The Darmstadt Inn has been a staple in Scott Township in northern Vanderburgh County since the early 20th century.
The community around the inn, Darmstadt, was founded in 1822, shortly after the founding of Scott Township in 1821. According to author Shirley Nicholson, there is disagreement over how Darmstadt received its name. Some believe it was named for the large number of immigrants to the area coming from the Darmstadt-Hessen region of Germany. Others believe that the founder Michael Bauer named it for his wife Barbara, whose father and uncle came from Darmstadt-Hessen. In later research, Nicholson discovered that few settlers of Darmstadt came from this specific region, but were from many parts of Germany. When Darmstadt was incorporated in 1973, it became the second incorporated community—in addition to Evansville—in Vanderburgh County.
The Darmstadt Inn had several owners in its first years of its existence; however, beginning in the mid-1950s, and for over five decades, it was owned and operated by members of the Kissel family. In 1955, Norman Kissel purchased the Darmstadt Inn from Bertram Neuber. Subsequently, his son William Kissel and later his grandson Randy Kissel owned the establishment. Randy, a Central High School graduate, started helping at the inn at age five. Other members of the Kissel family also worked at this tavern where farmers parked their tractors outside and traded agricultural goods and livestock.
Tragedy for Employee, 1966
A sad chapter in the life of the Darmstadt Inn occurred on Thursday, September 29, 1966. On this evening, waitress Martha Fritts was murdered while working at the inn by her estranged husband Harry Fritts. Moments after the murder, Harry Fritts took his own life. According to the September 30 Evansville Courier, Harry Fritts entered the tavern with an acquaintance and sat down at a table. Martha Fritts took their order, but then asked the bartender and co-owner William Kissel to serve them. Upon learning that his wife would not be their waitress, Harry Fritts proceeded to the tavern’s kitchen and after exchanging words with Mrs. Fritts, he opened fire upon her. Martha Fritts escaped to the barroom, but was shot again and died. Harry Fritts exited the inn and shot and killed himself in the parking lot.
Today, the Darmstadt Inn is owned by Rick Kennedy, and it remains a community gathering spot and draws patrons from throughout the area.