End of an era: Harris' Pelham Inn shuttered by pandemic

BREANNA EDELSTEIN/Staff photo. Harris' Pelham Inn is closing after 100 years in business. The owners say COVID-19 conditions led to the decision to stop hosting weddings and other functions.

PELHAM — Harris’ Pelham Inn is permanently closed after impacts of COVID-19 became too much for the landmark family business to overcome.

With gratitude for a century of community support, the Harris family announced the closure July 8 with a Facebook post. Nearly 1,000 people shared and commented, many with memories of weddings, parties and proms. 

The Harris family expressed, as did many past guests, “It was always a pleasure.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the venue. Beginning with the ‘state issued’ mandate to close for several months, followed by the magnitude of ‘social-distancing’ restrictions put in place,” the Facebook post reads. “We are unable to operate our business in adherence with these guidelines.”

The property will remain as is, and continue to be family-owned, the post explains.

More than four generations of the Harris family have been at the helm, hosting wedding ceremonies and receptions, community events and other functions in waterfront banquet halls.

According to the family’s website and records from the Pelham Historical Society, brothers Harry and George Harris — great-grandfather and great-great-uncle of the generation now in charge — bought 37 acres of farm land with intentions to build a summer resort in 1900.

It was completed in 1906 and called the Grand View House.

The Harris' website reminisces about the 38-bedroom resort having the conveniences of chambermaids, bell hops and horse and surrey transportation to and from the electric car line a mile away.

Telephones were connected in 1909 and room rates were $7 to $10 per person, per week, which included three meals a day. In 1918 the resort name changed to Harris’ Pelham Inn.

Though guest rooms were no longer offered and the switch to functions was underway, the Harris family continued to value home cooking and quality service, they said.

According to the Historical Society, the Inn stopped operating as a summer resort in 1961. With the arrival of motels and camping, the business for resort stays had diminished. The inn was converted to function rooms with more space added upstairs the following year.

The late George W. Harris Jr. — who was born in Pelham in 1928 and died in 2012 — often acknowledged, “There is always a great temptation to sell.”

But, “There is a certain amount of pride in holding on to a family business. It is not always about the money,” according to Historical Society archives.

He was the fourth generation to run the century-old inn.

Praise for the family legacy flooded social media with the news of the facility's bitter end.

A 2021 bride planning her wedding at Harris' Pelham Inn thanked the family for their honesty and compassion during the pandemic and subsequent cancellation.

She was consoled virtually, by a stranger, who was married at the place 36 years ago.

The announcement came the same day of another bride's 31-year anniversary. She commented, "I am so sorry to hear this."

Hundreds of others were reminded of their own celebrations, including academic and athletic fundraisers, retirement dinners, pop-warner football ceremonies, as well as police and fire events.

The Harris family did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

Their Facebook announcement closes by stating, "We will miss you all."

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