Smith's Tavern Our history
Hospitality, in the form of good spirits and nourishing food, has been the calling card of this establishment along the Vly Creek since Nick Oliver built his West End Hotel on the spot in 1901. The property sported an ice house closer to the creek where blocks of ice were harvested each winter for use by the hotel as well as village residents.
The West End was favored by locals for food and drink but it also provided a few select rooms upstairs for vacationers who wished to visit the Helderbergs during the summer months or simply walk along the banks of local streams to escape the heat of brick and pavement of the cities. Voorheesville was a well-sought-out destination for vacationers during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.
In July 1937 Frank J. Cramer received his license for beer and food and the West End Hotel became the Cramer House. Then in 1945 the tavern received its now familiar moniker when Frank Smith and his wife Elizabeth sold their gas station in the center of the village and took over the now-beloved “Smitty’s.”
When Frank Smith Jr. and wife Gert took over bar and kitchen in 1959 they did live up stairs for several years rekindling the embers of the hotel era—they introduced and later perfected what was to become Smith’s Tavern’s award-winning pizza. The duo told an interviewer from The Altamont Enterprise when they retired in 1991 that they were proud to have served their millionth pizza two years earlier. Gert’s delicious German potato salad is still served from the kitchen each day. An oil painting of these historic figures hangs in the large dining room to keep the history of this establishment alive.
In the Fall of 1991 Jon McClelland and John Mellen, as new owners of the historic eatery, tied on their aprons and responded to the challenge of history by bringing the already-renowned pizza to regional fame with awards for “The Villager” (TV-10) and “The Metrolander” (Metroland’s Best Pizza Award).
The two Johns (or is it Jons) also sponsored the first Smith’s Tavern Poet Laureate Contest in April 2010 offering cash prizes for the most outstanding poets of the region. A statue of William Shakespeare sits atop the hutch in the bar area near the POETS’ CORNER with the names of the annual winners engraved.
Fans of Smitty’s food and drink and history buffs alike can find out more about the past of this renowned hotel, restaurant, and bar—as well as the other great hotels in the village during the late-nineteenth century by visiting the history book of Voorheesville Village Historian, Dennis Sullivan, Voorheesville, New York: A Sketch of the Beginnings of a Nineteenth Century Railroad Town. The New Scotland Historical Association is in the process of putting out a third printing of this well-regarded local history.
In the meantime, whether you come to Smitty’s to take your favorite stool at the bar, watch the trains tootle along the large-scale track stretching along the ceiling of the bar, or order one of the now-renowned pizzas, you will be reminded of the words of Frank Smith about the quality that has made Smitty’s a household name, “You have to pay attention to what you're doing. If you get a good product you don't try to cheapen it by cutting corners. We always bought the best products that go into the pizza. The whole reason why the pizza was so good is that we made our own dough, fresh every day, it's very simple —that's what makes the difference. We made our own sauce.”