Wheels in motion for Butler County couple to buy historic inn

| Saturday, July 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Gary Barnes still has enough clout at the Harmony Inn that he can pick up a cell phone while sitting on the patio, call the bar and order a beer.

Barnes, 68, of Pymatuning, Venango County, and business partner Carl Beers plan to sell the historic business on Mercer Street after owning it for 28 years.

The buyers, whom Barnes would not identify, are a Butler County couple who used to tend bar there nearly 10 years ago. The couple is working on getting financing and the liquor license transferred, he said.

“I think it's time for some new blood,” said Jon Barnes, Gary Barnes' son and the inn's manager. “It's a good thing for the town.”

His father said that business has been dwindling the last few years.

“There's a lot of expenses,” Barnes said. “I just want to get the hell out. I'm tired.”

The inn, with the walls of its dining and bar areas covered with pictures of Harmony's past, was the former residence of Austin Pearce, a prominent banker, mill operator and railroad executive, built in 1856.

It is believed to have had the first indoor plumbing in the area.

Through the next couple of centuries, it was used as a hotel, meeting house, livery stable, boarding house and bar and restaurant.

Barnes and Beers, 68, of Marion, Beaver County, bought the inn in 1985, and the men worked to restore it over the next two decades.

It's also famed for its ghost history. The inn's website says that psychics have verified that “friendly entities” live there.

Gary Barnes said no ghosts have “come up in my face,” but he said there's been movement that he's spotted in his peripheral vision. Jon Barnes said televisions have turned off without explanation, furniture has suddenly moved and the jukebox “comes on and plays weird songs.”

There's no date yet for the sale, Gary Barnes said. He said he's hoping the new owner keeps his son since he knows the operation.

Another son, Chris, 36, of Dormont, has been working there but is taking classes for diesel engineering at Rosedale Tech in Kennedy.

“This has been a focal point for the town,” Barnes said.

“Obviously, we're very happy it will remain open,” said Jennifer Ackerman, director of the Zelienople-Harmony Chamber of Commerce. “We did not want another loss of an eatery in the area, especially one with historical significance.”

The Kaufman House in nearby Zelienople has been closed since October 2011 after it was damaged in a fire. Owner Ken Pilarski said earlier he hoped to reopen the 110-year-old business in the fall but has been embroiled in disputes and litigation with insurance, restoration and cleaning companies.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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