Ethel Lou Bennett grew up with Wesley Stinnett's Restaurant. The Chesapeake Beach spot was started by her parents, Wesley and Elizabeth Stinnett, in 1936.
In this letter sent last week to The Washington Post, Bennett describes her reaction to the demise of a local landmark that was part of the life of her family.
The tragedy of losing any historical landmark is painful, but even more so when that landmark was your home and built by the love and labors of your family. My parents, Wesley and Elizabeth Stinnett, built Wesley Stinnett's Restaurant in 1936. Here they raised their family, three girls and a boy, while they struggled to build up this highly successful family-oriented restaurant, which, through the years, earned a reputation for quality food, community spirit and warm family tradition. Its care was passed down through generations.
It weathered many floods, winds and storms, as we all did in Chesapeake Beach throughout the years, always bouncing back and opening its doors to welcome the public once again. Then the newly renovated restaurant met the wrath of Hurricane Isabel, and the massive destruction was more than it could handle. The doors were closed on another chapter of history. I am 75 years old and the only remaining child of Wesley and Elizabeth Stinnett. It was very sad and hard to watch.
Stinnett's Restaurant continued to stand, waiting for the next step and the changes that would bring this site into the future, when, horribly, it was set on fire by an arsonist. You can only imagine the shock I received when I learned that young people had been seen breaking into the boarded building and taking out anything they could carry, including chairs, stools and the few Tiffany lamps that survived the fire. These few pieces of history held no meaning for them. They simply stole whatever they could. I wonder what they told their parents about where these artifacts came from, or if their parents even cared.
And so, whatever survived after years of storms, floods and hurricanes was destroyed or stolen by the senseless, misguided and corrupt acts of a few young people. To those of you who took these pieces of memorabilia without permission, I hope they give you the pleasure that I had growing up and sharing the history, love and happiness that was nurtured in this old building. You took the tangibles, but I still have the wonderful memories, and they cannot be stolen.
Ethel Lou (Stinnett) Bennett