The second picture, taken only last week, in contrast to the one taken 50 years ago, shows more plainly than many columns can describe, the changes the years have made along Lancaster pike, at the junction of Wayne and its neighboring suburb of Strafford. It is only recently that the John M. Gallagher house, on the left in the first picture, has been demolished to make room for the new Gulf gasoline station shown in the second.
Old timers among us may look with a certain wistful nostalgia at the quiet peace of the scene in the first picture, with its one vehicle approaching the intersection, and that one a horse drawn wagon! Great trees line the highway and shade the large Victorian style dwelling with its mansard roof and, shuttered windows. Built by Drexel and Childs in the 1880’s, this dwelling is of the same style of architecture as those lining Bloomingdale avenue, between Lancaster pike and West Wayne avenue in the late 1880’s and 1890’s. The famous old Spread Eagle Inn, built in 1796 to replace a still earlier small crude structure, stood across the road from the Gallagher house and slightly to the west of it. By the time this picture was taken, it had been demolished, however, by George W. Childs, who needed the building stones for his Bloomingdale avenue houses. Besides, he feared – or so it was said – that liquor might again be sold there as in days gone by!
Directly across the road there already stood the building that is now known as the Spread Eagle Apartment, with shops on the first floor. Sheltered from view by the trees to the right in the first picture, the large house, with its stables and other outbuildings, was a private home of mansion-like proportions. Mrs. Charles Suffren, one of Strafford’s old time residents, recalls that the beautiful home had several owners, among them an early member of the George B. Thayer family. The George Wharton Pepper family also lived there at one time.
The second Spread Eagle Inn was still standing when the mansion house just described was built. Just to the west of the Inn was a small and very old stone house, recently remodelled by the Wayne Title and Trust Company as its branch office. Mrs. Suffren tells us that this was one of the most famous toll houses along the old Lancaster pike. One of its first rooms almost touched on the road, making a vantage point from which tolls of three cents per vehicle were collected by the woman in charge as she lifted the long bar that extended across the road – a procedure rather difficult to imagine in this era of fast moving traffic.
So much for what was once sheltered by the tall trees on the right hand side of the road in the first picture. The second picture is so new as to be self explanatory, even to the highway marker which sets a speed limit of 35 miles per hour at this point. Dave’s Bar, as its large sign shows, occupies the once vacant triangle bounded on one side by the pike and on the other by Conestoga road. Beyond that is the new Gulf station while across the pike is a Cities Service gas station, built a short time ago. In the picture it completely hides the smaller of the Spread Eagle buildings – a low and attractive structure which was once the stables for the mansion house. Now a part of the apartment house, it is not too many years ago that this building was a picturesque tea room.
The several storied white building just beyond the Cities Service as station is the Spread Eagle Apartment house, with its first floor display windows and shops. And beyond that is the old toll house, remodelled to meet the needs of the Branch Office or the Wayne Title and Trust Company.
(To be continued next week with the story of the Gallagher house and of the old Unicorn Inn, which once stood on this site.)