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Showing posts with label History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History. Show all posts

Thursday, June 06, 2024

#5790 - Ulrich's 1868 Tavern, Buffalo, NY - 5/31/2024

Ulrich's 1868 Tavern, Buffalo, NY

Ulrich's is currently open only Wednesday through Friday afternoons, and I was unable to make it in previous trips to Buffalo, NY, but it was worth the wait. As the name implies, the bar is located in a space that has at least included a saloon since the fall of 1868, when young German immigrant Fredrick Schrerie opened a grocery-saloon in the same brick bar space that stands today. This includes the prohibition years, when Hasenpheffer Club speakeasy operated on the second floor, with Canada conveniently close, and with the aid of a mechanical lift that remains in the building to this day. (The speakeasy was raided at least once, on May 8, 1926.)

Ulrich's 1868 Tavern, Buffalo, NY

The site provides some context for the days of the bar's founding:

'At the time, the neighborhood surrounding the saloon was fast becoming both a fashionable German enclave and the center of Buffalo's brewing industry.

Five major breweries were within a few blocks of Ulrichs; Buffalo Co-Op at High at Michigan, Empire at Main and Burton, German-America at Main and High, Christian Weyand at Main and Goddell, and the Ziegele Brewing at Main and Virginia. The first Lager Beer in Buffalo was brewed about 100 yards from Ulrichs by Albert Ziegele, at Main and Virginia streets in the early 1850's.

Buffalo was an exciting post Civil War boom town, fed by German immigrants that settled Buffalo's East Side. The book "A Pictorial History of Buffalo and Erie County; Second Look", describes the neighborhood and places like Ulrichs. "As bootmakers, tinsmiths, clockmakers, bakers, brewers and stonecutters, working class Germans lived a relatively prosperous and settled life. Not a few were grocers who also kept a back room grog shop. These emerged as the centers of neighborliness. This was the kind of patient business that, while not wildly profitable, yielded a lifetime of respectable income."

Imagine a tree lined, young bustling neighborhood, filled with a constant smell of the damp sweetness of malt and the bitter edge of hops, the endless horse drawn beer wagons and the constant chatter of German being spoken. You stand a better chance of someone understanding English in Munich, Germany today, than at the corner of Ellicott and Virginia streets in Buffalo in 1868. Ulrichs' brick bar room stood then, as it does today, along with 1/3 of the dining room.

It was a place where one could buy anything from soap to sausage, where local beer, be it Ziegele's Lager or Weyand's Munich dark, was served in house or taken home in a pail.'

In 1883, the grocery half of the business was dropped, and the apartments upstairs became hotel rooms. The name "Ulrich's" dates back to 1906, when beer wagon driver Michael Ulrich took over the place. In 1910 he purchased the saloon outright from the Ziegele Brewery and named it "Ulrich's Sample Room." During his ownership the saloon would become a common meeting place for "political bigwigs as well as the literati and celebrated persons of the time." Ulrich would go on to run the bar for 41 years, and while I am not certain of this, but it seems like it may (?) have consistently retained the "Ulrich's" name ever since. 

Since that time Ulrich's has had a series of owners, with more than one losing the business to bankruptcy and at least one having to overcome city plans for its demolition. Thankfully in early 2014 it was obtained by preservation-minded local criminal defense attorney Tom Eoannou, who leased the operation to local bar owner Salvatore Buscaglia. Sal and his team invested four months into renovating the bar, preserving vintage elements and adding historical photos. But the star of the show is the beautiful black cherry and stained glass bar that was acquired from the Iroquois Hotel in 1910.

The bar's web site and local historical sites have provided some really nice lists of owners and milestones, some of which I have replicated below for reference, with more available at the links below. The beer, liquor and food were upgraded as well, which makes this a nice stop for dinner, as well as a must visit for any bar and/or history buffs. 

