They could be called Bowling Green’s founding family. In 1797, brothers George and Robert Moore donated land for Warren County’s first public buildings. A year later, five commissioners established a town here to be known as “Bolin Green.”
After George Moore’s death in 1812, his widow Elizabeth constructed a brick house at the corner of what is now State and 8th streets. Completed in 1818, the home was Elizabeth’s until her death in 1862, and was then occupied by her unmarried daughter Mariah. A local woman remembered Mariah around the time of Elizabeth’s death as “about 50, plain, somewhat stout & practical”–but, she sensed, carrying the regrets of a lost and “very pathetic romance.”
Since Mariah Moore’s death in 1888, her house has undergone many additions, remodelings and transformations, including those wrought by a major fire in 1995. It has housed a plumbing business, a doctor’s office, a carpet store and–from 1979 until its planned move this April to Hitcents Park Plaza–the restaurant known to everyone in town as Mariah’s.
The Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Special Collections Library holds a recent project by a WKU folk studies student exploring the world of Mariah’s restaurant servers. Interviewing six such employees, Whitney Kuklinski uncovered some of the attitudes, practices and even slang of their culture. For example, the term “86” means that the restaurant has run out of a particular food or beverage. Writing “Thank you!” on a check can increase the tip, and female servers generally collect more than males. The work is at heart a social practice, with the server as a kind of performer. One of them perceptively concluded that people often dine out “for the experience of being served and not for the food. Sometimes I can tell people really just want to be served.” And, of course, the stress of the work breeds that dark sense of humor shared by servers everywhere: “It’s like a misery loves company kind of thing.”
Click on the links to access finding aids for the relevant collections. For more about the Moore family and Bowling Green historic homes, restaurants and other businesses, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.