I love the word, "quintessential"
and I tend to abuse it on a fairly regular basis. Depending on my mood
and locale, I might hang this title on several other historic taprooms
and inns scattered throughout the thirteen original colonies. From
Boston to Savannah, there are a handful of storied rooms whose
wide-planked floors have been gouged by the heavy boot heels of agents
intent on completing the king's business, and scuffed by the worn
leather soles of men worried about taxes, yellow fever, and failed
Many of these places have taken on a museum like atmosphere, that,
while interesting, tend to put undue limitations on one's own curious
nature. I often find myself waiting to be shushed or told to put
the blunderbuss back on the mantle. So perhaps it is accessibility more
than anything else that gives the BLACK
BASS HOTEL an edge over its colonial counterparts.
own association with the
in the mid 1980's.
Since that time many hours, with ale in hand, have been spent exploring
the spoils and remnants of two hundred and sixty years of American and
English history that fill the rugged framework of this delightful
retreat on the Delaware River.
just a few miles north of the heights from which Washington
kept a watchful eye on the British prior to his audacious attack on the
Hessian Troops billeted in Trenton, one might expect to find the usual
spirit of 76 accoutrements that adorn most colonial inns. But here one
is more likely to see a portrait of George the Third rather than the
venerable master of Mount Vernon. As was the case with many of the
areas population during that period, the innkeepers remained loyal to
small matter of personal politics has helped to shape the unique charm
and atmosphere of the Black Bass Hotel. Preserved within its walls are
three centuries of the stories and struggles of both the old and new
world - the American experience with a European flare.
a recent afternoon, I find
myself once more engaged in a bit of
fanciful time travel. While clutching a tankard of English Pale, I stop
to run my free hand across the pewter bar brought over from Maxims in
wander upstairs to sit on the balcony of the guest room
President Grover Cleveland favored during his stays. I watch kayakers
glide beneath the structure of the Roebling Footbridge that spans
stretch of the Delaware. The summer heat and an empty glass drive me
back inside. I take my second beer at the original bar located in the
wine cellar. I straddle a bench made from a tree that sprouted long
before Europeans walked the forests of North America. My eyes scan the
stone walls that provided refuge to canal boatmen seeking repast and
taking my leave, I stop to admire a handsome antique
chair in the main parlor. Then, after an exchange of pleasantries with
my host, I step back into the 21st century.
As I make my way across the footbridge back to new Jersey, a bold
declaration disrupts my daydreams. It occurs to me at this point in
time, that I have just left the quintessential colonial tavern.
OUTSIDE THE BLACK BASS
It is a clear, brisk, spring
afternoon, and I find myself once more standing over a small piece of
ground across from the Black Bass Hotel. it is a rare occasion indeed
when my enthusiasm for the exterior of a great tavern matches my
intrigue of its inner workings.
I read the names of
companions etched in the small blocks of quarried granite and marble:
Sputnick(sp), Hansel Extra Wicked, and Tallulah Wiggle. There are
several others who lay beneath this patch of moss and wild flowers; the
cherished feline friends of the former owner of the hotel, who
also now passed on
I smile as the name
passes over my lips, and I remember the calicoes and tabbies that have
touched my life. A cat is very much like a good tavern. They provide
solace and shelter, and when you allow yourself the privilege of
existing within their space, time can almost come to a halt. The
harshness of life is softened.
Miss Wiggle kept
her dance card full
from November of 1947 through early May of 1954. I can imagine her
sitting on top of the kitchen table surrounded by knotty pine cabinets
and avocado colored appliances, helping to comfort a young man dealing
with the red scare, war on the Korean Peninsula and fears of the atomic
A note book computer sits on my
kitchen table. The fingers of a not so young man tap out these words as
the invisible paws of departed caretakers stroll by. Again, in my
mind's eye, I see the graveyard, and once more I softly exhale the
litany on names: Sputnick , Hansel Extra Wicked and Tallulah Wiggle. I
look around my kitchen, and the litany continues: Blackie, Baby
Squeaks, and Edgar Allan . . .