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Dill Tavern

Dill Tavern, National Register of Historic Places, Dillsburg Boro, York County, PA

Photo: Dill Tavern, National Register of Historic Places, Dillsburg Boro, York County, PA

Dill's Tavern (also known as Eichelnberger's Tavern or the Logan House; 227 North Baltimore Street) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.


Dill's Tavern is a large, two and a half story stone building, located in the Borough of Dillsburg, York County, Pennsylvania. It is located close to the edge of a major north-south historic roadway (North Baltimore Street) at the northern end of the Borough. The original section of the building was built about 1755, with additions dating to c.1800, c.1820 and c.1910, and minor Colonial Revival alterations from about 1935. The L-shaped vernacular Federal style building is constructed of local sandstone, measures 53 feet long and 54 feet deep, and faces east on North Baltimore Street. A Colonial Revival style porch extends the length of the south facade. The north side of the wing has a two-story porch with a decorative balustrade. The building's gable roof is covered with standing-seam sheet metal material, and there are six brick chimneys. The building is situated on 1.4 acres of open, mostly level grounds. The building retains its historical integrity, both in its internal and external details through several periods of alterations.


Dill's Tavern is located at the northern edge of the Borough of Dillsburg, Pennsylvania. The building sits close to North Baltimore Street, at the eastern edge of the property, which totals 1.4 acres. The land around the building is open, with mature trees and shrubs giving the property a quiet, park-like atmosphere.

Trees edge the Dill's Tavern property to the north, and beyond are a gas station, convenience store, and a bank. To the south, the parcel is bounded by private property. The east side of the property line lies along North Baltimore Street. The west boundary line is adjacent to several acres of undeveloped land that lie along the northbound lanes of U.S. Route 15.

Dill's Tavern was built by James Dill about 1755 of local sandstone, and the building was enlarged three times by later owners. The east front of the building is constructed of rough-cut un-coursed stone in the two bays on the right (the original c.1755 building), and rough-cut stone laid in regular courses in the three bays on the left (the c.1800 addition). The large corner blocks of the original building, visible between the third and fourth bays, indicate the joining of these sections. This facade has a central entrance door in an asymmetrical five-bay facade. All windows are replacement 1/1 double-hung wood sashes, probably added about 1910. The windows on the first floor of the east facade were lengthened about 1910, but all have original jack arches of dressed sandstone.

The south elevation is constructed of rough-cut stone laid in regular courses. This facade has six asymmetrical bays: the two bays on the right from the c.1800 addition, and the four bays to the left from the c.1820 addition. The corner blocks between the fourth and fifth bay indicate the joining of these sections. There are two doors with stone Jack arches in the second and fourth bays. All windows are replacement 1/1 double-hung wood sashes, and have stone jack arches over the first floor windows.

Until 1994, an early 20th century Colonial Revival style porch wrapped around the east and south elevations; the east section was removed in 1994 for safety reasons. The porch appears to have been built in several stages: evidence indicates a porch across the east front of the building at the time of the first expansion, c.1800; on the left-hand four bays of the south elevation, at the time of the c.1820 addition; and both porch sections connected about 1910 or soon thereafter. A section around the north wall of unknown date appears in photographs, and was removed sometime in the 1960's. The surviving remnant of the porch extends the full length of the south facade; the left end of the porch is screened in.

The west elevation wall is of uncut, un-coursed stone. There are three windows and one door on this facade. On the right, the second story window is an 8/8 wood sash, apparently an original c.1820 window (the earliest of the seven sets of original window sashes in the building). Directly below is another window, formerly a 1/1 wood sash, replaced in 2000 by a 12/8 wood sash reproduction. There is a small one-story stone extension in the center of the west elevation, which houses a beehive oven (c.1820) with a brick chimney, and a small storage room. To the left of this extension are a board door and a window above with c.1910 1/1 wood sashes. Above the second floor, the gable end has horizontal clapboard siding. The corner blocks of the c.1820 addition are set back several feet from the end of the gable, indicating that this addition had a two-story porch on its north side. This porch was removed when the final addition was built about 1910.

The north elevation has a two-story porch with cutout balustrades along the length of the c.1910 addition. The first floor has five irregular bays, with four windows and one door. The first and second windows are replacement 1/1 wood sashes. The third and fourth windows have original 2/2 wood sashes; the door between them has a 2-light transom. The second floor of this addition has two windows with original 2/2 wood sashes, and one doorway in the center of the porch. On the left of this elevation projects the north end of the original c.1755 building, constructed of rough-cut, un-coursed stone, and having two original 6-paned attic windows.

