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The first person to utilize the property as a public house location was Marcus Huling. Huling, a Swedish Indian trader, was married to Mounce Jones’ daughter Margaret. Marcus Huling lived from 1687 to 1757 and is buried in the St. Gabriel’s church yard. Huling was a well known Indian interpreter and a man of great wealth. He was a vestryman at St. Gabriel’s Church in 1753. Perhaps due to his association with a tavern, Huling was very active in the 1730s and 40s in seeking roads through petition. In 1744, Huling signed the petition which created Amity Township.
In the 1750s, the property was owned by Philip Baltsar Craesman and his wife Anna Marie who had son Philip, Jr. in 1752. After George Douglass acquired the inn, he hired innkeepers to run the establishment. Between 1765 and 1767, Douglass’ hired innkeeper, Philip Cole, had to pay L45 a year in rent. In addition to paying rent, Cole is listed as owning 2 horses and 10 cattle. By 1772, Douglass had lowered the rent to 35 Pounds per year. Among these people were William Whitman, Dieter Bucher, and Henry Haffa. By 1780, the innkeeper was Henry Haffa. Haffa had worked as a boot maker and as custodian for Hessian prisoners in Reading previously.
The White Horse was visited by Duke of Rochefoucault de Liancourt in 1795. The Duke fled France during the Reign of Terror. The Reign of Terror occurred during the French Revolution from 1793 to 1794 and its purpose was to liquidate all internal counter-revolutionary elements. On May 7, 1795, Duke De Rochefoucault wrote,
“Traveling through the United States of N.A. we stopped at the White Horse Tavern, four miles from Pottsgrove. This inn is kept by a Frenchman, a native of Lorraine, who has married an American woman, the daughter of a native of Avignon, by a woman from Franchecomte. The whole family speaks bad English and bad French but probably good German. They pay a rent of $86.00 for 50 acres of land and the house; their owner lives very near & keeps a shop. The house and the land which is of very good quality, would have been worth $60 more had it been let to a private family. But the shopkeeper had very justly calculated that a good tavern so near his house was of more value to him than $60, and that a well frequented inn could not but procure customers to his shop, from whom he would be likely to derive advantages far exceeding the sum which he thus sacrificed. The good people of the inn enquired with much eagerness for news from France, etc. The situation of this borough and likewise of all the other places on the road from Pottsgrove to Reading is delightful.”
By 1915, when the building had been made into apartments, the eastern apartment was used by a Thomas Clark, the middle one by Ed Knauer, and the western one by Henry Knauer who also had a shoemakers shop. Another tenant of the eastern apartment at another time was William Bush who had a disabled Civil War veteran living with him. This veteran was confined to a wheel chair at the time. Also, a Pat McGovern occupied the center apartment for a time and was a puddler at the Douglassville Iron Works which were owned by David Knauer. At another time, Mrs. Moser lived in the eastern apartment while she ran the boarding house that was here.
Early in the tavern’s existence, it was known as the “White Stag.” Nevertheless, the White Horse Inn was the first stop on the highway from Reading to Philadelphia. Near here was a ford originally known as the “White Horse Ford.” The ford was apparently located slightly upriver from here. The Philadelphia stage would have passed by the inn twice a week. This inn would have been well known since it was a day’s journey from Philadelphia and located near a ford of the river. The White Horse was the Oley Valley’s first house for public entertainment and accommodation. After the covered bridge was built, the White Horse’s business declined because traffic began to bypass its location and people began to use the Black Horse Tavern (present-day Douglassville Hotel).
Soon after the Swedes began settling the region, the roads that would make this area a major intersection, began to be created. Although no confirmation date has been found, as early as 1709, petitions were recorded for the creation of the Great Manatawny or King’s Road which is modern-day Old Philadelphia Pike. The King’s Road was the major road from Philadelphia into what is today Berks County. Then, in 1718, a petition was made for Andrew Robeson’s Road which roughly followed east-bound 422 between Route 662 and terminated near the Lincoln House on Lincoln Road; this road was an extension of the King’s Road (Old Philadelphia Pike) toward Reading. It is important to realize that Reading was not officially founded until 1748—therefore, there was still no need for a road to extend all the way to present-day Reading. Confirmed in 1719, the Great Road from Oley to Philadelphia roughly followed Route 662 from Route 422 to Route 73 by way of Pleasantville. Therefore, by 1719, three major roads in Berks County met near the White Horse Inn.
