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     AN EVENING AMONG FRIENDS white logo
STORY BY ED PETERSEN - PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRIS POH

Last fall, my good friend and APHR colleague, Chris Poh and I were in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia visiting A Man Full of Trouble Tavern, an establishment steeped in history, legend, and the spirit of revolution. Click on its name to attend this remarkable icon of American pub culture.  Chris and I had, for a quite awhile, intended to drop by a popular Philly watering hole called The Dicken’s Inn which was right down the street in the same Society Hill neighborhood. So, with the night still young, our whistles only halfway wetted, and a full moon reappearing after a surprise downpour, we meandered south on 2nd Street toward Head House Square.


Photo by Ed Petersen    
Entrance to Head House Square in Philadelphia, PA as seen in American Public House Review
  THE MARKET MASTER'S "HEAD HOUSE" ON THE SQUARE



Photo by Ed Petersen    
Head House Square in Philadelphia, PA as seen in American Public House Review
THIS PORTICO ON HEAD HOUSE SQUARE IS WHERE TRADERS WOULD SET UP THEIR MARKET TABLES.


To our surprise The Dicken’s Inn is no more. In its place now sits a tavern called THE DARK HORSE, but, from the outside at least, it appears as if the name and the sign might be the only things that have changed. Three flags still fly from the attractive exterior elevation; our own Stars and Stripes, The Union Jack of the United Kingdom, and the Flag of Ireland. Chris and I wondered if these proud banners signify that this new manifestation still adhered to its previous Anglo-Celtic centricity. The Dicken’s Inn had always been a gathering place for British, Scottish, and Irish ex-pats and travelers. It was a favorite of Americans honoring their Isles heritage as well. When we entered, the lilt of brogues and accents among the patrons confirmed our speculation.

There is little doubt that the people of the British Isles are America’s best friends on earth. Perhaps it is because we speak with the same native tongue .  .  .  more or less  .  .  .  despite George Bernard Shaw’s proposal that we are two peoples separated by a common language. Or maybe we believe that the inhabitants of those Islands are like minded as to the principles of civil liberty and justice which we set as our own guideposts. Whatever the reason, the relationship as much resembles family as friendship to my mind. There is an aphorism, “Family does not stand on convention,” which means that like it or not, for better or worse, family is there for one another unconditionally when in need and without the expectation of gushing gratitude. Of course I’m not forgetting that we went through some initial troubles not unlike an adolescent breaking free from her parents. Indeed those family squabbles are still brewing between Ireland and England. Here’s hoping that reconciliation and healing continue to grow between them as it has bloomed between us and the mother country. It is to our shame as human beings and an awful tragedy that puerile, political tantrums continue as ever to be expressed on battlefields or through the terroristic slaughter of innocents.



bartender Kyra at the Dark Hprse Pub in Philadelphia, PA as seen in American Public House Review
BARTENDER KYRA IS AN EXCELLENT HOST. SHE WILL ADD GOOD CHEER TO YOUR NIGHT OUT AT THE DARK HORSE. KYRA MIGHT ALSO KICK YOUR BUM AT THE ENGLISH DART GAME OF CRICKET SHOULD YOU FANCY A  CHALLENGING TOSS OF THE SPEARS.



Photo by Ed Petersen    
Society Hill, Philadelphia as seen in American Public House Review
SOCIETY HILL IN PHILADELPHIA WAS NAMED FOR THE QUAKER INSPIRED SOCIETY OF TRADERS. IT IS A COMMON MISCONCEPTION THAT ITS  MONIKER DERIVED FROM  THE HIGH SOCIETY OF WELL-HEELED GENTRY WHO LATER CAME TO INHABIT OF THE AREA.


  
Building along Head House Square in Philadelphia, PA as seen in American Public House Review
THE NEIGHBORHOOD AROUND HEAD HOUSE SQUARE IS A TREASURE TROVE OF COLONIAL AMERICAN ARCHITECTURE. BEAUTIFULLY RENOVATED AND LOVINGLY LOOKED AFTER, THE BUILDINGS EXPRESS MUCH OF THE SPIRIT OF THE ORIGINAL 18TH CENTURY MARKETPLACE. THE ARTFUL DODGER ON THE FOREGROUND CORNER IS ANOTHER CAPTIVATING WATERING HOLE WHICH WOULD BE AN INDISPENSABLE STOP ON A PUB TOUR OF SOCIETY HILL.