The roof of the Dill's Tavern building has five brick chimneys, and is covered with standing-seam sheet metal material. Two end chimneys and one central chimney are in the main block; one central and one end chimney are located in the c.1820 addition. There are two early 20th century Colonial Revival dormer windows in the center of the east and south roofs.

Description: Interior

The interior of Dill's Tavern has a complex floor plan resulting from the additions to the original building. The main block, facing east, has a central hall with stair, and is one room deep; this part includes the original c.1755 building on the right and the c.1800 addition on the left. The wing toward the west has four rooms on the first floor and two rooms on the second floor; this section comprises the c.1820 and c.1910 additions. Some original interior features were removed during these early changes, but their evidence has survived: chief among these features are a stair and two fireplaces, both in the earliest section of the building, c.1755. Some details from the later alterations remain intact — of particular note are the vernacular Federal-style mantels, a beehive oven, as well as baseboards, paneled doors, and window and door surrounds.

The building is in a state of partial renovation. In the late 1990's, some interior features (such as chair rails, baseboards, and interior partitions that date to c.1910 or c.1935) were removed during examination of the structure, but they have been kept as reference material. Most modern plumbing, heating, electrical and kitchen fixtures have been removed. The exterior and interior doors vary in date from c.1800 to the early twentieth century.

The descriptions below describe each of the four stages of construction, in order to clarify how each section relates to the subsequent additions to the building. Entering the building from the east, the entrance hall is part of the c.1800 addition. In the right hand side of the hall, two doors lead into the north section, whose level is one step up from the hall. The first door was originally a window; the second door was the entrance to the c.1755 building, and has its original doorsill and architrave (uncovered when the c.1800 frame was removed during examination in the late 1990's).

The Original Tavern Building, c.1755

The north section of the building is the earliest construction, c.1755. Today it is one room on the first floor. There is a large cooking fireplace (restored in the 1930's) in the left side of the north wall, with a cabinet built into the left side. In the south wall of this section there is a newly reopened c.1755 fireplace with a cabinet built into the right side. This fireplace had been closed about 1935. Removal of later plaster on the south wall revealed an original plaster panel over the fireplace, and evidence of decorative molding around the panel and an applied wood surround framing the fireplace.

The southwest corner of this section reveals evidence of the original stair leading to the second floor and attic of the original building. Evaluating the architectural evidence in this space, there is strong reason to conclude that Dill's Tavern originally had three rooms on the first floor: a hall with a stair entered through the front door; a small parlor with decorative molding and a fireplace to the right of this entrance hall; and a large room with a cooking fireplace at the north end.

The second floor of the c.1755 building is one room, but originally a north-south partition divided this space into two rooms. The north and south walls have chimney breasts, but no firebox openings. Evidence of the original stair from the first floor is clearly visible in the southwest corner of the room. The stair continued up to the attic, which has its original wide plank flooring.

The First Addition, c.1800

About 1800, Dill's Tavern was doubled in size by the addition on the south of a central hallway, and one room on each floor. The hall has a stairway with a square newel, a flat molded rail, and square balusters. There is a small storage closet under the landing that appears to have its original forged hardware. A fireplace with a Federal style mantel is in the center of the right-hand wall; this mantel was installed c.1930, at which time the firebox on the other side of the wall was closed. A door in the left wall leads from the hall into the south room. At the rear of the hall is a paneled door, which originally opened to the outside, and which now leads into the rooms added c.1910. The chair rail was removed in the late 1990's, but most moldings and trims in the hall are original.

The south room, probably a parlor, features a fireplace with an original vernacular Federal style mantel in the center of the south wall. On each side are two original cabinets with paneled doors that open at right angles to the fireplace. Two windows flank the fireplace, and two more windows face the street, all with early 20th century 1/1 wood sashes. The west side doorway at one time opened to the exterior, but now leads into the wing added about 1820.

On the second floor of this section, three doors lead from the hallway into the adjacent rooms, and a door gives access to the enclosed attic stair. A fifth door, located awkwardly at the top of the stairs, may have been a window that was enlarged about 1820 to provide access to the second story of the porch. To the left of the hallway, the south room features a fireplace with a vernacular Federal style mantel similar to the mantel in the room directly below. Four windows light this room, and a door in the west wall leads into the second floor rooms of the c.1820 wing.

The attic above this section has plank flooring, and two early 20th century dormer windows facing east and south. Common rafters with tie beams support this section of the roof construction.

The Second (c.1820) and Later Additions

The wing to the west of the main block was built in two sections. About 1820, a wing was added to the building, with two rooms on the first floor, one large room on the second floor, and a two-story porch on the north side. On the first floor, the first room of this addition may have been a dining room; it has a door and window in the south wall, and originally had a door on the north side, opening onto the north porch. Below this room is a cellar, whose outside access with its original stone steps, lies under the present south porch.