By the 1730s, interest began to be shown for roads on the Union Township side of the river. In 1731, the Great Schuylkill Road was created to run from Millard’s Mill to Nutt’s Ironworks (this ironworks were located in what is today the Coventry area of Montgomery County). This is modern-day 724, from near Coventry Mall to near Cavatto’s Restaurant in Union Township. The road was extended above the Morlatton area in 1735. By 1768, the lane to the Mounce Jones house was part of a connecting road between the Reading-Philadelphia Road and the Reading-Chester Road; this road would have utilized the White Horse Ford to cross the river. In 1770, the Great Road from Reading to the White Horse was confirmed. This included east bound 422 and Old Philadelphia Pike.
The important thing to realize is that by 1770 the only road from Reading to Philadelphia passed the White Horse, the ford across the river that most people used to get to Thomas Millard’s mill was near here with a road across it, and the road to Oley terminated near the Douglass House. Therefore, this was a major eighteenth century crossroads. This would have been a very good place to locate an inn. By 1751, the Pennsylvania Gazette described the location as a “thriving inn.”
More fascinating than the list of owners of this property is the type of activities which were done at the inn. A 1740 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette listed an advertisement seeking to recruit troops for a British expedition against the Spanish West Indies. This same advertisement, which was during the War of Jenkins’ Ear, advised all potential army enlistees for an expedition to the West Indies that “Mr. Huling’s in Manatawny” was serving as one of twenty recruiting stations in the province. The War of Jenkins’ Ear was a struggle between England and Spain that grew out of commercial rivalry and ultimately led to the War of Austrian Succession. In 1740, Pennsylvania was a still a colony of England and liable to support her in such matters. During the Revolutionary War, the tavern was a mustering place for the Continental levies and a training ground for militia.
It was apparently common for inns to not only be recruiting stations in the 18th Century but also locations for public meetings and public announcements to be posted. Voting of local townships would also have taken place here. In 1746, Huling’s neighbor Andrew Sadowski posted the following notice:
“On the 4th of this instant was lost from Andrew Sadowski, of the Township of Amity, the sum of about thirty pounds, in gold, viz., three half johanneses, one double doubloon, and the remainder in muicores. It was tied up in a piece of linen cloth, with a hickory bark about it. Whoever shall find the said gold, and send it to Marcus Huling, shall have five pounds reward.”
Later, Sheriff Sales, election parties, and meetings of the Society for the Prevention of Horse Thievery were also held at this stagecoach stop. In 1801, notices in Reading newspapers invited, “all friends of the Christian religion to attend the cornerstone laying of the Episcopal Church at Morlatton at the White Horse in Amity Township on Saturday, June 6, 1801, at eleven o’clock a.m., when there will be preaching in both English and German…” On March 2, 1803, John Yocum advertised a $40 reward for the return of a dark bay horse which was stolen out of his stable near the White Horse Tavern on the night of February 27th or 28th.
By 1778, tavern licenses cost three Pounds annually for the retailing of wines and liquors. According to records found in the Pennsylvania Historical Society, a William Shippen sold one pipe of Madeira wine from a government hospital store to Henry Haffa who kept the inn for 400 Pounds.
During its existence, the tavern housed many notably people. George Washington visited the property twice. On November 10, 1793, during an inspection tour of Reading in the aftermath of the yellow fever epidemic, he stopped at the inn. Washington was riding a Rappahannock mare and was traveling with his secretary and nephew, Bartholomew Dandridge. In addition to inspecting Reading as a temporary capital location, Washington took the opportunity to view the Union Canal which was being built at the time.
Washington, in 1794, again stopped during his journey west to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion. He traveled in a coach of state with a military escort at the head of a militia column. The Whiskey Rebellion was an insurrection in the Pennsylvania counties west of the Alleghany Mountains in response to an excise tax which had been placed on whiskey by the government. Most people in this region made a living by producing whiskey.
It is also believed that Henry Melchior Muhlenberg stayed here when was preaching at St. Gabriel’s Church. He preached there every two weeks from 1745 to 1752 and then occasionally until 1761. In 1780, Muhlenberg wrote in his diary that a glass of rum at the tavern cost $8.
Later, the building was used as a boarding house for railroad workers.
Sometime around 1727, Marcus Huling constructed the first inn building. A 1727 map shows not only the inn, but also Marcus Huling’s house situated right on the river similar to the location of the Mounce Jones house.
