Born in England and raised in Canada, Joshua Wilton settled in Harrisonburg not long after the Civil War. After purchasing large amounts of land and becoming the President of the First Virginia Bank, he established a foundry and hardware store. As a result, he became a pillar of the community. Among other things, Joshua Wilton was instrumental in bringing electricity to this part of the Valley. In 1890, construction was completed on this house as a home for his family. The walls, interior and exterior are all three-bricks thick (16 inches). He brought in craftsman from all over the country to complete the hand carved mantles and faux-marble slate fireplaces. Today, his portrait hangs in the front foyer.
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. Since then, they have continued the tradition of fine food and hospitality—a Joshua Wilton House trademark.
Many features have survived the many transitions of the home, including the parquet floors, the fireplaces and mantles, the stairway and the newel post, and the leaded glass surrounding the original front door. For the twenty 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.