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Work on Former Hollow Tavern Progressing

By Jewels Phraner
Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fred Haeflein works on reviving the Hollow Tavern on Route 30 outside of Ligonier. Jared Wickerham | Tribune-Review

Saving Sleepy Hollow hasn’t gone exactly the way owner Fred Haeflein expected.

He’s had a skilled crew at work rebuilding the log landmark, but now he’s looking for a good chef and manager to operate the restaurant.

After an arson destroyed the building in February 2008, causing so much damage that Unity code enforcement officer Merle Musick condemned the property, Haeflein bought it with the intention of restoring it.

Financial troubles plagued the project early on, and this summer Haeflein said he has struggled to find the right person to run the restaurant. Although he has fond childhood memories of the restaurant, he has no interest in running the facility once it’s finished.

“I don’t cook. I’m not a restaurant manager,” Haeflein said. “I build things. I save things. I just want this building here.

“I need a good restaurateur – no, I need a great restaurateur – to keep this place running for a long time,” he said.

When the project ran into financial problems in early 2007, The Progress Fund, a Greensburg-based nonprofit lending organization approached Haeflein about a loan.

“That valley is so great. So many people enjoy driving through it. And we thought it would be a nice venue for people to stop and enjoy the valley,” said David Kahley, chief executive officer for the organization, which focuses on tourism-oriented projects.

Project loan officer Bob Patter said that while people might not see progress as they drive by the building, that doesn’t mean work isn’t being done behind the scenes.

“It’s still a very active project,” he said. “Fred is moving forward with it. Perhaps not at the pace everyone would like to see, but he’s trying to find the right person to run the restaurant for him.”

Haeflein said he expected to buy exterior logs for the building. But he wasn’t able to find the correct size and had to custom-make them instead.

“I wanted them to be as close to the original (Sleepy Hollow) as possible, and you just can’t buy logs that width anymore,” he said.

So Haeflein spent part of the summer using an ancient mill in his New York shop to cut logs, then transporting them to Ligonier.

“This is probably a lot like how the original logs were made,” he said. “It’s a pure miracle that (the mill) actually worked. That mill is probably as old as this building and hasn’t been used in 20 years.”

For now, only a few logs are secured to the building, but Haeflein said he will be back to finish the job soon.

Kelly’s Sleepy Hollow LLC was formed by Haeflein and his brother, Rich, who have been restoring the landmark west of Ligonier for about two years.

Edgar Wiltrout of Ligonier is serving a 10- to 28-year prison sentence for torching the restaurant and tavern on Feb. 23, 2008, because the former owner owed Wiltrout $1,000 and fired his girlfriend as a cook.

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