Before the Atlantic City Expressway was completed in 1965, linking the Philadelphia metropolitan area at the west end with Atlantic City and the Garden State Parkway in the east, a driver wanting to make such a trip had fewer and slower choices. There were however, (and still are), two much older roads that roughly connect the Camden / Philadelphia area with the Atlantic City area. The White Horse Pike and The Black Horse Pike are roughly parallel with the White Horse to the north of the AC Expressway and the Black Horse to the south of it. At the eastern end where they cross the Parkway and start to find their way into Atlantic City they are about four or five miles apart, with the Expressway in between. In the west, as all three roads approach Camden and Philadelphia, they are farther apart as they merge with various other roads and disappear into the approach to the Delaware River Bridges and other points around the big city.
Most of the length of The Black Horse Pike is numbered as Rt. 322 and most of The White Horse Pike is designated Rt. 30. My research tells me that The White Horse Pike, which was commissioned as a toll road way back in the mid-1800’s, came first and was named for The White Horse Tavern. The Black Horse Pike came much later and with some oversimplification, its name evolved from the earlier road. I found a really good article that explains the history HERE.
Since moving from Cape May up to the Philadelphia area about 25 years ago, I have made the trip back and forth hundreds of times and have used many different routes depending on time of day, weather, planned errands along the way, etc. My favorite “go-to” route includes a good portion of The Black Horse Pike (322). I just like that road and it suits my plans on most occasions.
Something that happened to both of the Pikes after the Expressway was built is very common for more local roads when a big freeway comes through. In many areas customers dried up and businesses died out. Both of them are perfectly good roads, but both of them are littered with empty shells of once prosperous service stations and restaurants. Both are adorned here and there with crumbling or shuttered little houses and broken down old farm stands with weeds growing in the parking lots.
There is fun stuff along these roads too. There are time capsules to be found if you keep your eyes open. I love to find examples of what I call “Roadside Americana”, like the Hubcap Pyramid on the Black Horse or the giant gorilla on Rt. 206.
What started me thinking about all of this in the past few days was a short trip I took last Saturday. I needed to get to Pomona, New Jersey, which is inland from Atlantic City by about ten miles. The White Horse Pike (30) made sense and I ended up driving that for forty miles or so. I saw plenty of the aforementioned boarded-up houses and crumbling businesses, but I also saw lots of other interesting sights. In some areas I had a sense of driving back through time. A time-tunnel back to New Jersey in the 1960’s, frozen as it was back when the new superhighway opened.
The White Horse Tavern itself is no longer there, but I did see at least one white horse! Enjoy the pictures of a few other strange things.
The Working Stiff