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Friday, November 25, 2011

The Stanton Hotel

The Stanton Hotel, c. 1900
A while back, we looked at the hotel that, during its time, was usually looked upon as the "main" hotel in Stanton -- The Riseing Sun. And while it was likely the site of the first hotel/tavern/inn in Stanton, it was not the only one in town. Across the street from the Riseing Sun, operating for almost 100 years, was another hotel, whose memory -- and whose very name -- has almost been lost to history. Whereas there's been a decent bit written about the Riseing Sun, the Stanton Hotel has been nearly forgotten. To be honest, I wasn't really able to find to much more than some basic facts, and a long list of probable proprietors.

The hotel (or much more likely, hotels) sat on the northeast corner of Limestone Road and Main Street in Stanton, next to where the palm reader is now. I believe it was probably centered right about where the sign is in the grass on the corner. Although this fact is only ever alluded to as far as I can tell, it seems as if there were two different structures that served as the hotel over the years, and only vague references as to when the old one was razed and the new one built. It's not even clear who actually owned the property. And to make things even more confusing, for much of its history the hotel seems to have been operated by a long list of different proprietors. Seriously -- everywhere I look, there is a different list of operators, with almost no overlap of names.

In one of the earlier mentions of the hotel, Scharf gives it all of two sentences. According to him, the structure that served as the first hotel was built in 1808 by James Stroud. Stroud seems to have been a major landowner in the area at the time (and a noteworthy figure in his own right, see AFART below) and the operator of one of the mills in the Stanton area. Whether Stroud built it for himself or as a rental property is not noted, but he didn't use it as a hotel. That phase began about 1830 with another prominent local figure, Abraham Boys (1790-1873). Boys (or sometimes, Boyes) began operating the hotel at that time, but for how long is unclear. The next proprietor was in place by at least 1850, and maybe earlier. Whether he ran the hotel full time, and what he did prior to 1830, I've not been able to find. However, in addition to whatever else he did, Abraham Boys was also involved in public service. Between 1837 and 1861, he alternated between the State House and the State Senate, serving two terms in each. In the middle, he served as New Castle County Sheriff from 1842-44.
Stanton, Delaware -- 1860
The next man to run the Stanton Hotel was another local resident, Springer McDaniel. Like Stroud, McDaniel was also a miller by trade (the 1832 McLane Report lists him as establishing a mill in 1829). Exactly when and why he began operating the hotel is unknown, but a DelDOT report seems to indicate that he was in place by 1843. McDaniel was certainly operating it by 1850, as that census (and the 1860 one) lists him as such. The map above from 1860 also shows him as the proprietor, and is one of the few places I actually found a name for the hotel. Between Boys and McDaniel, the Stanton Hotel had two proprietors over a period of more than thirty years. This would end by 1868, as the map below shows, and would usher in a new era of many short-term hoteliers.

Stanton, Delaware -- 1868
McDaniel did remain in Stanton, and was the postmaster as late as 1874, but in 1868 George E. Wollaston was the proprietor of the Stanton Hotel. This move from long-term to short-term operators may not have been the only change taking place at this time. According to the newspaper article from which the picture at the top of the post was taken (article was from about 1960), "It is believed the front part of the structure was built just after the Civil War days." By "the front part" I assume they mean the hotel itself, as opposed to the stables in the rear, since the building seems to be one structure. From the looks of it, the style is consistent with the 1860's. Abraham Boys' structure would have been about 60 years old by then. My hypothesis is that after Springer McDaniel retired from the hotel game, a new owner, maybe Wollaston, came in and built a new, probably larger hotel. This new hotel was made of brick, and had 22 rooms.

Over the next 50+ years after 1868, culled from various sources, we have the names of no less than 10 more men who, at one time or another, ran the Stanton Hotel. For one thing, each census has a different hotel keeper listed: 1870-George A. Garrett, 1880-James Pierson, 1900-W.H. Saxton, 1910-Lewis Dickey. Scharf says the successors to McDaniel were John Moore and Jacob Hyatt, with Hyatt being current in 1888. In the 1880 census, it appears Hyatt is running a hotel in Newport.

The 1874 State Directory shows James Barr as the hotel keeper. The newspaper article previously mentioned lists a Mr. Simpler and a John Armstrong as operators, too. If this all seems pretty disjointed, it's because it is. Outside of the censuses, it's hard to put any dates with the tenures of anyone. Another thing that might be confusing things occurred to me while reading one other newspaper article sent to me by Ken Copeland, who also is to be credited for the the other article and the picture below. This article may also help explain the demise of the hotel (but not yet the building).

In December 1920, a fire raged through Stanton, damaging the hotel, then owned by C. P. Major. In reading the word "owned", I realized that it's possible that some of the sources could be confusing owning the hotel with running it. Between Abraham Boys and C. P. Major, there is never a concrete statement as to who actually owned the hotel. I assume that Springer McDaniel did, but that's only a guess. I also know that it was not uncommon for hotel managers to move around frequently, which no doubt explains the long list of proprietors. So basically, after the 1860's I have no idea who actually owned the property, until, that is, 1920.

Two years later, in 1922, we have another ownership change when the hotel was purchased by Harry (Dutch) Boulden, and "With the advent of the motorcar, better roads, and, later, Prohibition, the hotel lost much of its patronage, and gradually was converted to a grocery store and apartments." My guess is that damage from the 1920 fire may have been a factor in the sale, too.

The Stanton Hotel, shortly before demolition, c1958

So it seems that the Stanton Hotel ceased operating as a hotel sometime in the 1920's, but the structure remained for another 35 years or so. As the article states, the hotel rooms were converted to apartments, and a grocery store was opened in the basement. The last grocer to operate there was F. Kenneth Davis, who ran the store when the above picture was taken in 1958. About two years later, when Limestone Road was undergoing one of its many widenings, the (probably, maybe?) nearly 100 year old hotel was demolished, taking with it the memories of countless proprietors and guests of the Stanton Hotel.

Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
  • At some point, I may have to look into James Stroud a bit more. His name came up on other deeds for lots around the Limestone Road-Main Street intersection in the early 19th Century. He served at least three terms in the State House of Representatives between 1797 and 1804. He was a miller by trade, whose son married into the Richardson and Tatnall families. More interestingly, he served as a witness for Oliver Evans in what I think is a patent lawsuit in 1812 regarding Evans' automatic milling system. This will require further research someday.
  • Although I don't think Springer McDaniel ever held elective office, he was surely a well-respected member of the community. In 1860, he was appointed by the Levy Court to a commission charged with determining if a new road and bridge were needed in northeastern MCH. They decided it was not, but were overruled by another panel, and the old Yorklyn covered bridge was built.
  • Lewis Dickey, operator of the hotel in 1910, was the son of Benjamin Dickey and the cousin of Hettie Dickey. He was also the only hotel keeper after Springer McDaniel who I know was actually a resident and native of Stanton.


  1. nice article Scott. I like the early photo of the hotel also.

  2. Peter Springer built the original stone Inn in Stanton. It may have replaced an earlier structure used as an Inn. The building was not complete when Peter died, so, according to probate records his widow completed the job. She may have married James Stroud, as he was later appointed guardian of the two minor children.
    When Peter's son Joseph Springer died without issue his sister, Hannah Springer (married to Solomon Hersey) inherited the property. Hannah and Solomon are my 3x great grandparents.

  3. My mistake - this information pertains to the Old Stone Hotel in Stanton.