The room beyond served as a kitchen from c.1820 until well into the twentieth century. The room has a door and a window in the south wall. Recent removal of a late 19th century dresser uncovered inscriptions dated "May 1898, drawn over a hand-applied stencil pattern on the painted plaster. This decorative stencil probably dates to the period when this addition was built about 1820. The west wall of the room has a reproduction 12/8 wood sash window, copied in 2000 from the original second floor window directly above. To the right is a cooking fireplace with a Colonial Revival style mantel applied to the original beam over the fireplace. This corner of the room was extensively altered, with one end of the fireplace closed off in the early 20th century to provide for a stair (removed during the 1990's). There is also a floor opening for access to the cellar, apparently an early to mid-20th century excavation. The door in the north wall of the kitchen once led onto the c.1820 porch; at the far west end of this porch was a beehive oven. Although the porch no longer exists, the oven survives in the later addition, c.1910.

The second floor of the c.1820 wing was originally a single room, later divided into smaller rooms by partitions that were removed in the 1990's. The south wall has four large windows with the original architraves and frames, but early 20th century 1/1 wood sashes. At the west end is an original c.1820 window with 8/8 wood sashes and its original interior shutter made of vertical boards and hung with iron hardware. To the right of the window is a chimney breast, but no firebox. In the floor of the northwest corner is the opening for the early 20th century stairway from the room below, The north side of this room contains a door, and two windows with early 20th century 1/1 wood sashes, which faced originally onto the c.1820 two-story porch. In the attic, there is plank flooring, and common rafters support the roof over both the c.1820 and c.1910 sections.

The third and last addition to Dill's Tavern, about 1910, removed the earlier porch and extended the c.1820 wing to the north, with two rooms on each floor, and a two-story porch on the north side. On the first floor, the room in the angle of the c.1820 addition and the main block has two windows in the north wall, flanking a small fireplace. The door in the east wall is the original c.1800 door leading from rear of the entrance hallway. Probably in the 1930's, the door between this room and the c.1820 dining room was enlarged, creating a double room. In the rear-most of the rooms in this addition can be seen the small arched metal door of a beehive oven. This oven apparently was originally built onto the west end of the c.1820 porch. When the porch was built over, the oven was incorporated into this room adjacent to the kitchen. Next to this oven is a vertical board door, and in the north wall, two original windows and a door open onto the present-day porch.

The second floor of this c.1910 addition is today one room, but it originally contained two rooms. One window with 1/1 wood sashes faces west, and two windows with original 2/2 wood sashes and a door opening onto the second story of the porch. A door in the east wall opens onto the second floor hall of the main block; this door might date from the construction of the first two-story porch, about 1820.

Potential Archaeological Resources

In 1996, volunteer graduate students (Elizabeth Roman and Kimberly Anderson) from Penn State conducted an archaeological survey of an early well near the street. The survey did not yield information sufficient to claim significance under Criterion D. A photograph c.1900 shows a small outbuilding near the southwest corner of the building; research indicates all outbuildings had disappeared by the 1930's. A thorough investigation of the area within the boundary has the potential to include the foundations of several outbuildings, walls and fences that may have stood as part of the tavern complex during the occupancy of the Dills and Elchelbergers. In addition to the well that has been partially surveyed, the outbuildings that may have been in this area near the tavern may include a stable, a springhouse, and a bake house.

In May and June of 2003, the owners contracted with Archaeological and Historical Consultants, Inc., of Centre Hall, Pennsylvania to conduct a preliminary survey of the property. The property was marked with grids, and test holes were dug every 20 feet. Artifacts that were found during this survey were dominated by domestic ceramic shards, particularly creamware and pearlware dating from c.1750 to c.1840, and a large number of lead glazed redware fragments, c.1770. A small number of mid-to-late nineteenth century shards were also found. Architectural fragments included window glass, as well as wrought and cut nails. Among other items found were bone and shell fragments, and several clay and redware pipe bowl fragments.

In September 2003, the consultants returned to search the property for evidence of building foundations. American Geotechnical and Environmental Services, Inc., of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania conducted geo-thermal imaging. There was no definite evidence of structures, but five sites were identified as having stone piles, soil markings, or a large number of artifacts. These sites were staked for additional hand-digging, which is scheduled in 2004.


Although Dill's Tavern was unoccupied for a number of years, it has remained in generally stable condition. The building's exterior is structurally intact, and its various periods of alteration are clearly evident. A few original windows and doors remain, but others have been replaced, as has the roof.

