Archaeology

A Book Waiting to Be Read

Sober Look at a West End Tavern

A sober look at our historic — if drunken — past still awaits at an empty tavern in Pittsburgh’s West End.

In the last post, we described the valiant efforts of the local Daughters of the American Revolution to save the Fort Pitt Block House, Pittsburgh’s oldest structure, more than a century ago.

Now, we look at what’s going on at the second oldest building in the city. The Old Stone Tavern in the West End is a book waiting to be read, says Paul Sentner.

He is president of the Pittsburgh Old Stone Tavern (POST) Friends Trust, which was formed in 2013 to study, buy, restore and re-use the building .

That all entails raising money, which hasn’t happened yet.

The tavern sits empty along a curve at the bottom of Greentree Road,  where Woodville Avenue intersects. People pass by every few moments. Few know the derelict-looking saloon could tell stories played out 240 years ago and every year since.

An Older Story Yet

Sentner says the tavern’s storytelling may go back even further. It sits on land likely never plowed, at the intersection of two paths walked by prehistoric people. That means artifacts likely remain there undisturbed. So, why not get to reading the stories? If only it were so easy.

 

Members of Pittsburgh’s Old Stone Tavern Friends Trust (from right): Paul Sentner, Norene Beatty, Cris Mooney, John McNulty, Rich Forster and Lorraine Forster

[/media-credit] Members of Pittsburgh’s Old Stone Tavern Friends Trust (from right): Paul Sentner, Norene Beatty, Cris Mooney, John McNulty, Rich Forster and Lorraine Forster

The people smitten by the tavern’s historic value do not own it.

“The DAR had an advantage because the block house was given to them,” Sentner notes.

He and his group are talking to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, representatives of the mayor and others to find a way to acquire the property from Lee Harris. He operates a masonry business on three sides of the tavern.

Harris bought it in 2009 for about $38,000, intending to clear it away and expand his operations.

Those aware of the tavern’s historic significance got word and voiced alarm. Harris held off the bulldozer and the city’s Historic Review Commission quickly designated it a historic site.

That means the owner has to get approval for any exterior changes. That includes changes that make it disappear.

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