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Reading 3: A New Home
In the decades since Anna Heist Waters sold the King of Prussia Inn property to the State of Pennsylvania, various individuals suggested that the building be moved in order to preserve it. Indeed, early on the Pennsylvania Highway Department had been willing to part with the structure for a nominal fee, provided the purchaser move the building to a new location. Clearly the notion of moving the inn was easier said than done. It would obviously cost a considerable sum of money, and then there was the issue of finding a new site for the inn, and providing for its renovation and long-term care. There were also doubts in the engineering community that the enormous stone structure could be moved at all without destroying it in the process. All of these concerns were eventually addressed through a partnership of federal and state agencies and a non-profit organization.
Volunteers from the King of Prussia Chamber of Commerce at Valley Forge led a campaign with the historical society to assist in finding a new location and funds for the restoration of the inn. The “A Home for the Inn” campaign intended to raise the necessary funds to move the building by July 4th, 1998. The schedule proved too ambitious, but they were successful in finding a new location only a half mile east of its original location, and they committed to restoring and caring for the inn after its move. Meanwhile, the Federal Highway Administration agreed to cover 80% of the 1.6 million dollar costs for the move. PENNDOT's Engineering District 6-0 assembled a team of consultants including Greiner Inc. and Ortega Consulting to evaluate the structure and the feasibility of moving it, and the International Chimney Corporation to actually brace and move the 580 ton building.
The planning was thorough and meticulous. The route from the original location to the new one had to be cleared of utility lines and other overhead obstacles. A small culvert where a stream passes beneath Route 202 had to be braced and prepared for the weight of the massive building passing over it. A plan for conducting the move with an absolute minimum disruption of traffic had to be prepared. The inn had to be braced and bracketed with lumber and metal plates and steel cables. Enormous I-beams had to be inserted beneath the structure, and state-of-the-art, rubber tired, computer controlled, self propelled jacks had to be fitted beneath the I-beams holding the structure.
Finally, on Sunday, August 20, 2000 the King of Prussia Inn was ready for its move to a new site. A crowd gathered at dawn to watch the procession. At about 9:00 a.m., the venerable old building began to move. Traveling only feet an hour, the inn made its way up Route 202, passed safely over the culvert, to Gulph Road, where it made a right turn--with contractors soaping the tires so they could slide along the curbing and manually turning the jacks. From there the inn proceeded about a half mile to the entrance of the Abram's Run development, where it was brought to its new site. It took three days to complete this stupendous and successful effort in engineering and historic preservation!
With the successful move, the King of Prussia Inn no longer graces what was the southwestern corner of Gulph and Swedes Ford Road. But thanks to the efforts of Pennsylvania's transportation and historic preservation communities working together, the inn's history and archeology, and the inn itself, were all preserved, and an important link in the chain that binds us to our collective past was saved for future generations.
Questions for Reading 3
1. What obstacles did PENNDOT face in preserving the inn?
2. What agencies cooperated in moving the inn? Why do you think this was such an undertaking?
3. What had to be done to stabilize the structure and move the King of Prussia Inn?
4. Based on what you have learned, why do you think it might be important to preserve the King of Prussia Inn? Why do you think this particular preservation effort is so unique?
Reading 3 was adapted from Richard M. Affleck, “At the Sign of the King of Prussia,” Byways to the Past, published by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, 2002.