In 1996, the owners began carrying out examinations of the interior to determine the extent of changes, and to look for evidence of early architectural features. Although many of the interior details of Dill's Tavern have been altered or removed, nevertheless there remains significant evidence of its original appearance, and a number of surviving portions of the original features, such as window and door architraves, baseboards and chair-rails. The extensive evidence of the various periods of the interior make it possible to reconstruct, or interpret, the intricate details of the building's complex construction history.



From c.1755 until c.1835, the property was a tavern, which served travelers, tradesmen and local residents of the area. During the period c.1755 to c.1835 (the year the tavern ceased operation), the area west of the Susquehanna River was increasingly populated, and the roads and turnpikes were built which connected the state capital to the county seats of Lancaster, York, Adams and Cumberland Counties, and to the major cities of Philadelphia and Baltimore. Additions and changes to the building after the 1830's are indicative of local trends, including the Colonial Revival, which occurred during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Known as Dill's Tavern (and later as Elchelberger's Tavern), it stands at a prominent location where the Harrisburg-Baltimore Road and the York-Carlisle Road meet. Several original tavern account books (1796 to 1830) provide details of the trade and commerce that took place there. For eighty years, the building was the site of extensive commercial activity, as well as a place for local cultural, social and political gatherings. After c.1835, the building was the center of an agricultural operation, and in the 20th century it was an antiques store as well as residence.

The building is a local example of an 18th and early 19th century tavern in York County. Dill's Tavern is a surviving example of the tavern stands that once stood at frequent intervals along the roads and turnpikes of western York County and surrounding counties. The building's exterior and interior clearly reflect all phases of its construction, and the additions and alterations reflect changes that were prompted by economic and social factors.

The period of significance for Dill's Tavern is from c.1755, the date of its earliest construction, until about 1935 when that last architectural changes were made to the building.

History of ownership, 1755-1835

James Dill (1720-1797) was born in Monaghan, Ulster Province, Ireland, and emigrated to Chester County, Delaware with his parents, Matthew and Mary Dill in 1731. Ten years later, he came with his parents to Monaghan Settlement, then in Lancaster County. James's father, Matthew Dill (1698-1750), was a Scots-Irish Presbyterian, and an elder of the original Monaghan Church. The area of Pennsylvania west of the Susquehanna River was still prone to attacks by native Indians, and Matthew Dill served as a captain in the volunteer militia. In 1749, when York County was formed, Matthew was commissioned a justice of the peace, and justice of the Court of Common Pleas. When Matthew died in 1750, James received in his father's will "the tract of land now in his Possession..." totaling about 190 acres.

James Dill apparently built the stone building that became the tavern bearing his name about 1755. Records show that his tavern license was renewed at regular intervals from 1758 until 1782. The tavern continued in operation for eighty years under the management of its next four owners:

c.1755-1784, James Dill ("Dill's Tavern")

1784-1800, John Dill

1800-1811, Leonard Elchelberger ("Elchelberger's Tavern")

1811-c.1835, Frederick and John Elchelberger

James Dill acquired more land and apportioned his holdings to his sons before his death in 1797. In the 1783 tax assessment, his property totaled 650 acres, and included nine slaves. In 1784, James' son John Dill (1763-c.1840) took possession of 393 acres, along with the tavern. Presumably, John continued to operate the tavern from 1784 to 1800, although his only recorded licenses are for 1795 and 1798. In the 1798 Federal Direct Tax, John Dill was assessed for 378 acres, including a stone house (25 x 24), three outbuildings, two log barns and a stable.

In 1800, John Dill's property was sold to Leonard Elchelberger (1750-1811). Elchelberger, a wagon builder and wheelwright by trade, operated the tavern until his death in 1811. Leonard was the son of Philip Frederick Elchelberger (1693-1776), who had emigrated from Germany in 1728. Leonard was born and raised near Hanover, York County, owned a farm along Piney Creek in Frederick (now Carroll) County, Maryland. According to the Elchelberger accounts, Leonard ran a tavern in Maryland before his move to Pennsylvania.

Leonard received his first York County tavern license in 1801, and he continued to conduct business as a wagon builder and wheelwright. During his ownership, the tavern building was doubled in size, allowing some privacy for the Elchelberger family; the tavern probably continued to operate in the original north end of the building. Leonard was prominent in the community, serving as road commissioner and justice of the peace. Leonard Elchelberger died intestate in 1811, and his property was sold at public auction in 1815. An advertisement in the Carlisle Herald described the property of 400 acres, which included a large stone house, a kitchen, several outbuildings, a still house (distillery), a spring, a well "near the door;" a small mill-house, two orchards and three dwelling houses.