The Dark Horse Pub and Restaurant in Philadelphia, PA as seen in American Public House Review
THE DARK HORSE PUB AND RESTAURANT IN PHILADELPHIA, PA


Downstairs pub at the Dark Horse in Philadelphia, PA as seen in American Public House Review
THE DARK HORSE HAS A LARGE AND LIVELY UPSTAIRS BAR. THERE IS ALSO A MORE INTIMATE DOWNSTAIRS ROOM PERFECT FOR ENJOYING A SHEPHERD'S PIE OR ENGAGING YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER IN COMFORTABLE CONVERSATION.


Tony Darnell and Kyra at the Dark Horse Pub in Philadelphia, PA as seen in American Public House Review
TONY DARNELL CLOSES OUT THE "20" AS KYRA  CONTEMPLATES HER STRATEGY FOR THE NEXT SHOT.








Dart board at The Dark Horse Pub in Philadelphia, Pa as seen in American  Public House Review



According to legend, although it may very well be true, the game of darts began when unemployed English soldiers scratched rings into a barrel top and competed with one another as to whom could throw his spear closest to the middle. The contest caught on and if barrels were scarce, the players would use a tree trunk cut into slabs.  Soon, by popular demand, the game was brought inside. The spears necessarily shrank into darts and the boards became conducive to indoor play.

Interestingly, The tossing distance was once determined by placing end to end three crates from one particular brewery named Hockey & Sons. This length apparently amounted to nine feet, give or take an inch or two.

By the early 1900's, rules, sizes and standardized distances had been established. In the 1920's formal dart organizations were created. But it was not until after World War II that the popularity of darts truly exploded around  the world.  

Needless to say the game of darts is presently embraced by millions.  It is the rare domicile that has not had a board hanging in the basement at one time or another. Many an expert will wink and confess that a beer or two  actually helps his or her game. Of course, as the tankards are topped off again and again, the law of diminishing returns takes over. 






We were informed by our attentive, affable and quite professional bartender; Kyra that the tavern was under new and capable stewardship. A trio of chaps; Paul McCloskey, James Stephens, and Gene LeFevre now own THE DARK HORSE. Thankfully, they cherish and promote the cross-pond interaction for which the establishment is known. The bar’s tellies carry Premier League footie among other European athletic events, and the game of darts is still as always of the essence. THE DARK HORSE has eight dart boards and is home to the Olde English Dart League of Philadelphia- quite a competitive group of snipers.


Allison Wasley at The Dark Horse Pub in Philadelphia, PA as seen in American Public Review
ALISON WASLEY, A PLAYFUL VISITOR FROM ACROSS THE POND CELEBRATES THE ENDING OF A "LOVELY AMERICAN  HOLIDAY" BY  GRACING THE DOWNSTAIRS PUB WITH HER INFAMOUS SEATED DOGGIE DANCE


On that September night, Chris and I enjoyed a tasty morsel  and a few well poured Guinness stouts. We also delighted in the company and entertainment provided by a group of British visitors indulging in one last hurrah after a cross-country adventure through the States. Their plane was  departing in the morning and by the agency of some mysterious traveler’s pipeline, or just serendipity, or perhaps it was the Union Jack flying out front, they ended up basking in the welcoming hospitality of the DARK HORSE PUB AND RESTAURANT. Our new English friends appeared to appreciate the place very much. I know that Chris and I did!



Back Bar at The Dark Horse Pub in Philadelphia, PA as seen in American Public House Review
WE AT APHR LOVE A GREAT BACKBAR



Sign at the Dark Horse Pub in Philadelphia, PA as seen in American Public House Review






Window at the Dark Horse Pub in Philadelphia PA as seen in American Public House Review
DH





THE DARK HORSE PUB AND RESTAURANT


421 SOUTH 2ND STREET

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA 19147

215-928-9307


www.darkhorsepub.com


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