A Bit of History on Hill Top Inn

Searching Elmira for the most beautiful setting to call their home, John L. and Louise O'Neil Sullivan discovered a site atop Jerusalem Hill, just outside the city limits. Originally the Wyckoff summer home, the Rathbone's Joy-Jack Lodge was purchased by the Sullivans in 1932. The following summer John L. and Lou started a tradition among local folk and visitors of dining on the large flagstone terrace that overlooked the Chemung Valley. This same view is more famous for its connection with Mark Twain. Mark spent 22 summers in Elmira and wrote many of his most famous works from this same East Hill. And thus it is often referred as, “The View that Inspired Mark Twain.”

Opening Hill Top Inn on July 3, 1933, the two were joined by Lou's brother, Art, and sister, Skip. Art emerged as the man behind the bar, and was soon a local favorite. John L., the amiable host, welcomed the locals and travelers to partake of Lou's famous recipes. As the cool chill of autumn arrived, guests were invited indoors. The dining room, with its hardwood floors and roaring fireplace, provided warmth and comfort for all their guests.

John L and Lou raised four children: Natalie, John L. Jr., Robert and G. Dennis. Although all four worked in the restaurant, only Bob stayed in Elmira to work alongside his parents. In 1960, Bob married Marilynn Schroeder from Chicago, and the two started their own family of four sons. Kevin, John, Michael, and Timothy would also take part in the family enterprise.
Bob soon made a name for himself as his keen eyes watched carefully over the business his parents had nurtured. As the man behind the bar, he was not only the congenial host, but also a good friend to his patrons. Marilynn continued her career in education as a teacher in Elmira, returning each night to assist her husband in the business.

In 1983, Bob began a five-year expansion project that more than doubled the size of the restaurant. One son, Michael, emerged to take the reins as manager and now owner. Michael, along with his wife Suzanne and their three children Rowan, Kieran, and Aislinn now operate the restaurant carrying on that tradition. The family has continued to enhance the property which has now become a local favorite for weddings, reunions, and special events. Hill Top Inn remains a landmark restaurant in the Chemung Valley and the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

We welcome you to Hill Top Inn. Please let us know what we can do to make your visit with us a special one. We look forward to providing you with dining experience that allows you to relax and perhaps find your own inspiration and you enjoy the amazing view, fine food, service, and Irish hospitality.