23 November 2019

The Weston Hotel, Elmcrest Inn, et. al. (1914-1994)

It can't be insignificant that the only image of a Hillsborough Township building included in Snell's 1881 History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties is that of the residence of Captain Frederick Davey.

The Captain Frederick Davey residence,
from Snell's History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties (1881) -
notice the train on the left.
Frederick Davey, born in England in 1828, came to America with his older brother Henry probably before 1850. They first settled in Jersey City where they made their living as merchant seamen, eventually becoming captains and owners of their own vessels. Before the age of steamships, they plied the ports of the eastern seaboard in three-masted schooners. In 1856 Frederick married Rebecca Creby and the couple had three sons and two daughters. After 1860 they moved to Hillsborough, bought a farm in the Weston section, and built what later became known as the Captain Davey Mansion.

A portion of the 1873 Map of Hillsborough
The large three-storied house with a mansard roof and adorned with a square belvedere was located on what is today Manville's South Main Street at the intersection with Kyle Street. In the 1870 US Census, Frederick Davey is listed as a "Farmer", while Henry - living with the family - is listed as a "Sea Captain". After Henry's death in 1873, Frederick commissioned a schooner that would bear his brother's name. The Henry Davey, launched from the Taylor & Mathis shipyard at Cooper's Point, was at that time the "finest and largest schooner ever built on the Delaware." The Henry Davey was accidentally rammed and sunk by a steamship in 1882, after which Frederick Davey became a successful steamship agent. At the time of his death in February 1900, the old sea captain had, according to the New York Tribune, "accumulated a fortune."

1914 Ad in the New Brunswick Home News
Rebecca Davey sold the property and moved to Elizabeth that same year. The house next shows up in the historic record when it is purchased about 1914 by developer John J. Becker. He rechristened the house as the Weston Hotel, likely adding the wrap-around porch and making other improvements for railroad passengers - the Weston Station on the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad was just a short walk from the hotel - as well as tourists traveling by auto or horse carriage.

1915 ad from the New Brunswick Home News

In 1915 Becker built Elm Crest Park on the grounds of the hotel. The park included a magnificent pavilion described as having "one of the finest dance floors in New Jersey." An ad touted the park as "particularly well adapted for outings, picnics, clambakes, dances, and other affairs of this sort."

The Weston Hotel circa 1940 when it was the home of the Nebozinsky family.
Image from the Manville History Web site.

As primarily a real estate developer, John J. Becker was soon onto his next project and offered the hotel at auction in 1920. Sometime after that, it was purchased by Louis Nebozinsky and family who ran the hotel and lived there. They built a public meeting place known as Liberty Hall which for decades was used by community groups for large functions and private parties. In 1931 they offered to sell the property to the young boro of Manville to erect a municipal building. About a month later the hotel was raided by the State Police and Mr. and Mrs. Nebozinsky were arrested after alcohol was found - this was during the era of prohibition. 

1960s Elmcrest Inn ads
In the 1960s and 70s, the establishment was known as the Elmcrest Inn - featuring first go-go dancers and name entertainment for listening and dancing...

The Elmcrest Inn circa 1969
...and then re-launching as a Country & Western venue in the 1970s.

1970s Elmcrest Inn ads
When James Wirzman owned the business in the 1980s it was known as Wirzman's Inn. He continued the country music entertainment while also promoting the venue's banquet facilities, and again featuring go-go dancers in the Rooster's Coop Lounge - until they were "swept away" in 1982.

1980s Wirzman's Inn ads
In 1985 the place was bought by brothers Rich and Ed Komoroski who turned it into a tropical-themed nightclub called Coconuts. As a commentary on what anyone in 1985 thought of the once grand and historic Captain Davey Mansion, it might be mentioned that the brothers were hoping to remake the exterior of the building as a giant tropical "hut".

The interior of Coconuts, circa 1985
After a "touchy situation" in 1986 involving male dancers during a "Ladies' Night" event, the brothers decided to switch to a non-alcoholic establishment.

Harmony Hill, February 1989

In 1989 there were new owners and a new name - Harmony Hill. They changed the place from a bar/nightclub to a straight-up restaurant and banquet facility. They hired an experienced head chef - an immigrant from Poland who specialized in food from his native country.

17 April 1994 Home News
Almost before the first pot of pierogies was plated the business had morphed once again. Now it was a teen club called The Red Zone. Complaints about noise and unruly behavior of the patrons - including possible gang activity - roiled neighbors in the nearby residential community. The controversy boiled over in 1993 with the Manville Board of Health passing a noise ordinance and the Town Council contemplating banning teen clubs altogether.

25 September 1994 Courier News
Residents were relieved when The Red Zone closed in June 1993 and was demolished in 1994 to make way for a CVS.

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.