Wayside Inn's History
Travelers to the Inn started arriving in 1797, pausing for bed and board as they journeyed across the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Wayside Inn, was then known as Wilkenson's Tavern. Rugged highways were hacked out of the wilderness 20 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 bounce-weary passengers could rest and refresh themselves.
In coaching days, a servant boy would be sent to the nearby hill to sight an expected stagecoach. When a cloud of dust appeared over the horizon, he waited anxiously, straining to sight the outline of the stagecoach, and then hurried back to the Inn to report its approach. By the time the passengers arrived, delicious hot food would be waiting and they would dine and drink 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 and was spared the ravages of the war, even though Stonewall Jackson's famous Valley Campaign swept past only a few miles away.
Jacob Larrick bought the Inn before the war and changed the name to "Larrick's Hotel". In the early part of the 20th century, it was sold again. The new owner, Samuel Rhodes, added a third floor, wings on each side, and named it 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 1960's a Washington financier and antique collector, Leo M. Bernstein, with a restless enthusiasm for new projects, and a fascination with Americana, purchased the Inn. He energetically restored and refurbished it with hundreds of antiques, decorating each of the rooms with its own unique flavor.
Many noted travelers have visited the Inn over the decades, including Jubal Early, General John Pershing, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Paul Newman, Dan Aykroyd, Tom Cruise, Mort Kuntsler (civil war artist who has painted the Inn), Robert Duvall and Dorothy Hamill to name a few.
The Inn has retained its 18th Century atmosphere, where the charm of an older era blends with the comforts of the new, in a setting of natural beauty, unmarred by time. Come step back in time and see the original well in "Larrick's Tavern", and eat at a table that sits upon the bricks of the original street where goods were dropped off to the inn. A living museum and historic landmark. Make our history, your history.