All Star Roofing Summer 2023

Oak Hill & Vicinity: Restaurants in Durham


By Mary Lou Nahas

For Capital Region Independent Media

The Central Hotel, pictured, has been transformed into The Shamrock House today. Contributed photo

Recently a group of architectural historians came for a tour of Oak Hill on a Saturday when there is no restaurant open there. For them, I made a list of restaurants in East Durham housed in historic buildings. I thought others might enjoy learning more about them.


Legend has it that Furlongs began as a train station in the late 1830s for the Canajoharie -Catskill Railroad. The railroad intended to connect Catskill on the Hudson River with Canajoharie on the Erie Canal.

Construction began in 1836. A total of 26 ¼ miles of track were laid, generally along the Catskill Creek. The tracks got as far as Cooksburg before the project was abandoned when the bridge over the Catskill Creek  collapsed under the weight of the train and killed an individual passenger. This disaster hastened the demise of the railroad and it went out of business in 1842.

The buildings where Furlongs is was a general store but operated as an Irish pub from at least the 1940s, first as the Longford House and later by a German couple, the Myers. 

About 1975 a Clareman named Patty O’Dea took over and changed the name to O’Dea’s Riverside Inn. He sold to Tom and Yvonne Furlong in 1988 who ran the popular pub for 24 years.

Furlongs became known as the place where the summer staff from other resorts went after their resorts closed down for the night. Furlongs was a place to hear traditional Irish music and watch televised GAA games. Today it serves meal both inside and out.


What is today the Shamrock House was the Central Hotel (central between Catskill and Middleburg). 

The venue as we know it was founded by Patrick Kellegher, who in 1937 visited his sister Mary and her husband, George Sullivan, who had just purchased Erin’s Melody in East Durham.  During that visit, on a ride along Main Street, he noticed the Central Hotel was for sale. He was so taken with the beauty of the area and its likeness to his native County Longford that he purchased the Central in 1938 and changed its name to The Shamrock House. 

In 2009, John and Sue Quirk, who owned Lawyer’s down the street, bought the business from the Kellegher family, and in 2014 Lars and Emma Molloy took over from the Quirks.

Emma, who is from County Cavan, came to the United States in 2007. She met Lars, who is from County Carlow, working in the hospitality business in New York City. Lars, who also played Gallick Football, had been to East Durham and knew Donal Gallagher, who managed GAA.

The whole Molloy family, including Emma’s sister Nichola Ni Laimhin, are here full-time to run their business. Their dining room and bar are open to the public; they serve a full daily menu with special menus for holidays. Trivia and Name That Tune draw people of all ages on Friday nights. Zumba classes are held weekly. 

The Shamrock House is the place to have birthday and anniversary parties and luncheons. They can accommodate weddings and other catered events for local groups. They have live music during the summer, music sessions and classes for kids, such as on the tin whistle. It is a warm, welcoming place and you can find Lucy Kammerer, a member of the original Kellegher family, behind the bar.


This building began as Zimmer’s Garage and then garage and dinette in the 1930s. Andy Zimmer was born in Brooklyn on April 16, 1904, the youngest of 11 children of immigrant parents Jacob and Anna Zimmer, who moved to East Durham about 1918. 

Andy, who came with his parents, was fascinated by automobiles and starting driving a taxi for the local resorts. He built the first garage in East Durham in 1930 and developed the first stretch limousine taxi in the mid 1930s. By 1933 he was selling Chevrolet cars at the site and added a dinette to the business in 1939. 

Hans and Gretel Plaza with Angel’s today. Contributed photo

As John Quirk, current owner of the property explained, the buses coming through town used to stop there and passengers asked for coffee and a snack, so Andy, always a savvy businessman, added on the dinette. 

Andy sold the business to a German family, the Kuevers, from Cairo. They enlarged the small dinette kitchen in 1981 and turned the establishment into Hans & Gretel’s (for their children Johnny and Claire), known for its terrific German food. In 1981, they advertised: “Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner…. Our homelike dining room offers you the best of home cooked meals at a reasonable price. Lunch counter and fountain service. Clean restrooms. Gift shop, Sauerbraten our specialty. Open all year. Your Hosts — the Kuever Family.” 

John Quirk, who had owned Lawyers and the Shamrock House, then purchased the property, renovated the restaurant portion back to the original Hans and Gretel design. Quirk, who enjoyed eating in the Angel’s Restaurant on Route 23 in Cairo, started talking to the two brothers who ran that establishment about moving to East Durham. The brothers, who delivered food to Stiefel’s,  decided that one brother would stay at the  Angel’s Cairo site while the other, Isaias Martinez, would come to Angel’s East in East Durham.

Today, Isaias and his family live a couple of doors down from the restaurant. Angel’s East is now an American restaurant serving an extensive menu, open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. It is definitely a family restaurant. They also do a big pizza business and they deliver. The sign still says Angel’s is located in the Hans and Gretel’s Plaza. 

For those who have been here 30 years, this all makes sense but for a real newcomer it must raise some questions if they notice and think about the ethnic diversity in East Durham, which many think of as an Irish town.