Ulrich's Tavern Historical Milestones 

1868 - Fredrick Schrerier, a young German immigrant, opened a grocery-saloon
1883 - The grocery part of the operation would be dropped
Became a "tied house" owned by 2 different breweries until 1910 - Christian Weyand Brewery and the Ziegele Brewing Company
1880s-1919 - George Fromholtz ran a barber shop win what is now the beer storeroom
1896 - New York State Raines Law prohibited saloons from serving drinks on Sunday, but allowed hotels with 10+ rooms to do so. The upstairs portion of the building was converted into a hotel.
1906 - A 30-year-old man named Michael Ulrich took over the saloon
1910 - Michael Ulrich bought the saloon from the Ziegele Brewery, renaming it Michael Ulrich's Sample Room
1920-1933 - Prohibition. The downstairs became a delicatessen and restaurant. The barbershop and upstairs hotel were closed and the second floor became a private speakeasy
1946 - Michael Ulrich sells the bar to its first non-German owner, French born William Levea, who ran the bar for 3 years.
1949 - Nichlos Riesz purchased and ran the bar for 5 years.
1954 - Jim Daley and his wife Erika took over the business
1970 - The City took the building through eminent domain as part of an urban renewal program. The Daleys stayed open and paid the City rent while they fought it.
1982 - The Daleys won a 12 year court fight to keep the bar standing as an urban renewal program swept through, leveling much of the neighborhood
2000 - The Daley's son Jim Jr. took over the bar
August 2012 - The bar is briefly closed due to back taxes and Jim Daley Jr. files for bankruptcy
October 2013 - The bar is closed again after failing to keep up with payments under its bankruptcy plan
February 2014 - Tom Eoannou purchased the building and Salvatore G. Buscagli becomes sole proprietor of soon to be re-opened "Ulrich's 1868 Tavern"
June 2014 - Ulrich's re-opens


List of Ulrich's owners with historical source notes

1871-1880 JACOB MILLER         1896-1905 GEORGE DOBMEIER






674 Ellicott St, Buffalo, NY 14203
Est. 1906 (as Ulrich's), 1868 as bar/saloon - Building constructed: 1868
Previous bars in this location: Dobmeier Hotel
Web site: - facebook 
Articles Ranked: - - buffalorising- buffalorising - jesse cook (prohibition raid) - onlyinyourstateforgottenbuffalo -  buffalospree - stepoutbuffalo - chowhound (Anthony Boudain favorites) - buffalodrinkswyrk - unveganediblereflections -  afar - 3rdarm 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

#5730 - Crazy Fox Saloon, Bucyrus, OH - 4/19/2024

Crazy Fox Saloon, Bucyrus, OH

Through some great serendipity I happened upon the Crazy Fox Saloon in Bucyrus, Ohio while stopping in town for a coffee. This is located in a hotel constructed in 1916 and now used as apartments. More importantly to me, there was not only a nice bar on the main floor, but a genuine speakeasy on the floor below, frequented by no less than Al Capone, on his railway trips from New York to Chicago.

Building manager Tina and bar manager Annette generously showed me the speakeasy and other antique features, including glass bricks in a portion of the ceiling which could be used to keep an eye on who's coming in the front door, and the oldest operating elevator in Ohio (107 years old as I write this). They also showed me the previous entrances to old tunnels, which once could be used as an alternative/emergency exit, but which were bricked in off several years ago now.

Original brick from 1920s speakeasy
below the Crazy Fox Saloon, Bucyrus, OH

The speakeasy area, which started use in 1920 and is currently reserved for tours and special events, features the original brick, with a corner space that is said to be the one preferred by Capone (who may have also been persuaded to spend some time in the area by the adjacent brothels along the railway here).

I do not know the age of the bar on the main floor, but it features a back bar that appears to be from the art deco or mid century era, three pool tables, and four taps split between old school corporate brews and craft pours.

Inside 107-year-old elevator,
said to be the oldest in Ohio

The Crazy Fox is located in the small historic core of Bucyrus ("byoo-sigh-russ"), where bright murals vie for attention with every cornice and corbel of the many fine old buildings. It's the sort of town where shops feature photographs of the Bratwurst Festival queens, and the coffee shop shares space with an Amish furniture store. The bar and rest of the building are currently owned by Brian Rockwell, who is also executive director of the Crawford County Solid Waste District. Rockwell bought the property from Larry Williams in 2017. It was Williams who named the bar the Crazy Fox, after taking control of the building April 1, 1981, and what was previously called "The Plaza" bar. In addition to liquor and a large selection of canned beers, the bar serves breakfast and contemporary tavern fair (e.g. wings, burgers, sandwiches).

It's a nice top for anyone, but an especially happy discovery for someone interested in historical bars.

