When two New Jersey families began laying out plans to open the Summit House restaurant, making sure it fit into its surroundings in the town of Summit was a priority —so Dylan and Melissa Baker and Tyler and Sara Reeder headed for the Summit Historical Society.
Their research into the history of Summit House — both the name and the location — has informed some of the physical flavor of the restaurant.
There was a Summit House in the town starting in the mid-1800s, a boarding house on Maple Street and Morris Avenue (the current site of the Presbyterian Church) opened by town founder Jonathan Crane Bonnel. The boarding house burned down, but “Summit House” lived on as a name attached to several buildings, including a restaurant that closed its doors in 1970.
The new Summit House, which will feature seasonal menus in a neighborhood atmosphere when it opens in March, is at 395 Springfield Avenue, a spot with its own local history. The building was originally built as a YMCA in 1894, and the Y is still on site: the shell of a small swimming pool is a prominent feature in Summit House’s basement.
“We’re striving to create a modern and thoughtful dining environment, and at the same time remind guests of the building’s rich history,” says Dylan Baker.“ The more than century-old exposed brick walls will help with that, and we’ve added other nods to 395 Springfield’s past, such as a black-and-white exterior reminiscent of the Fanny Farmer candy store, which stood here for more than 50 years.”
The building’s latest tenants are very much aware that even as they build out their restaurant space, from the address to the physical details, the history of the building is a key ingredient.
“We loved the idea of embracing that history, and a time when food came from local farmers, local butchers and local fisherman,” says Baker. “In renovating this amazing 120-year-old building and taking the Summit House name, we hope our guests feel as though we’ve peeled back time just a bit.”
For more information and updates, visit www.summithousenj.com.