Manville Memos was a great column that appeared weekly in The Manville News in the 80’s. They were written by Joe Patero after some of his interviews with folks from around town. This particular one from 1983, is the last part of a three part interview with Dan Nebb who’s parent’s owned Capt. Frederick Davey’s old Manville estate, which later became The Elmcrest Inn. If you missed part one you can click here.
Dan Nebbs • Part 3 of 3 • “Sea Capt.’s Mansion”
If you have ever seen the movie classic, “Gone With the Wind” you are familiar with the fabulous ante-bellum mansion, known throughout the Sout as Tara, the legendary home of Scarlett O’Hara.
One Hundred years ago, the existed, in what had not yet become Manville, another Tara. But this one was for real!
It was the mansion of a retired U.S. Navy captain, Frederick Davey, who was its designer and builder.
It was the showplace of the area, according to James P. Snell, in his “History of Hunderton and Somerset Countys,” published in 1881.
Only the “cream” of Somerset County could consider itself fortunate enough to even be invited to one of the captains parties.
The front porch faced south on the enormous residence, while the huge barn where the horses were stabled was between the railroad tracks and the house itself. The entire property was surrounded by several hundred feet of immaculate picket fencing.
Shortly after the turn of the century, Captain Davey sold his pride and joy to J.J. Becker and son, who changed the name to “Elmcrest Park”
Then in 1922, Louis Nebozinsky purchased the entire property for $24,000, a tremendous amount of money in those days.
By that time, yet another name was beginning to attach to the site, this time the “Weston Hotel.” Louis’s son, Dan, is quick to explain that “it was never really a hotel at all. It was the home myself, my brother Bill and our eight sisters grew up in and loved.
”We rented rooms only one time to a touring Vaudeville company who had just finished a performance at Charlie Mazur’s theater in Manville. The actors had apparently no other bookings because after an extended stay, one morning they were suddenly gone, not paying their bill and leaving all their luggage behind.
“On top of the house there once was a glass cupola. As a kid, I loved to climb up there and see what I thought was the whole world. ”
The big horse barn behind the house was totally destroyed by a fierce fire in 1931.
“After the Prohibition Era ended, my father applied for either the first or second liquor license in Manville and converted the downstairs or the home into a place where drinks were served to the general public. Looking back at that decision, I realize that in my father’s mind it was the correct thing to do, but I really wish the borough would have purchased it for municipal offices. Manville would’ve had the most magnificent Borough Hall in the entire United States.”
In the late 40s the Nebbs sold thier mansion to Charles Esterhoy, then followed Nick Lebedz, Joe Cimino and Jim and Joan Wirzman as owners.
Additions have been made and at the same time items such as the once famous cupola and the front porch have been removed, and yet dominating essence of the structure remains today as Wirzman’s Inn.
“It’s quite a place,” said the Wirzmans’ in a recent interview. “It’s history and background are extremely interesting. We are trying to restore some of the old class that was here over a century ago. ”
Once in a while, after we close up, we leave a drink of brandy on the bar for the captain and in the morning the glass is empty.”