Glass ceiling/floor allowed speakeasy
staff to keep an eye on who was
approaching the front door.

114 W Mansfield St, Bucyrus, OH 44820 - (419) 562-1256
Est. April 1, 1981 - Building constructed: 1916
Previous bars in this location: The Plaza 
Web site: - facebook - instagram 
Reviews: richlandsource - crawfordcountynow - crawfordcountynow  

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

#4988 - Stone House, Wharton Township, PA - 1/29/2023

Historic Stone House Restaurant, Farmington PA

The Stone House Restaurant and Country Inn is a semi-formal bar, restaurant and hotel in a historic building just north of the Laurel Highlands and West Virginia border. Along the National Road first proposed by George Washington, and approved by President Jefferson, it is also just two miles east of Fort Necessity, where Lt. Col. George Washington fought his first battle against a large force of French and Indians. It first opened as an inn in 1822, and was largely closed to the public from 1909 until 1964, when it was purchased and reopened by the remarkable Fannie Ross.

I am indebted to the small publication Stone House Legends & Lore by Marci Lynn McGuinness, from which I shall liberally assimilate and quote:

"The new Fayette Springs Hotel opened in 1822, affording spring dwellers a comfortable inn. Billiards, a ten-pin alley, swings, fine meals, and overnight accommodations attracted wealthy visitors."

The building was constructed by longtime U.S. Congressman Andrew Stewart, who was the first to make industrial use of the power of Ohiopyle Falls with a sawmill above the drop. His sons built a large mill there and expanded their father's Ferncliff Hotel. Stewart died in 1872 and in 1877 Mrs. Elizabeth Stewart sold the hotel to Captain John Messmore, who leased the business to Samuel Lewis and then William Snyder.

On August 3, 1909, George Flavius Titlow purchased the building and property from Albert and Annie Boyd. Titlow immediately added a large addition to the building and named it the Stone House. He installed parque floors and fancy woodwork with fireplaces in every bedroom. This was used as the family's summer and weekend home.

After Titlow died, the family leased the building to Jack and Ethel Ray from 1941 to 1946, where Ethel ran Ray's Stone House restaurant and rented rooms (there was no tavern). In 1944 the Titlows sold the place to Rev. James Bouras, who a month later sold it to Stephen Samonas. Samonas built a tavern by enclosing the left porch, and leased the business to several people over the years, including Baron Karl and Russell Shearer. Upon his death in 1963, Samonas's sister sold the building to Fannie Ross and her friend James "Gene" Cardine.

"The mountain people didn't want me up here. I was an outsider. They did a lot of things trying to get rid of us, but they couldn't."
-- Fannie Ross, quoted in Stone House Legends & Lore

Fenalba "Fannie" Cassurole was born in Connellsville in 1907. Her mother died in childbirth while she was three and her father passed within six months of that. She was adopted by her Uncle Carl only to see him perish in a mine accident on the day they were set to return to Italy. Subsequently raised by her Uncle Chubby, an orphanage, and the nuns of a local Catholic school, Fannie would go on to an arranged marriage. When her husband's gambling resulted in their bills not being paid, Fannie built a career as a bootlegger and owner of a speakeasy. Her husband died of black lung in 1950.

Fannie would hold her own with some very rough characters back in her day, and according to Marci Lynn McGuinness this included shooting three men: 
  • 'The miners got out of hand in her Cardale speakeasy one time and Fannie told them to keep it down. Her husband was ill and trying to sleep. One of the men hit Fannie and they got into it. He knocked her down in back of a booth and she found a bottle and broke it. She went after him and they fought more.  Then he kicked her dog. "He kicked my dog who was trying to help me. That made me mad. I went behind the bar and got my gun and shot him in the pelvis."'
  • 'Another time I had a little place called the Coffee Pot on Route 40 and this man wouldn't pay his bill.... There was about six of them from Keister. They were drunk and I had two of my friends sitting at a table. I told them "You pay the bill or else." "Or else what?" one of them asked. I didn't even take the gun out of my pocket I just shot him."'
  • "One time a carload of young men stopped late at night at the Stone House. They wanted to use the phone but Fannie wouldn't let them in.... Carl came and gave one of the guys a ride to Hopwood to get some gas. Fannie told the rest of them to stay in the car while Carl did them a favor. One of the men challenged her and came toward her in an unfriendly manner. She shot him in the foot."
Fannie and James opened the new Stone House restaurant in April of 1964. Fannie would cook ravioli, spaghetti, lasagne and gnocchis, and Gene would cut steaks to whatever thickness the customer wanted. After Gene passed away in 1973, her son Carl and his family moved back to town to help keep the business running. Fannie finally sold the business to Fred Ziegler in 1995 when both hers and Carl's health issues made continuing impossible.

