By Terry Rogers
On Monday, February 27, Milford City Council approved ordinance changes for several projects proposed for the City. The approval will bring a bed and breakfast to the downtown area as well as a service station at the intersection of North DuPont Boulevard and Northwest Front Street.
Michael Rivera applied for a zoning change to allow a motel/hotel in a residential area. He is the owner of the Bank House, located on the corner of North Walnut Street and Northeast Second Street. The home is currently undergoing renovations in order for Mr. Rivera to open a bed and breakfast at the location.
The new bed and breakfast will include four rental rooms with a suite for the innkeeper. A library, parlor, living room and kitchen on the first floor are being designed as common areas. The rental rooms and innkeeper suite will be located on the second and third floor of the historic home. Mr. Rivera is also creating off-street parking for up to eight vehicles. There is also ample parking on the street, according to a staff report presented to Council. There was no opposition from neighbors at a public hearing held prior to the passage of the ordinance.
The Bank House was designed and built by Alonzo Reynolds, a well-known architect and builder from Port Deposit, Maryland. Reynolds also built the old county office building in Dover. It is built in Greek revival style as many of Milford’s historic homes were. It has a raised basement with an L-shaped wing that runs along Northeast Second Street. The first floor has a drawing room with a ceiling done in gesso work and two fireplaces with marble fronts. The home still has a bell pull system, common during the period when the home was built. The home was originally built to house the Bank of Milford and the front room was originally to be the counting room for the bank. At one time, there were remnants of a vault in the basement and a window on the south side of the building was meant to be a door for customers.
The General Assembly approved the creation of the Bank of Milford on February 4, 1851. Many prominent Milfordians were involved in the initial creation of the bank, including Peter F. Causey and William Tharp, both of whom would later become governors of the state. James P. Lofland, Curtis S. Watson, Trusten P. McColley, Caleb Smithers and William Cannon were also trustees appointed by the state. The bank was chartered with $50,000 which was to be divided into 1,000 shares of $50 each. The legislation required that a certain number of stockholders had to be Delaware residents and that the bank had to be built in the City of Milford. The bank opened on August 17, 1852, temporarily housed in a building that was located between what will now be Touch of Italy, the former M&T Bank, and John P. Steward’s store, which was demolished to make room for the bank parking lot. Adrian Olcott was named president and William T. Shannon was hired as the cashier. Not long after, the bank purchased the land where the current house sits.
During his inaugural address as governor, however, Peter Causey hinted at problems with the bank while discussing Delaware’s banking industry.
“In 1851, the legislature chartered a bank with a capital of $50,000 to be established in the town of Milford, the stock of which was all taken by the citizens of New York, which was used for the purposes of private speculation and by its failure to redeem its bills in specie, inflicted losses upon the people, which, however, was but insignificant in importance when compared with the dishonor which was, for the first time, inflicted upon the character of Delaware bank paper.” The comments led the House of Representatives to appoint an investigative committee.
On February 21, 1855, the committee reported to the bank commission that three New York residents, Frank Bloodgood, Allen Clark and Charles Colgate, committed fraud by leading the bank commissioners to believe that the majority of the stockholders would be from Milford. In truth, the three men owned the majority of the stock and used the bank for personal purposes. Only a few shares were transferred to residents of New Castle County to meet the residency requirement.
In addition to failing to meet the requirements of the legislation regarding ownership of stock, Mr. Colgate withdrew over half of the initial $50,000 investment the day after the payment was made. In May 1853, Mr. Colgate deposited $25,000 in checks drawn on Charles Colgate and Company but stipulated they could not be presented without the drawers being present. He then borrowed all but $10,000, which then meant the bank could not redeem notes presented to them. On March 2, 1855, the General Assembly repealed the incorporation. James R. Lofland, who held notes on the bank he could not redeem, filed a petition that a receiver be appointed. Charles T. Fleming was appointed the receiver and Daniel Curry the surety.
Unfortunately, because Alonzo Reynolds had entered into a contract with William Shannon to build the bank building that included payment in the form of bank notes, construction was halted. When Mr. Reynolds sued to recover $6,000 he was owed, the court ordered assets be sold. The property with the partially completed building as sold to the Farmer’s Bank of Delaware in a sheriffs sale. The bank sold the building a month later to Dr. James R. Mitchell who completed it to use as his home and medical office. The home was also owned by Milford historian, E. Millis Hurley.
In addition to the ordinance change to allow Mr. Rivera to open a bed and breakfast, City Council also approved a proposal for demolition of the Citizen’s Bank building located at Milford Plaza. The Donut Connection building was demolished earlier in the year in order to begin construction of an 8,000-foot retail pad. The owners of Milford Plaza requested a change to the site plan to also included a Valvoline instant oil change as well as the retail pad.
According to the staff report, the service station will operate Monday through Saturday from 7 AM until 7 PM and on Sunday from 9 AM until 4 PM. The garage will employ between eight and ten people. All motor oils and lubricants will be contained in the building with disposal conducted by a licensed hazardous waste hauler. The company has established spill prevention, control and counter measures. The entrance along North DuPont Highway will be reconfigured by the owner of Milford Plaza to alleviate traffic flow issues that currently exist.
Sign up for you free digital subscription of The Weekly Review, delivered directly to your email every Tuesday morning. A quick cover-to-cover read to catch up on the news of the week and experience great stories about our local communities. Sign up for your free email subscription below.