Have you ever driven by the Stone House and wondered what it looked like on the inside? Brandon and Becky Hodges wondered the same thing. “When you grow up in this town you pass this house almost every day,” said Hodges. “It’s so beautiful and prominent we always wanted to see the inside.”
“Over the past few years it was hard to pass by and see it sitting empty,” continued Hodges. “It was starting to degrade and we wanted to save it.” According to a 2015 article in the Gladwin County Record Fern Smith a local attorney started construction on the house in 1898, but died from typhoid fever before the house was completed. After his death his widow, Cora, sold the unfinished house to the Goldberg’s who were respected local dry goods merchants.
The Goldberg’s completed the construction and lived there for several years. Cora married Eugene Foster the editor of the Record in 1916 and eventually reacquired the property. The house remained in the family for years until Cora’s son, Gordon died in 1965. After that the house was sold and had several occupants including a medical clinic, attorneys and a furniture store. Cora’s granddaughter Charlotte Sutherland bought the house and brought it back into the Smith family in 1990.
Restoring the Stone house is a “labor of love” for the Hodges’. They are huge Gladwin boosters and see the Stone House as a cornerstone of the community. “We approached this project as a restoration not a renovation,” said Brandon. “We didn’t want to change the entire house. There is a lot of charm and historical value in keeping the house the way it is. We are just making it work as a restaurant.” I was able to get a peek inside myself last week when Hodges took me on a tour.
Four thousand square feet of carpet along with thousands of nails, staples and tack board were removed to reveal the original 124-year-old hardwood floors. After hours of scraping to remove the glue that was also used to hold the carpet in place the floors were refinished bringing them back to their original beauty. The picture-frame floor in the parlor is a favorite of Hodges.
The original trim and wall board was also restored. Much of the trim is Birds Eye maple, which is as rare as it is beautiful. The Hodges’ along with Becky’s father Marc Jance did the majority of the restoration work, which included special touches such as making new balusters for the stairwells. All of the pocket doors were also restored and are now fully functional.
Handicapped restrooms were required for occupancy as a restaurant. To accommodate this requirement and maintain the integrity of the affected space all of the new framing and dry wall was scribed to protect original trim and walls. If a future owner decided to remove them the space could be returned to its original state. The accessible ramp and deck were constructed with the same thing in mind. They didn’t want it to take away from the beauty of the house.
His and hers owners suites on the second floor were also restored. The women’s suite was built with feminine touches such a Birds Eye maple trim and curved windows similar to those found in the parlor while the male suite is more masculine. It is more linear than its counterpart with oak trim and a square dormer.
The transition from the old Pale Blue location has begun with the Grand Opening at the Stone House scheduled for the week of August 31 through September 5. All of the features that made the original location popular will be available at the Stone House. The quick lunch service along with the catering business, takeout and the online ordering system are all moving to the new location. Sit down dining will be available from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and brunch will be served on Sunday morning.
Many of the lunch offerings will be similar to those that were available at the old location. Hodges is planning a more “robust menu down the road.” He also mentioned that several popular dishes such as the buffalo chicken dip would be served everyday at the new location.
The diner menu will be greatly expanded with the addition of some pasta and fish options. The full kitchen at the new location will allow for a much more “robust” menu. They also hope to eventually be able to offer beer and wine once they are established and a tavern license becomes available.
Something that came up several times during our talk was how grateful Brandon was for the hard work of his team. He mentioned them repeatedly. Pit master Isaac Morgan will continue to be the primary cook on the barbeque side of the restaurant while Vicki Pickard “leads the charge in the kitchen.”
With the opening of the new Pale Blue Smoke this week everyone we will be able to visit the Stone House. Almost the entire house will be part of the restaurant. The former parlor and great rooms on the first floor will be dining rooms. The his and hers owners suites on the second floor can also be used as dining rooms and are also available to rent for private parties.
Miss Becky Bakes will also have a space on the second floor. Becky Hodges will be bringing her burgeoning baking business to the Stone House. She will do her mixing and decorating in an upstairs room. The restaurant will have an inside capacity of about 85 people and the ability to serve 40 people outside. There are currently no plans to use the third floor ballroom.
“It’s a big risk for us, but we want to bring something positive to our community,” said Hodges. “For the long term strength of the community we need to give people a reason to come to Gladwin and spend money. We are trying to build an attraction that brings them in. If enough people visit us it will not only be good for us and our children, but also for businesses up and down Cedar Avenue while at the same time preserving a piece of Gladwin history.”