The Brick’s History
Here’s just a little bit of history about The Brick Hotel on the Circle, originally known during the Civil War era as The Union Hotel.
The existing structure was built in 1836 by Joshua S. Layton and Caleb B. Sipple, builders of the Sussex County Courthouse across the Circle, and it actually replaced a Public House that stood on the site. Brick structures like this one were very rare prior to the 19th century and, in fact, less than a dozen remain in the State of Delaware! Our building is one of the few early commercial buildings remaining in Southern Delaware, and the brick used was actually made from a kiln near Georgetown. It reflects a mixture of Federal and Greek revival styles.
The first innkeeper was a gentleman by the name of Burton C. Baker, and history tells us that he was personally responsible for making the Brick Hotel one of the most popular hostelries on the Delmarva Peninsula. Apparently, it was a favorite lounging spot for staunch supporters of the Union. Southern sympathizers spent evenings in the barroom of the Eagle Hotel elsewhere on the Town Square and Circle. Apparently the two factions engaged in some pretty interesting drunken brawls in the center of town! We also understand that throughout the years, it served as an informal club for the Delaware Bar as the courts moved from county to county. With our restoration, we hope to revive this informal “club” and look forward to the legal community once again giving this building back some life, 21st century-style!
The Brick Hotel operated as a hotel for over 100 years. During various periods of time, however, it also served other purposes. For a few years soon after it was built, it housed the county court house while a new building was being erected; following that, the post office was housed in the building from 1841-1844. In the 1950s, the property was sold to and significantly remodeled by the Wilmington Trust Company , a banking industry that continued to service our community until the mid-1990s. Prior to this renovation, the building’s most imposing features were the 1st and 2nd floor porches. The 2nd story porch was removed in 1952.
When the bank decided to close this facility, a new era in the history of this building erupted. The property was sold to the State of Delaware so that they could replace the structure with a new court house. Word of the destruction of the building, however, put the Georgetown community into action. The efforts of a group of committed town citizens to preserve this piece of Georgetown history with their “Save the Brick Hotel” campaign resulted in the State finding an alternative site and selling the property to the H. P Layton Partnership. Long story short, we became owners of the property and after much deliberation, determined that the future of the building should reflect its past and, thus, our major restoration project: returning the building to its original use as an inn and restaurant, complete with a quaint tavern! We’re preserving the past and promoting the future, one brick at a time!
With our restoration, we saved and have re-used many of the materials removed from the structure. Our goal has been to tie the restoration to the eras in which this building existed as an inn and tavern. Since this is a National Historic Registry property, we also had an obligation to preserve the historical elements of the building, including the following
- 1st floor staircase, mantelpiece, and original window and door trim
- 2nd floor staircase, mantelpieces and original window and door trim
- Third Floor full-length gable-to-gable corridor to the maximum extend possible (reducing its length slightly at one end or the other would be ok if there is functional need to do so); existing placement of door openings in the hall be retained; existing trim and doors retained, existing flooring be retained as possible (wall-to-wall carpeting okay but recommend area rugs); existing plaster repaired as possible; dry wall may be ok where ceilings are deteriorated beyond repair. Can interconnect some of the former hotel rooms or to relocate some of the partitions that separate the spaces.
- Exterior slate or brickwork should be in kind to match existing; aluminum clad wood windows acceptable.
- New Addition compatible; distinguishable from historic building; minimizing harm or loss of historic fabric.
Want to know what we’re made of? The details below were extracted from the National Registrar of Historic places inventory nomination form:
- 7-bay double 2 story and attic structure with rear one-story original (but much altered) kitchen wing and larger one-story modern wing dating from the 1930s
- Walls are 3 courses of red brick laid in Flemish bgond. Walls rise to double end chimneys contained in the brick walls and joined by curtain walls at the ridge of the roof. Originally, a 3rd set of double chimneys were located at the center of the roof, but were removed in the early 20th century)
- Roof now slate tiled. Earlier was roofed with seamed tin, and still earlier in wooden shingles. A modern flat verandah room extends outward from the front of the roof at the eaves. Modern Greek Revival reproduction, the porch replaces two earlier porches. From about 1920 to 1955 an earlier 19th century porch was roofed in tin. Before the turn of the century, porch roof sloped smoothly down from the roof of the main hotel section in a “cat slide” style. Until the building was remodeled in the early 1950s, the porch was a double one with Victorian trim.
- Both front and back slopes of the roof contain 4 dormer windows. Those at rear are very plain gable dormers while those in front are more ornate federal-style pedimented dormers with arched tops with a dentil molder, pilasters, and arched 2 over 2 sash windows.
- Exterior considerable alteration in 1955 when converted from hotel to bank building. Original double porches were removed from the front. 2 First floor doorways with original arched fanlights were removed, as were 2 similar doorways exiting onto West Market Street. 3 window one-story bays at the center of the first floor porch were also removed as were 2 doorways opening onto the 2nd floor porch. First floor main door moved to the center of the porch. It is a reproduction Greek Revival door with bullseye moldings.
- Interior: considerable alteration on 1st floor, but 2nd and 3rd floors relatively unchanged.
- Building originally contained 17 fire places: 8 on the 2nd floor and nine on the first floor. All 8 on 2nd floor remain with original Greek revival style mantelpieces and decorations. 2 on the West Market Street side remain as does a large kitchen fireplace with a massive oak bema mantel. Several interior walls have been removed from the 1st floor; 2nd floor rooms are original as are those on the 3rd floor. The very wide plank flooring on the 3rd floor appears to be original to building.
- Ground floor windows originally had stone (or wooden simulated stone) lintels. Replaced with brick. All windows had shutters during the 19th century, paneled on the 1st floor and louvered on the 2nd floor – removed.
- Many stable and outbuilding structures at the rear of the hotel during the 19th century have been demolished.
We expected that the restoration process would be exciting, but had no idea just how exciting the demolition process would be! (Click on the “Track our Restoration” link to see pics.) Since originally one of the most imposing features was the 2nd floor porch, replacing it was one of our top priorities. Having our guests enjoying that veranda—just like they did for over 50 years—is very exciting for us!
Our thanks to Mrs. Battle Robinson, a local resident and historian, whose records about this building were a primary source for this information.
Okay, so, a very popular question we get is whether or not we are haunted. And guess what? We are, which isn’t terribly unique to buildings that are 175+ years old. Soon after we opened, we were approached by a group that wanted to do an investigation of the property. Despite the fact that I was a non-believer, I said “sure, go for it!” Long story short, the results of the investigation MADE me a believer and the good news is that those spirits that occupy The Brick “are friendly in nature.” As much as I try to (crazily!) speak to George and Ophelia (that’s what my staff named them), they never react to me, so I have had absolutely no personal experiences with them. That’s not always the case with our guests and some members of my staff. It seems that George and Ophelia KNOW who they can “mess” with, but it’s always in fun… turning the shower on at midnighr, relocating something in the room or in the building, turning lights off or at least causing them to go in a blinking frenzy… simple stuff, but enough to make anyone wonder what the heck is going on! So, if you are inclined, I am including the video of the paranormal investigation. It’s not that long, and can be boring in places, but do pay attention to the image that creeps out of the wall in (now) Tinker Hall 4, and to some of the audio clips. Yep, that’s what made me BELIEVE! Here you go!