Friday, May 8, 2009

1797 Wayside Inn in Middletown


The Wayside Inn, since 1797, has been serving the public for over 200 years. Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, at the foot of the Massanutten Mountains in Middletown, this historic inn trades on its 18th-century ambiance. On offer are 22 guest rooms and suites, each decorated in period themes. Dining features regional American cuisine served in seven dining rooms by a waitstaff dressed in Colonial costumes.

The first travelers to the Inn started coming in 1797, pausing for bed and board as they journeyed across the Shenandoah Valley. The Wayside was then known as Wilkenson's Tavern. When rugged highways were hacked out of the wilderness twenty years later, and the Valley Pike, now Route 11, came through Middletown, the tavern became a stagecoach stop, a relay station where fresh horses were readied, and where weary passengers could dine, drink, rest and refresh themselves in comfort while the team of horses was being changed.

During the Civil War, soldiers from both the North and South frequented the Inn in search of refuge and friendship. Serving both sides in this devastating conflict, the Inn offered comfort to all who came and thus was spared the ravages of the war, even through Stonewall Jackson's famous Valley Campaign swept past only a few miles away.

Jacob Larrick bought the Inn before the war, changed the name to Larrick's Hotel. In the early part of the 20th century, when it was again sold, the new owner Samuel Rhodes, added a third floor, wings on each side, and a new name, The Wayside Inn. In the next few years, as pot-holed pikes were transformed into paved roads, and automobiles begin touring the Valley, the Inn proclaimed itself "America's First Motor Inn."

In the 1960s a Washington financier and antique collector Leo M. Bernstein, with an enthusiasm for new projects and a fascination with Americana, purchased the Inn, which he restored and refurbished with hundreds of antiques. He also bought and refurbished another Shenandoah Valley hostelry, the Battletown Inn (c. 1809) in nearby Berryville. Mr. Bernstein died in the fall of 2008, and the future of the Wayside Inn is uncertain.

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