In addition to fulfilling Fannie's exacting requirements of new owners, Fred and Rhonda Ziegler put in a very substantial amount of remodeling and upgrades, including uncapping original fireplaces, exposing the original hardwood floors, and furnishing it with various antique pieces including what MAY be a Stradivarius violin. They also brought in accomplished chef Carl Fazio, who had served an apprenticeship at the Hyehold and worked the second inaugural dinner for Ronald Reagan. Chef Carl would go on to be named 1996 chef of the year by the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Culinary Association.

Today, the inn continues the tradition of a formal chef with an Italian-focused menu, and hosting visitors to the local springs, rivers and hills for over two centuries.

3023 National Pike, Farmington, PA 15437 - (724) 329-8876
Est. 1963 (first opened as an inn 1822) - Building constructed: 1822
Previous bars in this location: Fayette Springs Hotel 
Web site: - facebook 
Reviews: exploreroute40 - yelp - tripadvisor - ourhauntedtravels - wikipedia 

Monday, December 04, 2023

#5500 - Slippery Noodle Inn, Indianapolis, IN - 11/24/23

The Slippery Noodle Inn, Indianapolis, IN
Painted sign said to date back to 1850 origins

I've added the Slippery Noodle Inn to my most favorite bars list for its history and for its current incarnation as a great blues hub. While headliners play in the back room, I enjoyed regulars Reverend Robert and Washboard Shorty, and learning the history of the place from enthusiastic bartender Zach, whose father once worked the place. 

It is such a staple of Indy nightlife and the blues scene that it has a mammoth list of past celebrities who have performed and or visited, e.g. Greg Allman, Billy Joel, John Mellencamp, Albert Collins, Edgar Winter, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Harrison Ford, Dave Matthews, The Blues Brothers Band, John Entwistle, Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Neil Diamond, Robert DeNiro, Liza Minnelli, Harry Connick, Jr., and Spike Lee.

The Slippery Noodle Inn, Indianapolis, IN

The bar makes certain claims to being the oldest continually operating bar in the original building in the state of Indiana; and while this relies on us granting its history under several different names and beating out the Knickerbocker in Layfayette (est. 1935) in some way I don't quite understand, there's no questioning the great history of building and gin joints here. And with such antiquity it has been found, inevitably, to be haunted.

It was great to get all the pointers from Zach, but still the bar's website

Reverend Robert and Washboard Shorty
Slippery Noodle Inn, Indianapolis, IN

"The  Slippery Noodle Inn was originally founded in 1850 as the Tremont House. It is Indiana's oldest, continually operated bar in the original building. The Noodle is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Originally it was a roadhouse (predecessor to the Holiday Inn) and a bar. It has traditionally been owned by people of German descent and it was one of the first German clubs in Indianapolis. The Noodle has been through several name changes over the years. In the 1860's the name was changed to the Concordia House. This name came from the first German Lutheran immigrant ship to land in the new world (the Concord)....

In later years the name was changed to the Germania House. It remained the Germania House until the start of World War I at which time German associations were to be avoided so the owner, Louis Beck, changed the name to Beck's Saloon. Prior to Prohibition, Walter Moore purchased the saloon and named it Moore's Beer Tavern. During Prohibition it was renamed Moore's Restaurant (although beer was still made in the basement). After Prohibition ended in 1935, it was renamed Moore's Beer Tavern. In the late 1940’s Boris Petercheff purchased the saloon.... Boris ran the tavern until early 1963 when Emelia Finehout, the property owner, took over. She found out all too quickly that she did not enjoy running a tavern, and promptly put the business up for sale.

