The “Original” Deep Creek Experience? Where Tradition Meets Today?
The story of Ace’s Run is a story of one of Deep Creek Lake’s first families – Helmuth “Ace” and Evelyn Heise. Many familiar with our area may know them as the original developers and owners of Wisp Ski Resort but their story really started at Will O’ the Wisp, a series of rustic summer cottages built in 1927, soon after the formation of the lake by Pennsylvania Electric Company
Gustav and Alice Heise, along with their children Helmuth “Ace” and Doris, originally purchased the complex from the original owner, Dr. Bullard, a retired dentist, in the 1940s. After a stint in the Air Force, Ace returned to Deep Creek Lake and married Evelyn and then went on to Temple University, where he studied business. He and Evelyn purchased Will O’ the Wisp from his parents in 1953 and took out a $10,000 second mortgage, what seemed to the young couple an enormous amount to build a modern motel for their many guests.
While the new Will O’ the Wisp opened in 1954, they soon found that the winters were difficult to sustain their business. Ace had travelled to several ski areas throughout the region and came home with the idea of starting a ski resort near Deep Creek Lake, to help all the struggling businesses in the area. With help from other families and the local Chamber of Commerce, Ace and Evelyn went into the ski business, and occupancy for their little motel continued to grow.
As the hotel grew, the couple found a need for more dining options for their lodgers and in November 1961, The Four Seasons Dining Room at Will O’ the Wisp was opened. Operated by the couple, along with their son Martin, the restaurant instantly became popular for its gorgeous lake views and delicious cuisine. In 1973, the existing condominiums at Will O’ the Wisp were completed, and the restaurant continued as one of the area’s most popular dining and special even destinations for fifty years. Ace passed away in 2009 and with Evelyn in declining health, Martin decided to close the business in 2012, after half a century of service.
Martin’s wife Brenda McDonnell, owner of two of Deep Creek Lake’s premier businesses (Brenda’s Pizzeria and Traders Coffee House), couldn’t bear the thought of the place so loved by her mentor and father-in-law sitting empty. Martin knew in his heart that Brenda would not only bring an experienced eye to the place, but would also honor the traditions and legacies of his family.
And while she was determined to honor the traditions of this venerable establishment (the photos on the walls are all a tribute to the Heise family and their contribution to Garrett County), she envisioned a different, more contemporary and casual approach. The dining room and bar area were remodeled to maximize the stunning lake views and the menu updated to accommodate the tastes of both locals and visitors to the lake area.
The menu changes seasonally to feature the freshest food available and Brenda is proud to be one of the first restaurants to enlist the Farm to Table with many of the items on her menu being grown or raised locally including fresh vegetables, organically grown meats, cheeses and more. As always, all desserts are made onsite and even features one of Ace’s favorites, fresh ice cream and milkshakes. They have kept one of Four Season’s most popular dining traditions, Wednesday night’s Pasta Mania, their fabulous watch-as-they-cook your very own pasta dish just the way you create it, and the new Stir FRYday, where you can do the same but with an Asian flair.
The Pub and patio, with its lake views, warm fireplace, and delicious cocktails, is the perfect place to meet friends for a pre-dinner drink or to catch up on the news of the day. The facility is accessible by boat from May – mid October and now offers an expanded parking lot for the convenience of their guests.
In addition to fine dining, Will O’ the Wisp has always been known for its outstanding catering, and the downstairs area features the same outstanding lake views. Brenda and her staff are happy to meet with you to plan your next corporate or family retreat, wedding, rehearsal dinner or special event.
Whether it’s a cocktail to end the day, a delicious dinner with friends, or your next special event, Ace’s Run is the perfect place for your next “Deep Creek Experience”.