THE OLDEST COMMERCIAL BUILDING IN PITTSBURGH
The tavern was built circa 1782. This would make the tavern the oldest commercial building still in existence in Pittsburgh.
The tavern sits quietly at the intersections of Woodville Avenue and Greentree Road in Pittsburgh’s West End community.
Greentree Road follows the path of the old Indian trail, Catfish Path that led to the camp of the Delaware Chief Tingoocque, meaning catfish. The camp site is now Washington, Pennsylvania. In 1790 those traveling to the Ohio Country over land and not down the Ohio River would go south on Catfish Path passing the tavern. Many would stop for supplies, refreshments and rest at the tavern.
The path would connect in the 1800’s to the National Road and become a toll road, the Pittsburgh-Washington Pike.
The tavern was owned by Daniel Elliott. The land was originally patented to him by Virginia in April, 1769. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on April 20, 1785 warranted it to Daniel Elliott.
Daniel Elliott first came to Western Pennsylvania as an Indian trader working for his future father-in-law, Alexander Lowry, and served under him in the American Revolution. After the Revolution he brought his bride, Elizabeth Lowry, from her home in Lancaster County to Western Pennsylvania.
Daniel Elliott became an eighteenth century entrepreneur. He saw the needs of a growing and expanding nation. In 1784 Daniel Elliott had a saw mill at the mouth of Saw Mill Run Creek one mile below Fort Pitt.
On March 11, 1784 Pennsylvania granted him permission to operate a ferry from the mouth of Saw Mill Run Creek to the north shore of the Ohio River. The north shore landing was on Ferry Street which is now Beaver Avenue.
Preserved in the Oliver Room of the Carnegie Library is a ledger from the tavern. This ledger has transactions from 1793 through 1797. The transactions include purchases of supplies, food, beverage, ferry passages, etc… Cherry toddy appears to of been one of the favorite drinks of the day.
The pages of the ledger are filled with accounts of prominent men of the time; there are also participants in the Whiskey Rebellion, local farmers, workers and an Indian.
One of the interesting notes found in the ledger is that someone wrote “spy” besides the name of John Wood in 1794. This was no doubt in regards to the high sentiments and suspicions during the Whiskey Rebellion.
Another interesting transaction is that in lieu of money for flour two new flatboats were given to Daniel Elliott.
Regarding a flatboat owned by Daniel Elliott an interesting story is told by John Robert Shaw. In August, 1784 John Robert Shaw, a soldier of fortune out of Fort McIntosh (which was located where Beaver Falls is today) told of taking provisions from Fort Pitt to Fort McIntosh in a flatboat. The flatboat belonged to Mr. Elliott. Mr. Elliott went as passenger on the trip. The round trip took them four days and they drank a barrel of whiskey.
The last page of the ledger records six gallons of whiskey given to an Indian, Detamuhim, to be paid for in two months.
Between the thick covers of the old ledger are many more stories.
The tavern has survived fires that raged near it and floods that raced to the river. There were several large refineries fires in the area between the close of the Civil War and 1873. The largest refinery fire was referred to as the Orchard Fire. The refinery was located in an orchard near the Old Stone Tavern. Fortunately the fire did not reach the tavern.
On July 26, 1874 Saw Mill Run reached extreme height and all its tributaries overflowed. Zeigler’s Grocery, in a brick building a block from the tavern, was washed away. The new frame salt works that sat where the Carnegie Library is currently on Wabash Avenue was also washed away.
The tavern has had many keepers
James Morrow in the 1790’s, Thomas Coates in the early 1800, Robert Smith in the late 1800, George Schad between 1902 and 1903, Charles Bolger from 1905 to 1921 Poliziani family in the later 1900’s.
Future of the Tavern
Following the threat of a wrecking ball. The Old Stone Tavern was designated as a Historic Structure by a unanimous decision of the Historic Review Commission of the City of Pittsburgh effective October 12, 2009.
Today a dedicated group of citizens, Pittsburgh’s Old Stone Tavern Friends Trust are working hard to save the tavern for future generations. They view the Old Stone Tavern as “Pittsburgh’s Rosetta Stone”. For hidden beneath its ancient beams and soil Pittsburgh’s story is waiting to be told.
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