Date: July 2, 2010
Byline: Amanda Glensky
Black Horse occupied once more
A decade since the historic Black Horse Inn was almost torn down and the land redeveloped, members of Springfield Township Historical Society celebrated a landmark moment at the Bethlehem Pike structure last week.
On June 30, a group of volunteers moved office supplies, a computer, a desk donated by the contractor and boxes of historic relics into the society’s new Flourtown headquarters.
Between June 30 and July 10, members will move boxes from the society’s current location on Germantown Pike in Chestnut Hill into 555 square feet on the ground floor of the Black Horse.
The Springfield Township Board of Commissioners approved a final lease with the historical society June 9, which required the society to establish a yearly regular fundraising schedule to cover operational expenses, a portion of which will be rent to the township.
The township also issued an official use and occupancy certificate June 25 for the two rooms, approximately one-third of the first floor, which will become the society’s permanent headquarters.
As historical society members opened the burgundy side door, turned off the security alarm and stepped inside the building, they saw polished wood floors, freshly painted white walls with brown trim and bright overhead lights.
For the nonprofit organization, this move is a long time coming.
“We’ve always wanted a more permanent, suitable home within the township so that everyone could have access to resources and actually see some of the displays of our history,” said Christine Fisher Smith, a member of the historical society from Wyndmoor and a former board member.
“This really feels good. We feel like we’re home — finally,” she added.
When the society began in 1985, the group met at the Flourtown home of the late Marie Kitto, Smith explained. In the early days, the society kept its archives across the pike from the Black Horse Inn at the Orchard Cottage.
Since leaving Kitto’s home, the group has occupied three spaces in Chestnut Hill and for a time shared the headquarters of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, she said.
“We think the Black Horse Inn is the homerun,” said Barbara Coleman, of Wyndmoor, a member of the society since 1995. “We hope everyone ... would be very proud to know we’re back in Springfield.”
When everything is moved in and an opening date established, the society will be open for visitation roughly two days a week, archivist Susan Anthony said.
The hours are still being arranged and will depend on volunteer staff — which the group is always looking for, she said. Times outside the scheduled hours will be by appointment only, she added.
Anthony, a Whitemarsh Township resident with degrees in history and archive management, said she hopes the new headquarters will allow the society to become a community resource and grow its archives.
When she first set foot into the new office June 30, she took a tape measurer to see how big of a bookshelf would fit in the space.
She later unwrapped a cardboard box full of original Enfield tiles from the old tile factory at Paper Mill and Church roads. The tiles had been donated by various collectors in the area. A three-foot tile vase from the factory will become a part of the office décor as well, she said.
Other donated items include deeds from the 1600s and photos of Bethlehem Pike from the 1950s through 1980s, including one of the thoroughfare completely flooded.
“Things that don’t seem to be significant really are,” Anthony said, emphasizing the value of donations to the collection. “I always say, your past is our history.”