After sitting dormant for the last four years, a warm glow can once again be seen emanating from the windows and garden firepits of historic Stokes Adobe. A new restaurant of the same name has brought the building back to life and its history back into the spotlight. Since the 1980s, whenever the storied adobe at 500 Hartnell Street in Monterey has changed hands and a new proprietor has stepped in, the press has been keen to talk about its somewhat dark and haunting past. Stories abound of one notorious resident, a quack doctor, James Stokes, and the often deadly “treatments” he prescribed. He is credited with the deaths of both his own wife and California Governor Jose Figueroa. In 1846, California’s first newspaper was published at the adobe. A decade later, the home was purchased by Honore Escolle, a French baker who dabbled in pottery—his kiln is on the property to this day. The Gragg family acquired the adobe in the 1890s, and it remained their residence until 1950. Among other spirits, the house is said to be haunted by the friendly ghost of Hattie Gragg, a Monterey socialite who died in the home in 1948.
What almost always seems to be a mere side note in the press, is the legendary establishment that turned the residence into a restaurant in the first place. Home to many restaurants throughout the years, only one has reached the notoriety and acclaim capable of elevating an institution to historic status—that was Gallatin’s. If you’re a native of Monterey, you have no doubt heard stories of sumptuous
dinners in the luxuriously well-appointed dining rooms and of the gracious restaurateurs whose complex combination of elegance, humor and wit made a reservation one of the most sought after in the country. It was THE place for fine dining on the Peninsula and a destination for gourmets from around the country from 1950 into the 1970s. But, as with so much of the adobe’s history, there is much more to the story…
The proprietor of Gallatin’s was Albert Gallatin Powers, known as “Gal.” He was the son of Frank Powers, the extremely successful San Francisco lawyer and businessman whose Carmel Development Company helped to establish the community of Carmel-by-the-Sea. His mother was Jane Gallatin, daughter of the early California pioneer and businessman Albert Gallatin (her childhood home is now the Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento). One of the first artists to work and dwell in Carmel, Jane is credited with having Carmel’s first art studio. She was integral in the creation of the Carmel art colony and a founding member of the Carmel Arts and Crafts Club.
In addition to having many of life’s advantages, Gal was also blessed with intellect and charisma. Raised in the grand hotels of France and Italy and in a French boarding school, Powers returned to California at the age of 17 and attended UC Berkeley, where he was a heavyweight boxing champion. He went on to Harvard Law School, but returned to finish his law degree at Hastings School of Law in San Francisco. After school, he sailed around the world on his yacht, “Otter,” until World War II called. Gal joined the Navy and served in the South Pacific, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Upon his discharge in 1945, Powers returned to the Monterey Peninsula and opened Gallatin’s, a restaurant 15 miles south of Carmel, perched above the ocean just north of the Bixby Creek Bridge. He successfully ran his business there until a tragic homicide—in which five employees were murdered by another employee—led him to lose heart in the operation. Not long after, Mr. Gragg, the owner of Stokes Adobe, offered the house to Powers for use as a restaurant, and the Monterey iteration of Gallatin’s was born.
In 1950, Gal and his second wife, Lucille Taylor, opened the new restaurant at Stokes Adobe, providing a truly fine dining experience. But it was his third wife (married in 1953), Jehanne Havens-Monteagle, who was integral to the long term success of the restaurant. Granddaughter of Piedmont developer Frank C. Havens, the fiery socialite grew up between Piedmont, the San Fran-cisco Peninsula and a convent school in Paris. Jehanne was blessed with beauty, a savvy mind for business and a naturally hospitable nature. Gal was her fourth husband and she came to him with young twin daughters, Joy and Gay, whom he adopted and raised as his own. Gal and Jehanne also each brought a teenage daughter to the family, Sandra and Victoria, respectively. And together they had a son, Albert Gallatin Powers Jr., known as “G.” In Jehanne, Gal found the perfect life and business partner.
Despite coming from privileged backgrounds, both Gal and Jehanne had experienced periods of financial hardship. As a child, Gal was often left alone in the grand European hotels where they lived while his mother traveled. From time to time, the bills weren’t paid, which resulted in him being moved from the penthouse to service accommodations adjacent the kitchen. It was during these lean times that Gal had his first experiences in the kitchen, learning to cook from the chefs of these storied establishments. Jehanne’s periods of poverty came later in life, when her third husband, actor Lionel Stander, was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. His inability to get work left Jehanne bankrupt and, in order to make ends meet, she took in boarders. Unfortunately, most of them were also out-of-work actors who rarely paid rent. With a copy of “Escoffier’s Cook Book for Gourmets,” Jehanne improvised complex meals out of wilted vegetables and the cheapest cuts of meat. She was surprised to find herself capable of producing satisfying culinary delights on a shoestring budget!
