The Palmer House Cafe sits on the site of some the most important historical events in Rensselaerville. John and Peter Frisbee, brothers, built the first building here in 1801. In early documents, it was called the Frisbee dwellinghouse. Later, this tiny dwelling was removed from highway. The front was added for an inn. As the store and ballroom were added to this main house, the building continued expanding.
Joshua Aley became the next owner, followed by Asa Parker, who made the house an inn. John Rice bought the property in 1862 from Palmer, who opened a shop. The Rice family operated a general shop from this location for 100 years.
John Loring Rice, a young daguerreotypist, arrived in Concord, Massachusetts, 1850, riding a horse and a covered wagon. He carried his camera and developing tools. John Loring Rice, a young daguerreotypist, was already the owner of this shop by 1862. John L. Rice issued lithographed “shinplasters” exchange notes to provide credit for customers who purchased his store. Rensselaerville received the first telephone in 1883. The store was the place where it was installed. John gave Old Hudson River Telephone Company $60 an year in tolls for the installation of the telephone line to the village. The switchboard was installed in the store to allow customers to get telephones. At one time, six lines entered the building. John L. Rice was assisted by his son Frank, who changed the name to J.L. Rice & Son. William Rice Senior, who purchased the store from Frank in 1920, and owned it until 1965. His job was to push the button that rang Conkling Hall’s fire alarm every Sunday at noon. Over the next 20 years, the store was managed by Robert & Edith Lansing who operated it under the name Village Market.
The building was sold to Bill Benson and Susan Lenane in 1986. The Palmer House Hotel in Chicago inspired the name of the cafe. Potter Hollow was the home of Potter Palmer, founder of the Palmer House Hotel. Potter Hollow, a small community located in the southwest corner Rensselaerville, is where he lived until he was 17.
The Palmer House Cafe can be found in the 150-year old store front. The store’s main room was the kitchen. The main dining room houses the tavern. Susan and Bill have collaborated since the beginning to create unique menus using local produce.
This tradition continues as Chef Micah Kuhar creates original dishes with farm-raised meats, vegetables, and other ingredients.