Imagine 1832 on Main Street in Williamsville. A busy and bustling place. In the heart of the Village of Williamsville, at the “crossroads” of this frontier town stood The Eagle House Tavern. The Conestoga Wagon Line, along with two passenger coach lines, carried freight to the newly prospering City of Buffalo. Williamsville became a nightly stopover for passengers and wagons traveling from Buffalo to Batavia. You can just hear the wagon wheels on dirt roads, horses tied up outside and shouts of merriment floating through the tavern doors.
The Holland Land Company was a surveying company that charted the scenic route along Main Street and Ellicott Creek. Regarding Williamsville, they decreed, “Bird, Beef and Bottle with a bed for the weary traveler”. When the Eagle House opened its doors, a hot meal would have cost about 25 cents and a bed for the night was 10 cents.
The Eagle House boasts a long history of owners, beginning with founder Oziel Smith in 1827, all the way to its present day owners, The Hanny Family. Smith is noted “by Sheriff’s sale” as purchasing the grist mill on the East side of Ellicott Creek, the saw mill on the West side of the creek and about 100 acres of land throughout the Village. This acreage included the property where he built The Eagle House Tavern.
In addition, he acquired the water lime works and all water power within the Village limits. Legend has it that Oziel Smith was an experienced builder who used his quarry to provide the two foot thick limestone foundation that the Eagle House sits on today. The lumber came from his wooded property and he used his sawmill for generating planks and beams for construction. Close examination reveals their crude but original workmanship.
He is also credited with designing the curved ceiling and ballroom with a “spring floor” on the second story of The Eagle House. Unfortunately, the original grand opening of the Eagle House was delayed. It was necessary for Oziel to travel into Buffalo on business and upon his return he found the original structure burned to the ground. Smith immediately began construction on the building we enjoy today. His pioneering enthusiasm and leadership led him to be elected one of the first Town Supervisors of Amherst and then on to the New York State Assembly. Upon his death, he left the operation of the inn to his wife, Phoebe and daughters, Charlotte and Margaret.
Since then, The Eagle House has changed hands many times…The Smith family operated the inn until 1844 at which time Timothy Hopkins took an interest in the property. In 1857, Mr. Hopkins became the new owner. (A photo of Mr. Hopkins and a map of Main Street dating back to 1880 are located in the soffit of the restaurant) During Mr. Hopkins’ ownership, the Main Street stone bridge over Ellicott Creek was constructed.
To celebrate completion of the bridge, there was an “Oyster Social” given by a political group at The Eagle House on November 30, 1882. The “Oyster Social” was such a great success that it became an annual gathering at The Eagle House. (A copy of the invitation from the 1884 “Oyster Social” is located in the front entrance foyer of the restaurant) The annual “socials” and Town Board meetings began the Eagle House’s “claim to fame” as being a “famous stopping place and watering hole” welcoming patrons and politicians from surrounding areas.
In 1909, John Wooster purchased the Eagle House and a local newspaper reported, “When taking the reins of The Eagle House, he will make extensive improvements about the property”. (A copy of this article is located in the front foyer of the Eagle House) In 1923, the tavern changed ownership again, this time to Fred Beck and then to Louis Clare in 1945.
The Eagle House, or Eagle Hotel as it was originally named, boasts the longest continuously held liquor license in Erie County and New York State (The original 1930’s “liquor stamps” can be found along the back hallway of The Eagle House) Some evidence also indicates that The Eagle House may have been a station on the Underground Railroad. The tunnels located beneath The Eagle House and Main Street may have provided a safe haven when moving from the United States to Canada before the Civil War began.
We know you will enjoy your next visit to The Eagle House and we strive to live up to Oziel Smith’s fine tradition of hospitality. From Hanny’s on Canal Street in the 1880’s, to Niagara Street in the 1920’s, The LaMarque on Delaware Avenue in the 40’s and The Little White House in the 60’s, the Hanny family boasts five generations in the restaurant and hospitality industry. (Menus from these great establishments adorn the halls of the restaurant) The ever-evolving Eagle House continues to be a center of social, political and business gatherings.
Great strides have been taken to care for and preserve The Eagle House’s historic character while maintaining a comfortable atmosphere. Whereas the fireplace is always welcoming on a chilly day the tiered patio and covered deck offer added dining options during the summer months. The Hanny family is proud to carry on the fine tradition of offering fresh, homemade, hearty fare started by Oziel Smith.
We hope you will enjoy the historic ambiance of The Eagle House. We invite you to take a walk through its historic rooms while viewing the decades of memorabilia on its walls. This page is just a taste of our restaurant’s history. Make a journey to The Eagle House, we know you’ll enjoy the experience and we look forward to seeing you soon~
In addition to serving lunch and dinner, we also offer three beautiful private rooms that accommodate the most intimate event or the largest party (up to 70 guests), Whatever the occasion ~ business meetings, weddings, bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, receptions, and more ~ breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner we can accommodate all your needs. We offer selections from our special banquet menu or we can help you create a menu perfect for your event.
For further information or inquiries regarding private rooms and parties, please call us at (716) 632-7669 or contact us and we’ll be happy to assist you.