Born in Ontario, Canada, Joshua Wilton settled in Harrisonburg not long after the Civil War at the age of 22. Like many immigrants before him, Joshua Wilton came to the valley searching for opportunities and land to call his own. With the establishment of his first hardware store in 1868, Wilton ingratiated himself within the community.
Within the next 20 years, Joshua Wilton would become one of the most influential men in Harrisonburg due to his incredible work ethic and fair business practices. Along with his business partner Philo Bradley, Wilton established the Harrisonburg Foundry: a catalyst for the community, seen as "an established institution that our people could not get along without". Joshua Wilton would also go on to:
~ Establish the Young Men's Christian Association of Harrisonburg
~ Serve as the President of the First National Bank
~ Served as Treasurer and Historian for the Masonic Temple (No.27)
~ Inspector of the County Jail
~ Member of City Council
~ Member of the board of trustees for the Rockingham Hospital
The litany of accomplishments and accolades achieved by Joshua Wilton are a true testament to his hard work and dedication to his community.
In 1888, Joshua Wilton completed the construction of his home (now the restaurant and inn named in his honor). This gorgeous Queen Anne Victorian required 8 years of construction, with Wilton working hands-on alongside individuals from all over the country to complete the hand carved mantles and faux-marble slate fireplaces. Today, his portrait hangs above the fireplace in our lounge.
The Wilton family occupied the home for about 40 years, until is was sold to the Shank family, who also lived here for 40 years. After the Shank children left home and Mr. Shank passed, Mrs. Shank briefly took in boarders. In the 1970's, the house served as the TKE fraternity house until is was sold to the Macher family—who converted it into apartments. The Moore family purchased the home in 1986 and took two years to lovingly restore the home to its original grandeur. They added a restaurant kitchen, sunroom, and brick patio. The Joshua Wilton House Inn & Restaurant opened in May of 1988 on the one-hundredth anniversary of the house. Since then, it has served as a fine dining restaurant and bed & breakfast—the first of its kind in Harrisonburg.
In 2004, Joshua Wilton House changed hands once again to Ann Marie Coe, Mark Newsome and Sean Pugh—three close friends, JMU alumni and former employees. Opening their doors (and arms) to friends, community members, and guests from around the world, Ann Marie, Mark and Sean successfully brought the Joshua Wilton House into the modern era. In 2015, the house was sold once more to three new owners: Rodney Eagle, Joe Irvin, and Jeff Hill. Having established a successful restaurant in 2009 known as the Local Chop and Grill House, the owners desired to elevate the Joshua Wilton House to the next level. With an extensive wine list, classically French-trained chefs, farm-to-table ingredients, and pristine inn rooms, the current Joshua Wilton House guarantees an unforgettable experience.
Many features have survived the multiple transitions of the home, including parquet floors, intricate fireplaces and mantles, a massive stairway with a newel post, and the beautifully leaded glass surrounding the original front door. For the thirty years of its operation, the Joshua Wilton House Inn & Restaurant has served as an oasis for weary travelers and hungry epicureans in search of quiet solitude, excellent cuisine and impeccable service.