Mispillion Riverwalk Series – The Towers

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The TowersBy Terry Rogers

One of the oldest homes in Milford, The Towers, is easily recognizable to visitors and residents of the town. Now home to a bed and breakfast inn, the large home whose style, according to Milford historian Dave Kenton, has been called Queen Anne Victorian or Steamboat Gothic, stands on the corner of Northwest Front and North Streets in Milford. Today, the home represents the gingerbread romanticism that existed in the 1880’s, but that has not always been the case.

Some reports say that there was a log cabin on the property at one time, and in the book Historical Etchings of Milford and Vicinity: Some Facts and Fancies, Old and New, Embellished by a Rhyme or Two, by Milford historian, George B. Hynson, “Ann Williams Bell remembered learning bonnet making in the log house.”

The most famous resident of The Towers was John Lofland, known as “The Milford Bard.” John was the first born child of Isaac Lofland, who was born on a farm in Frederica, but moved to Milford to establish a general merchandise business, and his third wife, Cynthia Virden. Isaac had been widowed twice, and some believed that the marriage to Cynthia was to support an appointment of Cynthia’s father as the schoolmaster in Milford. John’s younger brother died at the age of three, and a daughter Sarah, born in 1802, was adored by John.

Isaac died in 1803, leaving his family well-provided for, and Cynthia remarried a druggist from Laurel, John Wallace, who operated a general store, selling merchandise and drugs. Their son, Thomas Wallace, succeeded them in the business.

A poor student, John was taught at home by his mother, where he developed an avid love for reading. John’s stepfather wanted him to become a merchant, but with his mother’s support, John chose to become a medical doctor, training under a cousin, Dr. James P. Lofland, a successful physician in Milford. However, since his teens, John had written poetry and essays and while a student in Philadelphia, one of his compositions attacking an unpopular professor gained attention. John was expelled and never given his medical degree. Under the laws in those days, he could still have practiced medicine, but instead, he chose to return to Milford and pursue a literary career.

In a little garret room whose window can be seen next to the chimney, John began writing poetry, short stories and essays. His works were published in the Saturday Evening Post and Godey’s Lady Book, and his first book The Harp of Delaware was published in 1828. His second book, The Poetical and Prose of John Lofland, M.D., the Bard of Milford was published in 1846.

Legend has it that John was in love with a young lady with the last name of Mitchell, but her father forbid her to marry him. On the day she married another man, the legend continues that John retired to his home and did not leave for three years. Another legend states that John, who was a contemporary of Edgar Allen Poe, entered a contest with Poe while both were in Baltimore to see who could write lines of prose faster, with John coming out of the challenge the victor.

Despite his talent, John died without fortune due to his love of “Sir Richard Rum” and “Grand Turk” as he liked to call the adult beverages of which he was fond. Around 1820, John was given laudanum, a tincture of opium, which was unregulated and readily available at the time. John became addicted, and his dependency on laudanum and alcohol took its toll. John Lofland died on January 22, 1849 at the age of 51, possibly from tuberculosis.

The Towers was eventually purchased by Governor William Burton, and his daughter Rhoda, inherited the home after his death in 1866. Rhoda Burton married a wealthy New York businessman, Clinton Roudebush, and they restored the home in 1891. The jigsaw trim and imported glass windows cost between $35,000 and $40,000, which was an unheard of sum during those years. The Roudebush’s added towers, dormers and shingles to the original structure and the exposed chimney was closed in, with an exterior gable and stack added.

In the 1980’s, the home fell into disrepair until it was purchased and returned to the current state. The new owners painted the home its signature pink color with lavender, yellow and blue accents and returned the interior to its Victorian charm. The inside of the home features a music room with a large fireplace and 1899 grand piano. The dining room overlooks the completely refurbished gardens, and guest rooms returned to their Victorian style. One guest room, known as the Rapunzel Room, has its own small balcony overlooking historic front street.

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