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To adequately understand and appreciate Sylvester’s Restaurant’s history (and current existence), one must take into consideration that it is nestled in the heart of downtown Northampton, Massachusetts, which itself has a diverse and rich history.
THEN….Purchased in 1654 from the Nonotuck Native Americans as a small farming settlement, Northampton is now home to approximately 30000 inhabitants. From very early on, Northampton has attracted and even been home to a wide variety of remarkable individuals. Jonathan Edwards, famous (infamous?) fire and brimstone preacher and founding father of the “Great Awakening” lived in Northampton for over 20 years in the early 1700’s.
Sylvia Plath graduated from Smith College (a prestigious women’s college) and Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke alongside Sojourner Truth regarding revolutionary ideas of equality and justice. President Calvin Coolidge started his political career in Northampton, and on completely disparate note, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sprang into existence in the minds of local residents Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. And of course, Northampton served as home to Sylvester Graham, the restaurant’s namesake.
For a more in-depth brief history of Northampton, be sure to check out NoHo.com’s Brief History.
AND NOW… Sylvester Graham’s home’s current incarnation began in 1983 when Peter St. Martin and Maureen McGuinness purchased Graham’s home by scraping together personal savings, and bank and personal loans. Considering that immediately prior to their acquisition two restaurants had failed in this location, both were somewhat apprehensive. However, through years of hard work and determination, Sylvester’s has prospered and gained in notoriety as the premiere breakfast spot in the Pioneer Valley.
Soon after opening, Sylvester’s started attracting attention; customers would wait in line on the weekends (as they still do) to get a table. The homey decor (natural wood panels, tin ceiling, natural flowers at the table) has matured and grown, as has the building itself.
The restaurant’s growing popularity – a testament to which is that less than a full two years after opening, Sylvester’s claimed top honors for breakfast in the Valley Advocate’s (the Pioneer Valley’s alternative news weekly) “Best Of” reader’s poll and since then, Sylvester’s has consistently ranked among the top 3 contenders for assorted restaurant categories, including this year’s ‘Best Breakfast Spot’ – prompted (demanded?) Peter and Maureen to add an extension to increase the restaurant’s capacity to satiate the Valley’s diners. Even with the extra, sunny and open space, people line up outside waiting for the next available table (on cold days, hungry “Grahamites” pack themselves into the foyer like sardines – the food is really that good!).
The tremendous success of the restaurant has been augmented by Peter and Maureen’s participation in the community as active members of the local Chamber of Commerce (the main offices just happen to be immediately next door to Sylvester’s) and through the donation of the restaurant’s facilities for AidsCare benefits and other fund raising activities.
The connection to the surrounding area (geographically, historically and communally) is evident in Sylvester’s menu. Items like the “West of Wooster”, a sandwich named after our location, the “Calvin Coolidge Club” (a hearty triple-decker turkey BLT sandwich), Mohawk Trail Chai Tea are prime examples.