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Historic Bell Tavern back on tap for demolition?

Great adventures often start in a tavern.

And the adventure that became our nation, some local historians say, may have its roots in the James Bell Tavern in Silver Spring Township.

The now partially-demolished stone building at 7084 Carlisle Pike was the site of an 18th Century meeting where some say the chain of events that led to the Bill of Rights was set into motion.

A deal had been struck earlier this year to save the landmark.

But now, it looks like that deal may have fallen through.

Triple Crown Corporation, which purchased the land that the Bell Tavern sits on, had reached an agreement with Silver Spring Township in June that would give a local preservation group the chance to restore the landmark.

The current owners started tearing it down before they knew the historic significance of what they had on their hands, the discovery of which prompted them suspended demolition.

The agreement called for Triple Crown to shore up the building, rebuild the exterior walls, and donate to a non-profit of the township’s choosing. In addition, the agreement called for improvements to Bernheisel Bridge Road and a donation of seven acres of open space to the township.

But all of that was contingent on the township rezoning a portion of the land on the western side of the property so that a 400,000 square-foot warehouse could be built there.

But according to a statement released Wednesday by Silver Spring Township, the owners informed the township in September that PP&L was exercising its powers of eminent domain to take the parcel of land that was proposed for rezoning, nullifying the agreement and placing the Bell Tavern back in jeopardy.

Township officials say they informed members of the Bell Tavern Association, who could not immediately be reached for comment.

But the township said Triple Crown offered to sell the property to the association for $700,000 – a cost that does not include the hundreds of thousands of dollars that will be necessary to restore the building.

The association has been raising money for the tavern’s preservation, but has so far raised only $20,000, according to the township.

While the association has asked for the township’s help to buy the property, township officials say they are not in the position to contribute those funds with the numerous capital improvement and infrastructure costs they’re already balancing.

The developer has applied for an extension of their demolition permit for Bell Tavern, which township officials are currently reviewing.

“We remain hopeful that The Bell Tavern Association can find a successful solution and that the urgency of the moment will drive support to their organization,” township officials said in a statement.

Officials with Triple Crown could not immediately be reached for comment.

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