Fred Smith bought a 40-acre farm with 800 feet of shore frontage on Crescent Beach in Owls Head, building an open dancing pavilion in1895 where he also served fish chowders. Later improvements included adding a canvas and then a wooden roof, a dining room seating 400 people, a kitchen, verandas, a long pier for steamboat landings, and one of the four telephones in town. Responding to requests for accommodations, the building pictured was constructed in 1890, providing 13 rooms and a kitchen and dining room downstairs. The barn for the cows producing milk for the popular chowders is behind the Inn on the right.
Smith was instrumental in building the electric line that brought the pictured trolley cars to the Inn from Rockland, purchasing bonds to help finance its construction. While extremely popular, ridership waned with the rise of the automobile and compounded by a trolley on its way to the Inn leaving the tracks in a 1914 accident that claimed a life.
Smith ran the Inn until he became blind. It was then operated under lease until it was given new life when purchased by George and Peg Sleeper in 1936. Closed during World War II, one side of the building sank, resulting in the floor sloping and giving the Inn the name “Tiltin’ Hilton” and adding to George’s reputation as a great bartender!
After major renovations, the Sleepers had 25 guest rooms and a long list of activities. It was only a matter of time before the Inn and the Sleepers became famous, attracting summer visitors nationwide as well as local groups and families. In 1970 Peg became ill, and the Inn was sold to Mikial and Florence Leo, who ran it for several years. To the dismay of many locals, the entire complex was demolished in 1982 to make way for new development.
Bonnie Dyer Post
Mussel Ridge Historical Society