Harold and Lorean Yeagy (Hal’s parents) bought the bar in late 1963, taking final possession on December, Friday the 13th. The "Slippery Noodle Inn" was named by Hal's dad after a lengthy family debate (Hal was six years old). Names were thrown out for the family to vote on and at about 5 a.m. "Slippery Noodle Inn" sounded pretty darn good. The Noodle has remained in the Yeagy family since that time. Hal took over the bar in 1985 after his father's death and since that time it has grown from a one room lunch counter into the Midwest's premiere blues club. [Note: in March 2023 the bar was sold to Jason Amonett and Sean Lothridge.]   

The "Inn" has been used in all types of activities. In the Civil War years it was a way station for the Underground Railroad. Later years saw a bordello open in the once luxurious Inn. It remained open until 1953 when a patron was killed. Two customers of the bordello got into an argument over one of the women, one killing the other and leaving the bloody knife on the bar. During Prohibition the Brady & Dillinger gangs used the building in back, originally built as a horse stable for the Inn, for target practice. Several of the slugs remain embedded in the lower east wall. In addition to liquor and beer being distilled in the building, cattle and swine were slaughtered and butchered in the basement. The meat hooks and water lines can still be found in the basement.

The ceiling in the front barroom is made from pressed tin. It was installed circa 1890. The "tiger oak" bar and back bar are well over a 100 years old and believed to be original. The trough at the edge of the bar was used as the cash register in the olden days. The "honor" system worked or else the colt 45 did! The Noodle is the oldest commercial building left standing in Indianapolis and the Tremont House sign painted on the north side of the building dates back to the 1850's."

372 S Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN 46225 - (317) 631-6974
Est. Dec 7, 1963 (1850 as Tremont House) - Building constructed: year
Previous bars in this location: Tremont House, Concordia House, Germania House, Beck's Saloon, Moore's Beer Tavern
Web site: - facebook 
Articles ranked: thrillistcbs4indyindystar - yelp - tripadvisor - phantomhistory - breadedtenderloin - wikipedia - indyencyclopedia - hmdb (historical marker)

Sunday, December 03, 2023

#5498 - St. Elmo Steak House, Indianapolis, IN - 11/24/23

St. Elmo Steak House, Indianapolis, IN

St. Elmo Steak House was founded in 1902 in Braden's Block of Indianapolis, constructed in 1875. It is said to be the oldest steak house in the country. Founded under the St. Elmo name and run as a relatively modest tavern for most of its life, the business expanded into the neighboring building, upgraded the menu, and added a top class wine cellar in 1996. The vibe is very much classic steak house, which, of course, benefits from the historic setting.

The restaurant and lounge both contain antique back bars -- probably Brunswick, but not standard models. Both bars contain round columns around a single central section. The restaurant bar tops the columns with cherub-faced capitals (ala Brunswick models such as the "Los Angeles"). It has large, egg-shaped appliques on the corners. This Tiger-maple bar is said to have been imported from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Similar but not identical models reside in Glascott's in Chicago and the Smokehouse Saloon in Greybull, WY. The model in the restaurant's "1933 Lounge" is considerably more simple, featuring some oddly shaped (cracked?) pieces in the top facade, and an unusually simple trim framing the central mirrors.

The upscale steak house of today attracts business people and has been a favorite of people like Peyton Manning and NFL owners. (At certain times of year it is described as "an extension of the NFL combine.) It has been named an American Classic by the James Beard Foundation. The cocktail menu is not particularly exciting, but contains several classics. We also sampled St. Elmo's famous shrimp cocktail -- four large shrimp covered with their signature, burn-out-your-nosehair-spicy cocktail sauce. According to Wikipedia the restaurant orders four tons of horseradish a year.

127 S Illinois St, Indianapolis, IN 46225 - (317) 635-0636
Est. 1902 - Building constructed: 1875
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: - facebook - 1933lounge 
Articles ranked: wikipedia - nytimes - varrtravel - abcnews - damonrichard - candacelately - columbiadailyheraldtastingtable - roadfood - gayoteindianapolismonthly - yelp - tripadvisor - frommers - hungrytravelers - forbesvisitindy - thrillist 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

#5037 - Sullivan's Pub, Erie, PA - 3/9/2023

Sullivan's Pub, Erie, PA

There was one other customer in Sullivan's when I stepped in on this afternoon, shortly after they opened. Of course it will be different on Friday and Saturday nights, when the bar routinely serves over 400 people, and most spectacularly on next Friday, as they block off the street and expect over 10,000 customers on St. Patricks Day.