With Gallatin’s, Gal and Jehanne’s goal was to create a place where every guest felt like royalty. While the restaurant attracted the rich and famous, the Powers made sure that everyone felt welcome without judgment. Gal believed that service was paramount, not just in the restaurant, but in life—service to our fellow man. Graciousness and gratitude were at the heart of everything he did. Through complete attention to detail towards service, food and ambiance, the Powers created a perfect respite from the daily grind. Upon arrival, a handsome valet would whisk your car away as you entered the opulent lobby, where a twinkling crystal chandelier dangled above lush red velvet banquettes and tiny cocktail tables. An elegantly dressed hat-check girl would take your hat and coat before you were greeted by the maître d’ and guided to your table in one of the lavish dining rooms or to the bar and lounge. From the carefully selected art to the period antiques, the interior elements were chosen to create the feeling of dining in a luxurious home. Every minute detail was painstakingly planned, even down to the selection of the rose-colored glass for the table top candles (as warm rosy light makes all complexions more beautiful).
Gal was a member of the Bohemian Club (the exclusive San Francisco men’s club that espouses the arts) and he believed music, art, literature and drama should be pillars of the restaurant. As such, he collected and hung fine art—the paintings of fellow Bohemians past and present—throughout the restaurant, a number of whom were Monterey area artists. One of the dining rooms was even known as “The Art Gallery.” Notably, his collection included a dark moonlit painting of Stokes Adobe by renowned nocturne painter, Charles Rollo Peters—Monterey’s “Prince of Darkness.” Another important element of ambiance always incorporated was music. Musicians could be found in almost every room—with a piano player in the bar, a zither player in the mirror room, and a jazz trio in the upstairs dining room. But the atmosphere, though formal and refined, was also spirited, with playful, tongue-and-cheek names for cocktails and most notably, the restaurant’s slogan “Halfway between the Hospital and the Jail” a reminder of just how much fun (or mischief) you could get yourself into imbibing there.
The chef was Le Cordon Bleu trained and the menu, rooted in Northern Italian cuisine, was expansive with both European specialties and local delicacies, developed by the Powers in their home kitchen on Martin Street in Monterey. The restaurant provided European cart service in which all the salads, sauces and desserts were prepared table-side and every waiter was trained to cook. Menus highlighted local ingredients, such as abalone puffs, abalone steak and calamari but also included complex gourmet oddities, such as the “Bulls Head Minotaur” and the “Imperial Siberian Wild Boar.” The restaurant sometimes featured historical themes, including “The Joaquin Murietta Dinner” in honor of the famous local bandit and “The Sherman Rose Dinner,” paying tribute to a romantic Monterey legend.
The 1950s were a difficult time for Monterey. The town’s main industry—fishing—was suffering greatly as the sardines had disappeared. The economy also relied on tourism, but things had changed post-war. The once thriving Hotel Del Monte, belonged to the government and was no longer open to the public. Tourism was waning. The Powers, along with other local restaurateurs and hoteliers, banded together to revive the industry with tremendous success. Their efforts paid off and nightlife in Monterey flourished. In high season, a reservation needed to be made six months to a year in advance, though, reservation or not, no one was turned away, as Gallatin’s offered impromptu dining in the bar and lobby. At its peak, Gallatin’s was serving 600 meals a night.
Over the years, Gallatin’s accumulated countless awards and accolades, including the coveted Mobil Guide 4-Star Award (the highest honor a restaurant could receive at the time), the Holiday Magazine Award for Fine Dining, and was featured in Time Magazine’s list of “22 Outstanding Restaurants in the United States.” The famous journalist and gourmand, Lucius Beebe, once spent a week in the restaurant and named Gallatin’s one of the finest restaurants in the world.
As a young man, restaurant legend Ted Balestreri, of the Sardine Factory, remembers idolizing Gal, describing him as something of a James Bond character—always perfectly dressed, charming yet commanding—a true gentleman of the world and a consummate restaurateur. Gal was an intellectual, an athlete, an equestrian, a gourmet and an oenophile. He and Jehanne were both members of the Con-frérie de la Chaine des Rotis-seur (the international gastronomic society) and of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastavin (the exclusive bacchanalian fraternity of Burgundy wine connoisseurs). And, like 007, it was said that Gal could decipher the terroir and even the vintage of any given wine. Gallatin’s had a 5,000+ bottle wine cellar, and while Gal was a direct importer of Louis Roederer and other fine French wines, Gallatin’s was the first fine dining establishment to feature and promote California wines. Gal forged close relationships with California winemakers, and many personally delivered their wines to him, including Joe Heitz, Martin Rey and Robert Mondavi, to name a few.
