By Deb Everts
One of the oldest buildings in the village is home to The Gin Mill’s new establishment on the northeast corner of Monroe and Washington streets. Its rich history dates back to the early 1860s during the Civil War period.
Owners Ed and Maribeth Rick have been in the process of moving their business for four to five years. They began by purchasing the building, then completely renovating and furnishing the five apartment units on the second floor called “Brickstone Suites.” Renovations for the bar on the main level began in the spring of 2018. The Gin Mill opened at its new address at 26 Washington St. on Aug. 1, 2019.
The building has a long and interesting history. The Ricks traced the ownership of the building back to 1869 from old county tax records.
According to former Ellicottville resident Bob Pettit, the building was built in 1865 by John McMahon after he moved the Arcade Hotel to the rear. Pettit believes McMahon used one side and the other was a grocery. He said his ancestor, Amos Pettit, and his son, Joshua, opened a grocery provisions store between 1870 and 1875. Joshua R. Pettit & Son opened their hardware store in that building, in 1888. Joshua’s son, Guy Pettit, ran the grocery store until 1891, then went into the hardware business with his father when they opened their own building on Main Street at the present location of Adventure Bound.
Ed Rick said there might have been a hotel in the rear of the building. He said there used to be a separate building built on the back of the original structure where The Gin Mill’s kitchen is downstairs.
“We understand that John McMahon is the founder of the building. A descendant of his told us that, so 1865 could be the actual date the business opened, but we’re not sure,” he said. “When we researched it over at the county records department, we got back to somewhere between 1860 and 1861 and it was the deed for the easement to the back of the building. The records were lost in a fire back in the late 1800s and that’s where the information gets blurry, so that’s about as far back as we can take it.”
Rick said they know McMahon used the building for a general store because they have a picture of that business. He said one side was a general store, but they are not sure what the other side was used for.
“I have pictures of the general store and the outside of the building from back in 1890 when a fire burned that whole block between the Ellicottville Inn and Monroe Street,” he said. “It stopped at (Monroe Street) and it shows our building in the background. We used that picture from 1890 as a reference to restore the whole exterior and interior back to the way it was back then.”
LOCAL RESIDENT Dawn Westfall found a number of references to the former businesses in several Ellicottville Post editions. An article titled, “Disastrous Fire of 1890” and dated March 17, 1937, describes the building still standing as the New York Store. At the time, it was owned and occupied by the F.F. Honeck & Company, then occupied by J.R. Pettit and son, Guy, as a hardware store.
Ancestor Bob Pettit noted from his research that “on April 25, 1887 Joshua R. & Guy M. Pettit opened their new hardware store in the brick building on the northeast corner of Monroe and Washington.”
According to the April 14, 1926 edition, Eugene E. Hickey came to Ellicottville in 1895 and engaged in a general store partnership with the late James G. McMahon. He continued in the mercantile business in this village until 1919.
The Oct. 12, 1932 edition noted that Mr. and Mrs. Frank F. Honeck bought the brick building that housed the New York department store in the village from the Jacob E. Mueller and Son Company of Buffalo.
The “Old Times In Ellicottville” column, dated Sept. 23, 1959, said the former Honeck Building was purchased by Joseph and Dorothy Whitmer, in 1949, and was Whitmer’s Restaurant until at least 1964. It was called Carson’s Restaurant after that. Don Feldman operated it as DJ’s Restaurant beginning around 1988. The building also housed the Cooley Restaurant, Dairyland, Dobson Shoe Store and S.R. Guy’s Plumbing Shop.
In more recent times, the new Gin Mill building complex housed the former DJ’s Restaurant, A Touch of Ellicottville and Bike and Bean — respectively located at 26, 28 and 30 Washington St.
Rick said the structure was originally one building with add-ons. He said there were openings in the wall between the two sides but they were filled in to create the two business spaces that ended up to be DJ’s and Touch of Ellicottville. The three-sided building that’s attached to the main brick building became 30 Washington St.
“We never knew what the attached building on the east side had originally been used for until we bought the main building and took it over. We were initially thinking about putting our mercantile store in there but, when we started peeling off the walls, we discovered that it had once been a barn because there were two barn doors, and they’re still buried behind the wall.” he said. “That’s when we came up with the idea of The Carriage House at The Gin Mill.”
Two original window frames with vintage photos behind them hang on the east wall of The Carriage House. The Rick’s son, Brian, said it gives patrons the illusion of looking outside.
THE GIN MILL was first established at the former location at 20 Washington St. in 1976. The original owners were Jim and Janet Tekavec who named the business and operated it until it was sold to Ed and Jeanne Clarmo in 1995 who, in turn, sold it to the Ricks, in 2007.
The Ricks have strived to keep the historic character of their building that is part of the Ellicottville Historic District. Using old photographs taken in the mid-to-late 1800s, they have kept the renovations as historically correct as possible.
Keeping with the 1800s design, the original tin ceiling has been restored to its former glory, and much of the original brickwork has been restored. The dining room area still has the original tin ceiling, but much of the ceiling over the main bar area had to be replicated due to water damage sustained during a fire upstairs in the 1970s.
As they were renovating, the Ricks found a lot of old original pop bottles, square-headed nails, old tools and a pile of old receipts. Rick said they are fragile, but all the former businesses are referenced on them. The receipts had all hardware items and shoes.
“(The receipts) are pretty unique because you are standing there holding something that was hand-written over a hundred years ago,” he said. “There were also a lot of hand-written telegraphs between one of the business owners and his supplier in New York City. Eventually, the receipts will get framed and put up on the walls of The Gin Mill.”
Giving a nod to the past, the Ricks have kept as much of the original Gin Mill décor as possible, including the original 36-foot bar and 20-foot back bar that has been refurbished. All of the taxidermy, quirky signs, old portraits and classic beer advertisements also came with them.
Vintage photos taken of Ellicottville in days gone by grace the walls throughout the establishment.
There are five apartments upstairs, called the Brickstone Suites, that have been totally restored to their original historical look. They are available for weekend rental.
Patrons can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. The Carriage House Bar is currently open on Friday and Saturday nights, only, and it may be booked for private events. Down the street, The Gin Mill Mercantile is open at 22 Washington St. For more information, call 699-2530 or visit online at ellicottvilleginmill.com. Visit The Gin Mill’s Facebook page.