These are a few of the bits of info I got from friendly bartender Julia. She also showed me the doorbell said to have been installed for the prohibition days, and the slightly scary ladder down a hole behind the bar to what used to be tunnels -- now sealed in -- and currently serves as beer storage, an office, and occasionally a way to for the bartender to get between rooms when the crowd is too thick. There is a brass bar at counter level in front of the hole now, which Julia explained was installed after the owner's wife fell down it (she apparently was not too badly injured).

Bartender Julia, Sullivan's Pub, Erie, PA

The bar claims to be the seventh oldest Irish bar in the country (I found several older references to being the sixth oldest, so apparently there was a recent correction). It was established as a bar and as "Sullivan's" in 1905, in a building that tax records say was constructed in 1892. It was closed for 19 months due to COVID, and finally reopened, after some remodeling, Oct 15, 2021. It features an interesting back bar; the origins of it were not exactly clear, but it appears to have been obtained by the current owners. It is of a sort of art deco style, with metal plates on the columns featuring bas relief female figures.

Sullivan's Pub, Erie, PA
Hole behind the bar
All of his is set two to three blocks from the southwest shores of Lake Erie, and close to Gannon University, which tends to contribute more than its fair share of customers.

For a helpful history of the place, I'll quote from the bar's own web site:

"Sullivan’s Pub and Eatery is proud to be the oldest public house in Erie, serving the community since 1905.

The seventh oldest Irish bar in the United States, Sullivan’s has been a proud member of the Erie Downtown community since its opening in 1905 by prominent First Ward politician John L. Sullivan and his wife Alice. The Sullivan family were lifelong residents of the First Ward and members of St. Patrick’s church. Under the ownership of John and Alice, Sullivan’s became a central neighborhood hot spot and a pillar of the Erie Irish community.

In 1950, Margaret Sullivan Heinz, daughter of John and Alice, assumed ownership of the cafe. Margaret’s brother, Emmet J. “Jiggs” Sullivan, helped her run the cafe. Jiggs was a retired fireman from Fire Station #1 on French Street (formerly Pufferbelly), just two blocks from the cafe. It was during this time that people started recognizing Sullivan’s for having great food. Maggie and Jiggs served a menu consisting of Irish and American fare. The cafe was also known as the “Glue Pot” because once you went in, you couldn’t get out. In fact, one afternoon the firemen from Station #1 went into Sullivan’s for lunch and wound up staying all afternoon to play cards. When a building directly behind the firehouse went up in flames, the neighborhood had to rush down to Sullivan’s to drag the firemen out of the “Glue Pot”!

Doorbell said to have been installed 
for use during prohibition

In 1960, the Powers family, another Irish brood, purchased Sullivan’s. During this time, the cafe was a regular stop for many Hamot Hospital employees and Gannon College students. There were many that gathered at Happy Hour when Mr. Powers would appear from the kitchen with a large freshly baked ham and say with an Irish accent, “Well now, would anyone be wantin’ a bit O’ this delicious ham?” Then he would slice the ham into sandwiches which the patrons would pass down the length of the bar.

In 1989, the cafe was purchased by the present owners [Ron and Rick Filippi]. Intent upon preserving a part of Erie history, the group invested time, effort, and resources into completely restoring the century old building while retaining the Irish flavor that has been so popular in the Erie community. The present owners expanded the food menu, remodeled the dining room, kitchen, and added the dance floor."

301 French St, Erie, PA 16507 - (814) 452-3446
Est. 1905 - Building constructed: 1892
Previous bars in this location: None known 
Web site: - facebook 
Reviews: goerie - yelp - goerie 

Friday, March 10, 2023

#5033 - Kaufman Tavern, Zelienople, PA - 3/9/2023

Kaufman Tavern, Zenienople, PA
On this day I planned to make my way to a historic bar in Erie, PA, and as that pub did not open until 4 pm, I picked a few additional stops along the virtually due north drive from Pittsburgh. The first of these was a bar in the borough of Zelienople, in a historic hotel that had been closed for many years after a disastrous fire, and reopened in late January 2020. I had barely seated myself at the Kaufman Tavern bar when a woman with a camera came in and asked the hostess if she could view the speakeasy. Wait. SPEAKEASY?!?!?

