A $45,000 project to renovate the exterior of the Rush Battles farmhouse and museum, known as the Yellow House, in Girard is about to pay off with four pop-up dinners by Red Letter Hospitality. GREG WOHLFORD/ERIE TIMES-NEWS FILE
Tucked into a wooded area with brilliant fall colors as a backdrop, sits a grand three-story Italianate yellow house built in 1857. Sitting on the front porch at 436 Walnut St., just beyond the reach of the hustle of downtown Girard, it's not hard to imagine when the property was a working farm. But now, while it might or might not be haunted by a ghost who likes Whitney Houston, it will soon be the site of a grand dinner put on by the Hagen History Center and Red Letter Hospitality, owner of The Cork 1794.
Everyone's invited, of course, to the tune of $70 per diner, which will get them a fine-dining experience, including four courses of food prepared on site in Red Letter's mobile kitchen. There will be a cash bar and servers and a killer menu.
Red Letter Hospitality and Hagen History Center are working on a series of pop-up restaurant dinners at the newly renovated "Yellow House," part of the Battles Museum in Girard. PROVIDED BY THE CORK 1794
The house, newly renovated, is part of the Battles' estate and now part of the Battles Museum, the building is known as, well, "the Yellow House."
But it is so much more. After a renovation that started in 2022 and finished earlier this year, the upper two floors have been available to rent as Air BNBs, while the main floor is now suitable to play host to events such as weddings, parties and, coming very soon, four pop-up dinners put on by Red Letter Hospitality, owner of The Cork 1794 and other fine dining restaurants.
The Yellow House and nearby "White House" were owned by banker Rush Battles, and include 130 acres of farmland, lawns and woods, according to an Erie Times-News story by Valerie Myers. The buildings were donated to the Erie County Historical Society in the 1980s and now are called the Hagen History Center's Girard campus. Volunteers did most of the work in the past year to turn it into a usable facility, including the installation of new heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems, fresh plaster and paint, as well as new chandeliers, rugs and furniture ― including a few Battles family pieces.
"There are no other fine dining opportunities in Girard," said Anne DiPillo, spokeswoman for Red Letter. "So we're bringing our mobile kitchen and setting up a full bar, and cooking and serving a fine dining meal that will be just like the experience of eating at The Cork."
Red Letter has done a few other events at the Yellow House, including barbecues and cooking events. The hope is to use the house as a venue for private events as well as the pop-up restaurant concept, according to Hagen History Center executive director Cal Pifer.
"We are going to set up a full-blown restaurant at the Yellow House with a team of 10 who will set up, cook, serve, tend bar," DiPillo said, adding that the biggest challenge might be the weather, but she said they're ready for anything.
"We are really excited," she said. "Our team gets to experience something different and Girard gets to have a unique experience there in their backyard."
The dinners, planned for Nov. 3, 4 and 10 and 11, include four-course meals prepared by Cork Chef Jason Finnerty.
"It's a good opportunity to get out of the restaurant and do something really different," Finnerty said, adding they've been planning the pop-up restaurant idea since at least August.
He worked up the menu from scratch, and he said it was difficult to figure out which of the dishes were his favorite, but the pastrami-spiced walleye gets his juices flowing. He said it includes walleye seasoned like pastrami and served with fresh caraway gnocchi. The fish will be topped with rye bread crumbs, a bit of dill and pastrami spice.
"We want it to taste a little like a pastrami sandwich," Finnerty said. "I like all four courses. It's super exciting."
He said four cooks will be working out of a mobile kitchen ― like a souped up food truck, and food runners, servers, bar tenders will round out the team.
Hagen History Center Executive Director Cal Pifer is shown with a functional stove at the Yellow House on the history center's Girard campus. The house has been renovated and will host cooking classes, community programs, private events and even a pop-up restaurant. VALERIE MYERS/ERIE TIMES-NEWS
Cal Pifer, executive director of the Hagen History Center, which owns and operates the Yellow House, said he's excited to find out how the public accepts the pop-up idea.
"This a brand new concept for us and for The Cork," he said. "We spent between April and July renovating the interior of the Yellow House ... so we can now accommodate 50 people inside the house.
"There are lots of historic farrm houses around the country that have become temporary restaurants," Pifer said. "We're taking a cue from that playbook."
He said they wouldn't be able to do this without Red Letter's mobile kitchen.
"We don't have a commercial kitchen and to put one in would be $300,000, which is absolutely cost-prohibitive," Pifer said. "So to able to do something like this, we have to have someone bring their mobile kitchen to the site."
He said he'd love to put on more events like these.
"We're going to see how this first one goes," Pifer said. "We'd love to do more of them."
Want to go?
Tickets are $70 per person. Tax is included, but not gratuity. Tables of two and four are available. Guests' reservations are good for 90 minutes. Purchases made at the bar can only be made with credit cards. For tickets, visit http://www.cork1794.com.