The restaurant attracted the rich and famous as well as locals and vacationers, and the Powers welcomed everyone with warmth. Once, when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were dining, Jehanne sent for the twin girls at home—to dress and come down to the restaurant by taxi. The twins served Liz and Richard dessert, curtsied demurely, and returned home to bed. Other notable regular guests included Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Lana Turner, Dave Brubeck, Dan Rowan, Dick Martin and John Wayne. Wayne was a close friend of Gal’s and, together at the restaurant, they would often wage friendly bets to test each other’s strength—one such bet involved tearing phone books in half with their bare hands.
The Powers proudly featured fresh, locally sourced ingredients, embracing a truly farm-to-table ideology that was trailblazing in 1950s America. They had five acres of land at their home on Martin Street and grew many of their specialty vegetables there as well as microgreens in their greenhouse. Gal would hunt wild boar in Carmel Valley with bow and arrow; abalone was brought by fishermen for Gal’s selection to the restaurant’s back door; and beef, sourced from local ranchers, was aged an extra six to seven weeks on the restaurant premises. Gal often took his twin daughters to forage for miner’s lettuce and mushrooms and to gather mussels at Point Lobos. Gal and Jehanne recognized the sacrifice laborers made to bring fresh produce to the table and made sure their children did too. Once, Gal saw the twins throw away a basket of strawberries before their time and saw the opportunity to teach an important lesson. He arranged for the girls to ride along on the farmworkers’ bus, sending them to the strawberry fields in Salinas to work as pickers for the next two weeks. The experience gave the teenage girls a real sense of the labor involved in bringing food to their table and exposed them to the plight of farmworkers, leading both to become activists. The Powers felt very strongly about social justice, equality and giving back to the community, and they treated employees with the utmost respect. They believed that those born to privilege owed it to give back to the community. Gal shared profits with kitchen, bar and wait staff, and he invited the union into his restaurant to ensure his employees had good health coverage and other benefits. The Powers were the kind of employers that staff enjoyed working with and, as such, the restaurant attracted wonderful employees. The famed bartender, Romuldo “Papa Vince” Vicente, best known for his many years at the Sardine Factory, worked at Gallatin’s before making his way to Cannery Row. 1970s era hat-check girl JoAnn Getz-Meyer recalls all of the staff being delighted to see their boss, “Mrs. Powers,” whenever she arrived. Both Gal and Jehanne were elegant yet relatable, benevolent and sincere.
Gal also hired men who were getting sober, often musicians, to support their efforts at creating better lives for themselves. At their property on Martin Street, the Powers frequently allowed acquaintances in need—recovering alcoholics and those down on their luck—to stay in their guesthouse and other outbuildings. The twin girls would be asked to deliver food to the guests and were told to honor and respect them and never to judge.
Jehanne served as VP of the restaurant until taking the reins in 1969, when Gal died in his sleep from a massive heart attack at the age of 61. Though the restaurant’s proudest moments may have passed with the loss of Gal, Jehanne was determined to carry on, working tirelessly to maintain the high standards for which Gallatin’s was known. Tragically, not long after Gal’s death, Jehanne developed breast cancer. Busy with the restaurant, she ignored her own well-being and the cancer spread to her bones before she was diagnosed. She suffered incredible pain and injuries from bone loss, but maintained that a positive attitude could extend life expectancy, surviving a good many years past her original prognosis. She finally succumbed to the disease in 1978, leaving her son “G” to run the restaurant until it sold to another operator a few years later.
An act like Gallatin’s is hard to follow, and, as the memories fade over the years, perhaps achieving that benchmark matters less, but even now, the owner and operator of the new Stokes Adobe, Sarah Orr, feels the presence of the iconic restaurant’s legacy and hopes to honor it in her own way. Yet, outside the famous adobe, the Gallatin legacy still continues through the work of one of two surviving Powers children, Joy Powers D’Ovidio. Through her nonprofit, A Meal With Dignity, Joy engages local communities to bring fresh, organic food to the homeless—combating hunger on a local level, to alleviate hunger on a global level—carrying on the many lessons her parents taught her about the wonders of good food and honor and respect for all mankind.