The once lively King George Inn is still the anchor building in the remnant village of Mount Bethel in Warren Township, but now sits abandoned and deteriorated on a littered lot. It is the only building over 200-years old in its original location in the village. It served many functions and over the years and in the mid-nineteenth century was a pivotal gathering place for the agricultural township of Warren.
Historical research reveals that the oldest part of the structure may date to about 1785-86, and was until c.1800, the home of one of Warren’s pioneer families. It was then used as a tavern or inn from about 1804, when John Smalley became its owner, until his death in 1824. The inn changed ownership many times during the 19th and early-20th centuries, until Andre and Clementine Calosso bought the property in 1913 and named it Villa Calosso. In the 1940s it was purchased by Fred Zimmerman and renamed the Sans Souci until it was sold to the Hayden family in 1953.
The Haydens restored the inn and re-opened it in 1954. During the renovation the hand-hewn beams and fieldstone walls were exposed in what would be the Tap Room. Later the kitchen was expanded, a dining room added, and the second floor open porch replaced by an addition to the ballroom. The oldest section of the building, which may have been used as a blacksmith’s shop, has an original heavy beamed ceiling. Repairing the dining room ceiling, they found that it was suspended with the help of large wrought-iron rods. The upper sections of the building were added during the Federal period, with the two-story wing to the right dating to the mid-to-late 1800s.
After the Haydens sold the inn in 1988, it fell on hard times and housed a series of unsuccessful restaurants. In the late-1990s the inn was empty for a time until a gourmet cheese shop owned the building for several years, renaming it The Inn at Mount Bethel. Most recently, the building was a restaurant, but it was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011.
The building was sold at a sheriff’s sale in 2013 to a real estate developer who filed for the site to be designated as an area in need of redevelopment. The Warren Township Committee has since directed the Planning Board to conduct a preliminary investigation of whether the site is deserving of the designation. The current owner believes the building cannot be rehabilitated and must be torn down, while many, including PNJ, value it is a piece of Warren’s history, interwoven with its people and its landscape. Old buildings can be rehabilitated and made vital again, but once a building is gone the history often vanishes with it.