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Ryan, Patricia McGuinness (1944-2001)

HistoryLink.org Essay 3487 : Printer-Friendly Format

Seattle restaurateur Patricia McGuinness Ryan was the long-time proprietor of the Denny Regrade's popular Two Bells Tavern. Under her management between 1982 and 1999, the Two Bells became a neighborhood institution famed for its home-style fare and for regular art exhibits curated by Ryan's husband, Rolon Bert Garner.

The Road to Seattle

Patricia McGuinness was born on a military base in Utah on November 7, 1944. Her family relocated soon after to San Francisco, where she spent her childhood. She later moved to Saudi Arabia, Puerto Rico, and ultimately Seattle with her first husband, Richard Roth, an executive with Crowley Maritime. Along the way, she attended culinary classes in Philadelphia.

The couple divorced shortly after arriving in Seattle, and McGuinness took the last name Ryan. She purchased the small, slightly seedy Two Bells Tavern in 1982. Bert Garner worked there as a part-time bartender and used the tavern's walls to exhibit new works by such noted local artists such as Andy Keating, Shawn Farris, Ken Leback, David Kane, Arthur Aubry, Gloria D'Archangeles, and Dale Travous. A significant artist in his own right, Garner was a former curator with the Seattle Art Museum, co-founder of Art Tech, and a former member of the Washington State Arts Commission.

Inspired Both Art and Patrons

Ryan reorganized the tavern's kitchen, recruited a loyal staff, and introduced a menu of distinctive sandwiches, soups, and hamburgers which won rave food reviews and a growing patronage that required the tavern's expansion in the early 1990s. Actress Genevieve Bujold studied Ryan's style of friendly efficiency in the kitchen and behind the bar in crafting her role as a cafe manager in Alan Rudolph's 1985 film Trouble In Mind, which was set in Seattle.

Ryan and Garner wed in 1984 and collaborated in the Two Bells operation. In addition to art shows, the tavern also hosted pioneering "Spoken Word" readings, cultural discussions, and numerous community meetings and events. The Bells was regarded by many as seed bed for the Denny Regrade's cultural efflorescence during the 1980s.

Long Battle with Cancer

Ryan was able to defeat ovarian cancer in 1984, but a second cancer appeared five years later. The demands of its treatment led her to sell the tavern in 1999 to Jeff Lee and Tina Morelli-Lee.

Ryan and Garner relocated to Clinton on Whidbey Island, where she died on the evening of August 4, 2001.

Sources:
Walt Crowley interview with Rolon Bert Garner, August 5, 2001.
Note: This essay was revised on August 7, 2001


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Rolon Bert Garner and Patricia Ryan in front of Two Bells Tavern, 1996
Photo by Arthur Aubry


Patricia M. Ryan (1944-2001), 2001
Courtesy Rolon Bert Garner


 
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