Food & Drink

Landmark Grain House Restaurant Celebrating 250th Anniversary in Basking Ridge

9cfb287a2868b1478de3_BR_Grain_House_c1930s.jpg
Credits: Courtesy of THSSH
3cbd78124c00d0be0442_BR_Grain_House_Ghost.jpg
Credits: Courtesy of THSSH
dae27110465b14617c51_BR_Old_Mill_Inn_menu_1946_-_ebay.jpg
Credits: Courtesy of THSSH
22578ecebda79551f5dd_logo_Grain_House.jpg
Credits: Courtesy of THSSH
9cfb287a2868b1478de3_BR_Grain_House_c1930s.jpg

Editor's Note: The following article on the 250th anniversary of the history of the Grain House restaurant building was submitted by Brooks Betz, a trustee for The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills (THSSH, www.thssh.org). The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills includes Bernards Township, Bedminster, Bernardsville, Far Hills, and Peapack & Gladstone, and is headquartered at the Brick Academy at 15 W. Oak St. in Basking Ridge. The Grain House Restaurant at the Olde Mill Inn at 225 Route 202 in Basking Ridge.

In 1768, Samuel Lewis, a miller from Franklin Corners in Bernards Township, built a water-powered grist mill and a barn on the Passaic River on land originally acquired from William Penn _ the first chapter in the 250-year history of the structure that is now the Grain House Restaurant off Route 202 in Basking Ridge.

Samuel Lewis' grandson, Richard Southard, bought the property in 1777, and soon found that the convenient location along a major thoroughfare between New York and Philadelphia _ so practical for commerce _ had placed him smack in the middle of the Revolutionary War.

Sign Up for E-News

Southard's small wooden mill that eventually became the bones of the Grain House restaurant had the task of supplying desperately needed flour, meal, and feed to the Continental Army encampment at Jockey Hollow, Morristown, during the bitter winter of 1779-80.

The historic origin of the name 'Grain House'

Since the barn was used to store the army’s grain during the Revolutionary War period, it is still known today as “The Grain House.”

As the Revolutionary War moved south, quiet once again settled over the mill. Samuel Woodward, another family member, owned the building into the early 19th century. His daughter, Phebe, married a Peapack miller, Ferdinand Van Dorn, who later purchased the property.

Van Dorn's business prospered, and the little mill, by that time already a bit old, couldn’t keep up with demand. In 1842, Van Dorn erected a larger stone mill with an inside water wheel system. That bigger (and picturesque mill) remains standing on Route 202 opposite the Grain House restaurant. The mill with the water wheel today is still known as the Van Dorn Mill.

Franklin Corners _ new lease on life in 1920s

The property passed through several hands in the ensuing years and gradually fell into disrepair, but in 1928 it received a surprising new lease on life. Famous restaurateur William Childs saw intriguing possibilities in the barn standing near the old mill.

The estate devolved to Marguerite J. McMurtry and the two sons of her sister Anna D. Childs. Three heirs to the family willed the 100-acre farm to William Childs (a brother of Luther Childs) of Bernards Township by deed on September 19,1927, reciting the deed to the Willmere Farm, a New Jersey corporation, of Jersey City, by deed of 27 January 1928. This corporation remained as owner up until December 1958.

While the barn (which had been known to locals as the Southard Barn) was originally next to the mill, Childs moved it to the eastern side of Route 202 during the following year. He then began converting the barn to an inn. The barn's roof and sides were gone but the structure was firm. The community area was known as Franklin Corners, supposedly named after Benjamin Franklin, but it was also listed as Bernardsville and Bernards Township.

Franklin Corners envisioned as small-scale "Williamsburg, VA"

William Childs started a project in 1930 to restore Franklin Corners, envisioning a small scale version of a preserved hamlet like Williamsburg, Virginia, and called it Willmere Farms. He was also inspired by Longfellow's Wayside Inn in South Sudbury, Massachusetts as it was noted in his book "Tales of the Wayside Inn."

The area that served to inspire Child's ambition to create a "Williamsburg-like" active historic community as a real working old time town had up to 14 buildings at times. The buildings included homes, mills (grist and saw), a blacksmith, barns, one room school, general store, rug maker, guest houses, and a restaurant which was at first called the Old Mill Inn.

