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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Saturday, September 03, 2011

#1441 - The Brick, Roslyn, WA - 5/20/2011

The Brick, Roslyn, WA

The Brick is a large bar in a small Washington town, although perhaps most people think it is in Cicely, Alaska. But it is not remarkable only for the use of its exterior in the "Northern Exposure" television series. For example, the bar features an old running water spittoon below the main bar, which once a year hosts racing:  "This Saturday, March 12th, is the 23rd annual Spittoon Race at The Brick Tavern in Downtown Roslyn.  People racing everything from matchbooks to soap.  So that no one gets too much of an advantage, the races are divided into classes by type of boats and there are some strict size and weight guidelines.  In years past, the weighs in started around 11 AM (11:00 in the morning to be really clear) and racing started around 1 PM.  The races, which pit two spittoon racers at a time, can go into the night depending on how many people compete."  (

The Brick claims to be the oldest existing bar operating under one name in the state and it is the one I seem to hear most commonly cited as the oldest bar in the state. It's a fine old place and deserves attention, but I do not see any reasonable way it can be defined as the oldest in the state. Accounts differ over whether the current building was constructed in 1889 (after a major fire in Roslyn in 1888) or in 1898. The wikipedia page on Roslyn actually contains both claims. However, with some help help from the Roslyn Museum and local historians, we can determine that it is pretty clearly the latter date:

The Brick, Roslyn, WA
'[Peter] Giovanni and [John] Buffo moved their business to the corner of Pennsylvania and First Street in 1898 and built a structure using 45,000 bricks and named the tavern “The Brick.” ... The museum has a framed copy of the bill for the bricks used to build The Brick, dated 1898, which technically makes their claim that they have been operating since 1889 incorrect. Giovanni and Buffo's tavern may have started operations that year, but The Brick didn't come into existence until 1898.' (Sue Ritchfield, personal correspondence, April 3, 2016)

So as far as time operating under one name, it is plainly preceded by Merchants (1890) in Seattle, The Exchange (1890 or earlier) in Spanaway, and the Horseshoe in Bellingham (though the latter has moved buildings). If, on the other hand, one calculates age by time as a continuous business, regardless of changes in name, location, ownership, and building, then it is predated by the Oak Harbor Tavern, the Bluebird Inn in Bickleton, Kuk's Tavern in Northport, Bellingham's Horseshoe, Tacoma's Spar, and Seattle's Queen City Grill. But in any case it remains the historic centerpiece of a captivating little town just 5 miles off I-90.

The Brick has a 100-year-old English-made bar, a small, sunny, patio, 17' ceilings, an adjacent area that serves as both family dining area and stage for musical acts, and a haunted basement that is said to have once served as the town drunk tank (although the prison cells in the basement were actually installed for the filming of "The Runner Stumbles"). It serves basic pub food, simple cocktails and has a good selection of beers. The crowd is usually a nice set of locals with a sprinking of people passing through.

Union label on back bar at The Brick, Roslyn, WA

The Brick, ca. 1889, Roslyn, WA
(Washington State University photo)

The Brick, Roslyn, WA - April 2016

100 E Pennsylvania Ave, Roslyn, WA 98941 - (509) 649-2643
Est. 1898 - Building constructed: 1898
westernperspective - wikipedia - - beeradvocate - yelp


Anonymous said...

Just to make a correction in your article , Peter giovanni is not his correct name . His name is Peter Casassa who is my great grand father , this is also recorded in the University of Washington archives .

Anonymous said...

Sept 2020: Open and popular. The running-water trough is indicative of a men's only bar. The only other one I've seen is the Brooklyn.
The Roslyn Cafe is also historic. Proof: they have their original historic five-fan cooling system connected mechanically by old rods to one motor. A sight.