The Wildwood Grill & Saloon is bringing new life to the vacant, former Elks Club building at 53 Wildwood Ave.
According to Todd Winship, general manager of the new restaurant, the building has been vacant for the past 15-17 years. Merle Watt, Jr., the building's owner, has painstakingly worked to restore it over the last three or four years, Winship said.
According to Watt, the building was originally the home of the prominent Torge family - built circa 1900. The Elks took it over in 1922 and made it their club, and later, the legion next door had the property under their name.
"We came upon the property about 10 years ago and bought it from the legion," he said. "I saw the potential of the square footage and the old bar. It was just too much to pass up."
It took a year-and-a-half to strip off the old paint covering the beautiful oak woodwork. Watt has gotten down to the details of the remodeling.
"That's what people did in the 70s," Winship said. "It's amazing, but you look at a lot of the old houses and the woodwork was painted.
"Merle knew what he wanted to do. He set his mind to it and did a real good job of doing it," he said. "All the windows had to be re-glazed, and he kept the old curved windows. Everything had to be redone and he tried to keep to the true original look of the building."
He said the building needed major cleanup and repairs. It had to have all new electrical service and almost everything had to be redone. The tile floor and the cultured stone along the walls leading down to the Sports Bar and Restaurant in the basement are new. While the wood flooring in the band area is original, the upstairs had to be redone.
According to Winship, the bar is in the original area, but has also been redone. A local artisan, Don Sibley of Ellicottville, created the stained glass over the bar and also at the waitress station. He also restored the original stained glass windows in the building that needed work.
* This is a partial story. The full story is available in the June 23 edition of The Salamanca Press and online in the e-Edition. *