Ahead of their time… Benefit gala celebrates Smithton’s 250th year

By on June 26, 2013

An Ephrata landmark was the place to be Friday night in honor of its quartermillennial anniversary.

The Historic Smithton Inn, 900 West Main St., hosted a benefit gala as part of its 250th anniversary celebration that drew a crowd to the bed and breakfast and its grounds, with several dressed in period garb. The event’s proceeds benefited the Ephrata Cloister and the Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley.

“The month of June is special for our property’s history, so it’s only fitting that it’s the month we chose for the Gala. June is the month when the original stone structure, built by Henry Miller II, an Ephrata Cloister householder, was completed. It is also the month, four years ago, when our family purchased the property,” owner Rebecca Gallagher said. “We’re excited not only to celebrate the Inn’s anniversary, but also the rich history of our entire community with this event.”

History provided by Gallagher says Miller opened an inn and tavern at this location in June of 1763. He and his wife Susana were members of the Cloister. Well-known throughout the colonial world, these people, who called themselves Seventh Day Baptists, built a cloister of medieval German buildings that survive today as a museum operated by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

According to the document, in 1762, Miller built a large stone house on land that adjoined the Cloister’s property. It stood on a hill that overlooked the Cloister and was on the main road to Scranton and points north. In 1763 Henry Miller opened his new inn and tavern to travelers and to those who came to visit the now-famous Cloister.

A traveler’s diary noted that Henry Miller and his wife kept a good and proper house that would not offend a lady. Limits were imposed on how many could be lodged in one room, or might sleep in one bed. The food was said to be uncommonly good.

When many of the wounded from the Battle of Brandywine were brought to the Ephrata Cloister for treatment, both Henry and Susana volunteered their assistance. Things went poorly for the wounded men. Many of those who did not succumb to their wounds lost their lives in an epidemic that at the time was called “camp fever”. The Millers shared their sad fate, leaving the inn to their children.

The Henry Miller House was operated as a public place by the Miller family until the Civil War, and was owned by the Miller family until it was sold in 1979 to Alan Smith.

Smith purchased the property with the intention of turning it back into an inn. While the inn’s name was changed to the Smithton, the building is essentially the same, although closets, bathrooms and kitchen have been added. There is a common room with fireplace and adjacent library. The balance of the first floor accommodates the dining room, kitchen and large center hall. The second floor has four large bedrooms, each with private baths and working fireplaces. Two brick “wings” were added to the original stone structure in the 1800s, the south wing and the west wing. The south wing, originally a tailor shop, is a two-story suite with a living room and kitchenette on the first floor and a unique bedroom and bath on the second floor today. The west wing includes two guest rooms and office/storage space. This wing is notable for the ‘bump outs’ with plaster sculpted doves on each face. This change to the façade and roof line were designed by Smith and there is a plaque on the structure dated 1982. There is a very large domed cellar of the original building which the early inn used for slaughtering and for food storage.

In the 30 years that Alan Smith and Dorothy Graybill-Smith owned and ran the Smithton, it was a lovely and successful inn. Alan passed away in 2004. Dave and Rebecca Gallagher purchased the inn in June of 2009 and set out to restore the Smithton to its former glory.

Among the special guests Friday night were Congressman Joe Pitts from the 16th Congressional District, Representative Gordon Denlinger from the 99th District, and Ephrata Mayor Ralph Mowen. One of the highlights of the evening was Denlinger presenting Gallagher with a House resolution.

Guests enjoyed gourmet hor d’ouvers and a buffet dinner, entertainment and dancing, a photo booth, silent auction and a special commemorative gift.

For more details on the Smithton Inn’s 250th celebration visit historicsmithtoninn.com.

About Ephrata Review