Restaurant Passion
Poor Herbie's
Poor Herbie's

Our History

A bit about our history

Not many people realize that the community today called Madison was an early bustling commercial center, a part of Chatham, and that it was dramatically changed by a major fire in the business area in 1877 that reportedly began right where you are sitting now, at POOR HERBIE’S.

In those days this building was owned by tailor John N. Allen of New York and operated by Isaac J. Ayres as a grocery store on the ground floor. The upstairs floors were the original home of Madison’s YMCA, with a reading room and exercise areas. The building was closed that Sunday evening, so the cause of the blaze remains unknown.

The Fire of 1877 spread south rapidly toward the railroad depot, which was at street-level at that time, destroying homes and stores. Damage to the building to the north, now a bookstore, was deflected when firefighters pulled parts of its new metal roof off and draped it over the exposed façade!

Following the fire, a plan to widen Waverly Place, advanced by visionary members of the community like the Rev. Samuel Tuttle and Judge Francis Lathrop, was put in motion. The new broad boulevard helped local rail commerce bloom, allowing carriages to turn – helping the flourishing rose business, as well. The fire also solidified the formation of the Madison Fire Department, which celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2006.
Madison’s Downtown Center, including 11-13 Waverly Place, was listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places in 1989 and 1991, honoring the regard for heritage and community that is part of Madison’s unique ambience. A new Millennium clock and a bust of President James Madison add a note of time and place.
An early 20th Century photo of #13 Waverly Place, hanging in our pub, shows Wilson & Ross specialty grocers in operation and a barbershop at #11, now our dining room. Later William Montagna operated a butcher shop there and lived upstairs. In 1971, he and his sister sold 11-13 Waverly to the Sainato family, who operate the neighboring TV store at #15. Fifty years ago, this site was home to the Waverly Tavern. For years Pete O’Brien ran a bar with a pool table and Pete Cattano’s Modern Barbershop was #11.

Big changes at #13 Waverly were started by Marguerite Lytle, who had an idea for a cozy pub In the late 70’s, then sold to a partnership, led by the owner of the legendary Widow Brown’s restaurant with Joe and Ruth Artiglere and others. Together they developed the eclectic style, hearty menu and casual ambiance that have made POOR HERBIE’S a centerpiece in Madison. The Artigleres, as successors of the partnership, expanded in 1985, creating a Dining Room in the #11 storefront. In 1992 they retired and sold to Judy and Dennis Mullins!

The Mullinses, long-time customers and Madison enthusiasts, along with son Dennis and Staff, are committed to celebrating POOR HERBIE’S traditions of fine food and convival neighborhood atmosphere! Enjoy your visit!

Judy, Dennis, and Dennis, Jr.

Items and pricing subject to change without notice.