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Up until it was razed in 1941, Brendlinger’s Store must have been the largest building in Swamp, the former name of New Hanover. A copy of an undated clipping from the Mercury has the caption: “ A familiar sight for many years at ‘Deadman’s Corner,’ Swamp Pike and Route 663, was this large house at the intersection. An historic Inn, it was demolished nonetheless as a safety hazard. Motorists could not see past it eastward on Swamp Pike.” This is the corner where a Wawa now stands.
What is the story of the “historic inn” that was demolished? Who built it and when? What was it called? No residents remember hearing anything about it other than that it was Brendlinger’s Store, a local landmark. But clearly it was very old. Indications are that it was, in fact, the “Swamp Tavern,” erected by Johannes Schneider as early as 1758 when he was issued a tavern license.
It was a remarkably large building for its time and appears to be a mid-eighteenth century tavern. It appears similar to other eighteenth century historic inns in the region with heavy construction, small windows and attic dormers. In the photo, the five windows at the right are smaller than the other two. Also, there is a chimney at the point where the small windows end. Probably it was built in two parts with the far side added later.
If we consider just the old section with the five windows and three dormers, then the shape of the structure is identical to the John Potts, Jr. house that was at High and Hanover Streets, Pottstown. John Potts was a Tory who was forced to flee the country; and his home was confiscated and purchased by General St Clair, then president of the Continental Congress. So the style of construction and similarity to other colonial houses, indicates that this structure, like the John Potts’ house, was constructed before the Revolutionary War, and given its location on the corner it was doubtless a tavern.
Skipping ahead to recent times, senior New Hanover residents remember the building as Brendlinger’s Store and New Hanover post office. The store was a single room that was in the side of the building along the Swamp Pike. Long time New Hanover resident the late Beulah Miller Spatz related the following detailed account of her many visits to Brendlinger’s Store:
“As a child I remember walking from my home in the tannery farm to Brendlinger’s store. Most of my purchases were sugar, flour, salt, pepper, vinegar and molasses by the jar. The molasses was in a barrel and you brought your own jar which they filled from the barrel. Kerosene at times which was kept in a building behind the store. I also remember buying cod liver oil which for some reason was medication that was given to me. I think that was the worst tasting thing I was ever given.
“The front door was on the corner of the building under the porch roof. The front door was a very heavy door. As you entered the store to the left was our local post office. It consisted of little open boxes where your mail was stored until you picked it up. There was a beautiful heavy dark wooden counter from the front to the back of the store. . I remember bolts of dress material, thread, needles and pins on shelves behind the counter. There was also a section of men’s overalls, straw hats, long winter underwear, socks and women’s cotton stockings also a wide assortment of small tools and hardware.
“Closer to the back there was a large glass counter where all sorts of candy was kept. The candy mostly was sold for 1 cent for each piece. I also remember the beautiful cash register on the counter. There was a pot belly stove on the other side of the store with chairs around the stove where there was usually someone sitting. Especially in the winter weather the chairs were filled.
“I do not remember any vegetables being sold because most of the farmers raised their own. I do remember however canned vegetables being sold that were probably canned by the two wives of the brothers Jake and Morris Brendlinger. I also remember homemade jellies. I also remember one summer I tied bunches of rhubarb from our farm and they offered to try to sell it for me. It was there for quite some time and never sold any.
“I also remember a case of men’s pocket watches being near the thread case. They were sold for $1.00 each. I do not remember ever seeing any wrist watches. There was also a section of pencils, erasers, tablets, note books and school supplies. They had little wooden pencil boxes.
“I also remember they sold cigars and chewing tobacco. My father chewed one called “Bagpipe” which I often had to buy for him. I do not remember any clothing for women so I assume all women sewed their clothing for themselves. No children’s clothing either so probably they were also hand made by women. I believe there was a catalogue for mail orders, but I do not remember whose it was.”
Next week part 2