ROXBOROUGH >> Fine dining in nostalgic surroundings makes a meal more enjoyable. At Valley Green Inn, guests can feel a sense of history in a memorable setting.
The Valley Green Inn is unique in that is the last remaining roadhouse in the City of Philadelphia. It is nestled on the banks of the Wissahickon Creek in a 1,900-acre wooded park that bears the same name. The Valley Green Inn is built on land that was part of a several hundred acre tract purchased from William Penn in 1685. It had absentee owners in England and Ireland until 1791, when it was bought by the Livezey family, who ran a large grist mill downstream. In about the year 1850, Thomas Livezey rented to Edward Rinker about three acres of land on the Wissahickon Creek below and adjoining the stone arch bridge. He was to build a house and had the privilege of having boats on the stream to accommodate picnics. He paid two years rent of $50 Jan. 2, 1852. In 1868, the newly created Fairmount Park Commission appropriated the creek and its banks, including the turnpike, and improved the condition of the road and removed the toll gates. The Livezeys then sold the hotel to the park in 1873.
In 1899, the chief engineer of Fairmount Park recommended the building be demolished; it was in disrepair, and the park did not have the funds to renovate. Fortunately, the building was saved by a local committee, headed by Charles W. Henry, which raised $1,228 for the restoration.
In 1901, a committee of women, arranged by Lydia T. Morris, was given permission by the park to manage the newly restored Valley Green Hotel. They served light refreshments and afternoon tea to riders, pedestrians and wintertime skaters. These women managed the popular Valley Green Hotel in this manner for many years. At this time, the restaurant became officially known as the Valley Green Inn.
In the mid-1930s, the Friends of the Wissahickon, a large group dedicated to the preservation of the park, became interested in the Inn. Restorations were again necessary, and, under the leadership of the Friends and park Commissioner Samuel Fleisher, new foundations, a new roof and timbers were added. The Inn was re-dedicated at a ceremonial dInner in 1937. The Inn has been under the joint care of the Friends of the Wissahickon and the Park Commission ever since, yet it remains a privately run business.
Throughout the years, the Inn has been the focus of numerous paintings, postcards and writings, as well as the setting for many special occasions. T.A. Daily wrote in 1922, “The charm of Valley Green varies not only with the seasons, but with the day of the week and the hour of the day.”
The location of the Inn, the Wissahickon gorge, was named one of the best hiking locations in U.S. cities by National Geographic. This is one of the few places in the Philadelphia area where you can see a bald eagle.
“The Inn’s original structure has remained the same,” proprietor Jack Ott explains. “There was a major restoration/renovation in 2002, which added a covered pavilion, new snack bar, kitchen, bathrooms and bar. It also brought the Inn to full ADA compliance so that any of our guests can enjoy the Valley Green. Originally, the Valley Green Hotel (as it was known originally) did have a few rooms,but has not operated as an Inn for well over a century.”
The menus at the Inn change seasonally. Sunday brunch has been a crowd pleaser for several decades now and was featured on The Food Network.
“We’re very sensitive to the individuals that visit us and do our absolute best to accommodate special diets, restrictions and tastes,” Ott added.
Ott says the Inn will continue to host everyone who enjoys Wissahickon Valley Park, whether they are hiking, horseback riding or dog walking. The Inn has also become a destination for weddings, holiday parties, business retreats and birthday parties.
“Our rent is paid to the nonprofit group, The Friends of the Wissahickon, which reinvests the revenue to preserve and protect the park for future generations,” Ott said. “We support many local charities in and around the Wissahickon Park area and elsewhere.
“The Inn is a very special place for so many people,” Ott added. “Our goal is to make great memories for the new generations that visit us for the first time as well as for those who have special recollections of the Inn.”
Valley Green Inn
Valley Green Road at Wissahickon, Roxborough
Hours: Monday to Thursday: Noon to 4 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday: Noon to 4 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; Sunday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m.
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