A Brief History of Deer Park Tavern
ASSISTANT MOSAIC EDITOR
Legend has it, according to President of the Newark Historical Society Margie Masino, one rainy night in Newark, Edgar Allan Poe was arriving to St. Patrick’s Inn, which is now Deer Park Tavern. As he exited from the carriage, he tripped and fell into the mud outside of the building. An angry Poe put a hex on the establishment.
“A curse on this place,” he reportedly said. “All who enter shall have to return.”
It’s unclear when St. Patrick’s Inn, which was located at what is now the corner of New London Road and W. Main Street, was built, according to John Thomas Scharf’s book “History of Delaware: 1609-1888: Local history.” The book states that John Pritchard owned the Inn in 1750. It remained in the family for almost a century, and was colloquially referred to as Pritchard’s Hotel for those years.
In 1848 the tavern was bought by James S. Martin, and he named it Deer Park after his farm of the same name. The original tavern was made of log, and burned to the ground in 1851. In the years after, Martin rebuilt the structure, this time using brick, and turned it into a well known, luxury East coast hotel whose popularity grew when the B&O Railroad was built in town.
Throughout its time as a hotel, Deer Park served a wide variety of purposes within the Newark community. It was used for a women’s seminary, private schools, a barbershop, a package store and was a meeting place for politicians and community groups. In 1890, the Newark Board of Trade held its first annual dinner at the location.
In addition to the many ways it served the community, the business also hosted a variety of well known figures aside from Poe during its time as an inn and hotel. In 1764, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon used the inn as their headquarters while they were working on surveying the famed Mason-Dixon line. According to Masino, the pair and their crew used their free time in interesting ways.
“They amused themselves with a dancing bear act and they drank cherry brandy,” she says.
While it was a hotel in 1913, Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, who served under Woodrow Wilson from 1913-1921, stopped at the inn for dinner with his wife. It took until Marshall was preparing to leave for those who were at the hotel to recognize him as the Vice President.
Although it is unconfirmed, there are rumors, according to Masino, that George Washington paid the establishment a visit. In addition, it was said to be a stop on the Underground Railroad.
The Depression and World Wars saw a lull for Deer Park Hotel, which resulted in its transformation into a tavern. This led to major renovations to the building and with business improving, it was officially recognized on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
It’s nomination form for the register states that the building is “the only remaining nineteenth- century inn or hotel on Main Street and in Newark.”
The establishment’s most recent claim to fame was when its logo was seen on a t-shirt the character Mac on an episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
Today the tavern serves both students and full-time Newark residents alike, and according to its website, the owners “are committed to preserving the history of the famous Deer Park as well as ensuring that the future generations will also have many happy memories of [the] wonderful establishment.”