Historic Places in South Jersey

Historic Places in South Jersey - Places to Go and Things to Do

A discussion of things to do and paces to go, with the purpose of sharing, and encouraging exploration of South Jersey.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sugar Hill Inn, Mays Landing, NJ

I hope any of my readers out there who are mothers had a happy day on Sunday!  My daughter came home from Brooklyn and she, my sister (her godmother) and I all took my favorite route to the seashore, Rt. 559 which runs through Mays Landing, and passes the beautiful Lake Lenape and the interesting and long abandoned mill on the lake. This road is never busy even in the thick of the summer traffic to Ocean City.  It is a quiet shady little road that runs past the Winding River, several campgrounds, golf courses and eventually comes in the back end of Somer's Point, an interesting historical spot on its own.  I always look for the Somers Mansion when I approach the bridge to Ocean City.
Speaking of the bridge to Ocean City - it has been replaced by a large expansive causeway but I will always miss the litttle opening bridge of my childhood.  We would sit in a long stream of traffic, entranced (we children, that is) as the center of the bridge opened to allow tall masted boats to pass through, of which, in those days there were quite a few more than there are now.  I am speaking of the first decade of the 1950's. 
Anyhow to back up several miles to the beginning of the trip, I will paste here the description of the history of the Sugar Hill Inn, along with its link so that if you find yourself traveling that quiet backway to Ocean City, you, too, can enjoy a delicious meal there. 

"Mays Landings history has always been tied to the Great Egg Harbor River. In the mid 1700’s George May, a ship builder and black smith, sailed up the river and established a ship building business and ship’s store on the uplands adjacent to Babcock’s Creek. One of the vessels built at Mays Landing during that time was the schooner “License” built for Captain John Pennington. Early papers tell of the “License” bringing a load of sugar back from the West Indies to “May’s Place” with the sweet cargo being stored on “the high banks of the river next to Babcock’s Creek”. That grassy knoll, on which the Inn now sits, has been referred to as “Sugar Hill” from that day to the present.

During the Revolutionary War, Mays Landing became a bustling port for goods bound for Philadelphia. Sugar, molasses and rum were stored on this site awaiting shipment, while charcoal, iron ore and lumber were loaded for export. The war for independence gave birth to another thriving business along the river, privateering. Many captured British ships were brought to “The Landing” to have their captured cargo sold. The New Jersey State Gazette reported that on June 23rd, 1779 an open boat called “The Skunk”, commanded by Captain Samuel Snell, a Mays Landing tavern owner, nicknamed “The Hero of Sugar Hill” captured nineteenth prize off Cape May and moored in the Egg Harbor River to have her valuable cargo sold. The Skunk’s success was one of surprise having a crew of just twelve men and only two cannons concealed in her stern. Upon one occasion, just inside the Egg Harbor inlet, “The Skunk” set her sights on what was thought to be a fine merchant ship. Captain Snell turned his little ship’s stern to the enemy and then gave them a gun. A momentary pause ensued and immediately, the merchant ship was transformed into a British 74 and gave “The Skunk” such a broadside, that it was reported “the water flew around them like ten thousand whale-spouts!” She was cut some in her sails and rigging, but by hard rowing, made her escape to shallow water while the captain shouted, “Lay low boys… lay low for your lives!”

After winning the fight for independence in 1776, Mays Landing continued to grow as a shipbuilding center. During the early to mid 1800’s there were over 100 sailing vessels built at Mays Landing. George Wheaton’s Shipyard turned out over two-dozen schooners, some with lengths greater than 100 feet. In 1845 William Moore came to Mays Landing to manage Weymouth Furnace. It was on the grassy knoll; known as Sugar Hill, that William Moore built his private residence in 1846. Captured by the lure of the river, Mr. Moore became involved in the “building and sailing of vessels”. He eventually owned and managed a small fleet of schooners involved in trade from New York to South America. With his election to Congress in 1867, Mr. Moore enlarged his home to include larger cooking and dining facilities, four guest bedrooms and a large Victorian veranda so that he could sit and gaze upon his beloved Egg Harbor River. At his funeral in 1876, which was held at his home, several of his casket bearers were listed as “sea captains” and “sail makers”.

For the next 90 years or so the “Moore Villa”, as it was commonly known, was home to several generations of the Abbott Family. The Abbott’s were a well to-do family that owned the general store in town. Their children were area lawyers, dentists and a Civil War chaplain. In the early 1900’s the front parlor room even served as a dentist's office. In the 1950’s the house was sold to Frank and Ella Watson, who were involved in small boat building and racing on the river.

In 1986 the house was sold to Larry and Tina Boylan. Who, along with Larry's two brothers, restored the old “Moore Villa” opening it to the public in 1987 as “The Inn at Sugar Hill” a riverfront country inn and restaurant. To this day, the Inn continues to greet the weary travelers with old world hospitality and provide them with “a hot meal, a cold drink and a warm bed”, whether they come by land… or sea. The Inn’s docks are currently the homeport for “Grace”, the innkeeper’s traditional looking, cutter-rigged Gozzard sailboat, which can be chartered by The Inn's guests for river sunset cruises during select times of the year. Since becoming an Innkeeper, Larry Boylan has obtained a U. S. Coast Guard Near Coastal Captain’s license, “just in case privateering makes a come back!” laughs Boylan. History does repeat itself! "

For several years, I passed the Sugar Hill Inn, wishing I could stop in and enjoy a dinner or a lunch, but I never got the right time or season, however, in the past two years, my retirement allows better timing and I was able to have my birthday dinner there and two Mother's Day lunches.  The food was very good and reasonable and if you make a reservation (which I did not) there are tables near a delightful view of the river.  The others room have a warm period charm as well.  It is a bed and breakfast, so if you stop in at the bar after a long day at the shore and want to stay overnight, what a delightful place to do that.  Someday I may do that for my birthday, or even for Mother's  Day!

Enjoy and as always Happy Trails!  Jo Ann
ps.I should have done a memorial blog for Sally Star who passed away this year, but maybe I can do that later.

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