For decades, generations of families have celebrated the Christmas season at the historic Milleridge Inn in Jericho. The fate of this iconic restaurant, which recently changed hands, remains to be seen, but hundreds of visitors have reflected on memories of Christmases past and vowed to save the old establishment.
The inn was built as a two-room home with a central fireplace in 1672 for Mary Washburn Willets, the widowed sister-in-law of Robert Williams, who founded Jer- icho. During the American Revolutionary War, the inn was taken over by British soldiers who lived there for the duration.
The home had several owners throughout the early years, and it remains today as one of the oldest continually operating food establishments in the United States. When Jericho Turnpike was expanded in 1815, the inn became a popular spot for travelers, who would dine on meat, fish, stews and home-baked bread. It was expanded several times up until 1890, when it was bought and rented out by the Doughty family, owners of the nearby Jericho Cider Mill. It later served as a boarding house for Jericho school teachers.
By 1937, a man by the name of Percy L. Roberts leased the building and turned it into the Maine Maid Inn and Tea Room restaurant. By 1950, Roberts decided to buy the building, but the operators of the Maine Maid Inn refused to sell. Eventually the business was moved across the road into the old Valentine’s Hicks house where it continued to serve guests until 2007.
The Miller family started a new restaurant business at the old location and called it Mille Ridge Restaurant. In 1961 the building and 10 acres were bought by James Murphy, who changed the business to the Milleridge Inn and added a colonial village.
The menu today reflects its past. Classic American cuisine, including Yankee pot roast, stuffed filet of sole, prime rib and roasted young turkey served with sage stuffing, turkey gravy and cranberry sauce is featured.
During the Christmas season, families from all over Long Island come to take part in these traditional holiday meals. Fresh baked bread is served and is made in one of the many country shops on the premises. Crackling fireplaces warm the guests as they listen to strolling carolers, dressed right out of a Dickens novel. Twinkling lights, Christmas trees and holly adorn the old inn and add to the festive spirit.
The country shops are wonderful to visit and are open during the day. A toy shoppe, a general store, a Christmas shoppe and an Irish shoppe are just a few of the quaint attractions. Also on the premises is a cottage and carriage house that has been used for catering events for centuries. Many a bride on Long Island has had her wedding there.
For more than 50 years, the Milleridge Inn was owned and operated by the Murphy Family. Owen Smith, 78 years old, is the son-in-law of the Murphys and is set to retire at the end of this year. The property was bought for $7.5 million by Kimco Realty, a New Hyde Park–based real estate investment trust that owns several strip malls. Concerned Long Islanders, who want to see this historic 343-year-old inn survive for future generations to enjoy, have started a Save American History/Save the Milleridge Inn Facebook page that has more than 2,000 likes. To date, more than 10,000 people have signed a petition to save it, and dozens of letters have been written and sent to the development company.
The Milleridge Inn is part of our history, our memories, our traditions and Christmas past. During this holiday season, be sure to enjoy the food and festivities at this beloved Long Island restaurant, with the hopes of its preservation and a bright future.