The resolution of the estate continued for several years, while Elchelberger's sons Frederick and John continued to live on the property and to operate the tavern. Frederick (1783-1836) eventually owned the property (records indicate that it was he who built a distillery in 1804), but his brother John (1787-1833) managed the tavern and distillery after 1810. John further expanded the business to include the sale of general merchandise, such as textiles, sugar and coffee, and Frederick built a second mill (a sawmill) in the 1820's. Frederick was prominent in Dillsburg, being elected to the General Assembly from 1800 to 1802, serving as a soldier in the War of 1812, returning to the legislature from 1815 to 1817, and being elected as State Senator for York and Adams Counties in 1819, 1823 and 1829.

Ownership after 1835

In 1835, the year before his death, Frederick Elchelberger, who had no heirs and whose brother died in 1833, transferred the property to his brother-in-law, Frederick Welty (1779-1877). After this time the building ceased being used as a tavern, distillery, or general store. By the 1850 census, Frederick Welty and his son Levi Welty, farmers, occupied the former tavern as a private residence, from which they ran their agricultural enterprise for the next 50 years.

After Frederick Welty's death, the property eventually passed to one of his grandsons, Morrett Coover (1849-1918), who subdivided part of this property and sold some parcels before he died. The family home with just over 7 acres was transferred to his son, Howard J. Coover in 1929, and in 1930 he transferred this property to his cousins, Helen M. Logan and Caroline E. Logan.

The Logan sisters operated an antiques store, "Logan House," in their home for many years, beginning in the 1930's. Caroline was a schoolteacher and lived with her parents in York Borough until her mother's death in 1947. The elder sister, Helen, remained living in Dillsburg, and it was probably she who managed the antiques business. The sisters both died in 1962, and the property was conveyed to trustees.

After more than thirty years, while the house remained unoccupied with its furnishings intact, the trustees sold the contents of the house at auction in 1995; in 1996, the house and 4.5 acres were sold to Robert and Pamela Elchelberger. In 2001, the Elchelbergers (whose relationship to the former tavern keeper, Leonard Elchelberger, is not established) sold the house and 1.4 acres to the Northern York County Historic and Preservation Society, which anticipates future rehabilitation and restoration of the building.

Commercial Significance

Commerce and travel, creation of Dillsburg

In the last half of the 18th century, the Dill family was active in promoting commerce in Monaghan Township, and an important concern was building roads in the area west of the Susquehanna River. In 1747, James and his brothers submitted a petition to lay out a road from Harris' Ferry to William Wierman's mill on Bermudian Creek. In 1765, a road was laid out from Carlisle to a point "where the old road crosses the line between Cumberland and York County towards Dills tavern." A York County map of 1770 (Scull) shows "Dills Road" running from York to Carlisle (the present-day Route 74). A 1775 map (Sayer and Bennet) and a map dated 1790, show "Dills Road," and "Dills Gap," where the road crosses Yellow Breeches Creek.

A major development affecting the tavern's business occurred when Dillstown (Dillsburg) was laid out in 1808, and with the creation of more new roads. In 1810, the road from Harrisburg to Gettysburg was laid out near the tavern. Small and Wagner's map of York County (1821) shows roads passing through "Dillstown" and leading toward Carlisle, Harrisburg, York, Hanover (continuing to Baltimore), and Gettysburg. These major early 19th century roads exist today as Route 15 (Harrisburg and Gettysburg), Route 74 (York and Carlisle), and Route 194 (Hanover and Baltimore). The location of the tavern near the junction of these roads was significant to its financial stability, since it would have been patronized by the travelers, drovers and haulers that came in increasing numbers down the roads that passed through Dillsburg. The tavern served as a civic center for local residents, where they could receive mail, conduct business, recover lost livestock, purchase refreshments, hear the latest news, dance at a ball, attend a meeting or trial, or vote in an election.

When stagecoach traffic along the western York County roads developed in the late 18th century, business declined at many roadside taverns, since travelers could go much farther distances before stopping for the night. Even with this greater activity on the roads, by the time Elchelberger acquired the tavern in 1800, the principal clientele was limited to day trade, with few instances of travelers staying overnight — usually the drovers and haulers that moved goods and livestock through the area. The addition of a distillery, the construction of an assembly room, and the retailing of general merchandise, may have been prompted by the need to maintain income.

Tavern Operations, c.1755-c.1835

There is little documentation of James Dills' tavern business other than his and his son's applications for tavern licenses and the reference to "Dills tavern" in the 1765 road petition. A few advertisements in newspapers mention the tavern in the late 18th century. In the Carlisle Gazette, February 22, 1786, James Dill advertised for James Richardson to reclaim his filly left at the tavern. In 1791, Alexander Hanna announced that he "has taken in a red cow, came to his plantation...near Dills Tavern." In 1796 and 1799, fullers William McMullen and John Stephens advertised that they would take in cloth for fulling at "Mr. Dill's tavern in York County."

