Monday, February 15, 2010

The White Turkey Inn, Danbury, CT part 1

I'm the first to admit that I develop little obsessions. I think, as a person who really enjoys creating--whether it's putting together an ensemble, preparing a complicated meal, making a "love" collage or researching a project--it's easy to allow ourselves to develop more than a passing interest in small and seemingly obsessive details. When I worked in a small history museum, I'd spend entire days thumbing through the old local newspapers or boxes of family history papers to help flesh out a provenance, anecdote, or story.

I'll also admit that I've been a New Yorker reader/fanatic for most of my life. There's still a pile or two of them in my old bedroom in Minnesota and I can't resist looking through any old copies that I find in an old bookstore or antiques shop. I've spent hours reading over old The Race Track columns written by Audax Minor (the pen name of George F. Ryall, a Canadian writer) wherein he not only discussed the horses, but he'd describe with delicious detail both the high society and nearly ubiquitous Runyonesque racing aficionados. I know I have only scratched the surface of all the columns, but delving into these vignettes of the horse world--from the 1930s and 40s especially--is not only educational and entertaining, it's downright interesting.

On one such (likely rainy) afternoon, I'd been reading through the New Yorker digital archive and happened upon this advertisement near one of the columns on polo or horse racing.

Hmmm, I thought. How intriguing. Like something out of Holiday Inn or Christmas in Connecticut, no doubt. A classic New England inn, close enough to NY City for day trips, but far enough out to realize you are not in NYC, either. Living in the area and being a complete fanatic of that sort of idealized old New England, I began to conjure up all kinds of images in my mind. I wasn't sure I'd be able to find out much more about the establishment, let alone find images of what it might have looked like, so I just started to dig a little deeper in the New Yorker Archive.

Throughout the 30s and 40s and even into the 50s, the New Yorker would do small articles on dining out at inns or supper clubs that were within an hour or so of the city. At certain times of the year (noticeably summer and autumn) they would include trips that were farther afield and had broader dining suggestions.

Showing up in many of these round-ups or at times in the Supper Clubs section of the Goings On About Town pages, was The White Turkey Inn. 

In this mention from the August 20th issue of 1938, the inn is mentioned both in the front Goings On area (under the title "Pleasant places here and there along the road for dinner--without dancing--while motoring) and later on in a piece about restaurants.  (click on either clip to enlarge and read)


I do love when one of my little obsessions is validated...clearly The White Turkey Inn in Danbury--and it's sister restaurants in the W Village and Midtown--were both popular and important once upon a time. 

More on my findings and the fun I've had along the way in the coming days. Especially with little footnote stories like this, the journey is all the fun and there is real joy in discovery. Hope you'll want to join me for the rest of my little sojourn into the history of The White Turkey Inn. 


Sid Fernando said...

Michele, really enjoyed this post, and I have to tell you I was a regular reader of Audax Minor -- one of the best to cover the game, especially New York.

Mary Catherine said...

The White Turkey Inn is featured in A Guide to Distinctive Dining (Ruth V. Noble) "The delicious meals are served on Wedgewood and Spode."

Not only is a lovely photo of the inn included in the review but also the recipe for pecan pie.

babz said...

My mom and I used to stop at the little bake shop for sticky cinnamon buns. We'd wander around the gardens and lake and look at the swans. Such a magical place. I cannot believe it was torn down.
It should have been a registered landmark building.

P said...

Hi, just stumbled on your blog after google-ing the White Turkey Inn. Are you aware that Ludwig Bemelmans was a owner/investor/ whatever you'd like to call it, of the Inn? I love his short fiction and collect his New Yorker covers. I was dismayed to find out that it has been closed for so long....guess I won't be making a trip up north.

The Paper Tyger said...

I was aware of the Bemelmans connection...his wife, Madeline, was the sister of the General Mgr (a gent named Freund) at the White Turkey. I've not been able to sort out what exactly Bemelmans did...if he was an owner (as the newspapers reported) or an investor, or manager, or what. He did a painting that used to be at the Met called White Turkey Kitchen. I've not seen it, they deaccessioned it, but I bet it's fun. Love his work!

Anonymous said...

The White Turkey Inn was where Roger Lea MacBride first met Rose Wilder Lane, in 1946, while his father, Burt MacBride, was editing a novel of Rose's for Readers Digest. Roger inherited Rose's books and those of her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder -- the Little House on the Prairie books.

bradmacmt said...

I spent many an hour in the kitchen in the late 1960's. My best friend was the owners son. My friend sadly died of Leukemia in 1969 at a young age. I miss him still and treasure my memories of the White Turkey Inn. It was tragically torn-down in 1972... how such a thing could have happened is nearly incomprehensible.

Bert Gunn said...

my grandparents, Harry and Dorothy Davega, owned and operated the White turkey Inn from about 1936 to probably mid 40;s . my mother lived there at some point during that time.
they later owned the 3 White Turkey restaurants in NY city and the Red Barn restaurant in Westport, CT.

KC Matchgirl said...

Very interesting- did you ever get around around to creating Part 2 of the story?

Debi Williams said...

While going through my husband's grandmother's belongings we came across a menu from the White Turkey dated Monday April 22, 1946. Would someone like it? She lived in Ontario Canada