“I was the first woman mayor. I had no political aspirations. Sixteen years later I’m still mayor.”
“I grew up in the bar. I remember Gram saying: ‘Christine, go see if anyone looks hungry.’ At age six I’d go in and say: ‘Stevie’s in the bar drinking, Gram. I don’t think he ate.’ Next thing you know, I’m bringing him a bowl of soup or stew.
“Grandpap and grandma, Adele — hence the name, Adele’s Bed and Breakfast — bought this off the Stoney Jones family in 1940. Grandpap died shortly after they acquired the place.
“One side is the bar. The other was a restaurant and dance hall, which is now Danny and my living space. Second and third floors were apartments. At one time there were 17 family members living here. Gram said: ‘Why am I the only one whose kids get married and they don’t go anywhere?’
“Everyone called her Gram. She tended bar into her seventies. We’d close after the eleven o’clock news, then open back up at seven a.m. ‘cause Gram said: ‘What about the guys getting off midnight shift? They need a shot and a beer to relax before they go home and sleep.’
“When Gram became ill in ’91 with Alzheimer’s she became our priority, so we closed down the bar. Gram died in ’92. From the time it closed I wanted to do something. Danny and I had ideas over the years. We began renovating the rooms to the hotel, fixing them up one at a time. I always wanted a B&B, but thought: ‘Who’s going to come to Smithton?’ Without the Great Allegheny Passage, I never would have considered it. We opened in 2017. We get 95 percent trail people. People will call and say: ‘Hello, I’m going to be riding the GAP.’ And I think: ‘I bet you are!’ I hope people want to come and see our little town.
“Danny and I are both hometown people. We’re considered the unofficial historians. I was the first woman mayor. And the first write-in, ever. I had no political aspirations, not that Smithton would be any kind of roadway to political aspirations. Sixteen years later I’m still mayor.
“We haven’t done a ton of traveling. We enjoy the cyclists’ stories every bit as much as they enjoy stories about the hotel. Gram would be thrilled that people are enjoying this place. If she were here she’d say: ‘Oh, honey! Where are you from? What are you doing in this area?’ When our guests come off the trail, the bar is the first place they see. They say: ‘Look at this place!’ as they take in all the pictures.
“My favorite picture is one of me, my mom and Gram. I wouldn’t know what my mom looked like without pictures. She died at the age of 30 from leukemia. I was not-yet three. Gram raised me. I remember as a kid asking: ‘Did my mom like blue? Did she like spaghetti and meatballs, Gram?’ I think it was too painful for her to talk about. I found out about my mother from friends and my uncle. Gram was a special lady. I don’t know how she did it. Here she was in her 50’s, grieving the death of her daughter while running a bar. When she got ill there was no way I was leaving Smithton. She was there when I needed her, so I was certainly going to be there when she needed me.
“She really loved this town. She was a character. Any sense of humor and gregariousness I have is from her. Sometimes I’m a little freaked out by the words that come out of my mouth because I think: ‘Oh my God, I am Gram.’”
This content was created by Anita Harnish for the Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy and financed through grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, through its Community Conservation Partnerships Program and Environmental Stewardship Fund, administered by Rivers of Steel Heritage Area and Pennsylvania Environmental Council’s Laurel Highlands Mini Grant Program; through funding via the Westmoreland, Fayette, and Somerset County Tourism Grant Programs; and with funds made available by the Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy.