New Wine In An Old Bottle

The residents of Milton and visitors coming to the Garden Tour today (October 1) were treated to a surprise – the advance opening of the Suburban Farmhouse at 108 Federal Street at the former location of the Federal Street Gallery and Espresso Bar, with a novel take on the coffee house business. The first few reviews on the Suburban Farmhouse Facebook page are enthusiastic, and we wholeheartedly welcome the new business and wish them great success.

Like nearly all of the businesses in Milton’s downtown area, the Suburban Farmhouse occupies a historic building, a solid brick structure completed in 1901 for the Milton branch of a Lewes bank- the Sussex Trust, Title and Safe Deposit Co. Much of the history of the building’s construction was informally documented by resident correspondent David A. Conner in his weekly Milton News letter, published in the Milford Chronicle. Transcriptions of these articles can be found in the following links within this blog:

October 4, 1901 – Contract to construct the bank building awarded to Isaac Nailor

October 11, 1901 – Beardsley and Lofland will supply bricks for the new building

October 18, 1901 – Isaac Nailor is excavating the building site and laying brick

October 25, 1901 – Isaac Nailor muses on the shortage of bricklayers

November 15, 1901 – Brick work completed

November 29, 1901 – Arrival of slate and entablature 

December 6, 1901 – Slate placed on the roof of the building

December 13, 1901 – Construction approaching completion

December 20, 1901 – Entablature placed on the building

December 27, 1901 – Stockholders and directors meeting held

The bank was ready for business on January 1, 1910.

What is striking about these mentions in the press is the compressed time line. From ground breaking to ready for occupancy, the construction took barely two and a half months, in spite of a dearth of bricklayers.

Sussex Trust, Title and Safety Deposit Company building on Federal Street ca 1910, photographed by Dr. William H. Douglas. The identity of the little girl posing at the entrance is not known (Douglas Family papers, courtesy of Milton Historical Society)

The bank building was the only structure to survive the disastrous fire of August 12, 1909 – a conflagration that destroyed the entire downtown business district from Union Street at the Broadkill River down to Front Street, and along Federal Street. Dr. Douglas took another of iconic Milton photograph (below) that documented the aftermath of the 1909 fire. The bank building can clearly be seen at left, unscathed, behind the rubble. The steeple of the old Goshen Methodist Episcopal Church rises just beyond the bank building.

Aftermath of 1909 fire, looking south on Federal Street (Douglas Family papers, courtesy of Milton Historical Society)



One thought on “New Wine In An Old Bottle

  • Lee Revis-Plank

    Congrats on another wonderful story! Interesting, well-documented and authentic. I love the way you link history to the current day activities in Milton. I understand that Captain James C. Conwell worked at the bank after he retired from the sea. How convenient for him!
    Thanks again for your wonderful stories!

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