Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Old Stone Hotel, Stanton

The Old Stone Hotel, then the residence and office
of  Dr. Irvin and Ruth Carroll
With the network of roads, turnpikes, and waterways present in Mill Creek Hundred, it's not surprising that there were a number of inns, taverns, and hotels that operated here throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. They were usually located either along a major route for travellers in the midst of their journey, or at a destination for those who had reached the end of their trek. One place, though, fit the bill for both -- Stanton. Therefore, it makes sense that there was a hotel located here, in what was the first, and at one point the largest, community in the hundred.

Stanton, originally known by the indelicate name of Cuckoldstown (the speculation as to why will have to wait for another day), sits right near the confluence of the Red Clay and White Clay Creeks, and was the site of one of the earliest mills in the area. More mills soon followed, with commerce spurred on by the fact that in Colonial and early Federal times, White Clay Creek was navigable all the way to Stanton, allowing ships to be loaded and sail straight out to Wilmington and Philadelphia. Because of this, Limestone Road soon became busy, as this route was easier for Lancaster County farmers to get their grain to market than going overland to Philadelphia. When farmers came to ship and/or have their grain ground, they needed a place to sleep before heading back home. In addition to this, Stanton also lay on the main route from Newport (and Wilmington and New Castle) to Christiana (and Newark and beyond). Therefore the hotel in Stanton also catered to weary long-distance travellers as well.

For all of these reasons, it's not surprising that there was a hotel in Stanton pretty early in its history, by at least the mid-1700's. There is a Riseing Son Tavern mentioned in Revolutionary War era documents, and an advertisement for a property sale in 1752 clearly states that the lot contains "a very noted tavern with good buildings, stables, etc.". There were at least two different hotels that operated in Stanton over the years, but the one we'll focus on now is the older one that began as the Riseing Son (or Rising Son, or Rising Sun -- spelling at the time was more art than science), and sat on the southeast corner of Main Street (or the Newport-Christiana Turnpike, or Rt. 4) and Limestone Road, where the gas station is now. The property passed through close to a dozen hands from 1722 to 1793, and it's not clear exactly when the tavern first opened, or who operated it. The trail gets a bit clearer when, in 1793, the lot is purchased by Peter Springer, who then submits a petition in 1794 to operate a tavern.
 
Stanton in 1868, hotel operated then by William Anthony
Springer renewed his license several times over the next few years for the hotel and tavern, which we know from an 1804 tax assessment was a log structure. Springer must have been fairly successful in his business, because sometime around 1805, probably not long after the assessment, he began work on a stone house, presumably to replace the older log one. Unfortunately for him, he would not live to see its completion. He died during construction, leaving the property to his son Joseph. Joseph Springer would complete the new stone hotel, and, likely, would run it for a time. How long is not known, but according to Scharf, he did operate it for a while. By the time Joseph died in 1830, he probably had long since turned over operation of the hotel to a resident manager. Comparisons of the inventories of the two Springers' estates show that Peter, who ran the hotel himself, had abnormally large quantities of things like linens, silverware, and bedding -- things a hotelier would have --, while Joseph did not.

Old Stone Hotel, shortly before demolition, c.1972

Upon Joseph's passing, ownership of the hotel (whether it was still called the Riseing Son by that time is not known) went to Joseph's sister, Hannah. In 1816, Hannah Springer had married Solomon Hersey, son of Benjamin Hersey (builder of the Hersey-Duncan House) and grandson of  Solomon Hersey (builder of the first mill at what would become Marshallton). Hannah Hersey would own the hotel until her own death in 1884. By the time her widower sold it four years later, it had not operated as a hotel for a fair number of years.

Stanton, 1860
As to who did run the hotel in the intervening years, Scharf gives us some names, but no more. After Joseph Springer, there was William Simpson, David Johnson, and Thomas Beatty. Nothing much is known about these men. The next proprietor, Thomas Pierce, is listed in the 1850 census as an innkeeper, and though it's impossible to be sure he was running this hotel, I think it's a fair assumption. By 1860, the next manager, Levi Workman, is shown on a map and in the census. As the above map shows, it was still owned by Mrs. [Hannah] Hersey, and was then called the Fountain Hotel. Workman was also acting as postmaster at the time, although the post office seems to have usually been run out of the other hotel, across the street. By 1868, proprietorship was turned over to William Anthony, who ran it until it closed for business, probably sometime in the early 1870's. By 1888, it had "been abandoned for many years".

