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Fire Ignites Historic Dunellen Hotel, a Timeless Landmark in Middlesex County


By: Richard L. Smith

A fire erupted in the historic Dunellen Hotel Restaurant & Rathskeller in Middlesex County on Sunday morning, bringing emergency crews to the iconic site.

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Firefighters were dispatched to the scene at 120 North Washington Street in Dunellen just before 12:55 a.m. following reports of smoke.

Upon arrival, they found smoke issuing from the basement and rising to the first floor, prompting a swift and strategic response to contain the blaze.

Crews managed to control the fire in under an hour without a total loss to the structure. 

According to information obtained from the business's website, The Dunellen Hotel is a cherished landmark dating back to 1869 and has a storied history.

Originally built by William Richardson and later becoming a home for the Alvah Gray family, founders of the First National Bank of Dunellen, the building evolved into a central community hub.

In 1925, under the ownership of Lawrence and Michael Kerwin, it was transformed into a family hotel and restaurant, initially named the Charlotte Inn. By 1929, it was famously known as the Dunellen Hotel.

Throughout the years, the hotel has played host to notable guests, including Clark Gable and the Playmates band, and even inspired a 1954 episode of 'The Honeymooners.'

Its Rathskeller bar, with its original U-shaped bar and rustic ambiance, has been a beloved gathering spot, maintaining its charm and character through the years.

According to their website, despite renovations and modernizations, including a revamped upstairs dining room, the Dunellen Hotel has preserved its historic essence.

It is a testament to the passage of time, serving as a relic of the past, a beacon of the present, and a symbol of the future.

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Thankfully, no injuries were reported in the fire, and the cause is currently under investigation.

This incident touches not just a building but the heart of a community that has long found a home within the walls of this historic establishment.

The Dunellen Hotel, having weathered many storms over its nearly 150-year history, faces yet another challenge in its remarkable journey.