New Castle Delaware
David Finney Inn
Family ties to property are strong, causing spirits to reside here but willing to co-exist.
The David Finney Inn building is now the home to Sonora and The David Finney Inn, that has a bar, with an upscale restaurant, event room and a Law Firm on the second floor. This building is a 15,000 sq ft, three story structure whose original building was built in 1685. While the outside appearance has most of the qualities of the original structure that was built in that era, the inside has been changed and remodeled to meet the commercial and family needs to survive as a business, and a home; giving people what they want.
The Sonora and The David Finney Inn is not listed on any register of historic places because the original structure has been changed too much for the guidelines used by both state and federal historic place registers.
The third floor has five apartments: Two are rented out to people through Air B and B; keeping a toe in the Inn business. Apartment 4 has room for six guests with six beds, two bedrooms, a kitchen and one bath.
Apartment 2 has room for four guests, with two beds and one bathroom, and a kitchen. These are modern apartments, with some of the historical features left there as well, such as the window sills.
The three other apartments may be offered to other visitors or may be rented long term or is the residence of the owner and his family.
The second floor is rented out as the business home of a Law Form, who have their offices in modernized rooms. Part of the first floor may have more historical features as these rooms are used for the Law Firm’s conference rooms.
When The David Finney Inn was put up for sale recently in 2017, it was mentioned that the second floor was ready to be built out to create 10 guest rooms, if a potential buyer wanted to turn the building back into an destination inn after evicting the Law Firm from the second floor.
That leaves part of the first floor to be the spot for the large bar area, a private dining room; (seating 65-70) and the patio; (seating over 50) for the Sonora Restaurant to use for their patrons. The Sonora Restaurant has hired a terrific, creative chef who specializes in “Gourmet Comfort Food”, while the bar has come up with ”Specialty Drinks” as well as serving classic drinks; offering something for everyone. The Sonora also has live music and Karoke music as well.
Another popular draw is their stylish interior, romantic atmosphere, and a wonderful Sunday brunch. Despite the modern interior, there are still some historic features existing inside, which adds some historic aura.
The Dutch immigrants founded New Castle during the mid-1600s, at this strategic place; right beside the Delaware River.
There seems to be some confusion about the beginning use for this building. Some say that the David Finney Building began as a home for the David Finney family and law offices for David Finney on the third floor in the structure as well.
It is thought by some that David Finney, a very successful lawyer, built it himself in the 1680s’ , before his father Dr. John Finney built his Amstel House right across the street in the 1730s. David Finney was a brilliant lawyer, and also taught other wanna-be lawyers, such as his cousin, Thomas McKeen, who became a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Some other sources claim that it was built by mover and shaker Dr. John Finney for his son David to be a Tavern and Inn for travelers in 1685. Some say it was meant to be from the beginning a commercial business to be a bread and butter family endeavor. Dr John Finney’s son, David Finney had his Law Firm on the third floor; and probably used some of the rooms downstairs to see clients and teach other wanna-be lawyers as mentioned above.
Dr. Finney’s grand mansion (now the Amstel House Museum) is located right across the street from The David Finney Inn building. There once was a tunnel connecting the two structures. Dr Finney and David Finney plus any family members or household help could travel between the buildings without hindrance from snow or disagreeable weather.
After looking at the registration form for NRHP for the Amstel House I think that the David Finney Inn building was a inn and tavern when it was built in the 1600s’ in the early days before David bought it. David could’ve done some renovation to suit his needs; turning it into the family home perhaps adding the third floor for his law offices.
Needless to say, this structure was changed throughout its history to suit the needs of its owner(s). In 1794, Judge James booth Senior bought this property, and expanded it. He lived here until 1825. This old building was then turned into a boarding house. In 1895, it evolved into the Hotel Louise. Throughout the years it continued to go through architectural changes. Finally, it was turned back into an inn and tavern with drinks and food offered. It was called The David Finney Inn.
