New owner renovating landmark

The whine of power tools cutting freeze-damaged pipes in the cellar vibrated through the 12-inch-wid
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Categories: Schenectady County

The whine of power tools cutting freeze-damaged pipes in the cellar vibrated through the 12-inch-wide pine-plank flooring this week as the new owner of the Bull’s Head Inn starting getting ready to reopen the downtown landmark.

Owner Anthony Giammattei and chef Bill Thetford were wasting no time after Giammattei’s AVC Holding LLC closed on the property Wednesday in a private foreclosure sale.

The very next day, crews got to work restoring the restaurant, which has been closed for nearly two years.

“The building is very charismatic,” Giammattei said. “It has the ambiance we were looking for.”

Giammattei hopes to open in mid-September. “As soon as we’re ready,” he said Friday.

The 206-year-old building, next to the Park Theater and across from Centre Park, was most recently owned by Tammi VanLeuven, according to Schoharie County property records.

The project fits in with the village’s downtown revitalization study, which last year highlighted the need for more restaurants to bring people back to the village core.

“I think it’s great what he’s doing,” said Jim Poole, president of the business and community development group Cobleskill Partnership.

“It’s a landmark in Cobleskill. That’s what he calls it and that’s what people think of it,” Poole said Friday.

“It’s great for downtown Cobleskill and getting that back is monumental,” Poole said.

About six to 10 jobs, mostly wait staff and kitchen help, are expected to be created.

Giammattei’s not sure how much he’ll end up investing, but plans to buy new kitchen equipment, restore and paint some crumbling interior ceilings, and improve accessibility for handicapped people.

“It’s not going to be cheap,” he said. No government funds are involved, he added.

The approximately 70-seat first-floor dining rooms and a 60-seat upstairs banquet room will open first, said Thetford.

The cellar tavern will then be restored by the end of the year, or early next year, Giammattei hopes.

The building and its 105 Park Place site has a long history. It’s even known for the reputed ghost of Mrs. John Stacy.

According to an account in the book “Ghosts of the Northeast” by David J. Pitkin, Mrs. Stacy lived in the building in the 1920s. She was a member of the anti-alcohol Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and legend has it that a woman in a long white gown sometimes appeared after her former bedroom was turned into a restaurant and bar. She apparently expressed her anger by slamming doors or knocking over salt shakers mysteriously.

According to a history compiled by previous owners, a log cabin built by George Ferster was one of the first Cobleskill buildings in 1752. Destroyed in 1778 by Capt. Joseph Brant and Indians during Revolutionary War raids, it was rebuilt, but again burned by Indians and British loyalists in 1781.

Rebuilt next as an inn, it was purchased by Lambert Lawyer, but again burned. The current inn was built for Lawyer by carpenter Seth B. Wakeman and opened in the fall of 1802 as the Bull’s Head Inn.

The inn also served as a town meeting hall and Masonic lodge.

From 1829 until 1879, it was the residence of Charles Courter and known as the Courter Mansion.

The menu is expected to focus on “high-quality steaks and chops, and some seafood,” said Thetford, who was chef at the Bull’s Head for six years under a previous owner in the 1980s.

Entree prices at the Bull’s Head are expected to be in the $12 to $20 range, “with some premium cuts a little higher,” Giammattei said.

Janet Burke, formerly owner of Janet’s Cafe in Schoharie, will assist in the kitchen, Thetford said.

Thetford, a Richmondville resident, ran his own Chef Bill’s in rented space just up East Main Street for two years but closed in June 2007.

Raised and trained in Germany and Italy, Giammattei said he operated a large beer garden and outdoor restaurant in Bavaria about 15 years ago.

His current Red Lion Vending and Catering business will operate out of the Bull’s Head, Giammattei said.

He and his wife, Sabine, live in Lawyersville in the town of Seward. She is expected to work as a greeter in the restaurant.

Thetford said he “grew up in the business,” starting at 13 in the kitchen of his parents’ Thetford’s Restaurant in Windham in the 1960s.

Despite challenging economic times, Thetford and Giammattei are convinced there’s a local market for a full-scale restaurant and tavern. “It’s going to be tough the first year, but there’s a need in the area,” Thetford said.

“We hope to get a nucleus business from Cobleskill, but we’re also hoping to draw people from the Schenectady and Oneonta areas,” he said.

Leave a Reply