When Dobber Stephenson started tearing off the sheetrock and peeling back the wallpaper last Wednesday at the former White Gables Inn he’s renovating for a new restaurant, he discovered history staring back at him.
Beneath the layers in one of the inn’s former guest rooms were 100-year old cedar planks a foot wide and an inch thick. They were covered with the front and inside pages of old newspapers, some dating to the 1880s.
The restaurateur and contractor Scott Fenner were prying new framing and sheetrock from a wall when “all of a sudden our eyes lit up,” Stephenson recalled. “We were like kids in a candy store.”
With the original walls exposed, Stephenson, Fenner and residential designer and planner Larry Garnett pored over their discovery, finding stories and links to the past everywhere they looked.
Some of the papers were tattered and had turned a yellow-brown over the years. But other pages were remarkably well preserved under the layers of wallpaper, plaster and time.
Newspapers were “the insulation of the day,” Garnett explained.
The three men examined the walls, reading off dates. The Somervell County newspaper was dated Thursday, April 3, 1884. It contained a story about the Steamship San Marcos setting sail for New York from Galveston.
Other papers included the Mineral Wells Sun, Fort Worth Gazette, Dallas Herald, Houston Post, Spring Times and even The Standard from Chicago. Many of the advertisements were for old-fashioned remedies such as liver tonics, elixirs and linaments.
Sandwiched between the cedar boards was one of the building’s original doors. It, too, had been hidden beneath sheetrock and layers of wallpaper.
Under the carpeting the renovators found the original pine flooring. They plan to lightly sand it and keep it as close to the original as possible. When they removed a low ceiling they discovered the original bead-board ceiling.
“We’re digging the history of the building out a bit at a time,” Stephenson said. “We want to retain as much of it as possible.”
The structure's exposed past fits in perfectly with Stephenson’s plans for the restaurant, which he’s hoping to open in late June or July. He wants to preserve the newspaper-covered walls and even some of the old wallpaper peeking through elsewhere in the building so that diners can enjoy them, too.
Since the restaurant will be located on Vine Street, Stephenson has come up with the name Hollywood and Vine – a reference to the famous intersection in Hollywood where aspiring actors and actresses were discovered. As part of the eclectic retro theme, Stephenson is using many recycled materials.
“About 75 percent to 80 percent of the materials we will use are reclaimed,” Garnett said.
“We really believe in recycling,” Stephenson added.
He has been collecting rooms full of interesting old things to incorporate in the building’s renovation. The painted, shiny planks from an old gymnasium floor will find a second life as the bar counter. Big old windows from a mansion in Dallas’ Highland Park neighborhood will bring lots of light inside.
“This came out of a log cabin in Ohio from 1860,” Stephenson said, pointing to a massive hand-hewn wooden beam that connects the floor and ceiling in the bar area.
And then there’s Elvis. It's a painted resin figure that looks larger than life.
“He’s been with me at several restaurants,” Stephenson said, tossing his arm around the statue. Elvis sightings soon will take place in Glen Rose since Stephenson plans to use the figure in the restaurant.
The building’s exterior will be updated with brick columns instead of the wooden posts currently on the long porches and wrought iron frame the balcony.
Stephenson and his business partner, Paul Longinotti, have developed many successful restaurants over the years in Dallas, Houston, Tulsa, Shreveport, La., and Panama City, Fla. Both men and their wives plan to move full-time to Glen Rose; the Stephensons already have a house in town and the Longinottis, who live in Rockwall, are looking.
“We’re very community-oriented,” Longinotti said, noting that he’s been involved with an annual golf tournament in Rockwall the contributes $500,000 to the American Cancer Society.
Other plans call for indoor dining, a bar area, including a tequila bar that will serve 30 to 40 kinds of tequila, and outdoor seating on a stone-and-brick courtyard with stone columns and a pergola. The atmosphere and food will be casual, with items such as burgers and chicken-fried steak on the menu.
In keeping with the Hollywood and Vine theme, Stephenson plans to erect a “HOLLYWOOD” sign on the rocky hill behind the restaurant.