Parts of the restaurant transformed into different sections of restaurant

None of the lines of the original barn structure have been changed. The wagon and machinery room is now the Childs Dining Room. The stable is now the grill. The upstairs had seven bedrooms.

William Childs had turned his attention to the Grain House and his Revolutionary-era hamlet because he had almost bankrupted the larger corporate restaurant business when he decided to introduce a vegetarian menu to restaurant chain. The board decided Childs was not fit to run the company and he was forced out. William then turned to focusing on his Franklin Corners project, including restoration of the Grain House barn and converting it to an inn and restaurant. Rather than gut the inside, however, Childs chose to preserve the classic old structure’s unique spirit through a painstaking restoration. Not a beam was touched in the barn’s solid frame, and it remains to this day as it was more than two centuries ago. Only the functions of the divided areas inside have changed.

But Childs was unable to complete his project before he suffered a stroke, and died on May 22, 1938. 

The Childs property had started at 50 acres and grew to over 550 acres, encompassing the present day Grain House all the way down to North Finley Avenue in Basking Ridge. Because Childs was a devoted member of the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, the property _ which might logically be part of Bernardsville _ became part of Basking Ridge due to Childs' church membership.

Many in the area were thankful for the project because it created local jobs during the Great Depression. Childs was responsible for employing, housing and feeding 50 workers throughout the project. In 1938, over 100,000 people visited the restored mill.

Owners said to be first in US to hire women as waiters

William Childs’ Olde Mill Inn was an immediate success and cemented his family’s already sterling reputation in the restaurant business. William started the first Childs’ restaurant with his brother Samuel (later a N.J. State Senator) in 1889 on New York City’s Cortland Street.

These country boys from the Somerset Hills envisioned a grand, cross-country chain. It's reputation grew, and the Childs’ name eventually graced 107 establishments in North America. They ran one of the largest chains of any kind in the world and served over 50,000,000 meals a year. The Childs’ restaurants were renowned for their large glass fronts and sparkling white walls and tables, and the brothers proved to be not only astute businessmen but progressive employers as well. They were the first in the United States to hire women to wait tables. In William’s words, the Childs’ outstanding success was based on “food as close as possible to that served in the best homes . . . family recipes and absolute cleanliness.” Their concept of moderately priced meals, freshly prepared in a pristine atmosphere in convenient locations, sounds simple enough today. However, in the late 19th century, it truly revolutionized the industry.

The Childs family owned the property until 1952.

The Bocina era _ refurbished in 1990s

The Olde Mill Inn came on the market in 1992. The Olde Mill Inn was a separate facility built in 1977 as a supplement to the old Grain House for use as a hotel, for conferences and social events. By 1993, both were neglected and outdated, and a new group purchased the property and poured millions of dollars into renovations. Bruce Bocina, raised in Short Hills and now living in Basking Ridge, decided the effort was worth it.

To achieve the transformation, Bocina hired architect Dave Minno. Throughout the Bocina restoration, particular attention was paid to update the facility and keep its historic charm. An outdoor patio was added for warm-weather enjoyment. Two years later in June 1994, the Grain House was  gutted and refurbished in upscale Federalist Colonial style. However, even after the restoration, the Grain House has remained fundamentally unchanged since Colonial times. 

Ghosts, including 'phantom carriage'

Along with its historic architect, the building also supposedly has retained a spiritual element from earlier eras. It was said that the barn had the history of being used to sequester fleeing slaves during the days of the Underground Railroad before slavery was abolished. Over the years, people have heard strange sounds, including doors slamming, from what is also believed to be the caretaker's ghost.

The story goes that during the mid-18th century, the caretaker, George, was promised the property but at the last minute was written out of the will. Since then, he's refused to give up his claim to the property and is said to still roam the older parts of the barn. In addition to George's ghost there is said to be two others; Justin, a 70-year-old freed slave from Pennsylvania who died in 1858 while on the Underground Railroad, and a mystery person who has  been seen walking alongside Justin. Lastly, there's the tale of the Phantom Carriage, a horse drawn carriage seen passing through Franklin Corners.