The Elchelberger account books provide valuable details about the tavern and distillery business during the early 19th century, and about the residents and travelers who frequented the tavern. The earliest of these ledgers, "L. Elchelberger Tavern Book," (1796-1804), contains entries for Leonard's business in both Maryland and Pennsylvania (all the Maryland entries are written in German, and after 1800, most entries are in English). Among the daily sales of tobacco, cider, peach brandy, whiskey, toddies, beer and ale, the book also records the accounts of drovers and haulers who transported all manner of goods — livestock, nails, bushels of corn and grain, iron, glass, and steel bars as well as the kegs and barrels of spirits and liquors that were an important part of the tavern's business and trade.

Various entries list charges for broken glasses, mugs, tumblers and chairs; "horse at hay;" cash loans; whiskey served at a funeral; various meals, victuals and undefined "snacks;" the loan of a wagon; and the hiring of a man for 6 months. The most frequent entries for beverages are for "cider ayl," whiskey, and peach brandy, all produced locally. Clients occasionally called for imported beverages, such as sherry, French brandy, and Rhine wine, and for the seasonal delicacy of oysters, or mixed punches including cherry bounce and "Sangree."

The "Book of Entry" (1810-1828), kept by John Elchelberger, includes details about the distillery that was added to the tavern business in 1804. The book also records the expenses incurred by servants and workmen, as well as purchases by local residents. In 1813, Dr. Asa Sawyer boarded for 50 weeks, incurring a bill for his board and the pasturing of his horse totaling $100.42. In addition, various workmen (blacksmiths, wagoners, farmhands, etc.) boarded for several months at a time, and others rented houses on the property, probably the three dwelling houses listed in the 1815 estate sale. These buildings' locations have not been ascertained, but they were probably situated at a distance from the tavern complex itself.

A small Day Book (1825 to 1830) records various sales of general merchandise, such as: coffee, tea, chocolate, tobacco, mackerel, molasses, sugar, pepper, earthenware, shad, fish hooks, muslin, combs, buttons, veal, thread, pins, powder and shot, mutton, salt and potatoes.

Distilleries in York County

From 1780 to 1792, and again from 1800 to 1830, York County ranked first in the state for revenues from still operations, according to Gibson's History of York County. During the interval 1792 to 1800 the National Excise Tax was enforced (giving rise to the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794), and no revenues to the Commonwealth from distilleries are recorded. In 1800, once the Excise Tax was repealed, distillery owners in Pennsylvania were required to register their operations with the county Office of Inspection and pay an annual tax, or face a fine of $250.

Beginning in 1804, the Elchelbergers paid taxes on their distillery. Over the next decade, the output of this operation was considerable. The account books record large quantities of corn and rye being used for the making of whiskey. These raw materials presumably were grown on the family's own plantation, supplemented by recorded purchases from local landowners. The Elchelbergers hired several distillers, among them John Cannon, who worked May to October 1811 (1,667 gallons whiskey) and from September 1813 until April 1816 (26,473 gallons whiskey), for which he was paid 5 cents per gallon.

The "still house" mentioned in the 1815 estate sale has not been located. As the Elchelberger estate totaled 400 acres, this building like the mill house and tenant houses, was probably located some distance away from the complex of tavern buildings.

Architectural Significance

The architecture of Dill's Tavern is typical of taverns elsewhere in the region from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The surviving original exterior and interior details from all periods are simple and vernacular in style. The complex evolution of the building provides important information about changes that were necessitated by the pressures of commerce and other economic factors in the period 1755 to 1835.

The first architectural record for Dill's Tavern is in the 1798 Federal Direct Tax, where John Dill was assessed for 383 acres and the following buildings in Monaghan Township: Stone house, 25 x 24, 2 stories, 7 windows; Granary, stone 24 x 13; Bake house, stone, 20 x 11; Spring house, stone, 12 x 11; Two log barns, 80 x 30 and 35 x 18; Log stable, 18 x 16.

According to this record, the original Dill's Tavern was a small, two-story building, and the property included accommodations for horses and livestock, water, and facilities for the storage of fodder and grain. The outbuildings listed in the 1798 tax roll no longer exist, but were probably clustered close to the tavern, since all would have been necessary for the comfort of both man and beast. The springhouse, with its ready supply of good water was of primary importance to any tavern operation. Dill's Tavern appears to have been unchanged architecturally from c.1755 to c.1800.

