18 November 2019

The Neshanic Hotel (circa 1838 - 1930)

The earliest mention of a public building in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey, is that of the Neshanic Dutch Reformed Church which began construction in 1759 on Amwell Road. The second listed building is the inn directly across the street. Commonly known today as the Neshanic Hotel, the roadside hostelry probably looked much different before 1838.

The Neshanic Hotel circa 1908
It was in that year that the New Brunswick, Millstone and Flemington Stage - with intermediate stops at Flaggtown, Shannock (Neshanic), Clover Hill, and Reaville - was first established. Although likely enlarged mid-century, we can comfortably date the inn at Neshanic - in its current form - to that time.

1850 Map Detail

It was also around this time that the inn property was acquired by John M. Stevens (1787-1879). We know from Snell's History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties (1881) that township committee meetings and voting took place at Stevens' Hotel in the 1840s.

The "three-way stop" heading east on Amwell Road, circa 1900

We can also conclude that it was Stevens who enlarged the building to its current size and gave it the well-known appearance of a large three-story home. At one time there was even a square belvedere reached by a ladder in the center of the roof. Stevens also likely built the large stables that once stood to the east of the hotel - so necessary for an inn on a major post road. 

Advertisement from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 1888
The first floor of the hotel originally had four common rooms, each with its own fireplace. Upstairs were six guest rooms, The third floor was left as attic space and probably was intended as an excuse for the half-window detail as seen from the outside.

"Titman's Hotel" circa 1912
After Stevens' death in 1879, the hotel passed to his daughter Margaret and her husband Wesley H. Horner. Since the railroad lines built in the 1860s and 1870s bypassed the little village of Neshanic the hotel was unable to transition from post road traffic to railway passengers. Without the business of weary travelers, the Horners attempted to reinvent the hotel as a vacation destination. Perhaps they are the owners who added the two-story porch to the front of the building. Newspaper ads touted. "no malaria, no mosquitos, bass fishing, boating, fresh milk, eggs, and vegetables: lawn, shade, veranda; stabling, good drives."

Accommodations listing from a traveler's guidebook, 1912

The hotel passed out of the Stevens family after the death of Wesley Horner in 1899. It was then purchased by future Neshanic Station entrepreneur Andrew Holcombe, who owned the property for about a decade before selling it to Baltus Titman in May 1909. Titman continued to advertise the hotel for holiday excursions - and according to a railway traveler's 1912 guidebook, it was the most expensive hotel in the area! Titman passed away in 1915 and the hotel was operated by his son Chauncey for another 15 years.

Photograph for the Village of Neshanic National Register application, 1979
In the 1920s Titman's Hotel was regularly the site of township committee meetings and was also used to house crews building utilities and infrastructure in Hillsborough. Laborers building the Tuscarora oil pipeline stayed at the hotel, as did the men who built the improved road between Neshanic and Clover Hill. In fact, shortly after Chauncey Titman dies in 1929, his widow Minnie married State Highway inspector John Connor.

After the March 1916 fire.
The couple decided to close the hotel in 1930. In recent decades the hotel was transformed into rental apartments and has been vacant since a March 2016 fire.

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