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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Memories of the Olney Inn


I have memories.  Memories from my teenage years when in 1974 my father purchased The Olney Inn in Olney, Maryland.  It was a wonderful place to dine and had been a staple of success in Olney since 1926 when Clara May Downey opened the restaurant with 3 tables.  Dignitaries, Congressman, and Presidents and their families dined in the beautiful Olney Inn.  The ambiance was spectacular and so were the rum buns.  You couldn't have a meal without sinking your teeth into our chef "Mr. Bill's" famous rum buns.  That wasn't the only meal that was famous.  And if you are lucky, I might share a recipe or two with you here.



I recall riding the school bus home from high school and being dropped off in front of the Inn where I would study in the Fireside room and then help out with the salad bar or the coat closet or seating guests.  It was how I earned a little extra money during my teen years.  I even helped my mother make the costumes that the waitresses wore.  My father and mother chose the pattern for the long historic dresses the waitresses wore.  My problem was that I liked them all and wanted a change of pattern.  I couldn't settle for one dress and be satisfied with it.  I had to have at least 5 dresses for a different change every day of the week.  I know - spoiled, but my mother taught me how to sew and then she helped me make my own dresses.  In some cases, I purchased my own fabric with my own money.  I think that was the moment I realized just how much I loved to sew.



The Olney Inn was the first place I went on my first date.  Oh, that was something.  I was worried and nervous about everything, from the way I looked to the way I ate in front of this boy I had an eye for.  I was 15 years old and the boy was Matthew K.  I discovered Matthew loading groceries at the Giant Food Store next door to the Inn.  I would make excuses to run to Giant to get something for the kitchen.  We had dinner at the Inn, and I recall spilling something onto my lap.  I was mortified, but he had a good dinner and we were treated by my father to the best table for two by the window in the main dining room. It was beautiful, but I was too nervous to notice.  That night, as Matthew drove me home, I squirmed.  He reached over and held my hand and I felt fire going through my veins and thought I would faint right there in his car.



He pulled up in front of our home in Brookeville, told me to stay seated, and he walked around the car and opened my door, treating me like a lady and making me feel special.  He walked me to my door and he kissed me.  I felt my knees go weak.  I had never been kissed before! 



Yes, the Olney Inn holds many memories for me.  Some good and some bad.  I did a bit of dating at the Olney Inn. That is where I met Alberto.  He played the accordion in the Fireside room and had a bit of a "thing" for me by the time I was 17.  He asked me out, but we both knew that my father would not approve, so we snuck a date here and there in private.  You see, Alberto was 17 years older than I.  But boy was he a hunk of burnin' love back then.  All the women swooned over Alberto.  I felt pretty incredible that he only wanted me.  When my father found out about me seeing Alberto, he was pissed, and every time he didn't know where I was he sought out Alberto.  Both of my brothers were after him too.  I can't say that I blame them, really, especially now that I am a parent too.  Eventually, Alberto sat down with my father in the main dining room of the Olney Inn and asked if he could marry me.  My father's response? - "You're Fired!"  Alberto left, and eventually we broke up.  I wasn't really dating him.  I just thought he was fun.  Would you believe that Alberto and I are still friends?  We are.  He lives in Virginia, and for a while there, while Big Bear and I were living in Woodbine, Maryland, he would visit and bring the children donut holes from Dunkin Donuts. 



I grew into a young woman during those family Olney Inn years.  I'll never forget them.  I had a favorite meal there too.  8oz Sirloin Steak on toast with french fries and rum buns.  To this day, when we go out and I order a steak, I order a sirloin steak (or NY Strip) with white toast unbuttered and fries.  It's the best ever.  You should try it.  Take a bite of steak and then take a bite of toast.  Yum.

The bad memories - there were a lot of bad memories. A lot of hanky panky goin' on at the Olney Inn.  A lot of oversexed employees I suppose spending way too much time together.  That's all I'll say about that thank you very much.



It was 1978.  My father was wanting to move on to other things in his life.  He had always been active in real estate and politics and had burned the bridges you might say of restaurant ownership.  He did a wonderful job of rebuilding the Olney Inn, but we couldn't really afford it any longer.  In March, 1978, my father was preparing to go to settlement to sell the Inn.  He hated doing it but knew that it was something we had to do.  He was devastated into a stroke after that tragic day and was never the same.  He died just a few years later in 1980 at the tender age of 55. 



The Inn burned down just an hour before settlement was to take place.  He wanted to make sure that the Inn would be preserved and he had had it placed on the Historical Society's preservation list.  The people who wanted to buy the Inn wanted to tear it down and my father flatly refused.  The day it burned down, 2 men in suits walked briskly into the Inn.  My brother, Mike, asked if he could help them and they didn't respond.  Instead, they walked into the Fireside room and looked around some more, saying nothing, they left as quickly as they had come into the Inn.  My brother thought that was odd.  An hour or so later, an employee at the Olney Barn Shop next to the Inn ran into the front door and exclaimed "The Inn is on fire!  Come quickly!  Call 911!"  My brother grabbed the fire extinguisher and ran outside only to see the entire side of the Inn in flames.  He quickly ran inside and called 911 and escorted the guests outside.  People helped gather antiques and all that could be saved and threw it onto the front lawn - all before the fire overtook the entire Inn.  My father stood on the front lawn in tears grasping his chest.  His insurance had lapsed an hour prior to the fire.  The insurance, instead, had been transferred to the people who were scheduled to purchase the Inn.  My father got nothing, but the people who were going to purchase the Inn walked away with over $700,000 dollars and decided not to buy the Inn - leaving my father, and our family in ruins.  It changed us forever. 

