Save the Old Town Pub
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Kitsap County is shutting down the Historical OLD TOWN PUB, in Silverdale, WA. Our last day of operation is on November 1st, 2017. Although we understand the reasons for this action, we feel that there is enough reason to support a drive to save the establishment, based upon the colorful history of one of Silverdale’s most remarkable historic buildings, and because of the immense good that has flowed from this establishment through the years.
Due to the extreme short notice of this action, a historic landmark will disappear overnight, and several low income individuals will be left homeless. If this petition succeed we will mobilize a fundraiser to help restore the institution to it’s former glory and to help bring it in compliance with modern building codes.
Please read this little essay and voice your support online by SHARING this, and by signing the PETITION TO SAVE THE OLD TOWN PUB.
THE EARLY DAYS
The OLD TOWN PUB is perhaps the most important of the few remaining historic buildings left in the once rough-and-tough mining and logging town of Silverdale, Washington. Here’s its story:
John Emel was a true pioneer and businessman that left no stone untouched to improve the Silverdale area. In the early 1900s he helped clear brush and build streets and roads near the port. Between 1911 and 1913 he built “Emel’s Livery Stable”, a multistory building that would end up as the current OLD TOWN PUB. The original building had a livery stable on the main floor and a lodge with dance hall upstairs. To keep travelers entertained food and spirits were served.
Together with Clarence Benbennick he also started the first transportation service in the Silverdale area. Clarence drove a two seated buggy and would meet the boats with his two horses, Queen and Sassy, and take the incoming passengers to their destination - sometimes as far as Seabeck.
Emel was also the first person to own a automobile in Silverdale. In addition, he operated the first jitney cab (taxi) service, ran a restaurant with a beer parlor, and owned a barbershop. As a lover of horses, he opened a racetrack with a grandstand, dance pavilion, tennis court, and football and baseball fields in the middle of a 40 acre track – today this is known as the “Fairgrounds” area. The racetrack later became known as the “Silverdale Speedway.”
Through the years the old Livery Stable building had a checkered history. At one time or another, the two upper floors have served as a lodge hall, sports arena for illegal boxing and wrestling (with bales of hay serving as the ring boundary), and a skating rink. There are even rumors that it once had been turned into a domicile for wayward young ladies trying to make an “honest living”.
Besides being a livery stable, during WWI the ground floor served as a repair facility for Army cannon caissons. Throughout its rough and tumble history “refreshments” were always available upstairs. During prohibition, the nearby dock and landing area was a popular shipping point for illegal liquor. Rum runners brought the contraband in from Canada, and local bootleggers hauled it down from the stills in the nearby forests. As can be expected, there was a lot of sampling and repackaging of these beverages.
However in June of 1977 the building (then called “The Stables”) was purchase by Fred Lanouette of Las Vegas who turned it into the OLD TOWN PUB. Fred’s history is about as wide ranging as that of the building itself. He served in various positions, as entertainment director and/or general manager, for Matson Ocean Lines on their Pacific Route, the Sahara Hotel, the Thunderbird (acquired by the Sahara), and the Aladdin in Las Vegas.
But Fred did not just manage; he loved to sing as well. In addition to being in charge of booking such diverse acts as Johnny Carson, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Benny, Barbara Streisand, George Burns, and Pat Boone, he was the lead singer in “Give my regards to Broadway — a Salute to George M Cohan” at the Sahara, joined Pat Boone in some of his acts, and he sang Carrie Jacobs-Bond’s, "I Love You Truly" at Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s wedding. Although his involvement with Elvis was only professional, after this he was called upon to handle all of the singer’s security and transportation needs while in Las Vegas.
In 1975 Fred sold his shares in the Aladdin and was looking for other investments. Over the next few years he dabbled in construction in the Alaskan Bush (Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta) and constructed several high schools, but soon became restless and wanted to move back into the entertainment industry. At first he tried by arranging Alaska’s first rock festival with Bachman Turner Overdrive as the main attraction, in addition to 12 other bands, and with Wolfman Jack as master of ceremonies.
Then he stumbled upon “The Stables” in Silverdale and didn’t hesitate. He bought the building in 1977 and the OLD TOWN PUB was born.
A NEW BEGINNING
In addition to building his new business, Fred had to prepare for his eventual retirement. But Fred has a soft heart, and he also wanted to do something for the community. So he came up with the idea to convert the upstairs area into low cost housing for young people who fell onto hard times. As he already was reasonably secure financially, so he reckoned that he could forsake a small percentage of the profits from the bar to sponsor his dream.
This development had a remarkable effect. Instead of being just a neighborhood bar, the OLD TOWN PUB became the heart of Silverdale. It drew a different crowd from the regular drinking establishments, and became home to like-minded people. Those who frequented the place found out that they were not just patrons: they became more than friends – they became FAMILY.
Over the years this camaraderie resulted into other significant developments. The pub started to police itself. It still was a regular bar, yet disputes, drug use, and other forms of undesirable behavior was frowned upon and actively discouraged. When people drank too much they were provided with a ride home by friends. And when there was a death, sickness, or problem affecting a regular, everyone would chip in to help. Several people has expressed their appreciation of how this development has given them a much needed break to get their lives back on track.
But Fred is in his eighties and he couldn’t keep it up. In an effort to make the establishment last as long as possible, he sold the building to the Port Authority — with the condition that he could rent the building for two years, and the option to renew for three more years. Recognizing the age of the building, but also its history, the Port Authority expressed their interest in preserving the building, and immediately started to fix some of the more immediate problems, while also applying for the necessary permits to make some major upgrades to the infrastructure in order to bring it into compliance with modern building codes.
Unfortunately when Fred sold the building, some of the grandfathered clauses that were applicable at the time have expired. As a result, the county has deemed it appropriate to give the bar and the tenants two weeks notice to vacate the property. We suspect that this could be a reason for the county’s action. However, we feel that the county and other interested parties might not be aware of the historical and communal significance of this establishment. Therefore this is an attempt to preserve this testament of humanity for future generations.
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