Yesterday's Magazette

3- An Ohio Theater and Inn

Remembering An Ohio Theater

By Linda Lehmann Masek

Kenley Theater and the Welshfield Inn were linked in my child’s mind throughout the late 1950s and for the next twenty years. Over the summer months, John Kenley (who recently passed away at the age of 102!), theater owner and entrepreneur, presented Broadway productions in the Ohio area. Kenley had opened theaters in the regions of Dayton, Columbus, and Warren (close to Youngstown). His Warren Theater, located in the Packard Music Hall, was our family destination, and on our way to Warren, we frequently stopped to dine at the historic Welshfield Inn on Route 422 in Welshfield, Ohio.


Kenley’s productions were famous nationwide. He had a winter theater in Florida, where he applied the same techniques to get patrons in to see his shows, specifically low prices. Patrons could get a ticket for $1.50, not that much higher than the local movie theater. The difference was the stars. Kenley brought such stars as Robert Horton (Wagon Train), Gardner McKay (Adventures in Paradise), Shirley Jones (The Partridge Family) and Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeannie) to headline his productions. In addition, after the performance, the stars customarily signed autographs for fans, and I always got a close up look at my favorite actor/actress of the moment. Indeed, I treasured my autograph of Gardner McKay until the paper withered and broke apart from frequent handling; the shredded remains are still in my Ponytail Treasure Box, a collector’s item (along with my Ponytail Diary), for girls in the 1950s.

My family customarily went to the Kenley Theater on Sunday afternoon, after stopping at the Welshfield Inn, which was en route. The historic town of Welshfield was established by Jacob Welsh, a pioneer who came to the lands of the Western Reserve in 1811. The location for the inn was ideal since it originally provided overnight accommodation for travelers on the stagecoach going from Cleveland to Youngstown, Ohio. Established in the 1840s and called the Nash Hotel after the founder, Alden Nash, the hotel also became a stop for escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War (1861-1865). The inn survived over the next one hundred years, due to its excellent food and location. An extensive front porch was added, along with numerous rooms, to the main building.

In 1946, Brian and Pauline Holmes from Akron, purchased the Welshfield Inn and ran it as a family-style restaurant for almost fifty years. This version of the inn was the one I remember, from my trips to the Kenley Theater. The main room, which has remained down to the present day with its stone fireplace and picture of George Washington over the mantel, continues to be a welcoming sight to travelers at any time of the year.


The inn has carried on the tradition of fine food to the present day. The establishment changed hands once more when, in 2007 after the Holmes’ retirement from the business, the inn was purchased by Gamekeeper Hospitality. Although the Welshfield Inn has been renovated and updated, the two central rooms, with their wooden ceilings, plus the outside facade of the structure, still remind me of my journey as a child. Even today I feel a thrill of anticipation for a marvelous dinner followed by a Hollywood style production at the John Kenley Theater in Warren, Ohio.

Linda Lehmann Masek has had three books published in her writing career: a romantic suspense novel, Soul Dance, recently published by Fireside Books on Kindle, The Poison Tree, a murder mystery from Avalon Books, and a children’s book, Mag-ni-fi-cat. She is a contributor to AT&T’s Pioneer Memories scheduled for 2011.

Vol. 38 No. 1 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Spring- 2011


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