In the spring, Preservation New Jersey named the Stockton Inn one of the 10 most endangered places in the state. The nearly 200-year-old building has been vacant since 2017 and has fallen into disrepair.
However, that fate could be reversed as the hostel was purchased last month by the owners of Stockton Market. Now they are planning a heavy renovation – and hope to open by the end of 2023.
“We saw the tremendous opportunity to bring this historic inn back to life that so many people in our area have shared so many memorable experiences,” Steven Grabowski and Cheryl Olsten said in an email.
The renovation will include updating the main restaurant, expanding the tavern, adding bedrooms to the main building and horse-drawn carriages, and adding a bakery and cafe for guests and the audience.
According to Kurfiss Sotheby’s property listing, the Inn has four 80-seat dining halls, indoor event space, 10 hotel rooms, an 80-seat outdoor dining space and an event space exterior with gardens, waterfall, pond, wine cellar, iconic wishing well, outdoor bar and dance floor. The property also includes a stone shed and a stone shed.
This isn’t the first time a new owner has stepped in to try to revitalize the inn, which was once a regional epicenter.
An investor bought the inn in 2015 and tried to reinvent it as a high-end restaurant, but it closed in 2017. Then, in 2020, a developer stepped in and planned to redevelop the property with a live music venue. 780-seat open-air, expanding footprint, additional hotel rooms and health spa, according to MyCentralJersey.
Residents vehemently opposed the plans due to its scale and expansion, as well as concerns about traffic, parking and noise. The project was withdrawn last year.
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Since then, the inn has remained vacant and has steadily deteriorated. Grabowski and Olsten, however, believe the third time is the charm.
“The previous owner, as well as subsequent interested buyers, all offered significant changes not only to the footprint, but also to the use of the property to leverage their investment,” they said. “We are very confident that we can maintain the integrity of the property within the existing approved use, and that it will be very well received by the community.”
The Inn’s redevelopment would be particularly meaningful for Stockton, which lacks much of the activity enjoyed by neighbors such as New Hope, Lambertville and Frenchtown. The inn is the only place in the borough to hold a liquor license.
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Built in 1832 to replace a nearby tavern, the inn would then have functioned as a speakeasy. After Prohibition, Colligan’s (as it was then known) was frequented by notable visitors from New York and Philadelphia, including Jackie Kennedy Onassis and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is said that Margaret Mitchell wrote parts of “Gone with the Wind” there.
A patio with a waterfall and wishing well was added in the 1930s, which inspired the lyrics to the classic song “There’s a Little Hotel” by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart.
Colligan’s was renamed the Stockton Inn in the 1980s when the Colligan family sold it to new owners. It continued to operate as a restaurant until it closed in 2017.
Jenna Intersimone has been a staff member of USA Today Network New Jersey since 2014, having become a blogger-turned-journalist after founding her award-winning travel blog. To get unlimited access to her food, drink and fun stories, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.