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A Step Back Catering Hall

Restored school becomes
community gathering spot

New Washington restaurant
combines food, entertainment

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(February 2008) – “It’s like going to Grandma’s house,” owner Beverly Maxwell says of A Step Back Catering Hall. “Every time I walk through this door I just feel like I’m home.”

Beverly Maxwell

Photo by Lela Jane Bradshaw

Beverly Maxwell, owner of A Step
Back Catering Hall, loves to cook and
serve people at her establishment.

That same cozy feeling is sure to be shared by guests as they enter the New Washington restaurant. The dining room is decorated with antiques from the Maxwell family collection, while the cheerful red walls showcase memorabilia celebrating the building’s past as a schoolhouse, Masonic Lodge and movie theater. Visitors can enjoy dishes drawn from time tested family recipes and sample items inspired by area church cookbooks.
Maxwell describes the food as “mostly country cooking with more up to date salads and deserts.”
A Step Back is open on Wednesdays for lunch and Sundays for brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Friday, Feb. 15, A Step Back will play host to a Valentine’s Day Dinner and Dance. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., there will be a buffet dinner and a band to provide live music.
A Step Back is located in the former New Washington Normal School and adds a new chapter to the building’s storied past. Built in 1894, the building ran as a school until 1926. It also served as a Masonic Lodge from 1926 until 2000, and was used as a movie theater from 1928 through 1951. In 2000, Beverly, 61, and her husband Marvin, 62, were in the process of retiring from Mom’s Music, a business they had owned since 1981, and decided to approach the Masonic Lodge about selling the building. The couple purchased the former schoolhouse with an eye toward restoring it.
“We’d always loved this old building,” Maxwell explains. Over the next two years, the couple refinished all three floors, including the third floor, which had been boarded up since the 1930s and had become home to several bats. Today, the building has reclaimed its former beauty, and the elegant staircase and high ceilings can again be appreciated.
The New Washington couple’s plans initially did not extend beyond preservation, but soon they were sharing the renovated building with the community and renting the hall out for parties and receptions. Beverly Maxwell’s love of cooking lead to the opening of the restaurant in October 2007. She and her friend, Sylvia Jones, enjoyed cooking together, and preparing dishes for A Step Back became a rewarding experience for each of them.

A Step Back Building

Photo by Lela Jane Bradshaw

A Step Back's building has been used
as a schoolhouse, Masonic Lodge
and movie theater

“I really like to cook and I really like serving people,” Maxwell explains.
In keeping with the building’s history as a movie theater, the Maxwells have incorporated live theater into the restaurant. Last fall, the Riverrun Theatre Co. from Madison and the Hanover College theater group, Evil Petting Zoo, put on a series of productions for a Friday Dinner Theater. With plays ranging from comedy to serious drama, the Dinner Theater is sure to delight audiences all tastes. A Step Back is currently working with these groups to set up the spring schedule, with productions expected to begin sometime in March. Plans are also under way to bring in musicians and comedy acts for some of the Friday dinners.
A Step Back also reflects the educational tradition of the building. On the second floor of the building, the Maxwells are setting up a museum to share pieces of history. They hope to show children how everyday items, such as washing machines and televisions, have changed and developed over the years. Visitors will be able to see what children of the early 1900s wore and inspect a quilt in the progress.
The New Washington community has also donated items relating to the building’s past. Visitors can admire Eastern Star china or search for relatives in the portraits of past Masonic members and class photos from the New Washington Normal School.

• A Step Back is located at 409 E. Main St., in New Washington, Ind. For more information on upcoming events, visit: www.astepback.net or call Beverly Maxwell at (812) 293-2225.

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