Frederick Van Liew was one of the eight “Hollanders” that originally purchased 10,000 acres of land from the Harrison Tract in 1701. His son Frederick Jr. was only seven year old then. When he had grown up, he deeded the homestead property to his son Cornelius in 1752, where he built first part of the traditional Dutch (anchor bent) house. When he and his wife, Antje (Ann) were married in 1757, he brought his bride to this house. Cornelius died during the American Revolution and soon it became known as Annie Van Liew's House.
The house remained in the Van Liew family farm until 1822 when it was sold to John Wyckoff.
After months of preparation, the Franklin Inn Used Book Store opened on November 1, 1992. It is now closed indefinately for structural and other repairs.
John Wyckoff anticipated a business opportunity with the Delaware & Raritan Canal about to be constructed near the house. He added the second floor to a full sized height, dividing it into a large common room with a fireplace and bunk beds along with five smaller private rooms. A third floor was also added allowing for two private rooms on the east end that may have been for the innkeepers. A large open space remained on the third floor available for those of lower means or traveling light with their bedrolls. A stage coach line also ran along Amwell Road to New Brunswick at that time. When the canal was completed in 1836, the Franklin Inn became a thriving business. The Franklin Inn was closed in 1916 with the onset of prohibition when it was only 94 years old.
During the Revolutionary War, British General Charles Cornwallis took over Annie Van Liew’s house, using it as his headquarters for five days in 1777, while several thousand of his British troops camped nearby in Colonial Park. General Washington had just moved his army up to the Middlebrook encampment on top of the Watchung Mountains. The English tried to lure his army down on several occasions without success. Several times during the war, American Revolutionary generals used it to hold meetings.
The opening of the Delaware & Raritan Canal in 1836 brought in boat crews and a steady flow of customers that continued with the arrival of the railroad in 1870. The birth of the automobile brought an end to the building's use as a tavern, but it continued to operate and serve the public as a barbershop, an insurance agency, pet food shop, and an antiques store. A descendent of John Wyckoff owned all the land around the Inn until recently when he put it into the Franklin Township Farmland Preservation program.
The Franklin Inn is a unique example of eighteenth century Dutch architecture with its English hybrid second and third floors. It is the most important historic public building in Franklin Township. It is the only known Tavern Inn that was built over an early Dutch house. Members of the Blackwells Mills Canal House Association, under the leadership of Dr. Eugene Howe, his late wife Lois, the late James Moise and his wife Mary, restored the building’s exterior and first floor restoration at their own personal expense. Unfortunately, a new central heating and air conditioning system was installed just before Hurricane Floyd. It was damaged severely and has never fully recovered and will have to be replaced. The Canal House Association leases the Inn from the Onka family, the owners since 1945. The Inn is large enough to house 20,000 books that are regularly replenished by donations.
|Franklin Inn and Used Bookstore
2371 Amwell Road
Somerset, New Jersey 08875
Map and directions
Tel: (732) 873-5244 (when open)
Tel: (732) 297-5548 (when closed)
There are no scheduled events at the Franklin Inn at this time. Please check back soon!