The Elchelbergers' additions to the building and land may have been prompted by the need for the tavern to expand in order to remain profitable. Thus, the c.1800 addition provided more rooms for the family, and the c.1820 addition featured a large, well-lighted second floor room suitable for public meetings, assemblies, and private affairs. The addition of a distillery provided the tavern with a ready supply of whiskey, and additional income came from the two mills on the property. The three dwelling houses, no longer standing, listed in the estate advertisement in 1815 were rented to distillers, wheelwrights, and other workmen.

Architecture of Taverns

The architecture of Dill's Tavern is significant because it is typical of taverns that operated in the region around western York County during the last half of the 18th century and the early 19th century. Comparison with known information about taverns in general, as well as examples in York Borough and Lancaster and Cumberland Counties, provides a context for the architectural significance of Dill's Tavern.

In the mid-18th century, taverns generally were small, built as private residences, but with enough room to accommodate the occasional drover or traveler. Travel being difficult at this period, visitors were not frequent, but they were welcomed into the family's own rooms, and served meals at the family table. "Lodging" consisted of a pallet by the large fireplace in the tavern's main room, or a pallet or bed in the attic. If the traveler was a woman or a citizen of rank or wealth, then the tavern keeper and his wife might turn over their own bed. These simple requirements for a tavern operation are reflected in the plan of the original c.1755 Dill's Tavern.

Taverns were to be found about every 5 to 10 miles along major routes, but poor road conditions often forced travelers to walk in mud or choking dust, making daily progress tedious and variable. By the late 18th century, with better roads and the introduction of stagecoaches, an increasing number of travelers required accommodations. This resulted in some taverns being enlarged, or newer and bigger taverns being built. Other taverns ceased operating altogether due to poor management or inconvenient location. Dill's Tavern successfully continued its operations into the early 19th century, and its evolving floor plan reflects this development, and the changing needs of its clientele and its operations.

In York Borough, the Golden Plough Tavern has been most extensively researched. The tavern was a two-story log and half-timbered building built before 1750. The floor plan included a central chimney, and an entry, kitchen, barroom and chamber on the first floor. The second floor contained a large common room, and two rooms designated as the tavern-keeper's quarters. Although this tavern was organized differently from Dill's Tavern, both buildings had compact floor plans that adequately provided for travelers' needs in the mid-18th century.

Wright's Ferry Mansion is an early tavern in Lancaster County, built in 1738 on the eastern bank of the Susquehanna River. It was built of limestone in two stories; its single pile floor plan includes an entrance hall with the parlor to the left and the dining room and kitchen to the right. The second floor has two bedchambers above the dining room, and servants' rooms and storage rooms above the kitchen. This sophisticated floor plan and the exterior and elegant interior details indicate its builder's Philadelphia Quaker origins, and provide a contrast to the simpler architecture of James Dill's small tavern of 1755, many miles (and several days' journey) to the west.

There is no resource which compiles detailed information about the 18th and 19th century taverns in York County, so the locations, number, and years of operation of York taverns is not yet documented. However, a recent publication does provide such information about taverns in Cumberland County, whose seat, Carlisle, is about ten miles west of Dillsburg. Taverns of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, 1750-1840 includes numerous details about the buildings that served as taverns in the 18th and early 19th centuries. With this resource, it is possible to understand how Dill's Tavern reflects the architecture of a typical tavern stand in York County and the nearby region during the period 1755 through 1835.

The book records town and country taverns for which archival photographs, road surveys, court records, and other documents exist. Of these, 58 buildings survive (only one is restored), 99 are demolished, and 35 are identified but unlocated. Many more unidentified taverns and tavernkeepers are listed in an appendix. Inventories and travelers' accounts are quoted which give information about the activities and furnishings of some of these taverns. One account book survives, that of Robert Patterson, who operated Hendrlck's Tavern, still standing in Camp Hill, in the 1780's until 1792. Like Dill's Tavern in the neighboring county, some taverns included other businesses, such as distilleries, blacksmith and wagon master shops.

About half of the surviving Cumberland County taverns were built of stone. Many mid-18th century taverns were enlarged between about 1790 and 1800, or demolished and replaced by newer and larger buildings. Taverns built after 1790 were usually center-hall, single or double pile buildings, and wings appear to have been added in the 1820's and 1830's. This architectural pattern is reflected in Dill's Tavern, which was expanded c.1800 and a wing added c.1820.

Many taverns in the county operated for only a few years, with a relative few operating continuously over several decades, as did Dill's Tavern. Existing tavern buildings in urban areas of Cumberland County appear to be considerably altered; rural taverns, which today are mostly private residences, have changed in less obvious ways. Interior details of several taverns appear similar to some architectural features in Dill's Tavern, such as stair railings, balusters, door and window frames, and fireplace mantels.

