by Michael Vyskocil, photography by Gregory Blank
It’s served a president; it’s nurtured a rich tradition of brewing. Here, comfort food chicken and waffles share company with on-site brewed craft beers. This is the Altland House in Abbottstown.
Located on the town’s Center Square, this Adams County dining and inn landmark continues to serve a new generation of guests while acknowledging a history that stretches back more than 100 years.
Building off the traditions of dining at Lulu’s and the Underside (the former names for the establishment’s two on-site restaurants), the Altland House now invites guests to dine at the Grill and Pub and Brewery. Upstairs, the Altland House Inn and Suites portion offers contemporary accommodations for out-of-area travelers seeking a distinctive hotel experience in the Gettysburg and Hanover area.
While Center Square Brewing may be news to longtime Altland House patrons, there’s nothing new about the traditions of serving good food and good beer on the site.
“We continue to research our history, but we are close to confirming that we are the oldest continuously operating tavern in the United States,” said Ryan Haugh, who, along with his brother Ben and his father Michael, operate the Altland House.
The building has seen several changes throughout the decades, including physical building modifications, but the tavern experience has always remained available to patrons since the earliest confirmed date of 1763. Even the name Altland House reflects an evolution over the centuries, with earlier names being Sign of the Indian King (1808–1818), Indian King (1818–1836), Rising Sun House of Entertainment (1836–1858) and Washington Hotel (1858–1872).
The building expanded under the visionary work of Rueben Altland, the business’s namesake. Altland bought the restaurant and inn in the 1880s, and his family managed the business until 1954 when Betty Haugh, Ryan’s grandmother, ran the establishment. Betty — who actually began her career with the Altland House as a waitress in the early 1940s — created the customer service focus that remains a tenet of Altland House hospitality.
“She served people like President [Dwight D.] Eisenhower and multiple guests who had what we’d call celebrity status, but she didn’t treat them any different from any other guest here,” Ryan said. “She just loved taking care of people, and she thrived off the satisfaction of knowing when people were happy. Every day of her life was absolutely focused on serving her customers at the Altland House.”
Today, the Altland House property consists of two restaurants, 10 hotel rooms, two banquet rooms and a brewery. But its history is still recalled through the old photos hanging in the restaurant and brewery.
Center Square Brewing at the Altland House embraces a consumer interest in handcrafted microbrews. “We needed a niche, and the brewery idea just made sense,” Ryan said.
Housed in the lower level of the Altland House, Center Square Brewing features handcrafted beer brewed on a three-barrel brew house. The brewery strives to incorporate fresh, local ingredients to create distinctive beers with an Adams County flair.
Head brewer Adam Myers, a Spring Grove native, has taken his home brewing hobby to new heights. Visitors can expect to find four rotating drafts and a rotating seasonal beer, with offerings such as German Altbier, German Chocolate Stout, Center Square IPA, and Dunkelwiezen. Ryan noted that Center Square Brewing also pours its own beers at other locations.
What can you pair with all of these beer options? From sandwiches to soup and wings to wraps, you’ll find something hearty to complement your glass of brew when dining downstairs in the Pub and Brewery.
Where Filet Mignon and Flatbread Pizza Coexist
Upstairs, the Grill presents guests with casual cuisine choices in a comfortable setting. The menu here (the same menu you can find downstairs in the Pub) likewise reflects the Altland House’s preservation of historic specialties along with contemporary-style dishes, such as salmon cooked over cedar planks.
“We will always focus on fine food and service, but we have a blend in the menu that reaches all types of people and all types of dining interests,” Ryan said. “I can walk through the dining space, and I’ll see a table where people are ordering filet mignon and flatbread pizza.”
You can thank Executive Chef Jeff Cowoski and his team for bringing this innovation from kitchen to table.
When it comes to classic fare, nothing could top the signature turtle soup, a local legend more than 80 years in the making. Crafted from legally approved snapper turtle meat, this hearty soup gets its distinctive taste from a piquant spice blend and a dash of sherry.
A chicken and waffles pairing — “about as Adams County as you can get,” said Ryan — layers fresh roasted chicken with gravy on top of crisp waffles. And family recipes still abound. The meatloaf is Betty’s recipe; paired with red-skinned mashed potatoes, it’s been satisfying hungers for decades.
Chef-prepared desserts add a finale to your dining experience and uphold another hospitality tradition that Betty Haugh was so fond of: a special coffee tray complete with chocolate chips, cinnamon sticks, and fresh whipped cream.
Themed dining months cover explorations of cuisines like Caribbean and special focuses such as seafood (sample the oysters during November’s oyster month). During the summer, the emphasis is on the fresh and local: “We have great relationships with local vendors,” Ryan said. “We understand the importance of trying to bring local Adams County products to the menu and our beers, and we sit in an area where you can get great local produce and ingredients.”
In addition to the Altland House, the Haughs also manage hospitality services for Liberty Forge Golf Course in Cumberland County, Roundtop Mountain Resort in York County, and Penn National Golf Course in Franklin County, and they own the Wyndham Garden York and the Best Western in King of Prussia.
“People ask me why I do what I do. Part of me is driven by continuing the traditions and standards that my grandmother started years ago,” Ryan said. “I watched my grandmother and father do this for years, and it’s the people and the relationships that we form with our customers that are as special as anything we get out of this business.”