In the early 1920s, the O’Neills came to the Catskills and bought a working farm on Sunside Road in East Durham, which they turned into a boarding house known as O’Neill’s Cozy Corner.

This was in the middle of Prohibition; George, the oldest son like many others in the area, began bootlegging. Helped by his brother Frank, he operated a speakeasy in the annex of his mother’s  boarding house. He later was pressed into service by Legs Diamond. Rumor was that Legs had a still in East Durham where Sunside crosses Route 145, so there would have been no avoiding him.

George also became a partner with Dan Ahern, a Brooklyn-born Irish-American, whose casino dance hall was across from St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church. They had two bands, singing waiters, singing waitresses, a chorus line, probably a comedian and a regular floor show. After George Sr. was arrested for selling alcohol with the threat of the casino being padlocked for good, he and Ahern built a smaller piano bar nearby from which they sold alcohol. If it were padlocked, the casino would remain open.

Nellie’s as O’Neill’s on the Road back when you could not advertise liquor. Contributed photo

Before Prohibition ended, O’Neill opened a dance hall at the intersection of Route 145 and Sunside, which he called the Top Hat. The story is that while dancing girls and singing waiters entertained above, he distilled whiskey in a sub-basement and sold it in Manhattan in jugs sealed with a federal stamp that he somehow possessed. He was quite a businessman.

George married Rose Bryan in 1943, having met her at his mother’s boarding house. George Jr. (1944-2002) arrived the following year and the family moved permanently to the Haypress Night Club and Cabaret on Route 145, which he bought from Cullen, White and Slaven. George turned it into a dance hall, bar and restaurant, which he rechristened O’Neill’s On the Road to differentiate it from O’Neill’s in the Woods.

George moved the bar to the Haypress (O’Neills on the Road)’s.  He installed the bar in the dance hall section and turned the smaller back room into a dining hall. He then built an apartment in the back where his young family lived.

When George Sr. died in 1975, George Jr. continued operating O’Neill’s on the Road until 1985 when he sold it to Sean Boesler who ran it as Eileen’s for a few years. A man named Kelly operated it as Puzzles briefly. 

In the 1990s, Sean and Sue Frey, from East Durham, ran it as an Irish pub they called Darby’s.  Next it became a popular steakhouse called The Saloon run by Lacy Borwegan Sala. 

Today it is Nellie’s, an Irish country café and bar with lots of music, run by Bernadette Gavin and her family, from the well-known Gavin’s. Nellie is, of course, a reference to her grandmother, Nellie Gavin.

The O’Neills are still very much present at Nellie’s. Liz and Lalena, stepdaughters of George, who remember living in the apartment he built there, work as waitresses. Liz’s son is one of the head cooks. If you want to know more about what it was like at O’Neills On the Road, ask them.


Ed and Marie Mullan,  who met in New York City, bought a working boarding house, Mrs. Peters’ House, in 1946. They changed the name to Mullan’s Mountain Spring Hotel, expanded to include accommodation for 100 or so guests, and opened it as Mullan’s Mountain Spring Farm in 1946.

Ann and Terence Mullan took over for Re and Ed in 1973. Terry died in 1991 at the age of 44. Ann then sold the business to the Handel family.

Blackthorne has expanded into a diverse resort offering many kinds of vacationing experiences. Contributed photo

The Handels — Bob and Ginny — were not Irish (Bob immigrated from Germany as a young man), they met in the Round Top area visiting family. Ginny had the dream of having a place with horses. Bob bought an old apple farm in Cornwallville and they started Tanglewood Ranch, where they had up to 75 horses at one time, had guided horseback rides and conducted horse-drawn hayrides for guests from popular area hotels. They had two sons, Roy and Dale, who grew up in the business. As Roy and Dale married and had families of their own, it seemed time to expand. 

When Mullan’s Mountain Spring came to be for sale the family decided that it would be the right business for them. After a year, they renamed it Blackthorne (an Irish walking stick).

Today, Blackthorne, run by three generations, has an even wider offering: Irish music, bar, dining room, Catskill Mountain Thunder motorcycle rally, camping, weddings, animals, a pool and cabins. 


Matty (originally from Mayo) and Kathleen (originally from Roscommon) had established the successful Kerry’s Corner pub in Lynbrook, Long Island, in 1967. Like many others in the Irish community, they had vacationed in East Durham and had fallen in love with it.

In 1973, Kathleen and Matty bought the Edgewood Falls Farm, a 30-acre resort on Route 145, now operated by daughter Colleen and family. Colleen met her husband Dermott when he came in for Irish breakfast and she was his waitress. Their three daughters (Colleen, Maura and Katie) as well Colleen’s sisters, their families and close relatives, come up to help.

McGrath’s remains true to its family heritage. Contributed photo

Every article about McGrath’s mentions the Irish breakfast: two eggs, black and white pudding, Irish sausages, Irish bacon, beans, tomato and home-cooked soda bread and brown bread baked daily by Colleen, who has been baking it since she was 14. They are still serving that breakfast although that is not all they serve.

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