King George Inn jinx was in its deplorable name

The King George Inn was jinxed from the day in 1970 when the restaurant was named after one of the worst rulers in the history of the world. They may as well have called it the Adolf Hitler Inn.

The fact that a historic building is facing doom is a shame, but blame the name.

As we learned last week from The Morning Call's Daniel Patrick Sheehan, the King George Inn's owner has agreed to sell it to New Jersey developer Atul Patel, who wants to demolish it and replace it with a motel, a bank and a drug store.

The deal depends on action by the South Whitehall Township Zoning Hearing Board, which next meets in three weeks. (The building is near the Allentown city line.) From a legal standpoint, things are not looking good for the 1756 structure that once hosted John Adams and other notables from the nation's formative period.

It was used as a drilling ground for the Minutemen of the American Revolution, Sheehan observed. And before 1970, the establishment had other names, such as the White Horse Inn or Ernie's Place.

While I'm not sure "Ernie's Place" would have appealed to diners seeking an upscale restaurant, it could not have been worse than the name honoring King George III, who represented the exact opposite of everything that's good about America.

My wife and I dined there a time or two and the food and service were fine, but I never could get comfortable with the sign out front and other reminders of the royal tyrant who forced Americans to revolt, which turned out to be the most fortuitous moment in world history.

We have abandoned other restaurants for other reasons. I once devoted a column to the demise of the Lone Star Steakhouse on Grape Street in Whitehall Township. When its closing was blamed on "the economy," I pointed out that it was more likely because of bad service. We once were ignored there for 15 minutes by waiters and waitresses. (I detest the term "servers," which should be reserved for people playing tennis.)

Previously, Sheehan reported that the King George closed last year because of what its owner said was "a slow decline in business that began in 2006" brought about by competition from restaurant chains and "the general poor state of the economy."

I beg to differ. I think it was because there are enough people who know enough about American history to be revolted by anything associated with George III.

To put this in perspective, how many restaurant owners would be dumb enough to name a place after Benedict Arnold?

Arnold, however, was a genuine hero until he went bad, which happened only after he was treated atrociously during the American Revolution by the Continental Congress. Without Arnold, the American Revolution certainly would have failed. Look up what happened at Fort Ticonderoga, at the pivotal naval Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain, or at Saratoga.

Gen. Horatio "Granny" Gates took the credit for victory at Saratoga, thanks to cronies in Congress, and the true nature of his incompetence and cowardice was not revealed until the Battle of Camden, S.C., years later. (Gates abandoned his men and did not stop fleeing until he reached safety 60 miles away, and was shielded from criminal charges by those same cronies.)

Arnold will always be remembered as a traitor. Even so, he deserves more honors than George III. For any rational person, from a historical standpoint, naming a restaurant the Benedict Arnold Inn makes far more sense than the King George Inn.

There needs to be a price for the lack of appreciation of history.

I know it's not the building's fault that somebody pinned that name on it. And it's indeed a historic building, as pointed out in another article last week, a "Newsmaker Q&A" featuring Joseph Garrera, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum.

"The demolition of this site [the King George Inn] is part of a more serious and pernicious decline," Garrera said, attributing the problem to a deliberate movement in America that has "de-emphasized the teaching of U.S. history and the key texts of our national origins."

I completely agree with Garrera's concerns about the teaching of history, but I must disagree with him on what's pernicious about the King George Inn situation. That hoodooed name is what's pernicious.

Maybe there is time to save the day. Take down that awful sign and replace it with something that deserves honor. Maybe they could call it "The Minuteman Inn" or something that similarly honors those who deserve to be honored.

If they do that right away, maybe the members of the South Whitehall Township Zoning Hearing Board, if there are any board members who ever read a history book, will be persuaded at their Aug. 28 meeting to try to save that 1756 building.

I hereby promise that if the building reopens as The Minuteman Inn or something like that, I'll eat there regularly, and I'm sure many others will, too.

As it stands, George III deserves only to be reviled through all eternity and anything named after him, including a restaurant or a new royal baby in England (even though George III was only one part of a long succession of Georges), will be burdened with his repugnant stench.

paul.carpenter@mcall.com 610-820-6176

Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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