When the Continental Army marched through Howell’s Ferry, New Jersey, in 1776, en route to the Battle of Trenton, the private residence that later became a popular inn and social hub had stood in the tiny community for 66 years. Built in 1710, the graceful stone building became a tavern in 1796 and was known by several names throughout its 309-year history, most notably “Colligan’s Inn” before becoming the Stockton Inn in 1986. (The town was renamed Stockton in 1859 after the local family of Richard Stockton, signer of the Declaration of Independence.)
Through the years, the inn has served as a tavern, hotel, speakeasy, restaurant, and a gathering place that attracted artists, entertainers, and writers. Its singular charm inspired the iconic Rodgers and Hart song, “There’s a Small Hotel (with a wishing well)” that debuted in 1936 in the Broadway musical, “On Your Toes.”
Now the legend is ready for a new day under the eye of a visionary owner, committed to preserving its storied past and guiding its future. The Stockton Inn is for sale for $3.75 million. Included in the sale price are the Stockton Inn proper, a stone carriage house, a stone wagon house, and the gardens with their famous wishing well, waterfall and pond, wine cave, outdoor bar, and dance floor — all under a roof. Inside the inn offers four fine dining rooms, six stone fireplaces, original and recently restored murals, and a liquor license for all three bars.
Long noted for its excellent restaurant, the Stockton Inn’s enormous kitchen is well suited to serve multiple events simultaneously with six stoves, walk-in freezer and refrigerator, pots, pans, knives, cutlery, glasses, and china. The parking lot has room for 50+ cars and offers two Tesla chargers and one conventional charging station.
“The Inn has a truly prime river town location with limitless potential,” says Russell Poles of Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Real Estate in neighboring Lambertville. But it’s impossible to put a dollar value on the history and ambience that comes with the Stockton Inn. The right owner can help to return it to a place of prominence in the river valley communities and once again offer a cultural and social venue for the many artists and actors who make their homes along the Delaware River and perform at the nearby Bucks County Playhouse.
Set on the banks of the Delaware River in Hunterdon County, the quaint village of Stockton attracts visitors from around the country as well as residents of the affluent Delaware Valley. This small town is alive with a rich, quiet culture that is home to an exceptional year-round, indoor community market that has received state-wide accolades. The lively river towns of Lambertville and New Hope, with their diverse galleries, intriguing shops, and acclaimed restaurants, are minutes away.
The Stockton Bridge traverses the river to bucolic Bucks County, Pennsylvania, noted for its festivals, art galleries, regional theater, vineyards, and watersports as well as boating on the mighty Delaware. Stockton is approximately one hour from Philadelphia, one-and-a half hours from New York City, and 30 minutes from Princeton.
“The inn can resume its place as one of the area’s top restaurants and event spaces,” Poles affirms. The four dining rooms and lavish gardens are ideal for weddings, parties, anniversaries, and corporate events. The outside dining area with its waterfall, dance floor, bar, and the iconic wishing well are perfect for summer galas. In winter the enormous stone fire places in cozy dining rooms set the scene for holiday celebrations.
A talented chef will find inspiration and fresh local ingredients in largely rural Hunterdon County, neighboring Pennsylvania, and in the waters of the Delaware and along New Jersey’s fabled shores. Could the Stockton Inn once again welcome overnight guests? “Most definitely,” says Poles. “There are three guestrooms and one guest suite upstairs in the Inn, with the potential for four more guestrooms in the carriage house and wagon house. Two adjacent vintage houses are for sale separately, and could be converted into additional guest accommodations, as well.”
The 1920s saw the beginning of the inn’s development into a haven for artists, writers, and actors that lasted well into the 1980s, attracting such notables as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Helen Hayes, Clark Gable, Oscar Hammerstein, and Jacqueline Onassis. When reporters flocked to nearby Flemington for the “Trial of the Century” that convicted Richard Hauptmann of kidnapping and killing the baby son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh, the press corps gathered nightly at Stockton’s renowned inn, then known as Colligan’s Stockton Inn.
The exquisite landscape of this river valley and New Hope has inspired a thriving art scene and in the late 19th century drew a school of painters that became known as the Pennsylvania Impressionists. In 1928 the inn’s owner and himself an artist, Joe Colligan, commissioned several prominent local artists to paint murals depicting 19th century scenes of rural life along the Delaware. Impeccably restored by the present owner, these unique murals are a testament to the history and beauty of the riverside town. “There is a lot of interest in the inn. It’s just a matter of time until we find the perfect match for this historic treasure,” says Poles.
The right owner will see the possibilities and breathe life back into the Stockton Inn, restoring its potential and keystone position in the river towns and beyond. And once again travelers may find a haven in a luxurious guestroom, and coins will splash in the Wishing Well, cast by guests who wish to return to the Stockton Inn.