A few months later, we had a purchaser for the property where the Inn once stood.  Next thing we knew, the Sandy Spring Bank was building their main office onto the property.  For years, the Sandy Spring Bank had wanted to build where the Olney Inn stood.  I often wonder if the bank had something to do with the fire.  I'm only saying.  I'm not accusing.  It was arson. This is simply my opinion, that's all.

My father passed away in December, 1980.  He was 55 years old.  It was that fire that sent his health and blood pressure over the edge. 

Ultimately, it has been the good memories that I hold onto.  Memories of first dates and first kisses.  Memories of music and important guests.  Memories of seeing a boyfriend walk through the 2 sets of double-doors to my surprise.  I felt tingling up and down my spine every time I had an unexpected visitor and was working at the Inn.  Those were special times. Memories of rum buns and 8oz steak sandwiches.  Memories of Chef Mr. Bill.

I do feel sorry for the poor guy who was talking to me at the coat closet one evening.  His hair caught on fire from the candle sconce next to the coat closet.  We put out the fire to his hair, but I don't think he ever returned.  I can't say that I blame him really.

Well, that's my story and I'm stickin' with it.  My walk down memory lane.

Now for several of the Olney Inn recipes:




Serves approximately 6

4 cups canned sweet potatoes, mashed
1 orange, juice and zest of the rind
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup sweet sherry
2 egg whites beaten stiff
1 orange for slicing
chopped walnuts for topping


Combine first 6 ingredients in a 2-quart bowl, add salt and pepper to taste and pour into a 10-inch square baking pan and dribble with melted butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and serve, topping each scoop with a thin orange slice and chopped walnuts.

Would you like to have this recipe?  Just click on the recipe box below and print it off for your favorite recipe collection:



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In 1926, Clara May Downey opened the Maryland Olney Inn in Olney, Maryland in the original Farquhar home, with 3 tables. It soon became "the place to go and dine" and was frequented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It burned in 1978 in spite of 18 pieces of equipment and more than 100 firefighters. What remains are a few treasured items, some dishes and antiques, and some cherished recipes that are simple, elegant, and delicious.


40 min | 20 min prep







  1. Place crabmeat in large bowl, after removal of cartilage and shell.
  2. Mix mayonnaise, pimento, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and Tabasco together.
  3. Pour over crabmeat and toss GENTLY, not to break lumps.
  4. Divide crabmeat between 8 shell-shaped baking dishes.
  5. Top each shell with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise.
  6. Sprinkle with paprika.
  7. Place baking shells on shallow baking pan (jelly roll type).
  8. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes.
  9. Garnish with sprig of parsley, or cross 2 strips of pimento.


Would you like to have this recipe?  Just click on the recipe box below and print it off for your favorite recipe collection:



* * * * *

And, saving the best for last ...


Rum buns with glaze


This will take about 5-6 hours to prepare and worth every minute.

This recipe will make enough for 24 people so ya better have a party!

The Olney Inn was famous for its Rum Buns.  Hogates and a few other flagship restaurants in Maryland adopted the famous rum buns for serving their guests.  This recipe for sweet rum-flavored buns with raisins and cinnamon and topped with a sugary glaze is taken from an old Olney Inn recipe book. This yields 2 dozen buns but you can cut the recipe in half if you want.  The best thing about it is that you can easily freeze the buns and then heat them up for a delicious breakfast with coffee.

3 hours | 2½ hours prep

SERVES 24 , 2 dozen



2 pounds all-purpose flour PLUS ...
1 ounce all-purpose flour
6 ounces granulated sugar
5 ounces raisins
4 ounces vegetable shortening
4 ounces butter (unsalted, room temperature)
2 tablespoons grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground bakers cinnamon
1 ounce table salt
1 cup water (100 degrees F)
4 ounces fresh yeast
1 cup pasteurized or fresh eggs
2 ounces rum extract
1 cup whole milk

***Cinnamon-Sugar Mix***

2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup sugar


1 cup water
1/2 cup rum extract
6 ounces granulated sugar


2 ounces rum extract
2 ounces light corn syrup
1 ounce unsalted butter (melted)
12 ounces confectioners sugar


In a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook, combine all dough ingredients.

Mix for 20 minutes until dough is smooth, place on floured tray and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Then refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Flour work surface and roll dough out 4 inches by 20 inches. Brush with melted butter (not in above ingredients) and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mix as needed.

Roll dough strips tightly together. With knife, cut into sections three fingers wide and place in greased (not in above ingredients) muffin pans.

Place a towel over the buns and proof them (let them rise until double in size.takes between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the temperature of the room). Then bake in oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Turn pans occasionally for even baking. Remove from oven and brush with glaze immediately. Cool for at least 10 minutes, then coat with icing before serving.

Would you like to have this recipe?  Just click on the recipe box below and print it off for your favorite recipe collection:


Enjoy!  Now go and make some memories of your own and cook up some good fixins' with these recipes!


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