The iconic Dinner House has been serving Southern comfort food since 1968
By Elisabeth Scinta
Photos provided by the Andrew Kung group
Tucked off US-60 are two white buildings with red roofs, Blackwood Hall and Claudia Sanders Dinner House. The latter has been a trademark in the Shelbyville community since husband and wife duo Colonel Harland Sanders and Claudia Sanders opened the restaurant in 1959. On June 15, the property, including Blackwood Hall, the brand and the likeness of the Claudia Sanders name and Sanders family memorabilia, has been offered for sale by the current owners.
In 1959, after perfecting his world famous chicken recipe, Colonel Sanders and Claudia bought and moved into Blackwood Hall, which became their primary residence and home base for Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). As the business expanded, the couple built a warehouse, which later became Claudia Sanders Dinner House in 1968, according to Claudia Sanders’ memorandum of offer.
Since its inception, the Claudia Sanders Dinner House has had a few different names before finally landing on what it is now called and has been a staple in the Shelbyville community. The Dinner House is a reminder of Colonel Sanders’ legacy, but also pays tribute to Claudia Sanders’ hard work to support her husband and help him succeed. The two helped Kentucky become the “fried chicken capital of the world,” according to Jonathan Klunk, founding partner and agent of Six Degrees Real Estate, the company responsible for selling the property.
Fortunately, the lives of Colonel Sanders and Claudia Sanders have been well preserved over the years, and the new owners will have access to many memorabilia that give us a glimpse into their lives. For example, one can find Colonel Sanders’ stove used to train franchisees, the original KFC bucket, a letter from President Nixon to Colonel Sanders wishing him a happy birthday, and much more.
The Settles, the current owners, bought the Dinner House property from Claudia Sanders in 1974 and have lived in Blackwood Hall since 1984. “They have two children and their children have gone on to other projects. Many family businesses are not passed down from generation to generation and eventually have to find a new manager,” Klunk explained. “We want to honor Claudia’s legacy and find someone who will likely continue operations as they are today, because it’s a staple not only for Kentucky, but certainly for the people of Shelbyville. They’ve come to really like it and don’t want to see anything, so we really want to find someone who can keep the current location as it is and maybe grow the brand.
The Claudia Sanders Dinner House will remain open during the sale, so head there to devour southern comfort foods like their famous fried chicken, Kentucky hot brown, and classic side dishes. Enjoy your lunch!