In 1927, a young farmer, an entrepreneur and artist at heart, decided he had milked his last cow. Weary of his 5 a.m. forays into the dairy barn, he hit upon the idea of opening a roadside sandwich stand on Route 985 in Jennerstown. It evolved over the years into a Laurel Highlands landmark, Green Gables Restaurant and Mountain Playhouse.
Founders James “Jimmie” Stoughton and his sister, Louise Maust, were soon known for their delectable chicken salad sandwiches and angel food cake. A year later, the pair began gradual expansion of their humble roadside sandwich stand, known today as Green Gables Restaurant.
As the Great Depression gave way to increasing prosperity, Stoughton sought ways of attracting steady customers to his restaurant in the mountains. He came up with the idea of establishing a nearby professional summer stock theater.
Stoughton discovered an 1805 gristmill moldering in the Roxbury area of Somerset County and decided it would be the perfect building for his new theater. In 1939, the mill was moved, log by log, to its present site and converted into a theater, later adding an adjoining art gallery. Since then, the Mountain Playhouse has presented over six decades of professional theatrical entertainment.
Out of Ashes, a Romance Blooms
On New Year’s Day, 1962, fire destroyed the Studio Barn, which had been converted to house a banquet room. Stoughton rebuilt the banquet facility, relocating it to the restaurant. Stoughton had supervised the previous expansions himself, but the size of the new banquet room and state building codes required a design by a proper architect.
Stoughton hired Teresa Mullane, a locally-known architect, and before long, a romance developed. They married a year later, and had two daughters, Teresa and Mary Louise. Sadly, Stoughton died too young in 1972; Teresa Mullane Stoughton died in 1995. Today, elder daughter Teresa Stoughton Marafino enjoys taking guests on tours of the restaurant and grounds, with their many stories, unusual antiques and nostalgic remembrances.
Jimmie and Terry’s banquet hall, the Tuscany Room, is always a favorite stop. Guests at frequent wedding receptions and banquets cannot help but notice the massive oak tree trunks which grace the four corners of the dance floor. Originally, the trees were the survey markers (witness trees) on the Maurer farmstead, home of Stoughton’s mother’s family. Teresa Marafino notes that one of the trees has over four hundred rings.
The massive hand-hewn beams and stones were salvaged from two regional barns slated for demolition. One barn’s cornerstone was also used in the construction, marked “1886 JKM.” The Tuscany Room’s dance floor features 17 fleur de lis in its intricate design, by Buddy Gindlesperger, of Boswell.
All his life, Stoughton was a prolific artist working in many media. His personal paintings and artworks can be seen throughout the restaurant, along with pieces of artist friends who traveled to the Mountain Playhouse.
Historic Art Pieces
The portraits in the Tuscany Room were painted by Charles Wilson Peale, a renowned portraitist of the American Revolution era. The portraits are of Hannah and Nathan Sellers, Stoughton family ancestors. One of their children had married into the Peale family, and thus the couple became the subject of these portraits.
The Antique Dining Room contains a portrait painted by Lila B. Hetzel, daughter of well-known Western Pennsylvania artist George Hetzel. Ms. Hetzel honored her host, James Stoughton, with a painting of a man titled After Jordon’s, right on the wooden panel between two windows. The painting is so subtle that diners seated at that particular table may be startled to notice the portrait hidden in the wood. Others may search for it and finally need to have it pointed out by the restaurant owners or staff. Stoughton haunted the antiques auction circuit in Western Pennsylvania, choosing exquisite pieces to complement Green Gables, as well as the grounds of the Mountain Playhouse.
The Story behind the Statues
Among Stoughton’s most alluring finds are the eight larger-than-life statues, which came from the elegant estate of steel magnate Charles Schwab, in nearby Loretto, PA. The statues were created by the noted French sculptor, Henri Crenier. Following the death of Charles Schwab, the estate became a Franciscan monastery; some of the statues found a new home as supporting columns in the restaurant. You’ll find others nestled in the gardens and along paths around the Mountain Playhouse.
Antique corner cupboards and display shelves throughout Green Gables can boast collections of valuable antique glass, china and pottery, many native to Western Pennsylvania.
Collections include Ruby Red glass from Westmoreland Glass in Jeannette, and Bakewell Glass. Look for cabinets of Gaudy Dutchware, Spatterware, Stamp Spatterware, and English china child’s tea set, and antique Somerset County pottery.
Teresa Marafino notes that many of the unusual serving pieces used in the restaurant and for the wedding receptions were her father’s acquisitions from regional estates and travels to Europe. An especially interesting piece is a silver-plated punch bowl set which had been given as a wedding present to Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier.
We encourage our guests to linger, spending time peeking into the corners and strolling about the grounds. Discovering hidden treasures at Green Gables and the Mountain Playhouse will surely make your visit all the more memorable.