A new day is dawning for the Old Corner Bar
Appeal Staff Writer
The latest example of the renewal of Old Town Dayton is coming up with the restoration and renovation of the historic Old Corner Bar at Pike and Main streets.
Jackie Behn and Jerry Massad – the latter the current owner of the Cracker Box in Carson City – have taken on the enormous job of turning the old bar that has sat empty for several years into a fine local restaurant.
“It’s going to be a restaurant,” Behn said, adding that though the menu has yet to be decided, “I can tell you what we’d like it to be.”
Behn said she prefers an Italian restaurant as a nod to the Italians who settled Dayton and operated the first farms and ranches in the area.
“I read that some were actually from Tuscany,” Behn said.
The work should be done in about three or four months.
The pair purchased the building in November 2005, and got a building permit in December, after jumping through the usual government hoops.
Behn has been focusing on maintaining the historic character of the Dayton bar as much as possible, while adding historic pieces from elsewhere.
One of the first things they did was purchase a new backbar in Chicago that was built in the Pullman District in the 1930s.
She isn’t concerned about having too many restaurants in the area, with the Gold Canyon Steakhouse down the street and Chuck’s Grill about to open up in the old Odeon Hall.
She said her experience in San Diego, where she came from 13 years ago, was that when you get five or six restaurants in an area, they’re full all the time.
“It’s like a food court, there’s something for everyone,” she said. “Once that area is cleaned up and we have more parking and accessibility, I think it would be great for multiple restaurants.”
The Old Corner Bar, built sometime in the 1860s, has been everything from a grocery store to an auto-repair shop to a bar, according to Bert Bedeau, of the Comstock Historic District.
He said the first business at that location is listed in historic records as being M. Meyer and Co., a grocery business in 1862.
By 1875, it was listed as Meyer and Clegman Hardware and Supplies and remained as a general merchandise store from 1890 to 1907.
Andrew J. Loftus bought it and it became the Braun and Loftus drug store.
That’s what longtime resident Ray Walmsley, 81, remembered it as.
“Braun and Loftus was the drug store,” he said. “Then Loftus went into dry goods, and Braun went over to another building and opened up a grocery store on the east side of the Union Hotel.”
In the 1930s there was an auto-repair shop put in the back part of business, with the front being a saloon.
Bedeau said the place is listed as the Meyer Building housing the Old Corner Bar in a survey the Comstock Historic District performed in 1987.
Rosemary Brittain, 65, stepdaughter of artist Robert Caples’ who lived in Dayton during the 1950s, remembers it as Armino’s Bar. “We used to go over after dinner and play pool,” she said.
The bar received its share of fame in 1960, along with the rest of Dayton, when John Huston, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift filmed “The Misfits.” The bar was said to be a favorite local hangout for the stars.
It continued as a bar, with various owners, until 2001, when then-owner Sharon Ruston tried to run an ice cream parlor there, an effort which failed.
It closed the following year and the building has stood empty ever since.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.