Magazine claims Lancaster eatery is oldest in constant operation but 2 in Bucks beg to differ.
My friend Rich Hart challenged me last year to solve the rivalry between the Logan Inn in New Hope and the King George II Inn in Bristol. Both claim on their websites to be the oldest restaurant in continuous operation in Bucks County. Both have been serving grand cuisine long before George Washington crossed the Delaware. To settle the issue I was thinking the proper place for a throw down might be at Frank Lyon’s Continental Tavern in Yardley. Samuel Adams craft ale all around would make for a festive competition at an historically neutral site. The circa-1845 Continental is about midway between the two culinary elders. I would, of course, insist proprietors of the King George and the Logan bring Ye Olde English parchments to prove their claims.
As I was pondering how to arrange this, the pandemic hit. We’ll have to wait. In the meantime, along comes an announcement last June in Insider magazine that Lancaster is home to the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Pennsylvania. The periodical reported Lancaster’s Stockyard Inn owned at one time by U.S. President James Buchanan claims the culinary throne in the Keystone state. Maybe the eatery’s designation as a “steakhouse” is a qualifier but last I checked steaks are on the menu at both the Logan and the King George. I chuckled when I read the Stockyard opened in 1750. Back up the lunch wagon, Insider. The truth of oldest restaurant is out here – in Bucks County. Let’s take a look.
Logan Inn: It has Colonial ghosts too!
The Logan put out its shingle in 1722. That was 38 years before the Stockyard served its first Porterhouse. In 1727, John Wells enlarged the Logan into a16-room inn named for a beloved local Lenape Indian who changed his name to honor William Penn’s land agent, James Logan. The inn catered to stagecoach passengers about to cross the Delaware River into Lambertville, N.J. aboard Wells’ ferry. The settlement that sprouted became Wells Ferry. James Coryell later purchased the ferry, re-branding the town Coryell’s Ferry. The town became New Hope after a fire in 1790 destroyed the village’s prosperous mill district, rebuilt as “New Hope Mills”.
At the Logan, business percolated, the inn never closing. It served as headquarters for Gen. Benedict Arnold whose job it was to stop the British from crossing the Delaware to attack Philadelphia in 1777. George Washington dined at the Logan several times during the Revolution.
With a Victorian motif, the inn remained popular in the 19th century. Ownership came to appreciate and publicize tales of its friendly ghosts, 8 in number including little children and a Revolutionary War soldier. Lately, the inn has undergone a major upgrade with a 2-story banquet/hotel expansion. More rooms to book and a menu that runs from Neuve cuisine to – yes – New York strip steaks.
Author Marie Murphy Duess pronounced the Logan as Bucks County’s “oldest continuously run inn” in her 2007 guide to historic sites. Not so fast, Marie. Let’s skip on down the road 24 miles to the King George on the Delaware in Bristol.
King George II Inn: John and Abigail were guests
Samuel Clift built the restaurant as the Ferry Inn in 1681 to augment his ferry service linking Bristol with Burlington City, N.J. This was a whopping 69 years before Lancaster’s Stockyard opened. Sam ran the ferry while his wife and children managed the inn.
A succession of new owners changed the name many times. In 1765, Charles Besonett rebuilt and greatly expanded the inn following a fire, renaming it the King George III. That didn’t sit well with Patriots fighting to throw off the British monarch during the American Revolution. So Besonett changed the name to the Fountain House.
During the war, one-third of George Washington’s army headquartered there under Colonel John Cadwalader. Also congressional delegate John Adams rendezvoused with his wife Abigail at the hotel whenever she ventured south from Boston to be with her husband in Philadelphia. By the 1800s Bristol was a famous spa due to its former mineral baths at today’s Silver Lake Park. The inn hosted spa clients under a new name, Ye Olde Delaware House. During this period, deposed Spanish King Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s older brother living in Bordentown, N.J., was a frequent guest.
In succeeding decades, the restaurant remained an important hub of social life and fine dining. By the mid-1900s, it became the King George II as it is today. The menu features gourmet cuisine accented by blue cheese crusted filet mignon.
Interestingly, author Duess in her inn guide declares the King George – like the Logan – as “the oldest continuously operated establishment in Bucks County.” Clearly, both predate the Stockyard Inn for oldest in Pennsylvania. But can both be the oldest? They claim to be. Stay tuned.
Sources include “The Oldest Restaurant in Every State” by Madeline Diamond and Erin McDowell posted at https://www.insider.com/oldest-restaurant-in-every-state-2017-9; “Colonial Inns and Taverns of Bucks County” by Marie Murphy Duess published in 2007, and the web sites of the Logan Inn and the King George II Inn.