Dating back to its original construction in 1869 by William Richardson, the Dunellen Hotel has long been a haven for anyone seeking the comfort of home. Nestled along an old stage coach route, it was first a home for the Alvah Gray family, founders of the First National Bank of Dunellen in 1907.
In 1925 the former Gray home was bought by Lawrence and Michael Kerwin. The house was remodeled, twenty seven rooms were constructed and a family hotel and restaurant named the Charlotte Inn was opened. In 1929 the Charlotte Inn name was changed to the Dunellen Hotel. This passerby stopover opened a bar and restaurant in 1925, serving the likes of Clark Gable, greatest male film star of the 1930’s, and the Playmates, a 1950’s hit-single band that got its start in the Rathskeller. Walter Stone, writer for Jackie Gleason, was so enthralled by the Hotel’s alluring atmosphere that he wrote an episode in which Jackie Gleason petitioned to buy it in a 1954 episode of The Honeymooners. In 1930 when miniature golf was the rage, there was a course on the hotel grounds. A prized refuge during Prohibition, This Old House-The Charlotte Inn, and now, the Dunellen Hotel, Restaurant & Rathskeller – has been a first home, a second home and a welcomed retreat for almost 150 years. Steeped in history, the Dunellen Hotel is as much a landmark of the present as of the past.
True, clientele may no longer dwell in the 27 rooms that used to line upstairs hallways, but the Dunellen Hotel is no less their home; customers set up residency on the hard oak barstools in the Rathskeller, camping around its still original U-shaped bar like they would a living room fireplace with close family – the only roots that, like history, transcend the bounds of time. This is the hallmark of the Dunellen Hotel.
While the upstairs dining room has undergone massive renovation, fresh floors, elegant linens, sophisticated window treatments, copper-topped bar and oak walls–the Rathskeller has remained largely untouched. Its exposed hand-hewn beams, mountain rock foundation, parted ceiling space where a hidden staircase descended to the Rathskeller during the Prohibition Era, historic bar and rustic atmosphere have retained the distinct character that has kept it in business for more than century.
This Old House is a relic of the past, an icon of the present and a tribute to the future – a safe haven and home from 1869 to 2006 and the next 100 years to come. Friends gather here.