Hills’ Tavern was built in 1821 by Jonathan Doty. Constructed of brick, it measured 30’ x 20’. The barn in back contained stairs which were later used in one of the old Geneseo schoolhouses. It is said that a rose bush planted at the time of construction was still blooming 80 years later.
In 1833 Erastus Hills moved here from Livonia with his family and acquired the property surrounded by woods. On the main stage route from Canandaigua to the west, the tavern became a popular stopping place. The hospitality of the Hills and the fine quality of the food became well-known to travelers. The Hills made additions to the east and north sides of the building and a large barn was added near the road. Meals were simple but good and no one looking for a night’s lodging was ever turned away. There were often two or three people to a bed or on blankets in the front room. Drovers taking their cattle to eastern markets as well as pioneers heading west in covered wagons found it a convenient stopping place. If any travelers were unable to pay for lodging they ate in the tavern and slept in their wagons. Men coming to Geneseo on court business discovered that well-prepared meals were always available. Erastus Hills died in 1844 when the youngest of his seven children was only two. His widow and older children carried on his business.
With the coming of the railroad to Geneseo in the late 1850’s, travel by team and wagon gradually lessened. Travelers and others no longer stopped at the tavern and in 1861 the Hills were forced to discontinue business. This meant hard times and the loss of prestige for the family, resulting in a resentment for anything connected with the railroad. The mother died a few years after the closing. None of the brothers and sisters ever married and though well-educated, having attended Temple Hill Academy, did not succeed at other means of livelihood. John was a talented violinist, having studied under good teachers, but discarded a musical career when the family’s fortune waned. Erastus was the family tailor and did all of the sewing for both male and female members of the family. George made an attempt at farming but was unsuccessful. Bentley became lamplighter for the village and was the only one to venture past the limits of the village, having once gone to Cuylerville on business. It was he who did the marketing. The girls (Cassie, Martha and Mary) had been reared as genteel ladies and never did any work beyond preparation of meals. The place remained neat and well-kept for a time but soon signs of deterioration became apparent. After Bentley died in 1915, Mary, the youngest and only remaining Hills, never again left the grounds of Hills’ Tavern. When she died in 1921 at the age of 85, she had become known as “the woman who hadn’t been on Main Street in 50 years.” She had become the most resentful of all the Hills toward the men and means that had changed her way of living. Buried at Temple Hill, at her request, her remains were taken there by horse and buggy.
In 1926 C. B. Bennett purchased the tavern and removed a wing. He sold the bricks to L. M. Sackett who used them for a fireplace in his cottage at Eagle Point. Clyde Barber purchased the property in 1927. He made improvements and opened a lunch stand and filling station. In 1929 it was sold to James Burke who remodeled it and continued operating it as a gas station and lunch room. The name changed with each owner. In 1953 Burke’s Tavern was sold to Charles Battaglia and in 1959 Sammy’s Tavern was purchased from Sam Battaglia by Walter Matthes and the name changed to Walt’s Tavern. After her husband’s death, Mrs. Matthes continued the operation but the name was again changed to Hills’ Tavern.