Date: May 18, 2001
Byline: Chris Lilienthal
'Preserve the Black Horse' say 3,000The township historical society gathered 3,000 signatures of residents wanting to save the historic inn from demolition.
The Springfield Township Historical Society is presenting a petition to the township this week with about 3,000 signatures in support of preserving the Black Horse Inn on Bethlehem Pike. The effort is in response to current proposals from the Hampton Real Estate Group, developer of the property, calling for the inn's demolition to construct a CVS pharmacy, a liquor store and a third retail structure.
The initial goal of the petition was to gauge the level of support in the community for preserving the inn, according to T. Scott Kreilick, the historical society board member who is heading the initiative.
"I'm really happy to see the community's support for preservation," said Kreilick, an Oreland resident. "The residents of Springfield Township see their past, their township's past, as something important, something they would like to give to their children."
The committee working to preserve the inn mobilized about a month ago following the fifth and final hearing on Hampton's proposal before the township zoning board. Historical society volunteers began circulating flyers to promote the cause and educate people on the history of the inn.
"Some people just want to sign it; some people have wanted to collect signatures," said Christine Smith of Wyndmoor, the volunteer in charge of gathering the signatures. "People are just coming out of the woodwork. They're just overwhelmingly positive about signing the petition."
The historical society has not proposed any alternative uses for the Black Horse, although the group does have some ideas. Kreilick said the initial goal is to preserve the inn.
Kreilick, along with historical society President Richard Buck, met with representatives from Hampton to discuss their concerns April 24.
"I think it was a good first meeting," Kreilick said. "They put a slightly revised proposal on the table."
According to Kreilick, Hampton suggested two potential changes to its current proposal. The first would move the 1744 section of the inn to the rear of the property and demolish the 1833 section. The second change would eliminate the third retail structure, thus reducing the intensity of the development.
Calls to the Hampton Real Estate Group for comment were not returned.
The historical society's committee on the Black Horse reviewed Hampton's suggestions and subsequently brought them to the society's board of directors. Following a May 3 board meeting, the historical society drafted a response to Hampton.
First, the historical society felt the 1833 portion of the inn was just as valuable as the 1744 footprint; thus, it could not support demolition. Second, the group opposed moving the inn unless it was the only option for preservation and it was moved to a nearby location along Bethlehem Pike.
The historical society also said the proposed development was still too intense, even less the third retail structure, and "we felt this plan provided no new services to our community," Kreilick said.
The historical society received no formal response to its letter to Hampton. However, in the meantime, the historical society learned the developer has applied for a demolition permit.
Kreilick hopes the historical society can work in partnership with the township in exploring alternatives to demolition and that discussions with the developer can continue.
The township zoning board is expected to announce a decision next Monday on Hampton's application for zoning relief, which has included five hearings dating back to October.
Shirley Hanson, a co-founder of the historical society and a member of its advisory board, said the historical society's efforts with the Black Horse are only "the beginning to do much more to preserve the buildings that have been passed down to us from the past.
"The Black Horse Inn is one of the few remaining landmarks in the township on Bethlehem Pike," Hanson said. "We've lost so much. I just think it's fantastic what a community effort this has been."