The David Finney Inn enjoyed a healthy income for years until the new bridge, called the Delaware Memorial Bridge was finished in 1955 and stretched across the Delaware River. This caused the end of big commerce in New Castle, turning the city into a bedroom community for Wilmington.
The David Finney Inn had to find other ways to bring in income, as the year round business class clientele became almost non-existent. So, they became more of a local draw, during the non tourist seasons; offering more of a menu, and making an outside patio for people to eat or drink. They tried to bring in more social events as well.
The David Finney Inn stayed being an inn, bar, and restaurant until 1994. It came to the point that more money was needed to pay expenses, taxes and other expenditures involved in running an inn. The owners decided to lease the second floor to an upscale business like a Law Firm that could afford to pay more than guests; thus going back to the days of David Finney’s Law Firm. Perhaps they did rent out some of the third floor apartments to local residents, leaving a few to perhaps rent to travelers.
Part of the Law Firm’s rent also included use of some of the rooms on the first floor to meet with clients or for meetings.
Probably, the bar area and tables received a stylish upgrade, hoping to generate interest. Live music was added and Karaoke was offered. Probably, game night might have been added. Pub Quiz was very popular during the 1990s’. They tried to make their Inn a destination for a fun night out and a place to relax and meet with friends.
By 2017, the bar and meal area was nearly turn key. They had spruced up the apartments, and the building in general, before deciding to close and put the whole property on the real estate market for two million five hundred dollars.
The David Finney Inn was sold to new energetic owners with great plans to implement. Every part of this structure was put to work effectively to bring in more money to more than survive; even with the required $5,000 fee to have a liquor license from the city, and pay nearly 20,000 dollars in taxes.
The new owners upgraded the patrons’ experience by adding a more cozy and romantic feeling coupled with high quality fantastic food and specialty and classic drinks. To cut the costs of renting the apartments, they signed up with Air B and B for the renting of two of the five third floor apartments.
So far, their Sonora Restaurant and The David Finney Inn has been enthusiastically received and had enjoyed a good income. One wonders if the happy spirit or spirits who reside here are urging them on; being pleased by the new owners’ success. They may admire all the improvements in the food, drink and atmosphere, giving this place a new life and promising future.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
One or two spirits still enjoy this property and are interested in watching what is going on. They are even willing to share this structure with the living.
People who built their business and enjoyed running their business while alive, may stick around as spirits and watch the living. If they had living quarters in this business, they may especially enjoy their personal living space where they have great memories.
Dr. John Finney who built this property so long ago and passed it on to his son, David, may be the Finney member who may still love this structure.
His son, David also may be the spirit who inhabits the third floor as well, still remembering his law offices; a place where he enjoyed much success as a lawyer.
Spirit of David Finney –
may be the spirit who likes the apartments on the third floor.
Guests who stay in the apartments are well aware of their unseen presence through strange paranormal activity.
Windows open and shut, doors open and shut, lights probably go on and off. Faucets probably go on and off.
Items are moved around the room, found in different places than where the living had put them.
Spirit of Dr John Finney –
May hang around the bar and restaurant, watching people have a great time here.
Probably so. While it is not known for sure who is still residing in the third floor apartments, or maybe watching the activity on the first floor, witnesses have seen and experienced unseen presences.
A boatload of strange activity has been reported by witnesses who have stayed in the third floor apartments.
Paranormal groups have investigated this property, with many declaring that this building is haunted indeed.
Paranormal groups have surmised that the spirit is either David or Dr John, because the same activity is found to happen at the Amstel House connected by a tunnel across the street. No hard evidence has been shared on line though.
216 Delaware Street
New Castle, Delaware 19720
Sonora and The David Finney Inn structure is located on the corner of W. 3rd Street and Delaware Street. Its strategic location overlooks “The Green” in the center of New Castle Historic District, that is also the area that is the center of the First National Historic Park.
- The Ghost Hunters Field Guide, by Rich Newman, Llewellyn Publications, 2010.
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr