By Deb Everts
A small town with huge community spirit has made it possible for The New Waverly to open any day now. When that happens, residents and other patrons will have a cozy place to gather where they can enjoy good times.
Once the liquor license arrives, owner Barbara Gubala will open the doors to her new bar and restaurant that once housed the Waverly Inn.
Over the last six years, friends and family have come together and volunteered to bring the old building back to life.
According to Gubala, they gutted the building upstairs and downstairs. An incredible 26 tons of old wallpaper, plaster, lath and other debris was removed. The outdated kitchen in the back has been torn off and a 40-by-30-foot addition put on. Three new bathrooms have also been installed, and insulation has been added.
“This place is now well-insulated. Back in the day, they used to say if there were less than six people in the bar room, the beer would freeze,” she said with a laugh.
Gubala said they constructed two private, residential apartments upstairs. The back apartment is larger with cathedral ceilings, a loft, spiral stairs and a cat walk.
The focus of the establishment is the beautiful, L-shaped bar top made from an actual bowling lane from the former Twi-Lite Lanes in Randolph. The Japanese pine, acquired by contractor Roger Tingue, is edged in cherry wood donated by friend, Jim Hardin.
Both the bar area and dining room are graced with a number of beautifully finished larch posts donated by Gubala’s son, Jerry. The tops of the posts are decorated with discarded ropes from the transport boat, “LCU 1680,” that he served on fairly recently while in the United States Navy.
A large, brass bell with an inscription dedicated to veterans hangs on a post in the bar area. Hardin, who is also a veteran, donated the piece along with other contributions.
An antique, East Indian-style chandelier hangs in the dining room. Gubala said she bought it at an antique shop in New Orleans, and it was once owned by actress Delta Burke of the CBS sitcom, “Designing Women.”
Behind the bar sits a vintage Bevador, sometimes called a Beerador, that was left in the inn by prior owners. Brian said refrigeration units like these were used by the Red Cross during World War II to store blood, but they will use it as a “beer fridge.”
Gubala’s sons, Brian, Jerry and Christopher Goldfus, along with daughter, Barb Yocum and grandson Darryn Goldfus all had a huge part in overhauling the building.
Besides family, other volunteers who helped get the place ready for business included Dan and Alice Dankert, Dave Rupp, Doug Yocum, Jim Hardin, Thomas and Jennifer Bradfield, Evonne Schroder, Kevin Burdick, Joe Poccobello, Roger Tingue, Josh Zonner.
ACCORDING TO the “History of Cattaraugus County,” by L.H. Everts, the village of Otto was once known as Waverly. The historic building that housed the former Waverly Inn dates back to the mid-1800s and, according to Gubala, was probably built about 1850. When they gutted the upstairs, they found newspapers dating back to 1860 stuffed between 2-inch thick planks as insulation.
“The Waverly rented a couple of rooms upstairs during the town’s heyday when people came by train and would stay for the weekend for the nightlife,” she said. “The town was quite prosperous with three hotels — the Otto Hotel, the Crawford House, and the Waverly Inn. When the railroad died, the town died. The Waverly Inn was the only surviving hotel of the three.”
Gubala said Alice and Glade Mencer owned the former Waverly Inn for at least 20 years and were famous for their fish fries. When her crew gutted the upstairs, they found a Bible in the attic between the floorboards. In it was a handwritten message to Glade’s sister, Mary Mencer, thanking her for her service and dedication as a nurse in the United States Army during World War II. It was signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“When I contacted Alice about the Bible, she asked if I had noticed the ladder in the attic. She said there was a plan during Prohibition,” Gubala said. “If the place got raided, everybody ran upstairs to the attic, climbed up that ladder to the trap door and onto the roof, then jumped off onto a barn to get away from the revenuers.”
Mencer also told her about a coffin they found in the attic that had just a straw hat inside. She figures the hat belonged to the piano man who was the last man out in one of the raids. Gubala wanted the ladder left there, so it’s still up in the attic on the original beam, but now there’s a fake trap door.
According to Gubala, several former owners have maintained that the place is haunted. During renovations, some workers saw an orb on the wall in the dining room. When Gubala first moved in, she’d hear footsteps at night downstairs. Another time, the water spigot mysteriously turned off and on in the basement four different times while she was watering flowers. And, the previously mentioned trap door kept opening for no reason.
“The cats kept getting up in the attic so I finally said, ‘Look piano man, we can’t have the cats in the attic, so leave the door alone — please.’ After that, we didn’t have anymore trouble with the door opening up,” she said.
OTTO IS HOME to Gubala. For a while, she had a small farm nearby where she raised her children. Years later, she became a traveling nurse and ended up in New Orleans as a critical care nurse.
“I went for a three-month assignment and ended up staying for 25 years,” she said. “I was there for Hurricane Katrina in 2005. My house was under five-and-a-half feet of water. Brian and a friend rebuilt my house in Metairie, Louisiana.”
When Gubala visited Otto afterward, she discovered that the Waverly was for sale. Thinking about starting a bar and restaurant business someday, she bought the building with leftover insurance money, in 2007.
Gubala retired from nursing in 2013, then decided to sell her home in New Orleans and move back up north because of her grandchildren.
“I didn’t have any grandchildren when I left and now I have seven,” she said.
Gubala said she’s going to start with pub foods and fish fries, then gradually work up to dinners. Once the business is up and running, she plans to have entertainment including bands and karaoke. She plans to eventually add a deck in the back overlooking the south branch of Cattaraugus Creek.
“All I really want is a nice place that’s clean and friendly. I want it to be a place where people can come and have fun as they eat, play pool and socialize,” she said. “I want to hire local people to try to improve the economy in this area.”
Gubala plans to be open from about 2 p.m. until last call at 2 a.m. The New Waverly is located at 9125 Otto-East Otto Road. For more information, call (716) 257-3443 after 1 p.m.