Latest Update on the Olney Ale House

by Patrick Herron

“For Sale” signage is up at the Olney Ale House at 2000 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd in Olney. Owner John Roach tells us that he is looking to sell the 99-year-old building to someone that will continue to run it as the Olney Ale House restaurant.  A kitchen fire caused the restaurant to shut down in 2019 and COVID-19 only compounded the issues for the restaurant.  There will be additional information regarding the potential sale/reopening of the Olney Ale House in the next few weeks, according to Roach.

Back in July of 2021 it was announced that the Montgomery County Green Bank and Sandy Spring Bank would be teaming up to provide flexible financing to help the Olney Ale House re-open. Roach tells us that both financial institutions are still committed to helping the Ale House reopen. As we wait for the reopening, we wanted to share with you its history, courtesy of the Olney Ale House website:

In 1923, Richard Bentley Thomas and Ethel Farquhar Thomas purchased the five acre triangular shaped piece of property from the estate of Sam Owens. The property had a four room log cabin in the middle of what is today’s parking lot. The corner was known as Davis Corner.
Almost immediately construction began on a hipped-roof, pavilion-type building that would contain a kitchen, dining room and two bedrooms. This building was completed in 1924, and opened for business as “The Corner Cupboard.” They served homemade ice cream, breads, cookies, pies and cakes, as well as, sausage, scrapple and ham sandwiches from hams that were cured in their smokehouse. Garden vegetables were also grown and sold. The Corner Cupboard was a unique establishment and drew many loyal followers.
In 1930, a large addition was added to the original structure. This included bedrooms in the rear and a second floor with more sleeping quarters. At this time, heat was installed making it a year-round operation. The log cabin was torn down at this time.1930 also saw the addition of the stone fireplace in the dining room. It was built by Adolphus Gordon. The rocks came from a factory building at Triadelphia. The left over rocks were used to build the bell tower at Sherwood High School.Two famous visitors of this time were Herbert Hoover, perhaps visiting the area because of his Quaker background and Dean Acheson, who owned a summer home in the area.

In 1937, the business was sold and became the Francis Lattie Inn. Miss Lattie operated the business as a tea room and carried on many of the former owners’ traditions.

The business has changed hands many times and operated under a variety of different names. “The Anchorage” had a retired naval officer Harold Hilliard at the helm, a Maggie Levesque purchased it but little is remembered of her time, then Mrs. Cramer bought it and named it the “Country Corner Inn.”

In the late 50’s, Irma Turnbull purchased it, she kept it until 1962 and then sold it to the McKenzie’s. Mrs. McKenzie had been one of her waitresses. Both of these owners operated under the “Country Corner Inn.” Mr. McKenzie was an engineer at WTOP and when they remodeled the station he brought out the large windows that were being discarded from a sound booth. They are currently installed in the bar room.

Sometime in 1970, the Matney’s purchased it. They added what is now known as the Beer Garden. They operated as a steak house and sold liquor. Two years later, they sold it to George, Fred and Anita Virkus and the “Olney Ale House” was born.

In 2000, it was purchased by the current owners.

Among some of the reported famous visitors are Burl Ives, Eve Arden, Tyrone Powers, Talulla Bankhead, Harry and Bess Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Milo O’Shea, Chris and Susan Sarandon and Jason Miller.

 

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6 comments

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David September 15, 2022 - 7:19 pm

I loved going there when Anita was the proprietor. Excellent bread, stew, fried chicken, burgers, and a fantasic Lemon Tahini dressing on the generous salads. Great beer & service too.

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Steve September 15, 2022 - 9:25 pm

The Ale House has declined in service and food since we ate there in 2018. The latest owners had no clue what they were doing!

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Kristin September 15, 2022 - 10:22 pm

I think the second generation of Virkus brothers should be the next owners. That way they can re create what we all loved about the original Olney Ale House!

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David A September 16, 2022 - 9:35 am

My wife grew up in Silver Spring & went to HS at Kennedy HS. When we were dating in the mid-1980’s, and lived in Olney in the late 1980’s, the Ale House was a regular spot for us, especially for (many) lunches on weekends. We could both get a sandwich and a couple of drinks, and walk out for less than $30 total. Alas in recent years it just hasn’t been the same as regulars left over time.

The last time we were there for lunch, it cost ~$80 for the same experience we used to have for almost a third of that. While I realize prices go up over 40 years, it’s sad that the experience has changed.

Hopefully someone will buy it and keep the old vibe going as much as possible in today’s electronic world.

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Laura September 17, 2022 - 8:23 pm

My husband and I LOVED Olney Ale House for the great service and location. The food wasn’t the greatest, but the staff was and location was over the top awesome. I truly hope it opens again as a similar restaurant, but with much better food.

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Rickentropic September 18, 2022 - 10:55 pm

You can’t go home again. There is no more normal. Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.

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