A restaurant that opened during the Great Depression in 1933 and became a symbol of an idyllic life along the Fox River in Geneva succumbed to the current economy and served its final diners on Sunday.
Mill Race Inn owner Charlie Roumeliotis announced late last week that he would have to close the Geneva icon because of a struggling economy and some recent setbacks related to flood damage at the site.
Staff at the Mill Race Inn acknowledged that the weekend was very busy at the restaurant, with several patrons expressing sadness and reflection about past experiences at the restaurant and its beautiful setting along the Fox River.
Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns called the closing "gut-wrenching" for most longtime Geneva residents, but felt it was "another indication of a community evolving."
Burns said the city's economic development department is "ready, willing and able to work with anyone regarding a future use at that location."
The site, near the State Street and Route 25 intersection and the Island Park area, was originally a blacksmith shop built in 1837 by brothers Julius and Edward Alexander. A dam was built nearby to furnish a grist mill, paving the way for the future name of Mill Race Inn.
That came about years after the blacksmith shop was destroyed in a fire and a building was rebuilt to house a laundry and carriage shop, prior to Ann and Marjorie Forsythe opening a summertime tea room called Mill Race Inn in 1933.
But this is 2011, and the city may be evolving to the point where a different concept for that site may come into play, Burns said.
"My thoughts are that there has been a significant change in dining habits, and that it is possible that the Mill Race Inn space and property could be ripe for a new kind of dining experience for a younger crowd, with maybe a focus on entertainment."
Burns said it would make sense to him that a future owner would want to take advantage of the younger population in the region, and possibly make it a more casual dining experience as a principal element.
"It could be, that sitting down for a two-hour dinner is becoming more difficult."
The impact and emotion of the present form of Mill Race Inn closing is tough for many people to accept.
"It's an emotional day for the Roumeliotis family," Burns said. "And it is definitely impacting Genevans who have fond memories of Mill Race Inn."