Category Archives: Garrett County

Mile 24 – Penn Alps, Grantsville, Md.

The entrance to Penn Alps on a rainy evening.

Tucked neatly near the Casselman River near the Casselman River Bridge, Penn Alps has been serving traditional American fare since the late 1950s.

Like The Casselman Inn just up the road, Penn Alps features a menu built around the German-inspired Mennonite and Amish cuisine, but Penn Alps has a larger dining area, seems to have a bit larger menu and also has a popular buffet. Other dining rooms can be, and are often, reserved for private dinners.

A sample of the typical buffet food at Penn Alps.

Besides being adjacent to the National Road, the history of Penn Alps itself is tied to transportation. Although the present building is comprised of several additions, the original building dates to around 1818, and served travelers along the National Road. The oldest alignment of the highway that leads to the Casselman River Bridge is along the north side of the building, which is the oldest part of the complex. The modern U.S.-40 ALT alignment runs immediately to the south.

The lobby at Penn Alps.

Since Alta Schrock, the founder of Penn Alps, bought the building, the entire facility has evolved into a campus, featuring the Spruce Forest Artisan Village, which provides space for area craftsmen to produce and show off their work. Included in this complex of buildings is an early 19-Century house – the Miller House – and Stanton’s Mill, an old gristmill. While the grounds are free and always open, the actual artisans are at their posts intermittently from May through October.

Some of the work produced at Spruce Forest can be purchased in the gift shop inside the Penn Alps  restaurant. The shop also sells locally-produced baked and canned goods to take home.

One of the dining areas at Penn Alps.

Penn Alps is an ideal stop for travelers and locals who not only want to sample great food, but who are also looking for a locally-produced quality souvenir – edible or not.

Penn Alps is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Buffet hours are Friday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and all day Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant can be reached at 301-895-5985.
Penn Alps Restaurant and Craft Shop on Urbanspoon

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Mile 25 – The Casselman Inn, Grantsville, Md.

The Casselman Inn, Grantsville, Md.

When the National Road was first built, taverns and inns sprang up along the side of the road, catering to long distance travelers, who, in the 1800s, could only travel a limited distance each day. Many of these inns are still standing, but have since been converted into private residences or other uses. The Casselman Inn in Grantsville, however, still operates the same way it has for nearly 200 years – as both a place for food and a place to sleep.

The Casselman is unique in that it blends two facets of Americana – a historic inn and Mennonite culture, which is especially strong in eastern Garrett County. The modestly-decorated dining area has the look and feel of a large family dining room, complete with a fireplace. Staff is typically dressed in either a modest, plainer clothes or sometimes even  more traditional Mennonite attire (think head coverings, for women). Every person a diner encounters – regardless of wait staff, hosts or bakers – is friendly and hospitable, making the restaurant feel even more less like a restaurant and more like a family’s home.

The hot roast beef sandwich at The Casselman.

The food is extremely well-priced, and many of the features are cheaper than a meal at a fast-food chain. Many of the ingredients are made-from-scratch on-site, and the bread is freshly made in a bakery in the basement (again, a traditional Mennonite connection). The menu pulls together traditional American, Mennnonite and local (seafood) cuisine. Despite the more or less “plainness” of the food, everything has rich flavor. For myself, I had the hot roast beef sandwich, which was served on Casselman Inn-made bread. Should one visit for dinner, bread and butter are included with just about everything on the menu. Just to point out a difference between the Casselman and many other inns still operating on the National Road – no alcohol is served (there are just Mennonite connections everywhere!). On the way out, there is the opportunity to buy many of the Casselman-made foods, notably bread, apple butter and desserts. See the menu here.

For overnight accommodation, the Casselman has two options: the first is a 40-room motor inn directly behind the original building that was built a few decades ago. The other option is one of four guest rooms in the old building – upstairs above the restaurant part.

So why all the Mennonite connections? The answer stems from both the heavy presence of Amish/Mennonite adherents in Garrett County and Somerset County, Pa. (many of whom used the National Road to move to this area), and the current owning family, the Millers. The Casselman was built in 1824 as “Drover’s Inn.” Over the decades of its existance, the name and owners have switched several times, until Ivan and Della Miller bought the property in the 1960s. Since Ivan was a Mennonite bishop, it only made sense for the Millers to operate their business in accordance with their beliefs. Although both patriarch and matriarch have died, the Miller family continues to operate the business in the same manner. (Small world note: my journalism professor at Huntington University in Indiana was Kevin Miller, who is a direct descendant of Ivan and Della. Yes, he is also a strong Mennonite).

One of the shelves of available food for sale at The Casselman.

The Casselman Inn is located at 113 E. Main St. in Grantsville – right in the heart of the town. The inn is open for three-meal service Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Everything but the lodging side of the business is closed on Sunday (need I say more about Mennonite connections?). The restaurant can be reached at 301-895-5266, and the number for overnight accommodations is 301-895-5055.

For those who are also interested with the National Road (like me), right in front of the Casselman is a mile marker with two historic-information signs.

The Casselman Inn on Urbanspoon


Mile 24 – Casselman River Bridge S.P.

The original Casselman River Bridge near Grantsville, Md.

Just outside the town of Grantsville, Md. is Casselman River Bridge State Park, a small, four-acre site that preserves a stone bridge that served as the original crossing of the National Road over the Casselman River. The 80-foot bridge was built in 1813, and underwent a significant restoration in the 1970s. At the time of its construction, it was the longest single-span stone arch bridge in the country.

The current U.S. 40 bridge and the I-68 bridge from the original Casselman River Bridge.

Interestingly, this crossing was in use as part of the National Road until 1933, when the modern bridge that carries ALT-U.S. 40 was built. And in the 1980s, Interstate 68 was completed slightly farther upstream. In lobby of the Penn Alps restaurant, which lies just beyond the eastern end of the old bridge, there is an aerial shot of all three bridges crossing the Casselman River, which to me is an interesting juxtaposition of transportation history in the U.S. In fact, even from ground level, it’s possible to get photos of all three bridges together.

The park is free, but unstaffed, and is located at 10240 National Pike, Grantsville. A recently-completed walking path and crosswalk enables visitors to walk to the park and Penn Alps from Grantsville. There are picnic tables and plenty of room to walk around and fishing is allowed in the Casselman River. For more information, visit the Maryland DNR’s web page for the park here.

The deck of the Casselman River Bridge