As the Erie canal began construction at the opening of the 19th century, what is now Phelps (then Vienna) was a thriving metropolis. The initiation of regular mail service in approximately 1802 ushered in regular stagecoach runs. The stage needed fresh horses and the passengers needed food and lodging.
In 1819 the 3rd floor was added to the building and the Yorkshire Inn of Unionville was born. With the 4 added rooms on the 3rd floor, plus at least 2 guest rooms on the 2nd floor and a 40' ballroom across the front, the Inn must have been a bustling place.
As we have learned the story, the original owner and builder of the Yorkshire sold part of his property to Moses Swift for the founding of Unionville. The two brick homes to the East of us are the original Swift residences. The story goes that when Moses' wife saw the first home she complained that it was too small. So, they lived there until the second, almost identical but much larger home, could be constructed.
The sign in the picture above is directly across the street from us. It stands in front of the old railway station/post office.
The York Inn
Known about the area as the "York Inn" our home was a famous resturant from 1948 until 1988. The restaurant addition was constructed in roughly 1954. Just about everyone living in the Phelps-Geneva-Newark area who was born before 1980 had at least one meal at the "York Inn." James and Vivian Malone started the resturant and successfully ran it until 1976. The family is thought of highly by area residents, even to this day.
Unfortunately, when the restaurant failed all of its fixtures were sold at auction. We have been told of two beautiful wooden bars - one in the original seating area and a second larger one in the bar, what is now our kitchen. Sadly, no one that we have met knows the fate of the original bars. We would certainly like to find either of them to reincorporate it back into the building. Jim Malone (son of the resturant owners) has contacted us and told us that the "little" bar was more functional than decorative and that it would not add much to our establishment. It is funny how folks memories work.
We have also
been told of the wonderful food served at the resturant. Interestingly
enough the conversation often starts out the same, "I am sure everyone
tells you this but The York Inn served the best ..." and then they
name a different food! Do you have a fond memory of The York Inn?
We would love to hear from you. Please send us a letter or an email detailing your favorite event or food (at innkeeper@TheYorkshireInn.com) and we will collect them and post them on the web site.
The road in front of the inn (now route 96) was once a nationally known racecourse for thoroughbreds. The race was started just out the east end of Vienna (about where the Legion Hall is today) and ended right in front of the inn. It was a 1/2 mile race. The early railroad traversed the road near each end of the racecourse and the noise of the passing trains would disturb the horses. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt personally came to Unionville to investigate the sportsmen's complaints. Legend has it that he was given free lodging at the Yorkshire during his stay. The rail baron personally experienced the disturbance that his trains made to both the horses and the inn's guests. Upon his return to New York City, the Commodore ordered the railroad tracks to be moved back away from the road to their present location. Natives of the area hold to the belief that Vanderbilt got the last laugh as there appears to be a needless curve that brings the railbed closer to the highway than was necessary. This enabled the engineers to blow the whistle and scare the horses at the starting line.
There is another train story told by Mabel Oaks in her book "Phelpstown Footprints.". Apparently there was a railroad switch not far from the inn that was manned by a fellow who was not the sharpest resident of the area. The owner of inn discovered that the poor man had a weakness for candy and for the price of a full bag of candy he bribed the switch operator to throw the switch at an inopportune time. The passenger train was derailed and the many passengers needed room and board until a work train could be dispatched and alternate transportation arranged. Additionally the innkeeper had the opportunity to feed the workers dispatched to right the train. The inn's owner saw a windfall of income while the switchman lost his job.