METAMORA — Michigan’s oldest continuously run restaurant —The White Horse Inn founded in 1850 — is poised to serve customers for the next century starting Monday after undergoing a major $3 million rejuvenation that restored and expanded the landmark.
“This has been an incredible journey, with the contributions of so many crafts men and women to help Linda and I create a space that can be a true gathering place for generations to come,” says Victor Dzenowagis, co-owner of the restaurant with his wife, Linda Egeland.
The White Horse Inn closed in 2012 under previous ownership when the restaurant and Inn had fallen into disrepair. The original building footprint largely remains the same but has been expanded with a state-of-the-art kitchen. The Inn had been enlarged through the years. The original building — dining on the first floor and sleeping rooms on the second floor — was established to serve weary stagecoach riders traveling through the area.
A new common table gathering area with custom-made wood flooring in the shape of a tree gives views of a massive barn-stone fireplace on one end and a mural of life-size classic horses on the opposite wall painted by famed French artist Jean Louis Sauvat. The original dining area, complete with fading windowpane glass dating back to 1850, was retained and the former Inn space above has been turned into a banquet room.
Dzenowagis and Egeland are veteran restaurateurs and operators of an independent group of original restaurants in the metro Detroit, including The Moose Preserve Bar & Grill in Bloomfield Hills, Camp Ticonderoga in Troy, Deadwood Bar & Grill in Northville, and the Iroquois Club in Bloomfield Hills.
The couple have been long-time resident of Metamora and were frequent patrons of the former White Horse Inn. When the restaurant closed unceremoniously in November 2012, though they were intrigued by the possibility of ownership of Michigan’s oldest restaurant, the magnitude of the renovation project was deemed daunting.
The couple took another look at the White Horse Inn and made a momentous decision to step in to save the historic site. The outpouring of community support, including a $300,000 grant from the Downtown Development Authority, made them take the plunge and soon an architect and army of local artisans, stone masons, woodworkers, and carpenters was assembled in early 2013 to begin the task of the extreme makeover of the White Horse Inn, while retaining its character.
“It’s the biggest undertaking by far that we ever have taken on,” says Egeland. “It has been non-stop decision making for the past year and the level of investment we’ve made is unprecedented for us. Everyone involved in the project has demonstrated an amazing commitment to the vision for historic preservation, use of period materials and means and methods in this renovation and rejuvenation project.”
The White Horse Inn was opened just 16 years after Michigan became a state in 1836. The iconic-whitewashed clapboard structure’s renaissance was a major focal point for the rural community located about an hour’s drive northeast of Detroit.
“It’s a great organization and we are so grateful to be giving something back to this community right from the start,” Egeland says. “We intend for this historic gathering place to be here for generations to come.”
For more hours of operation and reservations, call 810-678-2276 or visit WhiteHorseInn.com.