The Freedom Valley Chronicles: Andorra Inn and Andorra Inn Barn

As you shop for the freshest vegetables or the best deal on cereals at the Giant Supermarket at the Whitemarsh Shopping Center, you may not realize what the property used to look like at Ridge and Butler Pikes. Prior to its transformation into a shopping center, the property was the site of the Andorra Inn and the Andorra Inn Barn.

The Andorra Inn served patrons for generations. It was physically located just feet from Ridge Pike, very close to Butler Pike. Today, this space is part of the parking lot of this shopping center. Its street address is in the Conshohocken Postal District.

An advertisement for the Andorra Inn appeared in Wise Acres in 1940. This publication was the yearbook for the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women. Today, this school is the Ambler Campus of Temple University.

You can see what the Andorra Inn looked by clicking here. You’ll also see what the intersection of Ridge and Butler Pikes looked like in 1931. Check out the second page in this document from Whitemarsh Township.

During the transition from a rural area into a suburban community, Whitemarsh Township had zoned six acres of land on Ridge Pike for business development. The land zoned for business included the Andorra Inn.

When the owners of the property, Andorra Nurseries, were ready to develop the property as a shopping center, they asked for an additional two acres to be added to the business zone. The key reason for the request was reportedly that the Penn Fruit Supermarket determined that additional parking would be needed at the shopping center.

The request to zone two additional acres for business was opposed by a number of area residents and businesses. A news article in The Conshohocken Recorder dated February 24, 1955, indicated that the Plymouth-Whitemarsh Chamber of Commerce was opposed to the change in zoning for the Penn Fruit Supermarket. Instead, the news article stated that “the Plymouth-Whitemarsh Chamber of Commerce would rather push for a change in zoning from B residential to business for the corner property owned by the Green Valley Country Club at Germantown Pike and Joshua Road.” The country club remains open space as part of the country club to this day.

Eventually, the request to expand the business zone on Ridge Pike was agreed to by the Board of Supervisors of Whitemarsh Township. As part of the approval, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer in a news article dated April 26, 1955, the Township mandated a 35-foot wide buffer zone between the shopping center and Andorra Acres, the residential neighborhood located behind the shopping center. Based on recent site maps, it is not certain if that 35-foot wide buffer zone still actually exists.

The Andorra Inn Barn was located on land that is now the Whitemarsh Shopping Center.

Behind the Andorra Inn was a large barn. In 1941, as part of the Pennsylvania German Barn Project sponsored by the American Institute of Architects, photographs were taken of this barn. According to the Historic American Buildings Survey by the Federal Government, part of the Andorra Inn Barn was built in 1756.

The Andorra Inn and the Andorra Inn Barn were both razed in 1955 to build a shopping center for a Penn Fruit Supermarket.

This view of the Andorra Inn Barn shows the louvered ventilators on one end of the barn.
Part of the Andorra Inn Barn was built in 1756.
The Andorra Inn Barn included detailed stone work. Note the motor vehicle with “Andorra” on its top.
In 1890, Mr. Thomas Hovenden of Plymouth Meeting painted Breaking Home Ties. He reportedly used a resident of the Andorra Inn as one of his models. You can view the original painting today at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

According to the news article in The Conshohocken Recorder, the Andorra Inn was once the home of, among others, Ms. Susan Yerkes. The news article quoted Ms. Sara Stanley, president of the Plymouth Meeting Historical Society, that Mr. Thomas Hovenden, a noted painter from Plymouth Meeting, used Ms. Stanley’s mother as well as Ms. Yerkes as models for the painting Breaking Home Ties in 1890. Ms. Stanley publicly asked the builders of the shopping center and the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors to spare the Andorra Inn from demolition. Her request was declined.

The Penn Fruit Supermarket opened in November of 1956. Today, the space is occupied by the Giant Supermarket. In the time period between these two chains operating from this location, a Shop n Bag Supermarket and a Clemens Family Market also occupied the same space.

Leaders of the Penn Fruit Supermarket were likely familiar with this intersection because one of the three founders of the supermarket chain, Mr. Samuel Cooke, lived in the Broad Axe section of Whitemarsh Township in the Freedom Valley. Mr. Cooke, a native of Ukraine who became an American citizen, died at the age of 66 years in 1965.

The Whitemarsh Shopping Center is seen here as of August 22, 2016. The shopping center includes a Giant Supermarket and a number of smaller retailers.

In 1955, two local newspapers reported that the shopping center was to cost $475,000.00 to be built. To put this in perspective, the Whitemarsh Shopping Center – which has been renovated and expanded through the years – was sold for $4 million in 1993. Its current property tax assessment is $8,342,060.00 according to Montgomery County.

The top photo and the four other photos of the Andorra Inn Barn are courtesy of the Library of Congress, 1941.

The image of the advertisement from Wise Acres is courtesy of Temple University, 1940.

The photo of the Whitemarsh Shopping Center is courtesy of Montgomery County, 2016.

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© 2018 Richard McDonough