The Washington House Hotel was built circa 1871. According to the Historical Society of the Somerset Hills, it was built for Augustus Moore by Clayton Space, a local builder. The three-story structure, featuring a cupola, was described as having a dining room seating 25 persons, 16 rooms and stabling accommodations for 18 horses.
It became not only a social center but a political one as well. The Bernards Township Committee held its regular monthly meetings at The Washington House in 1906, back when the township included Bernardsville and Far Hills. During Prohibition years between 1920 and 1933, it was well known for its applejack and boasted a secret bootlegger’s storeroom in the basement. It continued to have upstairs hotel rooms through the 1950s.
As times changed, so did the restaurant. In January 1947, in the early days of television, The Washington House ran an advertisement boasting that its cocktail lounge was now furnished with “the largest screen picture in the world” – 21-by-20 inches. The hotel was nearly lost in the winter of 1947 when the cupola burned. It was primarily a tavern in the post-Prohibition years, with little emphasis on food until Arthur Parks acquired it in 1957.
Under Parks, The Washington House “enjoyed a good reputation for food and a congenial atmosphere,” The News said in 1972. “It was a particularly popular luncheon spot.”
In June 1972, the Parks family sold the restaurant to Jack Welch and Jeff Beers, two 25-year-old restaurateurs from Basking Ridge and Morristown, respectively, who renamed it The Store.
Welch and Beers kept the main two rooms but closed the front entrance, opened a new back entrance and added country store touches. They built a small addition in 1999. The restaurant was then sold and renamed The Ridge Tavern.
In 2013, the Jepsen Family acquired the restaurant and undertook an extensive renovation that was spearheaded by Scandic Builders, Inc. The Jepsen’s called upon their Danish heritage when designing the new space which is replete with light and clean, functional lines. Colors and textures that define Danish design are incorporated into the restaurant aesthetic as well as artwork and historical references to Denmark’s close connection to the water and ship building. Upon completion of the renovation, it was decided that the original name, Washington House Restaurant, would again be used in honor of its storied past.
Washington House Restaurant has become a local culinary destination known for our commitment to exceptional food, quality, seasonal ingredients and outstanding service and hospitality. In May 2016, we opened the outdoor patio space overlooking South Finley Avenue. This new element of service furthers the ambience of Washington House. We have also become an integral part of the Bernard’s Township community, including our involvement with annual Charter Day celebrations, Labor Day Bike Races and participation in local downtown events.