The O’Brien’s Legacy
Ed and Bill O’Brien were born and raised in neighboring Ridgebury Township, Pennsylvania. Always with a good business sense about them, they decided to open up a creamery in their hometown. Not too long after, the brothers went and opened a diner in the heart of Waverly, New York’s business district. As times prospered, so too did the eatery. The diner eventually outgrew its space in town, and a new building was erected on the top of Waverly Hill.
While it may have started off as a meager diner, a new era began for the brothers O’Brien – a booming restaurant business with a breathtaking view of the lower Chemung River valley. In later years a hotel was eventually built adjacent to the restaurant. The O’Brien’s Family maintained a farm near the restaurant, across the road and down the hill just a short distance, located on the border of the towns Chemung and Waverly.
A Timeline Of Events
There is a deep and rich history here at O’Brien’s Inn, with origins dating as far back as 100 years ago. We invite you to read on and discover how the transformation was made from modest street-cart vendors to what is still considered today to be a nationally recognized wonder of architectural development and eating establishment.
Hot Dogs For All
We begin our story back around 1918, with two brothers Ed & Bill O’Brien. With an entrepreneurial spirit in heart and a desire to succeed in mind, they decided to open up a simple hot dog cart – not too far from the site of the current location – in order to provide necessary food and drink to weary travelers whose vehicles would frequently overheat trying to make the steep climb up the fabled and quite formidable “Waverly Hill.”
The Log Cabin Diner
With the success of the hot dog cart business now firmly in their rear view, in 1941, with bigger ambitions in mind and a willingness to serve a wider swath of customers, Ed O’Brien opened “The O’Brien’s Log Cabin Diner” on what is now Broad Street, in Waverly, New York.
A Diner No Longer
In 1946 O’Brien’s restaurant was constructed. Not long after, the restaurant was called “America’s most scenic dining room” in the book titled Rooms to Dine By. The view from here is so magnificent that a photograph of it by an amateur, James B. Gilitz, a Binghamton NY attorney, won eighth place in a contest featuring 8,400 photographs from all over the world, and it was the only U.S. photo to make the top ten.
O'Brien's Inn Opens
With inclement weather and changing seasons abound, the problem of driving in harsh conditions became a real issue. Locals often had to decide if they wanted to risk braving the elements for a meal at O’Brien’s, while traveler’s just passing through might abandon the idea altogether – after all, a snow-covered Waverly Hill in the middle of January can be a lethal adversary.
It took some careful thought, time and planning, but in the spring of 1964, the decision to construct a 24 unit motel was made by ownership. Now, guests wouldn’t have to feel threatened by poor traveling conditions since the peril of harsh weather was effectively neutralized by offering everyone a place to lodge. And what’s better than full bellies and a warm, safe place to spend the night in the dead of winter? It was a huge success.
The Bar & Lounge
In 1970, the bar and lounge were built between the restaurant and hotel.
End Of An Era
Due to a decline in popularity and interest, O’Brien’s Inn sadly came to a close.
After many years of lying dormant and abandoned, O’Brien’s Inn officially re-opened in the fall of 2018. We have recently renovated our rooms, created a new and attractive bar menu featuring baskets filled with shrimp, fish, wings and more. But, not to be outdone, the true star of the show is still our first class dinner menu, with entrees and appetizers that are guaranteed to leave you with an experience you will talk about for a long time to come.
Now & Beyond...
Today, this iconic 14-acre hotel and restaurant sits high and proud among the rolling hills of Chemung County, New York – and, yes, the breathtaking views are just as magnificent now as they were back in 1946. At the end of the day, our goal is to re-introduce this amazing building and fantastic view while preserving its great history, and part of that formula includes exceptional food, great music, good company, affordable lodging, and memories that will last a lifetime.