Examining this resource and the known information about other taverns in the region, it appears that Dill's Tavern typifies the taverns that operated in York County and the surrounding area, both in its original form and its later architectural development. Dill's Tavern is significant because it illustrates the evolution of tavern architecture in York County over eight decades, from the early settlement of the western areas of the county in the mid 18th century until the second quarter of the 19th century.

Later additions and the Colonial Revival

After the tavern stopped operating about 1835, later owners made no changes to the building for at least seventy-five years. About 1910, Morris Coover made some additions to the building, perhaps to accommodate his adult unmarried children, and to incorporate "modern conveniences" (i.e., bathrooms with running water). There is evidence that he made several changes to the c.1820 wing, such as partitioning the second floor into several rooms, and he added more rooms and a two-story porch on the north side of this section. A mantel, in the form of crown molding, was attached to the lintel beam of the cooking fireplace. Coover was probably responsible for combining the one-story porches on the east and south into one large porch wrapping the two sides of the building.

When the Logans took over the property in 1930, the Colonial Revival was at its height, and several minor interior alterations to the building during the next decade reflect this influence. The Colonial Revival had a strong impact on the design of new buildings, and on the renovation of older ones. Even buildings with authentic original details were restored with decoration and details that were considered appropriately "colonial."

The Logans apparently had a taste for historic artifacts and details, and in addition to starting an antiques business, they restored the original tavern's cooking fireplace with the assistance of staff from the Smithsonian Institution, according to local newspaper accounts. In addition, they acquired architectural features from neighboring historic buildings, such as a vernacular Federal mantel that was installed in the entrance hall. A new firebox was created for this mantel after closing the fireplace in the room behind the wall. In the old kitchen in the c.1820 wing, it may have at this time that the second set of stairs were built, from the corner of the old kitchen to the floor above. Further investigation may uncover more examples of architectural features — both period and reproduction — added to the building during this period.


Dill's Tavern is of significance because of its long commercial history in the Borough of Dillsburg. Even before the town was laid out in the early nineteenth century, this building was a hub of commercial activity near the intersection of several roads in western York County that linked such major settlements as Harrisburg, Carlisle, York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Records of the businesses carried out in this building in the early 19th century are found in the Elchelberger Account Books, which provide valuable details about tavern and distillery operations in western York County, and record innumerable small details of commercial and community life that are significant to Dillsburg's and York County's early history. 19th and early 20th century commercial activities on the property include an agricultural enterprise and a retail antiques business.

Dill's Tavern's is architecturally significant as a typical tavern building in the York County region during the last half of the 18th and the early 19th century, and of particular importance because so few early taverns in York County have been thoroughly documented. Interpreting the alterations, additions and changes that were made to this building over the course of its history provides a valuable insight into the social, cultural and economic factors that influenced its architecture. In addition to the surviving exterior and interior original details, examination has uncovered a wealth of additional evidence that creates a vivid picture of the architecture of Dill's Tavern at each stage of its complex evolution from c.1755 until c.1935.



Abstracts of South Central Pennsylvania Newspapers. 1785-1800. Privately printed manuscript, no date.

Axelrod, Alan, ed. The Colonial Revival in America. New York, New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1985.

Rice, Kym S. Early American Taverns: For the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers. Chicago, Illinois: Regnery Gateway, 1983.

Gibson, John. History of York County, Pennsylvania. Chicago, Illinois: F.A. Battey Publishing Company, 1886.

Prowell, George R. History of York County, Pennsylvania. Chicago, Illinois: 1907.

Heminger, J. D. Old Roads of Cumberland County, Pa. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Public Library Association, 1910.

Schaumann, Merri Lou Scribner. Taverns of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, 1750-1840. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Cumberland County Historical Society, 1994.

Public Records

York County Deeds, York County Record Office.

Archives, Manuscripts, Private Collections

"Early or Historic Inns and Taverns." Vertical Files, York Heritage Trust, York Pa.

Vertical Files, Dillsburg Public Library, Dillsburg, Pa.

Elchelberger's Tavern Account Books. Collection of Robert Elchelberger, Dillsburg, Pa.

Census Records on microfilm. York Heritage Trust, York, Pa.

Elizabeth L. Roman. "The Dill/Elchelberger Tavern: Preservation Issues and Options." Manuscript copy in the possession of Robert Elchelberger, Dillsburg, Pa. (1997).

Kimberley Anderson. "The Excavation at the Dill Tavern Well." Manuscript copy in the possession of Robert Elchelberger, Dillsburg, Pa. (1997).

  1. National Register nomination form, 2003, prepared by Barbara A. Brand, Palladio Company, Dill's Tavern, National Park Service, Washington, D.C.

Dill Tavern Map

Street Names
Baltimore Street North • Route 74

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