The Black Bass Hotel has a colorful and noteworthy past. In fact, it is so steeped in historical lore that it’s often hard to differentiate reality from myth! When the hotel (originally called the Lumberville Hotel) was built in the 1740s, it served as a haven for river travelers, traders and sportsmen.
Many have shared the tale of George Washington knocking on the door of The Bass and being turned away… he being Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, and the innkeeper being a Tory who was loyal to the British Crown. Almost every printed article about The Black Bass boasts that “George Washington did not sleep here” — but of course you can!
Throughout time, The Bass has had its share of excitement. While building the Delaware Canal, which runs behind the Hotel, the engineers and overseers often stayed. One evening in 1831, a fire broke out and the Tavern burned to the ground. Most were oblivious to the fact that during construction gunpowder was stored in the basement. Major Anthony Fry, the landlord at the time—at great risk to his own life, broke open the cellar doors and removed a huge quantity of the blasting powder. The Major’s bravery averted an inevitable explosion, thus saving The Black Bass from total destruction.
The list of celebrities and other famous people visiting The Bass is a long one, including President Grover Cleveland (after whom one of the Hotel’s suites is named) as well as numerous actors, actresses, painters, authors and more. Rumor has it that such notables as Liza Minelli, Ethel Merman, Marlon Brando and several English Lords and Ladies stayed at The Bass.
In 2008, The Black Bass was purchased at auction by Jack Thompson, who also owns several automobile dealerships in Bucks County. The Thompson family had been longtime admirers and patrons of The Bass. It was their desire to restore the beauty and retain as much of the hotel’s history as possible. The pewter bar in the Tavern is from Maxim’s of Paris, a famous French bar. This and hundreds of other items that were in The Black Bass when it was purchased have been painstakingly refurbished to their original splendor and remain today.
The Thompsons also purchased the Lumberville General Store, right across the road from The Black Bass. In addition to serving as a deli, coffeehouse and local meeting place, the General Store now houses a bakery. The bakery services both the General Store and the Hotel, supplying breads, biscuits, muffins, desserts and more.
Through the years The Black Bass has offered sanctuary, entertainment and sustenance to thousands of guests. Although it’s difficult to discern which elements of the building’s history are true and which are legend, the rich tradition of fine dining and warm hospitality are a certainty.