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History goes up in smoke in Clear Spring

President of historical association says former hotel might be oldest building in town

July 29, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER
  • The Clear Spring District Historical Association provided this information about the former Overbrook Hotel.
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Fire destroys former Overbrook Hotel, adjoining home

CLEAR SPRING -- George "Jack" Boward said he would remember the former Overbrook Hotel as it was, not as it had become.

Fire destroyed the former Clear Spring hotel Thursday along with one adjoining home.

"It was a good place to live," said Boward, who grew up in the brick and log building on Cumberland Street.

Probably the oldest building in Clear Spring, David Wiles, president of the Clear Spring District Historical Association, said the hotel was among the first three buildings built in town.

It once was a log hotel, most likely built between 1821 and 1825, Wiles said.

The hotel was built over a spring, which is the town's namesake, he said.

It originally was known as the Brewer Hotel, Wiles said. Because of its location to the spring, it became known as The Hotel at the Clear Spring.

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It later was named The National Hotel after National Pike before becoming the Overbrook Hotel, Wiles said.

"It was called the Overbrook because, it was well, over the brook, or the spring," said Boward, son of the former owner.

Boward, 77, said he grew up in the Overbrook Hotel, which had about seven rooms and a restaurant at the time.

"When you said it burned, I thought, 'Oh my,'" he said.

His father and mother, Guy and Dot Boward, operated the last hotel at 111-113 Cumberland St., he said.

It was World War II that closed the Overbrook sometime between 1942 and 1945, Boward said.

"See, all the fellas in Clear Spring that came there to eat, it was a small town, went into the service and business got bad, so my father closed the hotel and we moved to a family farm about two miles east of town and he became a farmer," he said.

In his memory, the hotel was one of the largest buildings in town, Boward said.

Alliene Downs, a lifelong Clear Spring resident, said she remembers the old hotel as a place for families.

"I am 84 and when I was growing up, I remember they would rent rooms to people and there was a little soda fountain there adjacent to the hotel," she said. "It is sad to see this happen."

Structures in Clear Spring were built very close together, Wiles said.

So close, Boward said he remembers crawling between buildings from the attic of the Overbrook Hotel.

Wiles said he was at the old hotel minutes after the fire started Thursday.

As he watched history turn to smoke, he said his fear was that all of the closely set "dry, old buildings" could be lost.

For all of Clear Spring's history, the hotel has stood at the town's core, Wiles said.

At its peak, nine hotels operated in Clear Spring, including the former Overbrook, where there was a renowned saloon, he said.

"Just to see so much old history go up in smoke, when you think of the cowboys, the pioneers, the stage coaches and all the dignitaries that stopped at that hotel over the years, oh my," he said, unable to finish the sentence.

The hotel was vacant when it burned Thursday, authorities said.

Wiles said that just before the fire, inside and out, it still looked "very much" as it would have in the 19th century.

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