Evidence shows these 10 inns are believed to have aided in the abolishing of slavery in the United States by opening their doors to runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad.
The Hallauer House was originally built by Nathan Smith in 1830, but it was not until later when Samuel Wightman and family lived in the house during the Civil War that the house was believed to be used as an instrumental stop on the Underground Railroad. There is much evidence that points to how the Wightman family once aided slaves as they traveled on the Underground Railroad from Wellington through Oberlin and north to Lake Erie. A dry cistern with an adjacent thick-walled secret room and a concealed opening offered shelter on moonless nights. Just above the hidden room, a small rectangular opening concealed by a wooden plug offered the family access to communicate and provide food to those hidden below.
Innkeeper, Karin Baldwin-Carroll is related to the original owner of Hall Place– Judge Christopher Tompkins. Judge Tompkins was a teacher for Abraham Lincoln and an active Underground Railroad supporter. A now-closed cave located under Hall Place was linked to an entire network of other caves which were used for safe travel for slaves escaping to freedom. Access to the caves through this B&B and a number of other nearby homes gave the area surrounding Glasgow, Kentucky the nickname “Cave City.” As additional proof that Judge Tompkins was a supporter of freeing the slaves, he provided lifetime care for each of his former slaves in his will.
Originally built in 1699, this historic inn has a secret passage behind a bookcase that connects the upstairs and downstairs. The passage was originally thought to provide a hiding place for the Loyalists during the Revolutionary War and later, to provide a temporary hideout for slaves traveling the Underground Railroad. Allegedly, slaves climbed down a ladder, still found behind the bookcase of the King George Suite, into the basement. From the basement, they were able to flee into the woods toward freedom in Canada.
Opening it’s doors in 1757, The Fairfield Inn is one of the oldest, continuously operated inns in the United States. The inn was used as a battlefield hospital in the Civil War and also a safe station along the Underground Railroad. Runaway slaves were taken to the third floor and after crawling through a small trap door, the door was boarded back up with wainscoting. The runaway slaves hid inside the wall of the inn until the coast was clear and someone would let them out. While staying at the inn, guests can visit an Underground Railroad exhibit on the third floor where a window has been cut into the wall so viewers can see the area where the escaping slaves hid. Through out the 256 years of history, the Fairfield Inn has also hosted many famous Americans including Patrick Henry, General Robert E. Lee and the Eisenhowers. The inn offers a free history tour daily to all of it’s guests.
Today’s owner and innkeeper Pattye Benson avidly shares many interesting stories of hidden rooms at this historic 1690 inn where she has lived for decades. A tunnel from the main house, originally built to store food and vegetables, was later prepared as an escape in the event of a British attack during the Revolutionary War. And in the 1850s the tunnel was used to house runaway slaves moving north along the Underground Railroad. Two green doors (pictured here) remain an important tribute to this escape route. The stories of the Underground Railroad at the Great Valley House are just a few of the many of this inn rich in American history.
After purchasing the Munro House, George Clinton Munro constructed a Greek Revival addition to the house in 1840. The addition contained a secret room became an instrumental station on the Underground Railroad for more than 15 years. More than 400 runaways were thought to have hidden at the Munro house for at least a day on their way to a free life in Canada. The Munro family lived in the house until 1945 and the home was converted into a B&B in 1985. Shown here, innkeeper, Mike Venturini, shows secret passage that conceals a pair of second floor rooms large enough for 12 adults. Today, the bed and breakfast celebrates it’s unique past by providing Underground Railroad tours to school groups, families and couples by appointment only.
The innkeeper, Lynne Smithwood, grew up in the Samuel Fitch House before it was a B&B and recalls spending hours playing hide and seek and climbing through a basement tunnel with her five brothers as a child. The tunnel is believed to be part of escaped slaves’ route on the Underground Railroad. Her childhood bedroom also contained a walk-in closet with bookshelves in front of a removable wall, where it is believed slaves hid next to the warmth of the house’s chimney. The Samuel Fitch House celebrated it’s 300th birthday in 2011.
This home was built in the 1850s by Zebulon Strong, noted abolitionist and participant in the Underground Railroad, and is close in proximity to Cincinnati’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Documents in the Ohio Historical Library say Strong had a “false bottom” in his farming wagon where he would pick up his “passengers” along the Mill Creek, which runs alongside the property. He hid the runaways in the bottom of his wagon and covered them with crops to be hidden from view. He would then take them to his home for a safe respite before moving them further up Hamilton Pike to the next safe house along the route to Canada.
A short stroll from the 1878 Victorian home, Whispering Pines, is the Mayhew Cabin (aka John Brown’s Cave) which is one of the oldest buildings in Nebraska and currently Nebraska’s only recognized National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site. In 1855, Allen B. Mayhew, with the aid of his father-in-law Abraham Kagi, built the cabin out of cottonwood logs. The Mayhew Cabin became a stop on the Underground Railroad in the late 1850s, used by slaves escaping to Canada.
Built in 1856, this mansion contains a mysterious trapdoor in the dining room closet, offering access to a secret room where slaves could hide. When Union troops occupied Fernandina, they used the Williams House as the headquarters and the Hearthstone as an infirmary. Upon his return to the island, Marcelus A. Williams released his slaves prior to the war and became active in the Underground Railroad, by offering a safe house for slaves through a secret room in the dining room.