I never really need to be convinced to visit Yellow Springs, but one way to get an immediate yes from me is to invite me to go to Ye Olde Trail Tavern.
This establishment holds the distinction of being the oldest tavern in Ohio, with a rich history dating back to 1827. The tavern’s roots are deeply intertwined with the area’s past, making it a must-visit destination for history buffs, nature enthusiasts, and anyone who appreciates the charm of an authentic, time-honored establishment.
Ye Olde Trail Tavern, originally known as Elisha’s Tavern, was constructed in 1827 by Elisha Mills and his son William Mills. Back then, it was the only building along Route 68 in Yellow Springs, a town with a history dating back to Shawnee lands and the Revolutionary War.
After the Battle of Pickaway, this region became part of the Virginia Militia District and the Symmes Purchase under General George Washington. The Mills family acquired approximately 200 acres of land that eventually became known as Yellow Springs in 1853.
The tavern’s history is closely connected to the transformation of the Yellow Springs area into a resort destination. The first tavern in the area was built by Lewis Davis in 1805, and it was later expanded and modernized by the Mills family.
In the hands of William Neff, a wealthy pork processor from Cincinnati, it was transformed into a palatial 200+ room resort with modern amenities, including a state-of-the-art kitchen, gas lighting, steam heat, bowling alleys, billiard tables, stables, a dairy, orchards, a lake for boating, and even its own fire department. It was also promoted as a healing “water cure” destination, attracting visitors from far and wide.
Franz Martin Hafner, originally from Germany, played a significant role in the history of Ye Olde Trail Tavern. After arriving in the United States in 1832, he worked as a baker before finding his true calling as the head groundskeeper and gardener at the Neff House Summer Resort.
He eventually married Mary Ann Sroufe, a Yellow Springs native, and purchased several lots in the area, including the one that housed the log tavern. The Hafner family, along with Franz’s bakery and brick business, contributed to the growth of the Yellow Springs community.
As time passed, ownership of the property changed hands, and the building evolved. In the mid-20th century, the Ye Olde Trail Tavern business saw several ownership changes. However, its enduring charm remained unchanged. Today, the tavern continues to be a cherished establishment, with its rich history intact, inviting visitors to experience a piece of Ohio’s past.
A visit to Ye Olde Trail Tavern is like stepping back in time. The building retains its historical character and is a testament to the bygone era. As you explore the tavern, you can still see traces of its past, including the log cabin style rear portion. The quaint and cozy atmosphere is perfect for savoring a delicious meal or raising a glass in celebration.
In addition to the historical significance, Yellow Springs itself is a charming and picturesque town, surrounded by the beauty of Glen Helen Nature Preserve and John Bryant State Park. The area offers plenty of hiking trails, waterfalls, and serene landscapes.
Ye Olde Trail Tavern is not just a tavern; it’s a living piece of Ohio’s history. The legacy of this establishment, combined with the natural beauty of Yellow Springs, offers an authentic and enriching experience for visitors.
If you’d like to take a step back in time and savor a meal in a historic setting, you can start planning your visit over at oldetrailtavern.com.