Inside the Grain House today

Today, the restaurant continues to reflect the Bochina family's dedication to supporting local sustainable farms with a kitchen that is presided over by Executive Chef Luca Carvello. What was the wagon and machinery room is now the William Childs Dining Room. The grain storage area that fed Washington’s army is now The Grain Room. The horse stable is the Coppertop Pub, and the bents in the second floor’s great haymow are now individual dining rooms and offices. These upstairs rooms include the William Alexander room, the John Annin room, Henry Southard Office, the Millicent Fenwick and the Mary Lewis Kinnan rooms all of which are famous historic residents of Basking Ridge and Liberty Corner.

Upstairs, hallway ceilings are deeply sloped and beamed, as they were hundreds of years ago, and most of the original windows are small. Like the doors, the windows are fitted with authentic hasps and ironwork. Haymow space beneath the roof beams became sleeping quarters, where beds strung with ropes supported straw mattresses. Now they house offices and meeting rooms available for private functions, each named for a notable New Jersey figure.

Sheila Palka is the Marketing Director for the Olde Mill Inn and the Grain House. "This is like a museum to me," said Sheila Palka. "We went to great lengths to furnish the entire property with antiques according to the period and you can see it clearly here, where the rooms are more intimate. You really get the feel of how people once lived." Downstairs are stone hearths, with striking beamed ceilings throughout. In 2012, the owners built a small organic farm adjacent to The Grain House. Palka said she has since discovered that she is more than an employee. After gathering results from a DNA test and geneology research, she she has learned that shares actual lineage with the Childs family.

Continuing a tradition

Today, The Bocina Group continues The Olde Mill Inn’s long traditions. The Grain House, its setting steeped in a gracious era long past, continues to be a local favorite. Each room of the historic building reflects its historic charm and is fashioned to meet a wide array of needs. The Grain House, so deeply rooted in the Somerset Hills area's past and so lovingly preserved by its many owners, offers a historic atmosphere of charm and fellowship not duplicated anywhere else in New Jersey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Bloomfield

‘Township of Bloomfield’ Facebook Page Launches as a Hub for Important Community Updates

July 17, 2018

BLOOMFIELD, NJ -- In an effort to disseminate important information more easily through social media, the Township of Bloomfield has created a centralized Facebook page. The page, called “Township of Bloomfield” and accessible at Facebook.com/bloomfieldtwpnj will be updated almost daily, and will share important updates from township departments as well as original ...

Bloomfield Police vs. Firefighters at Annual National Night Out Softball Game Aug 7

BLOOMFIELD, NJ - It will be Bloomfield's Finest' against 'Bloomfield's Bravest' at the annual matchup of police versus firefighters at the National Night Out softball game Tuesday August 7 in Memorial Park.  

National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, July 18, 10:00 AM

Cancer Center Resource Room, Belleville

Living Well with Parkinson’s Disease Support ...

Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_7611ce284a8c86d65b64_37d34f9a-c5cd-4fb1-8bf8-b5b7319cb94e

Wed, July 18, 10:00 AM

Paterson Board of Education , Paterson

Teacher Job Fair

Education

Carousel_image_274442aeda2bd98a2153_mountainside_logo_lockup

Wed, July 18, 7:00 PM

Hospital Conference Room 2 (Ground Floor), Glen Ridge

Becoming a Parent

Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_71f510c1d4958086ac22_z_verona_summer_concerts_2018

Wed, July 18, 7:00 PM

Verona Civic Center Square, Verona

Verona Summer Concert Series!

Arts & Entertainment Business & Finance Food & Drink Government

Carousel_image_8a81e98ef9c816edb2bb_mini_magick20180508-34709-woot05

Wed, July 18, 7:30 PM

Chatham United Methodist Church, Chatham

Masterwork’s Summer Sing Four to Feature Brahms

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_943dfb010370a52cb955_mini_magick20180710-114167-j5hk5r

Sat, July 21, 3:00 PM

Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center, Little Falls

Sports, Medicine, and the Opioid Crisis

Education Health & Wellness Sports

Bloomfield Police Department Blotter June 25 to July 1, 2018

July 6, 2018

BLOOMFIELD, NJ - The following police blotter has been issued by Lt. Anthony Sisco of the Bloomfield Police Department.

