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Harvey House picnic serves it up hot

Staff writer

Phil Baldwin and Mike Warner dropped battered fish and mountain oysters into burning-hot oil Saturday to feed Florence residents and others at that town’s 24th annual Picnic on the Lawn.

The temperature was nearly 90 degrees. But that didn’t stop Baldwin and Warner from cooking up grub.

“We batter. They fry,” said Trayce Warner, who dredged fish and oysters in batter with her daughter, Tisha Warner, before turning the food over to the cooks. “Phil does the fish, and Mike does the oysters. We eat it all.”

The Warners have helped at the picnic for 10 years.

Proceeds are used to keep the Harvey House Museum open.

“It’s what we keep the house going with,” said Iva Britton, president of the Florence Historical Society.

The house has been in its current location for about 50 years.

“They broke it up into three parts,” Britton said of the former Clifton Hotel. “This is one part of the hotel.”

Fred Harvey bought the Clifton Hotel in 1877 for $5,370. The next year, the second in what would become a chain of Harvey House restaurants opened at the hotel.

Fewer passengers stopped at the restaurant as railroads added dining cars. The last meals served were on March 31, 1900.

The historical society bought the hotel wing to house a museum in 1971.

Britton typically plans for about 100 people to attend the picnic.

“We’ve had less people through today than usual,”
she said.

Town and Country Café donates fish, and Britton picks up the mountain oysters at a specialty shop in McPherson.

Residents bring side dishes.

“The coleslaw is Fred Harvey’s recipe,” Britton said.

The idea behind the picnic is simple, she said: “It’s just eating and visiting.”

Last modified June 29, 2023

 

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