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Tuesday, December 05, 2023

#4988 - Stone House, Wharton Township, PA - 1/29/2023

Historic Stone House Restaurant, Farmington PA

The Stone House Restaurant and Country Inn is a semi-formal bar, restaurant and hotel in a historic building just north of the Laurel Highlands and West Virginia border. Along the National Road first proposed by George Washington, and approved by President Jefferson, it is also just two miles east of Fort Necessity, where Lt. Col. George Washington fought his first battle against a large force of French and Indians. It first opened as an inn in 1822, and was largely closed to the public from 1909 until 1964, when it was purchased and reopened by the remarkable Fannie Ross.

I am indebted to the small publication Stone House Legends & Lore by Marci Lynn McGuinness, from which I shall liberally assimilate and quote:

"The new Fayette Springs Hotel opened in 1822, affording spring dwellers a comfortable inn. Billiards, a ten-pin alley, swings, fine meals, and overnight accommodations attracted wealthy visitors."

The building was constructed by longtime U.S. Congressman Andrew Stewart, who was the first to make industrial use of the power of Ohiopyle Falls with a sawmill above the drop. His sons built a large mill there and expanded their father's Ferncliff Hotel. Stewart died in 1872 and in 1877 Mrs. Elizabeth Stewart sold the hotel to Captain John Messmore, who leased the business to Samuel Lewis and then William Snyder.

On August 3, 1909, George Flavius Titlow purchased the building and property from Albert and Annie Boyd. Titlow immediately added a large addition to the building and named it the Stone House. He installed parque floors and fancy woodwork with fireplaces in every bedroom. This was used as the family's summer and weekend home.

After Titlow died, the family leased the building to Jack and Ethel Ray from 1941 to 1946, where Ethel ran Ray's Stone House restaurant and rented rooms (there was no tavern). In 1944 the Titlows sold the place to Rev. James Bouras, who a month later sold it to Stephen Samonas. Samonas built a tavern by enclosing the left porch, and leased the business to several people over the years, including Baron Karl and Russell Shearer. Upon his death in 1963, Samonas's sister sold the building to Fannie Ross and her friend James "Gene" Cardine.

"The mountain people didn't want me up here. I was an outsider. They did a lot of things trying to get rid of us, but they couldn't."
-- Fannie Ross, quoted in Stone House Legends & Lore

Fenalba "Fannie" Cassurole was born in Connellsville in 1907. Her mother died in childbirth while she was three and her father passed within six months of that. She was adopted by her Uncle Carl only to see him perish in a mine accident on the day they were set to return to Italy. Subsequently raised by her Uncle Chubby, an orphanage, and the nuns of a local Catholic school, Fannie would go on to an arranged marriage. When her husband's gambling resulted in their bills not being paid, Fannie built a career as a bootlegger and owner of a speakeasy. Her husband died of black lung in 1950.

Fannie would hold her own with some very rough characters back in her day, and according to Marci Lynn McGuinness this included shooting three men: 
  • 'The miners got out of hand in her Cardale speakeasy one time and Fannie told them to keep it down. Her husband was ill and trying to sleep. One of the men hit Fannie and they got into it. He knocked her down in back of a booth and she found a bottle and broke it. She went after him and they fought more.  Then he kicked her dog. "He kicked my dog who was trying to help me. That made me mad. I went behind the bar and got my gun and shot him in the pelvis."'
  • 'Another time I had a little place called the Coffee Pot on Route 40 and this man wouldn't pay his bill.... There was about six of them from Keister. They were drunk and I had two of my friends sitting at a table. I told them "You pay the bill or else." "Or else what?" one of them asked. I didn't even take the gun out of my pocket I just shot him."'
  • "One time a carload of young men stopped late at night at the Stone House. They wanted to use the phone but Fannie wouldn't let them in.... Carl came and gave one of the guys a ride to Hopwood to get some gas. Fannie told the rest of them to stay in the car while Carl did them a favor. One of the men challenged her and came toward her in an unfriendly manner. She shot him in the foot."
Fannie and James opened the new Stone House restaurant in April of 1964. Fannie would cook ravioli, spaghetti, lasagne and gnocchis, and Gene would cut steaks to whatever thickness the customer wanted. After Gene passed away in 1973, her son Carl and his family moved back to town to help keep the business running. Fannie finally sold the business to Fred Ziegler in 1995 when both hers and Carl's health issues made continuing impossible.

In addition to fulfilling Fannie's exacting requirements of new owners, Fred and Rhonda Ziegler put in a very substantial amount of remodeling and upgrades, including uncapping original fireplaces, exposing the original hardwood floors, and furnishing it with various antique pieces including what MAY be a Stradivarius violin. They also brought in accomplished chef Carl Fazio, who had served an apprenticeship at the Hyehold and worked the second inaugural dinner for Ronald Reagan. Chef Carl would go on to be named 1996 chef of the year by the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Culinary Association.

Today, the inn continues the tradition of a formal chef with an Italian-focused menu, and hosting visitors to the local springs, rivers and hills for over two centuries.

3023 National Pike, Farmington, PA 15437 - (724) 329-8876
Est. 1963 (first opened as an inn 1822) - Building constructed: 1822
Previous bars in this location: Fayette Springs Hotel 
Web site: - facebook 
Reviews: exploreroute40 - yelp - tripadvisor - ourhauntedtravels - wikipedia 

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