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The concept that eventually led to the development of The Village Inn started in 1928, when O.K. Early of Harrisonburg wanted to provide travelers with a comfortable place to stay on the busy road of U.S. Route 11.  On property across from what are now the Rockingham County Fairgrounds, Early built The Green Lantern cottages.  Six years later, in 1934, Early moved across the street to build Oak Leigh; but two years later, in 1936, Early moved again - this time just a few hundred yards south to build Pure Village Cottages - known today, as The Village Inn.

The 1941 Directory of Accommodations from the American Automobile Association lists the Inn as:

1936 (top) 1958 (middle)
2006 (bottom)  Click any photo above to enlarge.

"Pure Village Cottages...A group of comfortable Steam-heated Cottages consisting of 26 units, 6 with private tile bath, 20 with connecting bath. Nicely furnished...private garages...electric fans and radio in every cottage. Rates: $2.50 to $3.50 for two persons, $4 to $6 for four persons..."

Son, Kermit Early (present owner of The Village Inn) began working for his father at age 12; and in 1946, after returning from his service in World Word II, Kermit Early began managing the property. He attended Bridgewater College in the mornings and worked at Pure Village in the afternoons and evenings. Building a kitchen and living area into one of the cottages, Kermit even lived in what is now Room 104 with his wife, Jean, during the first years of their marriage.

Over the years, The Village Inn has undergone several changes to keep up with the public demands of travel amenities. What started as steam heated motels with oil stoves, no water, and community shower/toilet systems eventually went on to become charming private rooms with remote controlled colored televisions, carpeted floors, whirlpool-tubs, swimming pools, kitchenettes, suites, and decks. And today, high-speed Internet access and in-room coffee makers have been added.

Kermit's son, Kevin Early, who has worked at The Village Inn since he was "old enough to walk", says: "Whirlpools, decks, and our new Suite (the only one in Harrisonburg) have made us competitive and popular."  Listings in the AAA and Mobil guides have also given them a national following. Last year, The Philadelphia Enquirer featured The Village Inn within a story about East Coast getaways.

A true family business, The Village Inn, continues to operate with help from several members of the Early family. Kevin Early, his three sisters, and mother Jean, have all worked at the Inn over the years. In fact, Jean still bakes her homemade pies and desserts for the dining room and provides color for the lobby with trimmings from her own flower garden.

Today, renovations to rooms continue to be thorough. It is not unusual to see a print by P. Buckley Moss hanging in a room or richly decorated upholstery on the furniture. In the center of rural farmland, each deck holds a spectacular view. Each room has been fitted with individual climate controls. Sensors on the doors and windows save energy by shutting off air units when they are ajar.

Though small, The Village Inn has remained competitive and on top of changes in the industry. Every room is clean and unique. Kermit ponders what changes will take place in the future: "Who is to say what else will change? What's after Whirlpools and decks as a feature? When color TVs came, I might have asked what's after color TVs? We are aware of the change of time, whether we can or will [change] is another story," Kermit says.

The years have been good to the Earlys and they have been good to their customers and employees. In the motel where Shirley Temple Black, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Gene Austin have all stayed and eaten, a new generation of loyal customers and employees can be found. Future advancements in room design might be uncertain for Kermit and Kevin Early, but one thing will assuredly hold true, good customer service and family charm will take The Village Inn well into the generations ahead.

Adapted from an article written in July, 1994 by Jeff Miller of the Shenandoah Valley Business Journal.  Excerpts from that article and information contained here have been reprinted with permission.
 


The Village Inn Dining Room
1964


The Village Inn Dining Room
2006

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