Our story dates back to the canal boom era of the early 19th Century, an all but forgotten period in time when Hanover was a thriving port on the Sandy & Beaver Canal and an important link in the region's underground railroad.
Early Hanover played a particularly key role in the life of the Sandy & Beaver Canal which extended 73½ miles from the Ohio River at Smith's Ferry to the Ohio & Erie Canal at Bolivar. Situated midway between these two points just west of the big canal tunnel, Hanover was to become a flourishing center of commerce, boasting a peak population in the late 1830's of 2,000 inhabitants.
Having been settled in 1813 by the Quaker abolitionist James Craig, early Hanover was also known as a safe-haven for runaway slaves. Evident still today are remnants of the underground passage that connected George Sloan's "Brick Row" with his brother-in-law Dr. James Robertson's home just across the street. Runaway slaves were often whisked then, to a secret upstairs hideaway in the Robertson home that was accessible only by the way of a second-story window. At nightfall it is told, the slave fugitives would board a canal boat and flee to their next safe-haven and on to freedom in Canada.
It was in this setting that Will Rhodes commissioned the historic Spread Eagle Tavern to be built along Plymouth Street in the year 1837. Said to have been erected by canal artisans that were thrown out of work by the Bank Panic of 1837, the tavern is known still today as one of the area's finest examples of Federal Period architecture. The three floors, eleven rooms and twelve fireplaces inside indeed were taken directly from the works of the renowned late 18th Century architect Asher Benjamin, whose pattern books depict many of the fine raised-wood window and door casings, fluted column frames and intricately carved mantles that are seen throughout the tavern.