History of Mendenhall Inn Restaurant
The Mendenhall Inn was named for the village of Mendenhall, which was incorporated in 1881, and named for its leading citizen Elwood Mendenhall who owned the land across from the present Inn. His historic brick house, which pre-dated the Civil War, was torn down in September 2002. Prior to 1881, the village was known as Fairville Station.
The Mendenhalls, John and Benjamin settled in what is now Concord, Delaware County in 1684. They emigrated from Wiltshire, England where the name Mildenhall dates back to 1275, during the reign of Edward I. Mildenhall, England sits on the Kennett River. Coincidentally, our sister property, the Concordville Inn, sits on the original (Mendenhall ) Penn land grant.
The property on which the present Mendenhall Inn is located was one of three parcels given to William Penn’s daughter, known as the Letitia Penn grant. This section was settled by the Walter Craige family in 1703 and remained in that family for almost 150 years. Indeed, Kennett Township tax records from the years 1753 and 1774 show the Craiges as being landowners.
Joseph Robinson Mendenhall purchased 85 acres of that land in 1847. In 1849, Elwood Mendenhall, for whom the village was named, purchased the remaining 135 acres. Elwood established a north railroad siding with a freight station, creamery and mail depot. At this time prior to the Civil War, as Elwood was establishing the actual railroad, his brother Isaac (and wife Dinah) Mendenhall, were establishing the first “station” on the “Underground Railroad” over the PA.State line after Thomas Garrett’s House in Wilmington, DE. Their home “Oakdale,” can be seen on Rte. 52 below Hammorton. Coincidentally, Garrett’s wife was Rachel Mendenhall Garrett, 3rd cousin to Elwood and Isaac.
In 1917, Pierre DuPont acquired the farm and several surrounding properties to avoid negotiating “right of ways” for his plans to widen the Kennett Turnpike. Shortly thereafter, the Millhous brothers, who shared ancestry with future president Richard M. Nixon, purchased the farm, and made the large barn into a feed store. President Nixon’s mother was named for Hannah Mendenhall Millhous. By the end of World War II, the Mendenhall family no longer farmed the 220 acres that surround the center of the village of Mendenhall.
Many local residents yet remember when this was the Pusey property and came here with their grain to grind in the mill, while others remember when it was Bill Hitch’s lumberyard and the current Garden Room was a show room for John Deere tractors and the current tavern was an antique shop.
The barn was converted to a restaurant around 1968 and was purchased by its present owners in 1982.
In 1990, the Hionis family added the 70- room hotel, which has earned Choice Hotel International’s coveted Gold Hospitality Award. The Grand Ballroom, secluded in the woods in back of the property was built in 1994, and in 2006, the original Gold Ballroom was completely renovated including the addition of a large outdoor terrace area.