At the Stockton Inn, History Abounds!


Built as a private residence of local quarry stone, the site was chosen on the recommendation of local Lenni Lenape Indians who warned of flooding in the valley. Thanks to their advice, the Inn has been spared flooding for over 300 years!


Stockton Inn - 1776-1777

The river ferry located at Howell's Ferry (Stockton's original name) was one of few ferries used by George Washington and his troops in the famous Christmas night crossing of the Delaware River leading to the recapture of Trenton and turning the tide of the Revolutionary War.


A tavern license was issued to Joseph Howell, the owner of the ferry on the original Old York Road.


Purchased and extensively renovated by Asher Johnson (of the Johnson & Johnson family) including the creation of a tavern called "The Farmer's Bar" which until very recently was known as "The Old Town Bar" or simply as "The Tavern." The Delaware and Raritan Canal from New Hope PA opened.


Stockton Inn - 1859

Mr. Robert Field Stockton, grandson of Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, brought the railroad through town adding greatly to the town's prosperity and the town's name was changed to Stockton.


The Inn was known as Robert Sharp Hotel at the start of this period and by the end as Hockenbury's Hotel. When one of the seven local quarries in the area exploded in 1888, The Philadelphia Times reported on the "Blast of '88" really putting Stockton on the map.


The Weiss family, originally from the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, purchased the Inn.  Their influence can still be seen.  Look for the elfin character which adorns the Wine Cave next to the lower waterfall.


Stockton Inn - 1920

Elizabeth Weiss purchased the Inn from her mother at auction. She had earlier married Joe Colligan, an artist who worked part-time as a bartender at the Inn. They had five sons who later ran the Inn with their mother. Joseph Colligan passed away in 1931 leaving the responsibility to the eldest son, Bill. Over the next 60 years and three generations, Bill, Jack, Ed and Charlie took turns running the Inn. 

Joe Colligan, having developed a close connection with the local art community at Phillips Mill, brought in Robert Alexander Darrah (RAD) Miller and Robert A. Hogue to paint the mural scenes. The painting began about 1928 and the bulk of it was completed by early 1934.  Artists Kurt Wiese (illustrator for Zane Grey and Rudyard Kipling as well as the original Bambi book) and John Follinsbee (one of the most prominent members of the New Hope Art Colony) were brought in later to embellish the earlier works.  The murals represent scenes from the surrounding countryside and rural towns incorporating some of the area's history including the Delaware Canal Towpath from New Hope, the fire of 1905, and the Flemington Fairgrounds and Race Track.

  Prohibition Years, 1920 - 1933  

Stockton Inn - Prohibition Years, 1920 - 1933

There is also a darker side to the Inn's storied past.  Although they were very popular, the Inn operated as a speakeasy for most if not all of the Prohibition era.  That put it in good company with the likes of the 21 Club in New York City and the Mayflower Club in Washington DC.

But unlike many other speakeasy's, the Inn provided high quality beverages including Wichecheoke Applejack, the popular "cyder spirit", which was widely considered one of the best in the state and sold for $22 per bottle.

A short time later this would give rise to the lavish Fox and Club Room additions and the spectacular man-made waterfalls in the gardens.


Stockton Inn - 1933

Songwriter Richard Rodgers and lyricist Lorenz Hart wrote the song "There's a Small Hotel." That famous song was inspired by the Inn and its tranquil rural setting. The song was originally intended for the Broadway musical "Jumbo" produced by Billy Rose. Because of the length of the production, the song was cut just before opening but later appeared in another of Rodgers' and Hart's collaborations, a 1936 Broadway hit, "On Your Toes."

According to local legend, an Inn guest registered under the name Peggy Marsh as she was known by friends and family including her husband John, after visiting a friend in Bucks County decided to stay in the area to continue to work on a novel she was writing. She spent numerous afternoons alone at a table in one of the restaurant’s dining rooms with good results.  In 1936, "Gone with the Wind" was first published under her birth name, Margaret Mitchell. 



Stockton Inn - 1935

During the Hauptmann-Lindbergh trial concerning the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh's baby which took place in nearby Flemington, the Inn, now known as Colligan's, became nationally famous for its restaurant and conviviality due to the hordes of writers, and reporters (including Damon Runyon who wrote his columns on the trial from Flemington NJ's Union Hotel and the Colligan's Inn) and others needing a place to stay and dine. Secret pre-trial meetings were held at the Inn.

  The Golden Age, 1940's - early 1960's  

Stockton Inn - The Golden Age, 1940's - early 1960's

The Golden Age in America encompassed popular music, musical theatre, the maturation of Pennsylvania impressionism (often referred to as the New Hope School), the world of literature and the transition from radio to television.  The Inn had very close ties to it all.

In addition to the murals and the song described previously, noted bandleader Paul Whiteman (he commissioned Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue”) kept a regular table at Colligan's and signed off his radio and TV shows announcing he was "going to dinner at Ma Colligan's."

The Inn became a mecca for writers, artists, and thespians, frequented or visited by such luminaries as Helen Hayes, Moss Hart, George S. Kaufman, Oscar Hammerstein, Clark Gable, Ray Bolger (who introduced “There’s a Small Hotel” to Broadway) Kitty Carlisle, Peggy Cass, Robert Goulet and Jackie Kennedy Onassis.  A certain table at the Inn favored by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Damon Runyon and S. J. Perelman became known as the "Algonquin Roundtable" in honor of their New York City hangout.

  1960's - 1970's  

The Colligan family faithfully maintained the heart and soul of the Inn.


In 1983 the Colligan’s sell the Inn.

A year later, as an example of the indelible staying power of the Inn and it's interwovenness into the nation's modern culture, the song (There's a) "Small Hotel" received a mention in Robert Redford's fictional classic baseball movie "The Natural" set in 1939. 

Later in the decade the Inn is renamed the Stockton Inn.


The Stockton Inn celebrated its Tri-Centennial.