How Red Bank’s Molly Pitcher Inn has remained a historic community marker since 1928
By Jessica Jones-Gorman
Photos By Amessé Photography
Built in 1928 and named after an American Revolutionary War figure who carried water to the men on the battlefield, Red Bank’s legendary Molly Pitcher Inn has been an important part of the quietly secluded Navesink landscape for decades. Lushly appointed with a sophisticated decor and posh amenities, the hotel maintains all of the luxury bells and whistles while still upholding the intimacy of an inn. And in 1992, when James Barry and Kevork Hovnanian acquired ownership, the property regained a second life.
“The family business was in home building,” Barry said, referring to his father-in-law, Kevork Hovnanian, founder of the K. Hovnanian Homes empire. “But with this venture I returned to the hospitality industry where I spent the earlier part of my career.”
For Barry, who had previously been in charge of a Long Island hotel and conference center, the transition to Molly Pitcher president was a natural fit. He oversaw the building’s complete renovation, which took about 16 months.
“We never closed our doors to the public,” he noted. “We stayed open the entire time because in this community, the Molly Pitcher is a sort of landmark. Our neighbors and the residents of Red Bank would come here for lunch or dinner just to see what we were doing and the progress we had made. We covered the interior in plenty of clear plastic so guests could actually come in and watch how this inn’s long history was being updated. It was a very exciting time, and once the renovation was complete, it was business as usual.”
The inn, which features 106 sleeping rooms, a ballroom with a 200-seat capacity, several meeting rooms, a main dining room, a tea room, international bar, and large promenade overlooking the Navesink River, has become a major wedding venue, coveted event space, and award-winning dining destination since the Barry family took over.
“We recently redid our riverfront promenade and reinforced it with steel so it can support a tent and 300 guests,” Barry said. “And our Sunday brunch, hosted in our main dining room, has been given a reader’s choice award from New Jersey Monthly for the past 14 years.”
The Molly Pitcher has also been given the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences Five-Star Diamond Award for the past 11 years. In fact, the property was so successful that, in 1997, Barry and Hovnanian acquired another neighborhood gem, The Oyster Point Hotel.
“We purchased Oyster Point in theory to have the best of both worlds,” noted Barry. “The Molly Pitcher is more traditional, with a very European feel, whereas the Oyster is more contemporary. In owning both properties, we knew we could bring two very unique options to guests.”
Located a block away from the Molly Pitcher, also on the picturesque Navesink River, Oyster Point was renovated in 2007 under the direction of Barry’s son, Kevin, and his grandfather.
“We did a full renovation of the entire hotel, everything from the furniture and carpeting right down to the wall coverings and window treatments,” Kevin Barry noted, describing a complete interior redesign that was spearheaded by himself and his mother, Esto.
For Kevin Barry, who had been working in the Boston hospitality industry, it was a reintroduction to a family business he had been a part of for so long.
“I grew up around this line of work, so I’ve gotten to see all aspects of it,” Barry said, describing childhood sick days spent in guest rooms, while his mother and father worked, in a sort of Eloise at the Plaza fashion.
“So to come back here and help oversee Oyster Point’s renovation was a wonderful transition,” Barry continued.
The hotel was designed with an Eastern-facing glass curtain wall, allowing for complete water views, while ballrooms and guest rooms were given all new modern appointments.
“Updates are ongoing,” Barry said. “Every year we have something new and innovative in the making, which I think really helps us to stay current. We are currently gearing up for a guest room renovation slated for the end of this year.”
In the near future, the Barry family hopes to introduce poolside dining with a full marina menu of cocktails and food, and updates to weddings and other social functions are always in the works.
“Our menus constantly change with the seasons,” he added. “And we’re always updating our offerings to include more menu items…new and innovative options. But that’s what really defines Molly Pitcher and Oyster Point: Exquisite dining, beautiful accommodations, and memorable events.” •