Members Letter: Porter Purchase for Renovation

Dear Friends,

The years have quickly passed and the future of the tavern has seemed doubtful since it closed in 2008. Yet, we have had our rays of hope and been true to our course. I often think of us as the Little Engine That Could. We think we can, we think we can and yet the top of the mountain seemed so far away.

When we formed Pittsburgh’s Old Stone Tavern Friends Trust, Inc. in 2013 little did we expect to be chugging away still in 2021. Somehow, there is still steam in our boilers. Looking back, I would like to share some of our endeavors.

The tavern was saved from the wrecking ball in 2008 by the City of Pittsburgh when they voted unanimously to declare the Old Stone Tavern a Pittsburgh Historical Landmark. A ledger located in the main branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh that is dated from 1793 into 1797 was instrumental in their decision. The Carnegie Library recognizing the historic value of the ledger, received a grant to have it restored and rebound. We donated money in 2015 so that the ledger could be digitalized and placed on the internet. You can view the ledger today on Historical Pittsburgh website by entering Old Stone Tavern in the search bar.

A couple board members and myself have researched the men who had accounts in the ledger and the types of transactions that are recorded in it. To make the public aware of the tavern and its plight, I began giving small talks about the tavern and the men in the ledger. This was in keeping with our mission statement to educate the public regarding the tavern’s significance in United States history.

We have explored all options presented to us however, some didn’t seem to pan out. We have never closed the door on any suggestion or proposal. In 2017, we were contacted by a student at Carnegie Mellon University from Texas who said perhaps he could help us. I first met him at the West End Library, he didn’t show up in cowboy boots and a white hat but with an I can attitude. He was in his senior year studying design and architecture at CMU. He believed what we needed was a proposal of what not only the tavern could be restored to be, but all of the Harris’s properties surrounding the tavern could become. Harris Masonry would not sell us just the tavern; we needed to purchase all of their property. The young man, Thomas Kelly, saw this not as an obstacle but as an opportunity. He set about to design a proposal which we had printed into a book and placed on our website.

We received great reviews regarding the proposal in the book, yet nothing happened. So, we just chugged along. In 2018, the Pittsburgh Historical Landmark Foundation honored the Old Stone Tavern with a historical plaque as a Pittsburgh Landmark. The plaque was placed on the tavern early 2019; we were unable to dedicate the plaque due to the pandemic at the time.

Time seemed to stand still in 2020 with the pandemic. We were stalled on the tracks. Then, I received a call from Mr. Harris asking if I had been in contact with the people interested in purchasing his property? No, I knew nothing of them or why they wanted to buy his property. What a relief when I learned that a gentleman that recently moved here from New York City was interested in the tavern. He had seen the proposal plan on our website. He contacted his mother in Oregon and asked if she would like to partner with him to save the tavern. She agreed and their plans are to restore the tavern!

The top of the mountain is coming into view. But our work is not done yet; the expense to restore the tavern will be a large sum. We have agreed to work with the new owners in seeking grants and funding to restore the tavern. I hope that you will continue to support and work with us in saving and restoring the Old Stone Tavern. Once again, the tavern can be the heart and a jewel of not only the West End but of Pittsburgh. Thank you, together we will reach the top of the mountain.

Norene Beatty, President

[Read Formal Press Release By Councilwoman Theresa Kail Smith]