MARLBORO TWP.: They say Abraham Lincoln slept here.
Now the 1828 inn at Ravenna Road and Pontius Street is ready for a new chapter in its history.
The property is up for sale, and Kiko’s Auction will start the bidding at 4 p.m. Thursday.
The two-story Greek Revival building has been vacant for nearly a decade. Its beige-and-red paint is chipping and vines clinging to the exterior reach the second-floor balcony. The roof is in obvious distress.
Owner George Gregory, who purchased the building nearly a decade ago, said nothing came of his plans to renovate it into a general store and personal residence, and it’s time to hand the reins to someone else.
The structure has served many purposes and has gone by many names over the years.
There are no records to say who built it, but it appears to have originated as the Stagecoach Inn. Gregory said his research indicates stagecoaches used to pull right up below the balcony so luggage could be tossed from the top of the coach over the railing and carried into the rooms without need of stairs.
Before and during the Civil War, it was owned by Socrates Pike, who rechristened it the Dew Drop Inn. Most of the top floor was converted into a ballroom.
Local lore is that Lincoln visited the inn. There is no hard evidence, but newspaper clippings as old as 1928 say the president “stayed” there. Different versions of oral history have Lincoln stopping by during a presidential campaign, resting on his way to Cleveland or giving a speech off its balcony.
After the Civil War, the building was purchased by Atwater native Abraham Holibaugh when he returned from the war. He purchased the inn and land for $100, grew his own tobacco and sold handmade cigars in the tavern.
The building’s most recent retail use was as an antique shop called Bruce’s Place. When the owners auctioned off the property a decade ago, Jim Canterbury — owner of New Baltimore Antique Center across the street — said he bid up to $107,000 but let Gregory have it for $1,000 more.
Canterbury had maintained the property for its previous owners when they traveled and thought it might make a nice bed and breakfast.
“It’s pretty important to the community,” Canterbury said.
Denise Mayes, president of the Marlboro Township Historical Society, said she wishes the society or the township had the money to buy it, preserve it and perhaps turn it into a museum.
“It’s the only building in the township on the National Register [of Historic Places],” she said. “Most people who have lived in the area for at last 10 years would know the building.”
It landed on the register in 1975, when the New Baltimore Athletic Club purchased it and renovated it for use as a community center. The effort included eliminating termites, reconstructing walls, replacing beams, rewiring, a new roof, replacing porch pillars and rebuilding a south portion that had collapsed.
Gregory said the bones of the building are still solid, but it definitely needs work again. He began removing plumbing and other modern additions when he purchased the structure, but stopped soon after because of personal changes in his life.
Gregory said part of the reason he was attracted to the building was its use of unusual woods, including cucumber and tamarack.
Lumber was hewed by hand and is held in place by hand-wrought nails.
“People would want the timber,” Gregory said, adding that while it would be “nice to see it live on,” he would be OK with someone buying it and tearing it down to reclaim the building materials.
Trustee Wayne Schillig said losing the building would be a loss for the community.
“It means a great deal to us,” he said. “It was a real jewel for New Baltimore and it’s again in disrepair. Hopefully, it will be sold to someone who will restore it again.”
Like Mayes, he wishes there were time to seek grants to possibly purchase it for the historical society’s use “but funding is so tough to get right now.”