SMHPS Lizzie’s Trail Inn Chicken and Ravioli Dinner – Meet Lizzie

Lizzie Stoppel McElwain, photo courtesy of SMHPS, click to enlarge

Posted 6/22/14 – Introducing Lizzie of Sierra Madre’s Lizzie’s Trail Inn And Creator of Delicious Chicken & Ravioli Dinners

By Jeff Lapides

On Saturday, June 28, 2014, the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society will host its second annual Chicken & Ravioli Dinner in honor of Lizzie and the good times associated with her establishment, Lizzie’s Trail Inn.  Please join us as we continue the spirit of Lizzie:  her congeniality and friendship and delicious food!  So, who was Lizzie and how did this come to be?

Sierra Madre knows her as Lizzie, the operator of the Trail Inn on East Mira Monte at the foot of the Mount Wilson Trail in the 1920s and ’30s.  History knew her as Elizabeth Louisa Ciez Adler Weiss Stoppel McElwain.  She led a colorful but all-too short life.

The roots of her family names of Ciez and Adler are unknown.  Her younger son’s birth certificate lists Ciez as his mother’s maiden name.  But Lizzie’s obituary in the Los Angeles Times lists her maiden name as Adler.  Lizzie was born in the Russian Empire on September 20, 1888.  Her village was near Kiev in today’s Ukraine. According to her obituary in the Sierra Madre News of January 4, 1939, within months of her birth, her mother died and her father was killed.

The story continued: A family with nine children took her in, and when she learned in 1906 of being adopted, the now-eighteen-year-old Elizabeth ran away to Kiev.  A kind woman in the city welcomed the girl into her family.  As it turned out, this woman was a sister of Elizabeth’s birth mother – her aunt!  Her new family immigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1909.

Lizzie met her first husband, Louis Weiss, and they married in Cleveland.  They welcomed their first child, Joseph, in Ohio and relocated to Los Angeles in 1911.  In 1913, their second son, Ruben, was born.

By 1920, Lizzie was the landlady at a rooming house at 309 Temple Street in Los Angeles (currently the site of the County of Los Angeles Heating and Refrigeration Plant).  According to the previously cited obituary, she was fluent in nine languages and volunteered as an interpreter at the Los Angeles County Hospital on Mission Road on the east side of the Los Angeles River. Her husband passed away the following year. It’s worth noting that Mr. Weiss was 35 years Lizzie’s senior.

Residing at the rooming house was Louis August Stoppel who was to become Lizzie’s second husband in 1927.  In the meantime, according to Dr. William White in 1996, Mrs. Elizabeth Weiss bought the business at the Trail Inn on her birthday in 1925. By October of the following year, Louis Stoppel’s name appeared on search warrants and a disposition of a guilty plea for illegal manufacturing of alcohol at the Trail Inn and the adjacent Richardson House.

During Lizzie’s years at the Trail Inn, the establishment developed a sterling reputation for her kitchen fare, especially her fried chicken and her ravioli dinners. It also had a less savory back story of sexual trysts in the three cabins above the inn, and, of course, the moonshine. But everyone agreed that Lizzie was most congenial and had many friends.

On November 1, 1935, Lizzie’s declining health (thought to be due to breast cancer) led her to relinquish the Trail Inn.  Louis Stoppel had left Lizzie sometime in the early years of the decade.  But on December 16, she once again assumed the lease and the business.  In 1936 Lizzie married Edward Harding “Mac” McElwain and got the support she needed.

Even though Lizzie was ill, she continued to personally pay bills and taxes through December of 1938.  But the end came on January 3, 1939, at the age of 50.  Lizzie is buried in East Los Angeles at the Home of Peace Memorial Park on Whittier Boulevard.

Lizzie’s Trail Inn lives on as the City of Sierra Madre’s mountain history Museum.  The Museum is operated by the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society and is open Saturdays between 10 and noon. The spirit of Lizzie—congeniality and friendship—continues to greet all visitors.

Lizzie’s Famous Chicken & Ravioli Dinner
Saturday, June 28, 2014, 5-8 pm
Mt. Wilson Trail Park
167 Mira Monte Avenue
$30 per person

*No tickets will be sold the day of the dinner*
Tickets may be purchased at the following Sierra Madre locations:

Arnold’s Hardware, Mary’s Market, Savor The Flavor, the Sierra Madre Public Library, and of course, Lizzie’s Trail Inn (Saturdays 10:00-noon)