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April 23, 2001

Houston Mill House open again with new caterer

By Michael Terrazas


With a new caterer and some new decor, the Houston Mill House is open again as a lunch and meeting destination and a tether to Druid Hills history.

Mill House Catering, a division of Gwinnett County’s Georgia Fine Restaurants, will be staffing the kitchen at Houston Mill House (HMH). The company also caters for Little Gardens in Lawrenceville and Vines Botanical Gardens.

The house also has undergone its most extensive remodeling in 20 years, according to Ron Foust, senior financial analyst for Information Technology Division and vice-president of the HMH board of directors. The remodeling includes a new paint job, a new hardwood floor in the building’s Terrace Room, new window treatments and carpet, remodeling of the kitchen and storage areas, and the opening of two new rooms—the Terrace Room and a cozy “pub” space—downstairs for meetings and private dining.

“As far as we can tell,” said HMH manager Ginny Trump, “everybody seems really pleased with the new menu, and we have many customers who are frequent visitors—two or three times a week—so that’s a good sign.”

“All our efforts are pointed toward making sure our guests are shown sincere personal service and have a memorable dining experience,” said Joe Fidelibus, vice-president of Georgia Fine Restaurants. “Our business goals are simple: To hold our guests on a pedestal, not our egos. We look forward to many years of serving the Emory community together.”

Another innovation is HMH will experiment with offering Sunday brunch, beginning this Mother’s Day, May 13. Foust said the event will be a trial to determine if brunch is a viable option.

Houston Mill devotees will be relieved to learn head chef David Newborn has retained his predecessor’s two most popular menu items: crab cakes and sesame chicken fingers. Foust said rumor has it the call to keep sesame chicken on the menu came from the highest echelons of University leadership.

“This is indeed good news about the reopening of the house,” said President Bill Chace. “We are delighted, and we thank the Emory Woman’s Club and the Houston Mill House staff for seeing to this conclusion.”

The president’s wife, JoAn, said, “The natural warmth of Houston Mill House represents the best in Emory’s traditions of hospitality and welcome.”

Built in 1922, the house’s history actually dates back to the 1870s when its namesake, Major Washington Jackson Houston, built a mill near Hahn Woods (located across Houston Mill Road from the house). Emory acquired the house in 1977, and the Woman’s Club immediately began planning its use as a hospitality center.

After spot duty as an office space and even a makeshift fraternity house, HMH opened in (more or less) its present form as a restaurant/bed-and-breakfast in 1980. During construction of the Carter Center, President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn stayed in the house, and one of the facility’s two lodging rooms is named for him. The other is named for former Emory president James Laney.

Though the University owns the house and its property, the business itself is still run by the Woman’s Club. A dramatic renovation of the house, including physical improvements such as
an elevator to make it Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant—being built in 1922, the house is grandfathered out of regulation—had been planned, but these projects will now be pushed back temporarily.

“We have a five-year plan,” Trump said. “While we have done some improvements, the elevator is down the road a bit; we just couldn’t afford it right now. We did redesign the downstairs bathroom to make it ADA-compliant, and we’re investigating the option of a portable ramp to allow wheelchair access to the main floor.”


Back to Emory Report April 23, 2001