Shoplifting:

6/26/18- Robert Jimenez Age 37 of Paulsboro, NJ-Officers were dispatched to 60 Orange Street (Home Depot) on report of a shoplifter in custody. Mr. Jiminez was observed attempting to leave the store with unpaid merchandise valued at $417.00. He was ...

HMH Mountainside Medical Center Breaks Ground on Medical Office Building

July 18, 2018

MONTCLAIR/GLEN RIDGE, NJ - Construction is underway at the site of the new Mountainside Medical Center Office Building located at Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center.

Starting with a groundbreaking ceremony on July 10, township officials from Montclair and Glen Ridge, joined Mountainside leaders on the grounds of the former School of Nursing location at 1 Bay ...

Newark May Get a Boost From Investors with New Federal Program

NEWARK, NJ - Newark could soon see a boost in long-term investments due to federal legislation that created certain tax exemptions for private investors.

In April, the federal treasury department approved low-income Opportunity Zones in 75 municipalities throughout New Jersey that were nominated by Gov. Phil Murphy. Thirteen of those zones are designated in Newark.

MORE: View a ...

Residents Taking Action Against White Supremacist Fliers Found Around Bridgewater, Bedminster, Other Local Areas

July 18, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Residents of Bridgewater, Somerville, Morristown and surrounding communities are mobilizing for action after they found posters around town promoting Identity Evropa, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has labeled a white supremacist group.

According to Bridgewater resident Stacey Friedlander, a member of the “Not In Our Town – Bridgewater/Raritan” ...

Got Mint? Bayonne Police Charge Man with Stealing $1,000 in Toothpaste

BAYONNE, NJ – The case of a near lifetime supply of toothpaste that was taken from a Bayonne pharmacy has been solved.

Marcos Baez, 40, of Isabella Avenue, was charged with four counts of shoplifting after police identified him as the person responsible for stealing more than $1,000 worth of toothpaste, according to a police release.

Police were called to the Rite Aid at 12-16 North ...

Belmar: Hub of Fun from Dawn to Dusk on July 18

July 15, 2018

BELMAR, NJ — From sandcastles to classic cars, Belmar will be hosting two marquee events on Wednesday, July 18.

While the 32nd Annual New Jersey Sandcastle Contest will converge upon the beachfront during the day, Belmar Cruise Night will move onto Main Street in the evening. Here’s a look at each destination event.

Sandcastle Contest: Begins at 8 a.m. at 18th Avenue ...

Festival of the Sea at St. Francis in Brant Beach August 8-12

BRANT BEACH - Everyone enjoys the excitement of a summer carnival.  It brings out the child in all of us.  Since 1975, St. Francis of Assisi Parish has been hosting the Festival of the Sea Carnival, annually.   The Festival of the Sea begins Wednesday, August 8, and continues through Sunday, August 12. The carnival will be open nightly (weather permitting) from 6:00 to ...

To Our Current and Future Representatives

July 18, 2018

To Our Current and Future Representatives - Wherever They May Be:

We can never forget we are a nation of immigrants. 

We cannot fall prey to fear, ignorance and anger when we  have been historically driven by freedom and justice. 

We must have the courage and will to fight hate, bigotry and prejudice. 

We must not wake up to what we hoped was a bad dream and ...

Entrepreneurs Continue Bloomfield's Centuries' Old Pioneering Tradition

To the Editor:

The initial patent for the land that would become Bloomfield Township was granted to the English Puritan colonists of Newark, and the area assigned to Essex County in 1675, and Newark Township in 1693. From the 1690s to about the 1720s, much of the northern and eastern land was sold to descendants of New Netherland colonists who had settled Acquackanonk, and the remainder mostly ...

Thursday Movies Continue to the end of July at the Bloomfield Public Library

July 19, 2018 - BLACK PANTHER This American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name is a financial and critical blockbuster! After the death of his father, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T'Challa's resilience as king - and as ...

Monday Movies Continue Through The End of July

July 16, 2018 - SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME

Successful businessman Ron Hall (Greg Kinnear) and his wife, Deborah (Renee Zellweger), discover a renewed sense of purpose when they begin to volunteer at a local mission in Fort Worth, Texas. Their lives change forever when they develop an unlikely friendship with Denver Moore (Djimon Hounson), a homeless man who inspires them to save their ...

