FRYBURG, Pa. (EYT) – The Washington House in Fryburg has faced its challenges over 170 years since opening in 1849, including different owners, a cyclone, prohibition, and now a pandemic; nevertheless, its current owner, 26-year old Justin Forsythe (pictured above), would not let COVID-19 get in his way.
In fact, when he got a warning by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for customers and employees not wearing face masks, that’s when he decided to shut down and remodel the popular Fryburg restaurant and bar.
Putting a lot of money into the restaurant business is sort of out of the ordinary right during COVID-19. Justin had saved money to complete all of the renovations.
“It’s more of an open floor plan now,” said Justin. “We remodeled the whole downstairs, including the bar, the bathrooms, and the hallways. We were planning to remodel, and the closing was an ideal time. It wasn’t as extensive as what we thought we were going to get into.”
Justin said the changes are working, and more customers are returning, and about 75 percent of the business is takeout.
“We have turned people down because government restrictions are so tight,” said Justin. “We’ve been open for about three weeks now, and we’re still on our 25 percent restriction. Restrictions could be moved to 50 if you sign a contract with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but the restrictions were so tight that it was as easier to run at 25 percent rather than 50 percent.”
In March, a choice was made to offer a limited menu for takeout because some things were hard to purchase.
“We stayed to a limited menu, and we really kicked a** with that.”
The Washington House is open Monday through Saturday from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the dining room and 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. in the bar.
The busy times for the restaurant when people might have to be turned away are around 6:00 p.m.
“We also do quite a lot of catering. I have 200 people tonight.”
Staffing is stable at Washington House with changes brought because of coronavirus.
‘Some of them went and found different jobs – just because of restrictions – but we still do have some of them. There are six or seven of us full time.”
Located on Main Street in Fryburg, the Washington House Restaurant and Lounge has a rich history of serving the local community and travelers for over 170 years.
The Washington House originally opened as the Ditz Hotel in 1849. According to History of Clarion County, the owner, Ferdinand Ditz, traveled to Fryburg from Freiburg, Breisgau, Germany, in 1825 with his parents, three brothers, and two sisters.
The Ditz Hotel was the third structure built in Washington Township. The first building was erected by John Markley in 1835, and the second oldest structure was known as Grable House.
In 1879, Ditz Hotel burned down. The wooden building was replaced with the current three-story brick and stone structure that same year. It was renamed Washington House and operated as a hotel and restaurant. As to the reasoning behind the structure’s name change, it has been said that the building is situated beside the original post road surveyed by George Washington.
An April 16, 1974 news clipping states: “The Washington House was a popular hostelry for traveling men and was always famous for German-style home cooking.”
Ditz operated Washington House until he died intestate in 1881. The property was willed to his wife, Franciscka, who ran the business with her son Augustine and his wife, Mary.
In 1890, a cyclone swept through the area and destroyed a major portion of the structure. The Ditz family rebuilt Washington House and added two large porches to the upper levels during construction. Augustine died in 1897, followed by the death of Mary on August 4, 1903. Franciscka, who had worked alongside Mary for many years, was then willed the property.
After her death on August 3, 1924, Mary’s son and executors sold Washington House to John F. Caffrey on June 25, 1925. Caffrey operated the business for four years before selling the property to Pennzoil Company on April 25, 1929.
During this time, the hotel portion of the building went out of business due to prohibition. For the next eight years, Pennzoil leased the building to Andrew G. Angros and his wife, Barbara. Angros purchased the property from Pennzoil on March 5, 1937.
Subsequent owners have included Walter Rybak, Lyle Miller, Burnett Mealy, Terry and Gretchen McFarland, and Henry and Audrey Faller.
Ron Beichner purchased Washington House from the Fallers on November 15, 1986, and owned the property until this year.
Beichner transferred the property to his grandson Justin Forsythe in January of 2016.