Demolition of the Old Stone Hotel, c.1972
After the two and a half story Quaker Georgian house's days as a hotel were over, it continued to be used as a residence for almost another century. But, not always as only a residence. Older locals in the 1960's recalled the building being used, at various times, as a post office, a grocery store, and most interestingly as a cigar factory. This last one is corroborated by another report, and seems to date from about 1900. I would love to know more about that one. The old stone hotel finally met its end in about 1972, when it was torn down to build the Alert gas station (remember that one?). With it went one of the last direct ties to the early history of the town of Stanton.

13 comments:

  1. I still recall the old stone hotel as I grew up in Stanton and saw it everyday as I walked to school. I remember hearing stories about it being used as a stop on the Underground Railroad and that Washington once stayed there, but I suspect that was actually a mix of wishful thinking and confusion with the Hale-Byrnes House down the street.

    you mention a second hotel in Stanton- is that the building the current houses Estep accounting?

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  2. How old was the Stanton Arms? Could that have been the other hotel?

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  3. Bill -- I don't doubt that a big, old house like that would gather lots of stories around it over the years. I think your assessment of them is likely correct.

    The other 19th century hotel was on the other side of Main Street, on the northeast corner of the intersection. It seems the longest-tenured proprietor of it was Springer McDaniel, but I couldn't find much more about it than that. I don't even know what type of building it was, or when it got torn down. I imagine it probably sat in the grassy area next to the house that has the palm reader in it now. It had to have been gone by the time they put the turn lane in. You all probably know better than I, but I think it was in the 60's. Larry, I don't remember the Stanton Arms. Where was it?

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  4. Next to Esteps. It burned down 30 - 35 years ago. The liquor store/ gas station is there now.

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  5. Scott, Thanks for the info. I am really trying to dig into my ancestry and this does help a bit. I know Hannah, my 3rd great Grandma is buried in Stewartstown cemetary along with Solomon and many others. So if she was the owner, she must have had someone taking care of things. Must have been a smart lady!

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  6. The old Stanton Arms tavern operated until maybe around 1985. If you go in the liquor store that currently sits there, and go down the steps, you will see one of the original walls left from the Stanton Arms. It was left as a wall of the current liquor store, and is all that remains of the old tavern.

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    1. Delaware has a silly law that if you tear down a existing liquor store you don't need to reapply for a license if you leave one remaining wall. This recently happened in the Four Season's Shopping Center on Rt 896. Shop Rite was moving into the old Super Fresh/Pathmark location and wanted the liquor store space that was on the corner of the grocery store. Burger King was forced out of their space and the liquor store tore down the whole building except for one wall. That one wall kept them from going through the whole process of reapplying for a liquor license.

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    2. Thanks Michael!!! In an odd Delaware way, that perfectly explains why they left the wall there. Has to be the reason. Thanks for clearing that up!

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  7. Interesting, Dave C. So what I'm reading from that comment is, "Scott needs to go to the liquor store." Let my dedication to historical discovery never be questioned...

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  8. I for one miss the Alert station. OK, maybe not the station but I do miss the 35 cents a gallon.

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  9. My Brother, Irvin Carroll was the last one to own the"Stone house" as we called it. He was also the last owner of the farm in Christiana whose main house was a Dutch style salt block house built by the son of George Read of Delaware who signed the Declaration of independence. We are fairly sure that we are related to The early Carroll's of Maryland, Charles the settler, & Charles of Carrollton.& decedents.











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    1. Wow, that's very interesting. Even more history there than we thought! I certainly did not know that about the other farm. Where was that located, or should I say what's there now? Thanks for coming by and commenting!!

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  10. I've added a new photograph of the Old Stone Hotel that I just came across, taken probably in the 1960's. I first posted it on the Facebook page to make sure it really was what I thought it was (it was only labeled as a house in Stanton). We were lucky enough to have several relatives of the last owners of the house stop by there, and now here. I'm posting other photographs on FB, which you can find here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Mill-Creek-Hundred-History-Blog/493370700695947

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