West End landmark needs action plan

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 Advocates of the Old Stone Tavern have called a meeting for tomorrow night (Thursday, June 18) to hear the public's ideas on how to reuse the building and how to find the necessary money for its restoration.

The meeting is at 6 p.m. at the West End branch of the Carnegie Library. the Old Stone Tavern, 434 Greentree Rd., photo by Andy Starnes

"Some of the plans I had hoped for if I could have gotten the money was that it be restored" as what it was during its earliest days, said Art Merrell, a psychologist who lives near the building and who championed it for the past 18 months. "There isn't a lot of money around these days... but it could be restored like a building in Williamsburg, turned into a working tavern and inn, helping it raise some of its own money.

"During the day it could be a great opportunity for educational programs, with archaeologists working and students coming to see a scientific evaluation of a history of their own hometown.

"If this were in Montreal, Paris or London, it would have been restored 75 years ago and bringing millions into the economy," he said.

The historic inn dates to the turn of the 18th century, possibly earlier; the construction date has never been certain, and some documentation, including an old ledger from 1793-1793, alludes to previous ledgers, suggesting the building and certainly the business date to the 1750s.

The building's historic nomination goes before the city's planning commission Tuesday. Advocates want to go to the hearing armed with a plan that would show that, besides its historic merit, the building has viability, said Gretchen Haller of Preservation Pittsburgh.

No one has yet ventured an estimate of the cost to restore it. John DeSantis, a preservationist who nominated the building for historic status, recommends that the state assign an archaeology team to investigate on-site as a first step in determining its age and its restoration needs.

The Historic Review Commission approved historic status last month, which amounts to a recommendation that planning do the same. Planning's consideration, as defined by city code, is to:

"...consider effects of designation on adjoining properties and surrounding neighborhoods within the framework of established planning, development and land use objectives for the City of Pittsburgh."

City Council is the final arbiter.

Interestingly, the adjacent property is Harris Masonry, whose owner, Lee Harris, bought the Old Stone Tavern last winter with the intention of razing it, though he reportedly did not have immediate plans to do so. He has never returned a call to the Post-Gazette to discuss his plans or his feelings about the prevailing sentiment toward preservation.  

To read a complete article about the Old Stone Tavern, click here:


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