The current structure is of the Georgian style and its principle façade is constructed of coursed, dressed sandstone. The remaining three facades are also constructed of sandstone but they are not dressed. The original section of the structure was the eastern section and was of the double cell type; this section consisted of two rooms on each floor. Today, this section includes the main entrance room, the “meeting” room, and the office and storage rooms on the second floor. Around 1762, George Douglass enlarged the structure to the west. Douglass’ addition consisted of one room on the first floor with two rooms above. Today, this would include the tap room and the caretaker’s apartment on the second floor. The western door opened into the bar and the eastern door opened into a women’s sitting room in the eighteenth century.
By 1915, the second floor had been divided into a series of apartments. The building was purchased by the Historic Preservation Trust of Berks County in 1971 and has undergone restoration—including the addition in the 1970s of the adjoining kitchen-service area. The addition is an improvement that replaced a shed roof construction that was washed away by a flood. In 1972, Hurricane Agnes flooded the entire area and water rose to fourteen feet high on the tavern walls. Restoration work on this property was done until 1985.
Most of the structure, however, is restoration work with little original materials remaining. The oak flooring in the north room (the “meeting” room) on the first floor is original. Also, the head and jamb panels on the windows in the second floor’s south room are original (this is one of the storage rooms).
The current pump on the property is over an early well. There is also evidence that there was another well just to the west of the building’s current configuration. At one time, there would a have been a stable one hundred feet long to the rear of the property.
The White Horse Inn is located at the southern end of what was originally a 1,000 acre tract that was initially taken by Justa Justasson in 1701. At that time the quit rent consisted of one bushel of good merchantable wheat per one hundred acres; this is similar to what Mounce Jones was paying for his land. Marcus Huling purchased the property adjacent to Mounce Jones’ in 1717 from descendants of Justa Justasson. At this time, the property contained approximately 200 acres. In 1725, Marcus Huling owned 220 acres and a homestead. The 1734 tax list shows Huling owning only 200 acres, however.
After the death of Marcus Huling, the inn and 120 acres were acquired by Phillip Balthasar Craesman in 1757. However, by 1750, Craesman was apparently living there. After one year of ownership, Craesman was advertising to sell the property in Christopher Sower’s Germantown newspaper:
“Philip Balthaser Craesman, in Amity Township, 42 miles from Philadelphia, 14 miles from Reading Town, makes known that he wants to sell his plantation, which lies on the road by the Swedes. There is an inn, the White Stag, a thriving place, where Marcus Huling formerly resided. There are 140 acres of good land, with a good orchard, good meadow, and other amenities.”
Craesman sold the property in 1757 to Samuel Cookson who eventually sold it in 1762 to George Douglass. In 1775, George Douglass still owned the property which included two homesteads. These, presumably, included the inn and the mansion.
A 1785 sales description of the property is as follows:
“ALL that PLANTATION, formerly in the possession of Ellis Griffith, containing about 112 acres, situate in Amity township, Berks county, adjoining Mountz Jones’s plantation, one mile from Schuylkill, and, on the new road, 10 from Reading. The improvements are a dwelling-house, barn, stables and other out buildings, a young orchard of about 200 apple trees of choice fruit, about 50 acres of good wheat land cleared, under good fence, 6 acres of meadow, and more may be made at a small expence, and the whole watered in the driest season; the remainder is well timbered land. For viewing the premises and knowing the terms of sale, apply to George Douglass, Esq; near the land, or for the terms of sale only, to John Wilson, at Samuel Pleasant’s, in Philadelphia, or to the subscriber, near Mountholly, New Jersey, who will make a good title to the purchaser, and allow a reasonable time for payment of part of the purchase money.”
This was signed by a John Lee on September 25, 1785.
Again, in 1791, another sales description was posted as follows:
“THAT noted Tavern, known by the name of the White-horse on the main road leading from Philadelphia to Reading, 41 miles from the former, and 13 from the latter, with 120 acres of land, part excellent meadow, with two bearing orchards, on which is erected a large commodious stone dwelling house, kitchen and out-houses, good barn and stabling, with sheds for 30 teams. For particulars, enquire of George Douglass, adjoining the premises.”
When George Douglass, Jr. died in 1833, his daughter Elizabeth Buckley inherited the property. Elizabeth and her descendants owned the building until 1944. In 1944, Earl Schurr bought the property. The Historic Preservation Trust of Berks County acquired the property in 1971. On April 21, 1975, the structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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