Black Horse Tavern
“Entertainment for Man and Horse by W. Stadelman” reads the original sign for the Black Horse Tavern. This inn stood at the entrance to Lower Merion at City Avenue and Old Lancaster Road. The site belonged to the Stadelman family well before the Revolutionary War. The tavern’s infamy traces back to a skirmish in 1777, when American patriots attempted to prevent British forces from entering Lower Merion. Members of the Merion Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution still possess a number of bullets that were plowed up from the fields surrounding the Black Horse. The tavern was razed in 1896.
Built for the Centennial and International Exhibition in 1876 as an exhibit house for the state of Wisconsin, this modest structure, described as “simple…not pretty, merely useful…” originally stood several blocks back of Ohio House in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. After the celebration, the house was auctioned off to the Simes family, who attempted to move the building to Lower Merion. Unfortunately, the hauler broke down along the way, and the house was left in the middle of Conshohocken Road, near Belmont Avenue, where it obstructed traffic for over a year. Its final site was the intersection of Conshohocken State Road and Union Avenue, in Bala, where it functioned as a hotel for many years. Because of its proximity to the Belmont Driving Park, the Wisconsin House was well-patronized by everyone from jockeys, breeders, and trainers, to race enthusiasts. The establishment became so notorious that the surrounding neighborhood became known as “Wisconsinville.” Over time, it fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1961.
Bala Inn, Bala.
An example of a more contemporary wayside eatery, the Bala Inn, located along US Route One, catered to the hungry travelers. The Seery brothers opened the establishment, which became famous for its checkered tablecloths, in the early 1930s.
Bala Inn, Bala.
(see previous caption)
The Tavern, Cynwyd
Still a landmark eating establishment in the heart of Bala Cynwyd, the Tavern first built its reputation almost 80 years ago as a men’s club and sports bar. The first owner, William Everhart, converted the first floor of his three-story home on Montgomery Avenue into a restaurant in the 1930s to cater to the travelers – basically an early 1900s version of a highway rest stop. Everhart was a big game hunter who decorated the establishment with his prized collection of antique guns and trophy animals including bison, jaguar, and a bear. The main attraction, however, was the moose over the fireplace, which almost always had a lit cigarette in its mouth. While one can still get a plate of prime rib here, one has to cough up a little more than $1.35 – the cost of the same entrée in 1941. Nick Zaravalas, the current owner, started at the Tavern as a waiter in 1965.
General Wayne Inn, Merion
Nestled next to Merion Friends’ Meetinghouse, this tavern was established in 1704, and was in continuous use as an eating venue until 2000. For almost 300 years, it served a variety of functions including gathering place for visitors, a post office, a passenger stop for travelers on stagecoaches, and later, as a stop on the Philadelphia and Columbia Railway. It was the foremost meeting place for Township supervisors, where residents cast their votes in elections, and community leaders met to discuss the guiding principles around the establishment of the local public school system. The “Wayne” is also reputed to house the ghost of a colonial Hessian soldier, known fondly as Wilhelm, whose supposed presence proved good for business for the inn’s numerous owners over the years. It has the double distinction of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as part of a local Historic District. The personal message reads: “A place next to the [Merion] Meeting House which was well patronized by Washington and his Army. E.L.R. July 25, 1906.”
William Penn Inn, Wynnewood
Because it was considered good luck to be located by a milestone, Lower Merion’s Renaissance man Joseph Price built his William Penn Inn next to Milestone #6 along Lancaster Pike in 1799. The rooms in the inn were named for American heroes: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, etc…and the entrance hall, quirkily enough, was dubbed “The Nation.” Each inn in the area catered to its own special market or clientele: While the General Wayne provided many amenities, including a full menu and an on-site blacksmith, thus attracting a more prestigious customer, Price’s patrons were mostly “wagoners” carrying goods to and from Philadelphia – the social equivalent of truck drivers today. The inn was repurposed as a condominium.
St. George’s Inn, Ardmore
Originally known as the “Three Tuns Tavern,” (a “tun” being a large cask or barrel, usually used for liquor), this inn came to the name of St. George’s at the end of a cycle of different owners. By 1811, it was purchased by Dr. James Anderson to be used as a family residence. Considered one of the foundering families of Ardmore, the Andersons remained in St. George’s for the next 146 years. The dynasty was ended by the death of Dr. Joseph W. Anderson in 1957, at which point the family’s 45-acre property was subdivided for construction of apartment buildings and the local YMCA.
Red Lion Inn, Ardmore
As stated in the first chapter, Lancaster Pike was the way west to the new frontier; this popular highway had many inns to serve the travelers. Patrons and delivery carriages are pictured in front of this once popular inn in Ardmore. The Red Lion was closed in the early 1920s – a victim of Prohibition and increasing traffic.
Quaker Lodge Motor Hotel, Ardmore
“Small enough to know you. Large enough to serve you” was the motto of one of the first motor hotels in the area. Boasting of a “21 inch TV in every room” this hotel served a different, and much more transitory, clientele than the General Wayne Inn and the Haverford Hotel.
Buck Tavern, Haverford
Built between 1730 and 1735, the Buck Tavern was a popular meeting place since it was situated in a prime location for travelers. Many innkeepers occupied this landmark building until its demolition in 1964. The postcard is an interesting specimen from a market for “historic” postcards that date from the 1950s. Although the Tavern still existed at the time of the postcard’s publication, the printers chose to depict it as an interpretive sketch, labeled “1730” – perhaps insinuating how the property looked in its prime. This belongs to a postcard series of historic landmarks. The back description reads, “Stone structure with plaster facing. Popular inn and stage stop during the Revolution. Washington stopped here in September 1777, after the Battle of Brandywine. Appointed a post-tavern about 1832.”
Haverford Hotel, Haverford
“Situated by Philadelphia’s most beautiful suburb.” Often referred to as “Main Line’s Finest,” this elite hotel hosted many a graduation party, wedding reception, and social event during its illustrious 60 years. President Eisenhower’s granddaughter had her wedding reception here. Located on Montgomery Avenue and Grays Lane, it was only a half a block away from the Merion Cricket Club.
Bryn Mawr Hotel, Bryn Mawr
Built by the Pennsylvania Railroad, this five-story chateau-style structure was designed by the esteemed firm of Furness, Evans and Company. The resort hotel provided a luxurious setting where the Philadelphia elite could summer in the country. In 1912, Florence Baldwin, founder of Baldwin School, leased the hotel for the summer season, and later purchased it. This private, independent school for girls has operated at this site for almost 100 years. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
An afternoon at the Horse Show, Bryn Mawr
Lower Merion has many equestrian traditions such as polo teams, horse shows, and hunt clubs. From 1896 to 1914, the Bryn Mawr Hotel hosted an annual horse show, which drew socialites from as far away as Boston.
College Inn, Bryn Mawr
In 1901 famed architect Frank Furness designed this addition to the Bryn Mawr College campus. Resembling a Victorian home, the so-called College Inn was a small, gray stone, two-and-a-half story house that was wrapped with a shingled addition across the top and at each end. It was used as a guesthouse for visiting professors, students and their families. Sadly, it was demolished in 1979.
The Cottage Dining Room, Bryn Mawr
With hotels, inns, private clubs, and a variety of recreational and sporting facilities, the Bryn Mawr area was the premier destination for many on the Main Line. A local landmark, the Cottage also served as a Tea House, that is, a Victorian restaurant or shop serving tea and a light afternoon meal.