Fine dining reappears at downtown Port Clinton landmark

Bill Van der Glassen and Kevin Lowe Bill Van der Glassen and Kevin Lowe

Since the mid 1990s, I have personally had meeting after meeting with the operators of the food service venues at The Island House in downtown Port Clinton. I always pointed out that the proper operation of that facility was a “sacred trust” for the community because the Island House was the cornerstone of Port Clinton’s historic downtown.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, my words were not followed up by positive action over the past 15 or so years. The Island House has suffered several different food service operators in that time frame. The food and service was inconsistent at best. But since the massive remodeling taken on by former owner Jim Stouffer in 1986, the inside of the historic building has continued to sparkle. The Island House now takes on an all new sparkle since Bill Van Der Giessen and Kevin Lowe joined forces to open the new 1812 Food and Spirits and Rosie’s Bar and Grille on either side of the lobby.

Several years ago, the hotel was purchased by the partnership of Ken McLaren and Scott Prephan, both from the Toledo area. They have put close to $1 million in improvements into the building and structure. According to Van Der Giessen, the parties involved plan to work closely with some combined promotions to market the facility.

The hotel has been the destination of Presidents Hayes and Garfield. It has been visited by celebrities such as Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio. For decades, the Island House Restaurant was the epitome of fine dining and served for over a century as the cornerstone of downtown Port Clinton. Other businesses have come and gone, but the Island House has stood the test of time for over 125 years.

Kevin Lowe, formerly of Nate’s Restaurant and other area top line food service facilities, has teamed up for a second time with local developer and entrepreneur Bill Van Der Giessen, who for many years owned and operated the Nor’Easter Club on Catawba. Both Kevin and Bill noted the difference in the two establishments. 1812 is a fine dining establishment that has largely incorporated a menu that looks a lot like Nate’s old menu. Rosie’s, named for another famous former Port Clinton resident, has a much more casual dining atmosphere. Both are now open for lunch and dinner.

I no longer feel the need to preach to the new owners the importance of properly operating their new entities as a “sacred trust”. Both are long-time Port Clinton area residents and understand the importance of The Island House to the fabric of the community. They held a quiet opening a couple of weeks ago. My wife Mary Alice and I just had to give it a try on opening night. It was superb. Their “official” Grand Opening is scheduled for September 10, to coincide with the 199th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie.

Kevin and Bill expect to be open throughout the year so locals and visitors alike will have another great choice for dining out. They will host meetings, weddings and other events in the nearly 10,000 square feet of restaurant and bar space. They can be reached at 419-960-7546 or 419-967-0354 or you can visit their new websites at or



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