History of the John Wright Store and Restaurant
In 1916 R.P. Wilton built the large warehouse on North Front Street now home to the John Wright Store and Restaurant. Wilton, a foundryman, used bricks from the remains of the nearby Aurora Furnace, a blast furnace that had operated between 1866 and 1886 on a site north of the lime kilns, to build his warehouse.
In 1923 Wilton rented the building to B. Edmund David who installed a silk mill there. David operated nine silk mills, the largest located in Patterson, NJ, known at the time as the “silk city of the world”. When David’s five year lease expired in 1928, he offered to buy the factory from Wilton but was turned down. Instead, David bought the lot across the street and built a brick and cement structure to house his silk mill. David died in 1936, and his family, uninterested in continuing the silk business, sold the property.
One of the buyers was John Moll, also of Patterson, NJ. Moll owned the largest Jacquard tie silk manufacturing facility in the United States and had an option to buy one of David’s mills. Moll’s manager, Jim Turner, chose the Wrightsville factory because there were no other silk mills in the area to compete in the labor market. In 1936 Turner bought the silk mill for Moll and changed the name of the company to The Wrightsville Textile Company in 1937.
Eight years later, in 1945, Turner bought the Wilton building and built an overpass connecting the two factories. The Wrightsville Textile Corporation occupied both buildings until 1952 and employed 250 people, with 50 looms in the Wilton building, 150 looms in the David factory across the street, all manufacturing Jacquard tie silk.
Turner closed The Wrightsville Textile Corporation in 1951 when he rented the Wilton building to another weaving operation. At the same time he leased the David building to the Grinnell Valve Company for five years. Grinnell bought the building in 1957.
In 1965 Donsco purchased the original Wilton building from Turner to use as a warehouse and manufacturing facility for John Wright consumer products. The John Wright Store opened an outlet there in 1974 selling seconds, overruns, and discontinued items. In 1988 the John Wright Restaurant started as a sandwich shop where visitors might enjoy the view of the river. In 1980 Donsco completed the acquisition of these properties by purchasing from Grinnell the building across the street and locating its machine shop there.
Today we are a destination! A place to come for a unique shopping experience, our store offers a garden shop – Gardener of the Owl Valley and Allegro Vineyards Tasting Room. In 2010, the restaurant began a series of expansions with the addition of a timbered, four-season room and patio dining. An outdoor bar with a wood fired pizza oven followed. The newest addition is the River Room special events banquet hall on the second floor of the warehouse. At the John Wright Restaurant we always do our best to use the freshest ingredients which we buy from local farmers as much as possible. We care about our customers and are dedicated to giving a top quality shopping and dining experience.