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Black Horse Inn

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Source: Springfield Sun
Date: May 14, 2004
Byline: Joe Barron

Black Horse mistakenly damaged

Acting on outdated plans, a demolition crew mistakenly knocked down a portion of the Black Horse Inn May 7.

The township's architectural firm assessed the value of the damage at about $47,000.

The workers, thinking it was their job to demolish the rear section of the inn, tore out an upper story wall on the south side of the building before township officials intervened.

The developer later sealed off the Black Horse with a fence and covered the damage with a blue tarpaulin as residents and township commissioners sought an explanation for the mistake.

Joshua Petersohn, principal of the Moreland Development Corp., and Jack Jeffers, vice president of Mid-Atlantic Construction, appeared before the board of commissioners Monday to assume responsibility for both the accident and the cost of repairs.

"Unfortunately it's our mistake," Petersohn said. "I have to take full responsibility ... We'll certainly do what it takes to bring it back."

The accident occurred because the demolition plans for the site included old instructions for dismantling the rear sections of the Black Horse, according to Petersohn.

Moreland Development is planning to erect a Walgreens pharmacy and a new liquor store near the Black Horse. Work on the site began in April with the demolition of the liquor store at Bethlehem Pike and Bysher Avenue.

In negotiations with Moreland last year, the township considered demolishing a rear section of the Black Horse, which was thought to be newer and of less historical value than the front of the building.

At that time, the township and the developer were discussing relocating the inn, and it was believed that tearing down the rear would make the rest of the building easier to move.

According to Petersohn, DKW Construction Co., a subcontractor for Mid-Atlantic, submitted a bid on the removal of the rear of the Black Horse.

After further negotiation and revision of the development plans, Moreland agreed to leave the Black Horse in place and deed it to the township, which assumed responsibility for its restoration.

Demolishing the rear of the building became unnecessary, but DKW's demolition plans were never changed, because they were supposed to be ignored anyway, Petersohn said.

The work crew was scheduled to begin demolition of the Brown building on Bysher Avenue Friday, but the job required more than one day, according to Petersohn, and workers did not want to leave the building in a precarious condition over the weekend.

The project superintendent was instructed that the Black Horse should not be touched, Petersohn said, but he was not present on the site at 7 a.m. Friday, when the foreman decided that if work on the Brown building had to wait, he could put his time to good use by tackling the Black Horse.

Petersohn blamed the incident on a communications failure.

Only the lucky arrival of Keith Schwartz, Springfield's building inspector, kept the demolition from proceeding. Schwartz passed the site while driving down Bethlehem Pike on his way to work, and when he saw a backhoe digging into the Black Horse, he called the operation to a halt and telephoned Township Manager Don Berger.

"The township has behaved in a very professional manner in terms of acting very quickly to stop the demolition and acting very quickly to call us and stabilize the building," said James Straw of Kise, Straw and Kolodner, the architectural firm hired by the township to oversee the restoration of the Black Horse.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Straw said it might be possible to reuse the original material in rebuilding the wall.

"We feel there's a good chance of reusing a lot of it," he said.

Kise, Straw and Kolodner submitted its assessment of the damage to the township Wednesday.

Straw would not speculate on the age of the wall that was demolished Friday, although he said that contrary to previous assumptions, the rear of the building contains historically valuable masonry.

"We have not gotten far enough into the project to ascertain what the very oldest is," he said. "There are eras of construction, and there are parts of that rearmost construction that are very old."