Ed Brown to put Mill Tavern in Derry up for sale After 50 years, owner says he's closing restaurant

By Bruce Frauman
©2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

After 50 years, Ed Brown intends to put his Londonderry restaurant, the Mill Tavern, up for sale after he serves the last guests when he closes the restaurant up for the season on Saturday, March 31.

Mill Tavern in the evening. All photos by Bruce Frauman.

While an old looking for sale sign hangs on the inside front door, and Brown has told a number of people of his plan, no sales listing either with a real estate agent or by owner could be found. He has indicated he’ll sell the property himself.

For years, Brown, a resident of Windham, has been a fixture in Londonderry, a big man with a ready smile and a well-trimmed beard. Many summer Saturdays, he can be spotted at the West River Farmers Market, at the park on the other side of his parking lot, talking to friends. He rents the lot to the farmers market for use by its customers.

Last September, he found himself embroiled in controversy when he painted over a floral mural designed by elementary school students. While it adorned a wall across the street from his restaurant, he said he found it unsightly. He was charged with unlawful mischief, and that case is slated for court. While he had his detractors, many people agreed with his intent if not his action.

Tavern conceived as a rooming house for skiers

As for his iconic Mill Tavern, which takes up a chunk of land along Route 11 in Londonderry, it has seen a variety of chefs come and go, but the menu has remained essentially the same: steaks, seafood, pasta, soups, salads and desserts. And for the last 20 plus years, Brown has operated the restaurant on a limited schedule: from mid-December to the end of March.  For the past 15 years, at least half the waitstaff has spent those winter evenings in the Mill Tavern.

Interior of tavern at entrance.

In a 2015 interview on GNAT-TV, Brown said he bought the building during a visit from his home in New Jersey. And beginning in 1967 and for the 15 following years, Brown said, he and his twin brother Al hosted bands seven nights a week. Originally conceived as a rooming house for skiers for three years Brown and his brother rented out rooms upstairs. They eventually decided making beds was not a strength.

By state rules, if they wanted to serve alcohol, they also had to serve food, so Brown decided to open as a steak house. Those roots are still evident in the menu today.

Brown said he and his brother built the stone fireplace atop a brick chimney Brown hung antiques from the high ceilings, and populated the walls with his artwork and antique tools. Subdued lighting from the ceiling and orange hanging lamps are complimented by the warm light of lanterns, the globes of which are cleaned and wicks trimmed every day.

A for sale sign at the front entrance.

The building began as a woolen mill run by Albert Allbe in the 1860s to replace cotton unavailable for uniforms during the Civil War, Brown said. It closed in 1871. Articles provided by Mark Wiley said in 1883, the building was converted into a machine shop by Freeman Williams until 1894, when he sold it to Horace Hayward. The building was sold by Hayward’s wife Eliza in 1905.  In the years in between before Brown purchased it, the building served as a lunch shop and fabric hanging museum.

Brown is hoping the new owner will maintain the business and the ambiance he created.

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