The Jaffe Briefing - July 18, 2018

STATEWIDE - One business in Pleasantville has flooded 32 different times since the early 1990s, and rebuilt each time with taxpayer money. A single-family home in North Wildwood has been flooded and rebuilt 23 times, again, on your dime. NJ.com reports that New Jersey is filled with 3,330 properties that have routinely flooded since the 1970s, some as many as 20 or more times, yet ...

5 Simple Ways to Save Water this Summer

July 16, 2018

According to the L.A. Times, the average American uses an estimated 98 gallons of water EACH day.  

Here are five simple ways you can save water, to help you conserve water this summer and take some pressure off of your drains.

1. Unless you are using it, turn the faucet off. How many of us still leave the water running while we shave or brush our teeth?According to ...

Lucia, Lucia by Adriani Trigiani

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani (Ballentine Books, 2003)

 

If a summer romance novel is what you are craving to read as you sit by the pool or beach, Adriana Trigiani's Lucia, Lucia is a perfect choice. Set in 1950 New York City, the novel is about a young woman, Lucia Sartori, who is determined to have a career and be able to support herself, an unusual choice for a girl who was ...

The Anatomy of Escape by Mike Blue

The Anatomy of Escape: An Unconventional Adventure by Mike Blue (Available on Amazon)

 

Imagine that you could just say, “Chuck it,” and walk away from the bonds that keep you tied to what Mike Blue, author of The Anatomy of Escape: An Unconventional Adventure, defines as the restrictive Work-Consume-Die cycle. To most of us, becoming what Blue terms “a ...

The Death of Koko the Gorilla

Koko's Kitten, Koko's Story, The Eduction of Koko all by Dr. Francine Patterson

 

Last night when I heard about the death of Koko, the lowland gorilla who was educated to communicate through American Sign Language by Dr. Francine Patterson, I went numb with grief. I have followed the life of Koko, her two gorilla companions, Michael and Ndume, as well as Dr. Patterson for forty ...

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (William Morrow, 2018)

 

A friend, whose opinion on literature I respect greatly, reported to me recently that she had just finished reading A.J. Finn's debut novel, The Woman in the Window. Of it she said, “I wish I hadn't finished it,” which I interpreted to mean, “It was so good I'm sorry that I finished it.” ...

Murphy Administration Takes Action to Help Smokers Quit

July 16, 2018

Eliminates Prior Approval for Medicaid Tobacco Cessation Medications; Counseling Options to be Expanded

July 16, 2018

(TRENTON) – The Murphy administration on Monday announced new steps to help New Jersey Medicaid recipients quit using tobacco by making it easier to receive tobacco cessation medications and counseling.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death ...

Take the 2018 TAPinto Reader Survey

How often do you read TAPinto?  Have you downloaded the TAPinto APP?  These are a few of the questions for readers in our 2018 TAPinto Reader Survey.

We want to hear from you!

The survey will take less than five minutes to complete and will help TAPinto better serve you. 

Take the 2018 TAPinto Reader Survey.

Thank you.  We appreciate your support and ...

Starting and Managing Your own Small Business in New Jersey

UNION, NJ - Learn about what it takes to start a business in New Jersey - and what it takes to succeed at SCORE's seminar on July 19.  

The seminar takes place Thursday July 19 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Unity Bank 952 Stuyvesant Ave Union NJ 07083 

Space is limited, attendees are asked to register by July 16. 

This seminar is $35, which includes a copy of our ...

Obituaries

Mar 9, 1978 - Jul 13, 2018
Christopher J. Barra, Sr., lifelong resident of Bloomfield, passed away on July 13, 2018 at the age ...
Read more
Jun 10, 1983 - Jun 17, 2018
Ryan M. Lucas, 35 Proud Marine Veteran and Nutley Firefighter Ryan M. Lucas, a lifelong ...
Read more

The End of Jets Mini-Camp

After a week of crystal clear cerulean skies over 1 Jets Drive, the New York Jets just wrapped up their mandatory full squad mini-camp.

New York Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles held press conferences after practices last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Jets fans have lots of questions at this time of year on what to expect from their team this fall. The press questions covered a wide ...