State marker dedication brews Stockley Tavern’s niche in history

GEORGETOWN – For seven decades, Stockley Tavern has stood as a popular roadside pit-stop for locals and visitors along U.S. 113 between Georgetown and Millsboro.

Billed as “your neighborhood bar and package store for nearly 70 years,” Stockley Tavern – the oldest and one of the last continuously operating tap houses in Delaware – earned its official place in First State history Monday afternoon.

Local, county and state elected officials and chamber of commerce representatives joined owners Tracy and Ken Adams for the Delaware Public Archives marker unveiling Monday.

Built in 1948 by Will Rogers, it was originally called Stockleyville Tavern and was advertised as a “Television Bar” because it was the first in the area to have a public television.

“It had a large antenna on the property so that the TV could get the three great stations that we all could get in the 50s and the 60s. ABC, CBS and NBC, that’s all you got,” said Stephen Marz, Delaware Public Archives director. “I think that that is important because it served as a gathering point because a lot of people didn’t have televisions then.”

Over the years, the business has changed hands several times. For much of that time, it was known as Stockley Tavern, although its name was Stingers prior to being purchased by Mr. and Ms. Adams around Thanksgiving 2015.

Under Adams ownership, it became a tavern, package store – and restaurant. They opened Stockley Tavern and adjoining package store in June 2016; the restaurant followed a bit later once kitchen work was completed and cleared with all required approvals.

Front three from left, Anthony Del Franco, Joanne Conaway and Joe Conaway.

“We’re just proud in being able to bring it back to what it used to be,” said Mr. Adams.

Around 1953-54, Stockley Tavern was purchased by Dan McCarren and his wife, who resided in Lake Hopatcong, N.J. He owned a fleet of tug boats that worked the harbor in New York City. While on their way to Florida for vacation, they noticed the tavern was for sale. Looking for an investment, Mr. McCarren bought it. He hired Linwood “Cleve” Calloway to run it for him.

Mr. Calloway worked at the tavern until November 1963 when Mr. McCarren passed away and ownership was taken over by his son, Jim McCarren. Mr. Calloway was still employed at the tavern when it was bought by Ed Veasey in the mid- to late-60s and continued until about 1973 when poor health forced him to retire.

Among those on hand for the April 9 marker unveiling was Louis Davis. He added the package store expansion on the north side of the tavern when it was owned by Mr. Veasey.

“Ed Veasey bought the place around 1967 or 1968, something like that,” said Mr. Davis, noting a noticeable change when Mr. Veasey took over. “They were talking about that television. Well, when Ed Veasey bought it, the first thing to go was that damn television. You could play the jukebox; he made money on the jukebox.”

A round of applause follows the marker unveiling. Flanking the marker, from left: Tracy Adams, Bob Stickels, Ken Adams, State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, Sussex County Council president Michael Vincent and Delaware Public Archives Director Stephen Marz,

The Stockley Tavern marker is one of more than 570 markers statewide, Mr. Marz said.

And Mr. Adams says it rightfully salutes the pioneers from the tavern’s earlier days.

“It’s more for Will Rogers and Cleve Calloway and the ones that started it 70 years ago,” Mr. Adams said. “We’ve been kind of caretakers of it for a short period of time.”

Mr. Marz said the tavern in itself “is one of the few taverns and package stores with combinations between Dover and the Maryland line. That is why people came here, and still continue to come here.”

Stockley Tavern is a favorite pit-stop for post-race fans flocking from nearby Georgetown Speedway – a half-mile dirt oval facility built by Mr. Adams’ grandfather, Melvin Joseph in 1949.

A state marker saluting the historical significance of Georgetown Speedway was dedicated March 17.

“Basically, we raced up there and then we came down here and you had to rehash the day’s events,” Mr. Adams said. “Brett Deyo, who promotes the track, is our PR guy here and for all of our companies, actually.  We market back and forth with them.”

“I guess we are the official ‘hangout’ of Georgetown Speedway. We do that just to kind of support each other,” Mr. Adams added. “It’s neat because when Brett puts on a race people from Canada come south to come to his races. Sometimes they’ll come down here and we get mentions on Facebook; people from New York and places like that that stopped in here after the races.”

Co-owner Ken Adams reads the text on the back side of the Stockley Tavern historical marker.

Mr. Marz recognized the support from Bob Stickels, general manager of the Joseph Family of Companies, and Dan Parsons, historical preservation planner for Sussex County, along with State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn and State Rep. Ruth Briggs King for their enthusiastic support and the financial backing of this marker.

“We ourselves at the archives don’t determine where a marker should be,” said Mr. Marz. “Instead, we listen to our constituents … on where they feel something has been very historical. In doing that, we look at our research, we look at our documentation and see how we can build a fabric and a foundation to ensure that that historical fact is in fact accurate. In doing so we perpetuate Delaware’s rich and cultural history. This marker I think is very, very important because of the fact that it is about the Stockley Tavern.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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