From the Daily News-Record
A Taste For Harrisonburg History
‘Union Station’ Restaurant Will Be In Wetsel Building
By Kate Prahlad
HARRISONBURG – Part of a historical building in downtown Harrisonburg is getting made over – into a restaurant celebrating Harrisonburg’s history.
“Union Station,” as the restaurant will be called, is slated to open in summer 2009 at the former Wetsel Seed Building on the corner of West Market and Liberty streets. The eatery is taking its name for the railway stop that served as a downtown transportation hub until the 1940s, according to a press release from Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance.
David Gordon and Cassandra Baker, who are engaged, own the restaurant, with Sirena Baker and Cameron Grant, also engaged, as their partners. The four are Valley natives, Grant said.
The Bakers are sisters, and daughters of the owners of the building, Marvin and Robin Baker, who purchased it in September.
Once the couples entered the Wetsel building, “everything came together and it fit really well,” Grant said.
Grant said they have kept the details about the restaurant a secret for nearly a year now, and plans for the four of them to open a restaurant have been in the pipeline for several years.
“We met with several people to learn the history of the building, about the 1700s through now,” he said. “We’ll have information about that in the restaurant.”
The restaurant will occupy the largest portion of the building’s main floor, and owners have said they also plan to also offer retail and office units.
Built in 1935, the three-story building once housed Wetsel Garden Center but has stood vacant for two years.
The historical renovation idea was partly inspired by when the Baker sisters, Grant and Gordon were together in downtown Portland, Ore., where Cassandra Baker attended culinary school.
“We saw a lot of older buildings being renovated and putting in old-style restaurants, and some [old restaurants] were still running,” Grant said. “That concept seemed really nice to us.”
“Elements of a bygone era” will be incorporated into the renovation, design, server uniforms and even the menu itself, the HDR press release said.
As much as possible of the original inside will be saved, which includes turning a freight elevator into a seating booth and restoring the white pine floors, Grant said.
The inside will also feature historical photos, captions and stories of Harrisonburg and Shenandoah Valley history.
“The food will follow along the same lines,” Grant said, adding that the menu will change often. “We’ll keep with food from around the area, maybe from bed-and-breakfasts that may have closed down.”
Other parts of the menu will involve research from historic cookbooks and vintage magazines, as well as a monthly recipe contest for local cooks.
“We just felt that it would be something different,” Grant said. “It’s not like going anywhere else. There’s a lot of history here.”