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Source: Chestnut Hill Local
Date: August 21, 2003
Byline: Madeleine M. Keehn

New Friends group wants Black Horse Inn to stay put

The energy in the Flourtown living room was palpable as 25 concerned Springfield Township citizens gathered on Saturday afternoon for the inaugural meeting of the Friends of Historic Bethlehem Pike. They were still hopeful that by working together, they could keep Flourtown's Black Horse Inn in place.

Dissatisfied with the way their Springfield Township Board of Commissioners have resolved the Black Horse Inn issue (see Local August 14), members of the group decided to begin efforts by seeking advice from some veterans of another small-town development battle. The urgency of this meeting, in the face of an August 5 vote to allow prospective owners Moreland Development, L.L.C. to move the 260-year-old hotel, was apparent.

Meredith Buck and Linda Dean of the Friends of Chalfont shared with the group the story of their recent victory in preventing Eckerd, a national pharmacy chain, from demolishing 3 homes in the Bucks County historic district and building a drive-through drugstore on that land. "This was against the demolition in an historic district," Buck said. "Not Eckerd."

She advised the group to be visible. "We got our name out as a group," she said, noting how helpful the press had been. "The more recognition, the more support."

Buck warned that the work ahead will be very time-consuming. "You've got to stay on top of it," she stated. "As a group, don't get political. Be well educated about the issues and portray yourselves as professionals."

For those homeowners with land abutting the proposed development, Buck advised them to have their deeds carefully inspected so they know the exact boundaries of their properties. She also cautioned members to have an attorney present and to keep accurate records of daily occurrences. "You want witnesses to your conversations," she continued.

Buck stressed that passion for the cause is a must and noted that Chalfont group began with only eight members. They worked on tightening the historic district ordinance, did lots of research on the Internet, collected news items and presented information packets to council members. Developers and CEOs, unaware of local attitudes, also were kept informed. There were pickets at rush hour, signs posted along the intersecting highways and fliers distributed.

Dean and Buck assured those present that, according to our Pennsylvania state constitution, citizens have the right to oppose. Their group rose above the feeling of hopelessness and took action. The ultimate victory was sweet but they warned that there will always be challenges where development is concerned.

T. Scott Kreilick, a township resident and architectural conservator representing the Springfield Township Historical Society and the Flourtown Erdenheim Enhancement Association, has followed the Black Horse Inn story for years. "My ultimate goal is to keep the Black Horse in place. I think moving it sets a terrible precedent. I believe it opens the door for a similar approach to dealing with other historic buildings in the township." Kreilick sees the newly-formed Friends group as concerned citizens who have the opportunity to build a cohesive voice in the community when it comes to preserving their cultural heritage. "They should be excited about collaborating with FEEA and the STHS," he said. "This group can fill additional needs that exist."

Ellen Manning, Flourtown resident and spokesperson for the Friends, said the first executive committee meeting will be on August 18. "We're here to keep the Black Horse Inn in place," she said. "We want to preserve the unique historic character of our township but we'll take it one step at a time. We're still in the organizational stage. We don't know what's possible but we had the women from the Friends of Chalfont here and we'd like to follow their example. We'll know more after the meeting.

"We want to encourage pride in the community's history and heritage and we want to preserve the nature and character of the villages along Bethlehem Pike."

For further information about the Friends of Historic Bethlehem Pike, send e-mails to esmanning22@hotmail.com