Seeing What’s Different – Changes to the Hopewell Inn

Hopewell Inn – hand-colored postcard, undated [Bill Frenchu]

Your challenge today is to find the differences between photos of this building. It turns out that there were four major phases in the renovations to the Hopewell Inn by different owners over the last century and a half.

For more about the history of the Hopewell Inn – the people and the building – attend the upcoming talk on The Story of the Hopewell Inn – and the People Who Sustained It, on Wednesday, May 3 at 7 pm. You can come in person to the Hopewell Theater, or join online via Zoom.

Identifying buildings is a fun – but challenging – part of working with historical old photographs – especially because they may have changed over time. (See the earlier post on the Hopewell Valley or Not Challenge.)

In addition, we can identify specific changes made to a scene, and then track them over the years so we can identify the time period of the photo. This is useful, for example, when looking at the profusion of photos of the Hopewell and Pennington train stations, and checking details over time. (See earlier post on the Train Stations and Buildings in 1973.)

The Hopewell Inn is a particularly interesting example, because while it maintained the same general design over its almost 150 year history, its owners made significant changes to the look of the building. But when you look at any photo of the building, the details on the front of the structure will reveal the corresponding time period in its history.

As you will see, some are rather obvious, and others are rather subtle. What can you find?

The Four Looks of the Hopewell Inn

Here are the four distinct phases of the look of the Hopewell Inn building in the almost 150 years from 1878 though 2022.

What changes do you see? Can you identify the specific details that can uniquely identify an image as part of one of these phases?

Distinguishing the Phases of the Hopewell Inn

The quick answer to distinguishing images of the Hopewell Inn is to focus on the front porch, and specifically on the porch columns and the railings on the balcony above the porch. Some of the other details are clear (like side additions), and others can be more obscure. Other changes, including shutters on the windows, can come and go over time.

– The first image, from 1897, is the first known photograph of the building, designed in the Second Empire style. It has the basic form that we still know – a three-story building with the front porch and mansard roof. The porch runs the full length of the front (as do the front steps), but the porch does not (yet) wrap around to the side. The porch columns are square, with decorative brackets at the top. And the balcony railings above are fairly simple vertical posts.

– The second image, after major renovations in the early 1900s, shows the porch now wrapping around the far side of the building. The porch columns are round, and supported by stone bases (and the front stairs are broken up at the columns). The balcony railings also have a distinctive Chinese Chippendale design with squares and diagonals.

Hopewell Inn around 1897 – Cray’s Central Hotel – Front porch, rectangular posts, vertical railings [Healthful, Historic Hopewell 1897, Meszaros postcard 1906]
Hopewell Inn around 1913 – Corcoran’s Central Hotel – Wrap-around porch, cylindrical posts with stone base, square and diagonal railings [Meszaros postcard]

– The third image, from the period of the Lindbergh kidnapping frenzy in 1932, is very similar to the previous, but has some subtle changes, beyond the shutters removed from the windows. The dormer windows on the mansard roof have been simplified – the decorative scrolls at the base of the windows in the earlier photos are gone.

– Finally, the fourth image from the 2010s shows the building that we knew, with the rather obvious major change in its appearance to a “Tudor” look with stucco and diagonal beams. Plus, it has the octagonal banquet room addition on the right side, replacing the wrap-around porch. The front porch has square columns with Y supports, and is enclosed with a railing so the front steps only come up in the center. The balcony railings above also have been changed to a vertical design with spikes. The windows have shutters again, and – not so visible in this image – the second and first floor windows are smaller.

Hopewell Inn around 1932 – Gebhart’s Hotel / Lunch Room – No shutters, no scroll on mansard windows [Jim Davidson]
Hopewell Inn – 2010s – “Tudor” look with octagonal addition []

Are there other differences that you can find?

Are there other buildings in the Hopewell Valley that went though similar phases of renovations over a century or more of owners?

A Quiz

Hopewell Inn – hand-colored postcard, undated [Bill Frenchu]

So here is a hand-colored postcard of the Central Hotel, albeit with some odd additions from the coloring including the leaves on the trees in the distance. What details do you see to help identify the period to which this belongs?

The trick is that this is a transitionary image. Note that the image does show the trolley line along Broad Street, which was completed to Hopewell in 1904, and went out of service in 1924.

Yet this is the same basic building that is shown in the first image from 1897, with the same front porch (no side wrap-around), the same porch columns, and the same vertical balcony railing.

However, the building does look different at first glance because it has shutters, which do not appear in the first image, but are then on the building by the second image above around 1913. So this image is probably from around 1904, just before the additions on the Seminary Avenue side that started in 1904, as shown in the 1913 image.

For more about the almost 150 year history of the Hopewell Inn – the people and the building – attend the upcoming talk on The Story of the Hopewell Inn – and the People Who Sustained It, on Wednesday, May 3 at 7 pm. You can come in person to the Hopewell Theater, or join online via Zoom.

We welcome additional information, photos, and materials on the history of the Hopewell Inn, and on buildings in the Hopewell Valley in general.

More on the Hopewell Inn – 15 East Broad

The Hopewell Valley Bistro & Inn building at 15 East Broad Street on the corner of Seminary Avenue was demolished in July 2022. Long known as the Central Hotel, the building had a nearly 150 year history as a residential home and store, bar and restaurant, and lodging and apartments.

Hopewell Inn History


Hopewell Inn Information

Hopewell Inn Tours – 2022

Hopewell Inn Memorabilia

Hopewell Inn Media

Hopewell Inn Construction – 2023

Hopewell Inn Demolition – July 2022

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