mill Road, extending westward through Flourtown from Church Rd. to Stenton Ave., took its name from the grist mill established by Edward Farmar in 1713 near Valley Green Rd. and Stenton Ave.
Michael Schlatter established a paper mill along the Paper Mill Run in 1756 which gave the road its name. In 1776 Henry Friend had a grist mill and paper mill there. There was another mill known as Ambler's nearby.
Just about a hundred years later in 1854, the Streeper family built the Springfield Mill on what is now the property of the University of Pennsylvania. The mill is still standing, although few people realize it is there. It last operated in 1907.
The first inn to be established in Springfield Township was the Wheelpump Hotel, built in 1732 at the corner of the present Bethlehem Pike and Gordon Rd. Jacob Neff had it in 1776 and John Kenner in 1785.
Abraham Heydrick kept a store at the hotel in 1767. Both his son and grandson (a captain in the Revolution) held land in the general area where the pike curves and starts its climb to Chestnut Hill.
Of the well known inns in Springfield Township, three are located right in Flourtown, and still in business as such.
The Central Inn, which may contest the Wheelpump's claim as "first" is thought to have been run by William Ottinger, son of Christopher, and early settler. During the late 1880s it was known as the Farmer's and Citizen's Hotel.
The Springfield Hotel was built in May, 1811 (another date claims 1804), and the Black Horse Hotel, now the Black Horse Inn, went up around 1820.
When Springfield Township was formed into a separate election district in 1846, the first elections were ordered held, "...at the public house of Samuel Rader, known as the Black Horse Hotel at Flourtown."
The Central Inn was also at one time called "Kline's Tavern" after Nicholas Kline who kept it forty years. Christopher Mason was an innkeeper there in 1779 and it was a licensed hotel before the Revolution, begin opened by Christopher Rex in 1765. It was also called "Wagon and Horses."
Used As Store
The next hotel along Bethlehem Pike was Slifer's, also used as a dwelling and store. It was first kept as a public house about 1760 and at one time bore the sign of "The Eagle." In 1835, Abraham Slifer bought the property and was succeeded by his son, Charles who carried on an extensive feed business in connection with the thriving hotel.
The Black Horse has a record complete as a hotel over 100 years, but was a hotel long before that, and during the early part of the 19th century bore the sign of "Samson and the Lion."
Being on a main highway, Flourtown inns became a noted stopping place for travelers approaching Philadelphia and three stage lines from the city had their termini there. In 1820 nine coaches arrived daily and two tri-weekly lines to Bethlehem were established.
Since each coach was estimated to carry 12 passengers, this meant about 240 person daily passing through or stopping at Flourtown.