By: David C. Glenn
The property, where the Royal Savage Inn would eventually be built, was part of the 1765 British Royal grant called the Friswell Patent, one of the oldest in Clinton County. William Gilliland became the owner in August 1765.
William Gilliland, Jr, inherited the property then built his farm house now called the Old Homestead along with the main barn just to the north in 1809. On the eve of the Battle of Plattsburgh, September 11th 1814, Vermont Militia traveling north to take part bivouacked in the farm fields while some climbed the barn ladder to sleep in the hay loft.
In 1916, just prior to World War I, after extensive land sales, a portion of the farm containing the homestead and barn was sold to the family of Judge John H. Booth.
At the start of the 1920’s, New York State Route 9 was fast becoming the primary auto route between Montreal to the north and New York City and other points to the south. Realizing this the Booth family renovated the barn into a rustic eating establishment first opened in August of 1922 as a tea room serving luncheon, tea and dinner named “The Better’Ole” with Miss Anna P. Hopper as proprietress. It lasted seven years until the start of the depression when its contents were sold at auction in September of 1929.
The Booth family was not daunted and decide to press on with the idea of a restaurant. A June 1930 newspaper heralded a new venture saying the Royal Savage Inn is now open for business. The name was to honor Benedict Arnold’s flagship in the American Revolution 1776 Battle of Valcour. The first day’s action, on October 11, 1776, took place on Lake Champlain just south of the inns location.
For the 1932 season the Booths hired a young couple, Newton and Marion Keith, as managers. The Keiths ran the Inn for the Booths until 1941 when they bought the Inn property for themselves and operated it until 1968.
Under the Keith family and for a period of years under Don and Barbara Benjamin, who purchased it in 1970, the Royal Savage Inn had become a north country mainstay and was widely known as one of the finest restaurants in the Lake Champlain and Adirondack region. It had grown from the original 1,260 to about 8,200 square feet with a gazebo to the north and other outbuildings and was operated by the Benjamins almost year round.
However, the restaurant business was changing with more competition, fast food chains, Interstate 87 moved traffic flow off Route 9, and other factors such as aging infrastructure led to the Inn closing by 2003 when it was then sold in 2004 as a residential property.
The Inn was, and the remaining barn structure still is, located on the west side of Route 9 in the Town of Plattsburgh exactly 3 miles south of the City of Plattsburgh south boundary. The Royal Savage Inn is mentioned in a NYS historic marker on Route 9 just south of the Inn site.