Town hopes 'endangered' status will help save New Windsor's Dielman Inn

Crossroads inn sprang from tavern owned by town founder, but now is in disrepair

March 25, 2012|By Bob Allen

For the better part of two centuries, the stately circa-1804 Dielman Inn has been a dominant features of New Windsor's quiet Main Street and a centerpiece of the town's architectural and cultural heritage.

But for nearly a decade, this cornerstone of New Windsor's historic district has stood vacant and dilapidated, ravaged by roof leaks, termites, occasional vandalism and general neglect.

Those contrasting factors — the building's overriding historic importance and its precarious condition — have earned the Dielman Inn inclusion on Preservation Maryland's 2010 Endangered Maryland list.

"I am delighted that we have made an appearance on the list, because it's just another way to bring the fate of the Dielman Inn to everyone's attention," said Frank Batavick, a member of the New Windsor Heritage Committee, the town's historical society.

"And its fate lies in the balance," he said.

Dielman Inn is among 10 locations on the list of threatened historic properties, released March 15 by the nonprofit Preservation Maryland, a Baltimore-based nonprofit whose mission is preserving Maryland's historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes and archaeological sites.

A panel of preservationists selected the list from nominated properties and assessed the level of threat, historic and architectural significance and community support for preserving the site.

The program's purpose is to generate public awareness of Maryland's threatened historic properties, generate possible solutions and serve as a call for action.

Over the years, the Dielman Inn, at 141 Main St., has at various times served as an inn and a school. For well over a hundred years, it was the hub of New Windsor's social life and a cultural magnet where dances, concerts and social soirées often took place.

The crossroads where the inn stands was considered a major thoroughfare of the day, and an article on the New Windsor Heritage Committee website notes that, "The inn played host to countless visitors from the big cities seeking relief from the summer heat."

It was owned by the Dielman family, who operated the property from 1864 to 1927. And in recent decades, right up until 2004, it was a private residence.

"The Dielman Inn is most of New Windsor's history wrapped into one little group of buildings," Batavick said. "It's been there a very long time, and it may actually be on the site of Isaac Atlee's original (late 18th-century) tavern, which was the birthplace of the town."

"I think in the town's early years, New Windsor pretty much centered around the Dielman Inn," New Windsor Mayor Neal Roop agreed. "And I think it could be the town's center again. It could have shops in it and bring new economic life to our town."

As Preservation Maryland's description of the 42-room inn attests, the 10,000-square foot building has a unique architectural past, with surfaces that are log in some places, clapboard and brick in others, and with multiple fireplaces and handmade glass.

It was fear of losing this tarnished architectural crown jewel that prompted Mayor Roop and the town council, along with the New Windsor Heritage Committee, to take action.

In January 2011 the council voted to purchase the inn, even though the council realized the town itself was in no position to take on the costly rehabilitation.

"We wanted to preserve it and have it renovated as the centerpiece of the town," Roop said. "My hopes were that we would deed it to an owner while using part of it as a new town hall, with meeting spaces.

"We just don't want it to be torn down or used for something that would not be beneficial to the town," the mayor said.

In tandem with this, New Windsor Councilwoman Kim Schultz and New Windsor Heritage Committee members Batavick and Bryce Workman applied to get the inn placed on Preservation Maryland's list.

When the council voted to acquire the building, it set itself a deadline of one year to find a buyer. But there have been concrete responses to the town's request for proposals.

Batavick thinks the biggest obstacle in selling the inn has been the economy.

"The second thing is the fact that it is a rather large piece of property, and it's a combination of different building materials: everything from log to frame to brick," he said. "And each one of those materials has its own pitfalls, which are everything from termites to lack of mortar in the brick.

"But the fact of the matter is, many of the windows are original to the inn, much of the hardware is hand-forged and there are just aspects of it that are treasures, and we don't want to see them lost," Batavick added.

Late last year the council voted to turn the search for a buyer over to the private sector. The inn, which sets on a half-acre lot, is currently listed with Long & Foster Realtors for $199,000.

Roop and Batavick said the inn is "livable" at present, but is in desperate need.

"It needs major renovation," Roop added. "We're probably talking a million to a million-and-a-half dollars."

Roop said that since Long & Foster was brought on board, "there has been a lot of interest shown, and in April or May we are going to have an open house and (the real estate agent) is going to bring in some people who can make something happen."

"Our dream is that a developer somewhere will see this and come out to New Windsor and see the property — and fall in love with it," Batavick said.

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