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Reclamation on South Walnut Street    


  Story and Photographs by Chris Poh


"I don't know what I'm going to do. Let the smoke clear. I guess you could say I got fired from my job, and I'm looking for a new one." 
                                                                                                           -  Rich Hoomans





Milford Tavern in Milford, Delaware


On May 30, 2003, a devastating fire destroyed an entire city block of the historic downtown district of Milford, Delaware. While there was thankfully no loss of life, in the midst of the soggy, smoldering ruins remained what was once a church, three private residences, and seven commercial properties. Among those businesses that would shut their doors was the Milford Tavern owned by Rich Hoomans. At the time of my arrival, in the early spring of this year, to this quaint community along the Mispillion River, I was not aware of those events and circumstances that would parallel my own life.

I came to Milford in search of a liquid offering from a fairly new craft brewer that had opened somewhere in the surrounding area. Without its name or location it only made sense to park the car in the center of town, and to get my bearings at whatever appeared to be the most inviting watering hole. Unfortunately, the sign on that door informed us that the Milford Tavern would not be open until later in the day. So we continued our explorations on foot.


Lovely Victorian architecture in Milford, Delaware as seen in Amertican Public House Review


After a sampling of the surrounding architecture and assorted artistic endeavors, a stroll along the town’s river walk, and a conversation with Skip, the shopkeeper of the local bootery whose family has owned the business since 1947—we found ourselves once again peering longingly through the door of the still closed tavern. But now there was a gentleman who was in the process of setting up that had caught sight of us. And within less time than it took to unlatch the door, I would be shaking hands with Rich Hoomans, and making the appropriate apologies for disturbing a fellow barman prior to the posted hours of operation. But the early arrival allowed me the time to admire this perfectly appointed pub, and the time to get to know our benevolent, bighearted host. And if that wasn’t reason enough to appreciate this bit of good fortune, the beer that had brought me to this part of Delaware just happened to be on tap. So we wrapped our hands around a pint of the Reach Around IPA from Mispillion River Brewing and began the afternoon’s conversation.


River Walk in Milford Delaware as seen in American Public House Review


River Walk in Milford, Delaware as seen in American Public House Review
River Walk 


As I voiced my praise for this very fine looking establishment, Rich talked about the fire and the many challenges he faced during the long road of reconstruction. I could certainly understand some of those hardships having just lost my own position behind the stick due to a fire that had gutted the Pennsylvania inn that had been a sort of second home for me since 2007. After getting our common difficulties out of the way we moved onto some lighter barroom banter. We soon discovered, much to our mutual delight, that we both had strong ties to the Garden State, and had spent much of our younger years raising hell and glasses in many of the same New Jersey taverns. That wonderful recounting of the past led to that inevitable discussion of the present—and those changes and immeasurable losses that accompany the passing of time. We toasted to those good friends gone, and to those memories that would continue to enrich both of our lives.


   Rich Hoomans, owner of Milford Tavern in Milford, Delaware as seen in American Public House Review
Rich Hoomans, owner of Milford Tavern in Milford, Delaware


Somewhere in the middle of the second pint, the clock had ticked off the official opening time. Rich would assume his customary place behind the bar, and I would relinquish control of the pool table to those regulars who were far better suited to the game than myself. As I wheeled my way toward our original destination, I thought about those intervening forces that so often cause us to change the course that we’re on. I was grateful for whatever providence had delivered me to the Milford Tavern—and to my own piece of personal reclamation on South Walnut Street! 


Bar at the Milford Tavern in Milford, Delaware as seen in American Public House Review


Bar at the Milford Tavern in Milford, Delaware as seen in American public House Review


Pool table at Milford Tavern in Milford, Delaware as seen in American Public House Review
Sign at Milford Tavern in Milford, Delaware as seen in American Public House Review







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