Couple Revives Tavern on the Square

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. – Matt and Maggie Noble recall the first time they laid eyes on the Tavern on the Square restaurant building in New Wilmington, Pa.

They were taking a leisurely drive through the countryside from their Pittsburgh home when they wandered into New Wilmington.

It was a quiet Sunday, and no businesses were open. The Tavern on the Square was permanently closed.

But the couple could see the potential of the quaint college town and were attracted to its small-town lifestyle. Within a year, they moved there.

Today, the Nobles own the Tavern on the Square property, and are deep into a project to renovate and enlarge the building and reopen the landmark restaurant.

They have so far invested over $2 million to buy the building and restore it.

They expect the restaurant to open in March.

The Nobles are a perfect match for the task of resurrecting The Tavern and they want to make it a destination restaurant.

Maggie, who grew up in the Pittsburgh suburb of Sewickley, Pa., and Matt, who is a Southern California native, are both trained chefs. They met while both were students at a culinary school in the Napa Valley of California.

Matt is also a construction contractor, who owned a company in Pittsburgh. He is at the restaurant site every day to oversee the renovation work.

The Tavern on the Square sits at the intersection of Market Street and Neshannock Avenue, or state Route 208, in the heart of the borough.

The structure was built in 1849 and was originally a doctor’s home and office. It became a restaurant in 1933 and remained as such until it closed in 2020.

The building seemed to beckon to the Nobles.

“We drove past this place a million times,” Matt says. “It was sitting empty while every other restaurant was full. We wondered why, since there was clearly a demand for another restaurant. Finally, we said, ‘Let’s reopen it.’”

Coincidentally, the Nobles live in a restored old house they purchased from Jay Boehm, a former owner of The Tavern on the Square.


The future of the restaurant building was in jeopardy when the Nobles inquired about buying it.

The property was in foreclosure and its fate was in the hands of First National Bank officials in North Carolina.

“They had no idea of its historical significance,” Maggie says. “They had never been here. It was just a line item, and a financial drain because it needed so much work.”

The Nobles wrote the bank a letter when negotiating to buy the building.

“We told them we were new to town but see the significance of it,” she says. “We said that the town goes the way of the tavern and there would be tumbleweeds blowing down the street unless somebody did something about this building.”

The staid structure has a presence that cannot easily be replicated. Horse-drawn buggies driven by the Amish clip-clop by and add to its charm.

The Nobles felt that the building deserved to be saved. But more important, they wanted to restore its role as a gathering place for residents, tourists and the parents of Westminster College students who are visiting their children.

“This town almost lost this building,” Maggie says. “It was as close as it’s ever been to losing this space.”

She credited Mayor Sherie Babb, who is also a real estate agent, with being protective of the property. “She was careful of who she brought in to look at it,” Maggie says. “She didn’t want it to become a [fast-food restaurant] or a parking lot.”

Babb worked with First National Bank to make sure it understood this was no ordinary property. The building was deteriorating and she was hoping to find a buyer who had the financial means to restore it.

“I wanted to make sure it was sold to the right people,” Babb says. “I did get a lot of [potential buyers] who would have torn it down or had other ideas. Some just wanted it because they wanted its liquor license.”

The Tavern has the borough’s only liquor license.

“We were lucky to find Maggie and Matt,” she says. “I was worried it would fall into the hands of the wrong people.”


Babb and the Nobles agree that The Tavern’s comeback is stirring optimism.

“The town is abuzz,” Matt says. “When we moved here in 2020, it seemed like the town was on the brink of going downhill. There wasn’t much entrepreneurship going on and Covid didn’t help.”

There has been a palpable change in attitude among the business community, Babb says. Some new shops have shown interest in the downtown and she expects there will be even more in the coming months.

“There is an excitement in this town,” she says.

Bakluva, a coffee shop and creperie, opened at 141 S. Market St. last year. About a block away is The Inn on Market, a six-unit bed and breakfast in a restored historical house that opened in 2022.

The borough recently started a façade improvement fund program for South Market Street businesses that has already awarded two grants.


The Tavern on the Square building is 175 years old but is not on the National Register of Historic Places. Nevertheless, the Nobles are taking great pains to restore it to its original detail.

Even wooden door frames that had to be widened to be ADA-compliant have been crafted to replicate their original look.

Among the contractors the Nobles have hired for the project is Wildman Chalmers Design, a Pittsburgh
architecture firm that specializes in the restoration of old or historic properties.

“Our philosophy is: don’t touch it unless you have to,” Maggie says.

The building has undergone expansions and renovations in the past. So, not all of it dates to the 1800s.

“One of the challenges of retaining the historic qualities of a 175-year-old building that had been converted from a private home to a restaurant, and been remodeled, is figuring out what is original,” Matt says. “I know the hand-hewn wooden beams in the basement are original,” but it’s not always obvious when an element was built.

In the end, though, the Nobles are doing more than just restoring the building’s appearance to a certain time in history. “We are preserving the history of experiences that happened here,” Matt says.

As part of the project, a small neighboring building has been seamlessly absorbed into the main building and will become the restaurant’s gift shop. The restaurant’s entrance will be in a newly built room that was previously in the space between the two buildings.

For outdoor dining, a brick patio has been built around the front entrance. A second outdoor seating area is being added on the second floor at the building’s rear.

An expansion was also built at the rear of the building to accommodate a staircase and an elevator.


Both Matt and Maggie Noble have extensive résumés in the food and drink industry.

Matt was a chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant at a Napa Valley resort. But when The Tavern on the Square reopens, he won’t be in the kitchen. “I learned it’s not a lifestyle for a husband and father, the crazy hours,” he says.

His experience also includes winemaking and brewing; he was the head brewer at a brewery in Berkeley, Calif.

The Tavern on the Square will have a casual bar room with high-top tables and the restaurant will have a carefully selected wine list and craft beer offerings.

“We are big wine fans, having spent a lot of time working in Napa,” Maggie says. “I worked in several great winery kitchens there, and that will influence our wine list.”

The restaurant will have a staff of about 40, including executive chef Matt Huffman, who most recently held the same position at the Peter Allen Inn in Kinsman, Ohio.

The menu concept will be farm to table, Matt says, which encompasses a wide range. “As trained chefs, we understand food and food history,” he says. “Our food will be American but that could be anything. It could be Korean.”

The kitchen will make every attempt to use locally raised or produced ingredients, including vegetables, beef and chicken.

The menu will feature daily specials but also mainstays such as burgers and steak.

“I appreciate a smaller, curated menu with a lot of thought put into each dish,” Matt says.

The restaurant will also bake its own bread.

The restaurant will have several dining rooms, each with its own atmosphere, and guests can specify where they want to sit when making reservations. The 100-seat restaurant will also have tables for walk-in customers.

After it’s up and running, the Nobles plan to install a second kitchen in the basement that will serve casual fare to go or for dining on an outdoor patio that will be added at the rear of the building.

Pictured at top: Matt and Maggie Noble stand in a dining room of the soon-to-open restaurant.