Pittsburgh’s Old Stone Tavern
For immediate release: 7/22/15
Canadian author Christine Sismondo endorses efforts to save the
West End’s Old Stone Tavern
She applauds Pittsburgh’s Old Stone Tavern Friends Trust’s mission
to restore this area’s oldest commercial building
As a former bartender, barfly, and author of two books on imbibing, Christine Sismondo certainly knows her wines and spirits. But how did this Canadian university lecturer learn about Pittsburgh’s Old Stone Tavern and its importance in history?
Ms Sismondo came to Pittsburgh in 2008. She was following her husband, a sports writer, who was in turn following the Toronto Blue Jays on an American tour. While he attended the Pirates-Blue Jays game, she busied herself writing a draft proposal for a book that was eventually entitled: “America Walks Into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops.” (Oxford University Press, 2011)
Already familiar with the Jean Bonnet tavern in Bedford, Pennsylvania, Ms Sismondo learned of the existence of the Old Stone Tavern in Pittsburgh. Both inns had served as meeting places for Whiskey Rebellion farmers. Taverns, she argues in her book, brought together far-flung pioneer neighbors who could have a drink, learn the latest news and debate the merits of various issues.
In the 1790s, the big issue was the government’s imposition of an excise tax on distilled spirits, a levy targeted for diminishing America’s Revolutionary War debt. “Western Pennsylvania’s hardscrabble farmer/distillers resented being burdened with a high tariff imposed upon them by Eastern seaboard politicians who did not understand their situation. They began to plot insurrection.”
“It is highly likely that the [Old Stone Tavern] was used as the site for planning direct political action in the Whiskey Rebellion, since its patrons were some of the best-known political protesters,” Ms Sismondo wrote in a letter of support. In fact, ledger pages from the Tavern covering the years 1793 to 1797 contain account entries for seventy men who participated in the rebellion.
In July 1794, the controversy boiled over when 500 men attacked and burned the home of the tax inspector Gen. John Neville. Luckily for his attorney at the time, John Woods, the rebels only assailed his character. Beside his name in the Old Stone Tavern ledger someone had written the word “spy.”
Farmer versus tax collector. Red State versus Blue State. Republican versus Democrat. While these dichotomies sometimes seem far too divisive, they are nonetheless a characteristic of our country. The fact that free expression and spirited debate took root in a small Western Pennsylvania inn makes it imperative that the Old Stone Tavern be saved.
For immediate release: 9/24/14
Pittsburgh’s Old Stone Tavern Friends Trust gets tax-deductible status
Another step forward
The IRS recently granted 501(c)(3) status to the group of non-profit preservationists working to save the Old Stone Tavern in Pittsburgh’s West End. Now donors can deduct their contributions from Federal income taxes.
Incorporated in Pennsylvania under the name “Pittsburgh’s Old Stone Tavern Friends Trust, Inc.” the organization’s mission is: “to secure ownership of the tavern and its property, provide for its long-term preservation, and educate the public about its significance in United States history.”
The Old Stone Tavern was built around 1782 and is located at 434 Greentree Road. It is the oldest commercial building in Pittsburgh and has been designated a Pittsburgh Historic Landmark.
For more information:
For immediate release: 7/28/14
Pittsburgh’s Old Stone Tavern Friends Trust to host informational gathering
July 28, 2014
Emanuel Methodist Church
825 Lorenz Avenue in Elliott
Doors open: 6:00 p.m.
Welcome: 6:30 p.m.
Presentation: 7:00 p.m.
Yesterday. Learn about the Old Stone Tavern’s past from featured speaker architect Michael Shealey, AIA. Michael has been researching its history since 2009. His PowerPoint presentation will take us inside this building that has been shuttered for years.
Today. Hear what Old Stone Tavern Friends are doing right now to save this venerable tavern, a witness to Western Pennsylvania history for over three centuries.
Tomorrow. Explore the exciting plans for the Tavern’s restoration and future life. Enjoy lively songs, ditties and airs performed by fiddler John McNulty. A musician, teacher, and Lewis and Clark Expedition enthusiast, John often leads Venture Outdoors hikes through the hills around the Old Stone Tavern.
Directions from downtown Pittsburgh: Take the Ft. Pitt Bridge towards the airport and exit right onto Carson Street before the tunnel. Keeping in the left lane, proceed to the West End Circle at the West End Bridge. Follow the signs for Steuben Street/Rt. 60 staying in the right lane as you turn left under the RR tracks. Go up Steuben St. three traffic lights to Lorenz Ave. at the Firehouse. Turn right on Lorenz Ave. and travel a short block to Crucible St. The church is on the right corner in front of you.
More information: http://postfriendstrust.org/special-public-meeting-july-28th-2014
For immediate release: 3/7/14
Preservationists incorporate to restore historic tavern
An enthusiastic band of volunteers recently incorporated in the State of Pennsylvania under the name “Pittsburgh’s Old Stone Tavern Friends Trust.” Incorporation marks an important step in fulfilling the group’s mission: to secure ownership of the tavern and its property, provide for its long-term preservation, and educate the public about its significance in United States history.According to architect and preservationist Michael Shealey, A.I.A., the Old Stone Tavern is “the oldest commercial building in Pittsburgh.” He puts its construction date at around 1783, a time when the inn was known as Elliott’s.
Designated a Pittsburgh Historic Landmark and included in Pittsburgh’s Landmark Architecture: The Historic Buildings of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, the Old Stone Tavern is located at 434 Greentree Road in Pittsburgh’s West End community.
The inn served as a popular “rest stop” on the old Washington and Pittsburgh Turnpike. Here travellers could down a pint, enjoy a hot meal, book passage on the ferry across the Ohio River— maybe even plot insurrection. Several customers listed in an old ledger from the tavern took part in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. [Read more history here]
The ledger, covering the years from 1793 to 1797, resurfaced not long ago in the William R. Oliver Special Collections Room at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Old Stone Tavern Trust members call it their “Rosetta Stone” because of its use in deciphering the history of the tavern and the part it played in Western Pennsylvania business, political and social activities.
From the matter-of-fact lines of the ledger — who bought what and how much they paid, or owed— emerges a colorful picture of everyday pioneer life. For instance, like bars everywhere, the tavern had its “regulars.” One by the name of John Handlyn had enough time and money to drink there several times a week. Apparently, not everyone led a hardscrabble existence armed with his wits and a Bowie knife; some could sit for hours on a barstool in a warm tavern nursing a shot of whiskey or Cherry Toddy.
Today the tavern, now vacant, is hardly warm. Trust members are appealing to others to help fund the purchase of this historic gem and restore it to its former glory.
Pittsburgh’s Old Stone Tavern ledger pages