BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, N.J. (July 9, 2014) – Unity Bank has provided a $2 million loan funding the renovation and recent re-opening of a restaurant in the Basking Ridge section of the township now known as Washington House, located at 55 S. Finley Ave. at the corner of Henry Street. Operated as The Ridge Tavern until last summer, the restaurant features a colorful history that dates back to 1871 when it was known as the Washington House Hotel.
“We gutted the structure, stripping it down to its frame in order to return the building to its 19th century style,” said Mark Marrazza, a Martinsville resident who also owns the Tewksbury Inn. “Our goal was to create a casual atmosphere with a historic feel where people could enjoy everything from a wonderful meal to a burger or just relax at the bar and take in a game.”
The loan funded the $600,000 renovation project and refinanced a previously existing Small Business Administration (SBA) loan on the property and business, which includes a liquor license. The Ridge closed last summer when Marrazza partnered with the Jepsen family, long-time township residents and owners of Scandic Builders, Inc., which completed the renovation project. Washington House offers three dining rooms and a bar area, each with its own character.
“Unity Bank has been just terrific to work with for the last eight years,” said Marrazza. “They really helped to make our dream of Washington House a reality. It is so refreshing to deal with a bank where you are not a number, where you can actually speak with the people making decisions.”
Washington House has been through many changes over the years from its early days as an inn to serving as a social and political center when the Bernards Township Committee held its regular monthly meetings at the hotel in 1906 to the prohibition years between 1920 and 1933, when it was reportedly well known for its applejack and a secret bootlegger’s storeroom in the basement. The facility operated as a hotel through the 1950s.
“Washington House definitely has a colorful history and the owners should be congratulated for paying tribute to the past while introducing the comforts of today,” said Unity Bank President & CEO James A. Hughes. “They really have created an atmosphere that has something for all tastes and we are proud to be their financial partner. I’m sure Washington House will be a great success.”