Kaufman Tavern, Zenienople, PA

Indeed, in an underground space once positioned as a cigar bar and doubling as the wine storage room, the hotel/tavern had established their speakeasy, open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays. After the serendipitous discovery of its existence, I tagged along for a little tour from one of the employees. The speakeasy lies within the pleasantly antiquated, exposed rock foundation of the building, and is decorated with period paintings, vintage artifacts, and old photographs. As our hostess provided a bit of sometimes violent history of the building, of course I had to ask about ghost sightings. And indeed the young woman herself has seen many signs from "Elizabeth," the one-time owner's wife purportedly murdered by her husband for infidelity, and noted that her brother had seen "Mr. Kaufman" in the walk-in freezer. She pointed to a lamp that often flickers when we talk about Elizabeth, and added that only after her brother's sighting they learned that Mr. Kaufman had committed suicide in that very space. The ghostly activity has been confirmed confirmed -- in the sense that believers use the term -- by paranormal investigators, and the hotel has featured dinner presentations on their work

Stairway to speakeasy
Kaufman Tavern, Zenienople, PA

This particular spot on the route from Erie to Pittsburgh is said to have hosted a hotel and/or tavern since a tavern was constructed in 1837 by John Randolph. Zelienople itself was founded by Baron Dettmar Basse from Frankfurt Germany, who purchased a tract of 10,000 acres in the current Butler and Beaver Counties upon his arrival in 1802. The borough was named for his eldest daughter, "whose chosen name was Zelie (her given name was Fredericka) which she named herself after her favorite doll." (wikipedia)

In 1902 the hotel on this spot burned down and was replaced by a new owner. "The Kaufman House was built after the fire of 1902 by Henry Stokey and operated it as a hotel [named the Grand Central Hotel] until 1920, when he sold it to the Union Rubber Company, who used it as housing for workers at its plant in Zelienople. Union Rubber sold the house to E.F. Kaufman in 1924. Kaufman remodeled and modernized what he called the Kaufman Hotel, making it a popular stop between Pittsburgh and Erie. In 1974, Ellwood City native Ken Pilarski bought the hotel and renamed it Kaufman House. In his tenure as owner, the Kaufman House had four dining rooms, a coffee shop, a banquet room and a lounge." (

Kaufman Tavern speakeasy, Zenienople, PA
Closed for virtually a decade after an October 5, 2011 fire, the Kaufman had long been central to the community of Zelienople and surrounding region. "When people from Aliquippa or New Castle wanted to impress a date, they went to Kaufman House for dinner, he said, and then to Pittsburgh for a show, but would return to Kaufman House for drinks." (beavercountytimes) "“Always, it was the crown jewel of Zelienople,” current owner Jason Eisenreich explained.

For this reason, after Ken Pilarski, the owner during the 2011 fire, struggled to get the place reopened, the borough itself invested. In December 2015 the Butler County Tourism Foundation purchased the building. When they couldn't put together the backing needed to restore the place, the borough itself about it in 2017, with the aid of a state grant. The borough would partner with local developer Patrick Boylan with a lease-to-own agreement, and a plan for the borough to cover exterior work, and Boylan to fund the interior. (ibid)

Borough Manager John Pepe confirmed the importance of the effort. "How much money it brings to town, I couldn’t tell you that, but I can tell you that the other businesses in town, whether they are restaurants or not, all rely on each other. Of course they do. That’s the way economics is and they relied on the Kaufman House because it was just a key piece – a cornerstone, if you will -- of the entire economic structure of the town, which is why it was so important to preserve." (ibid)

I do not know exactly what years the location featured a bar, nor how similar previous versions of bars resemble the one that now greets you as you walk into the front door. But the current version includes 40 beer choices on tap and fairly upscale food choices for both locals and hotel guests. After my visit to the basement speakeasy, I had a very fine soup du jour and some nice honey jalapeno hummus. I hope to visit the speakeasy while in operation on some Friday or Saturday in the not too distant future. It seems well worth risking the vengeful spirits residing within.

105 S Main St, Zelienople, PA 16063 - (724) 452-8900
Est. Jan 2020 current incarnation, 1924 Kaufman Hotel/House/Tavern - Building constructed: 1903/1924
Previous bars in this location: Grand Central Hotel
Web site:  - facebook 
Reviews: beavercountytimescranberryeagle - yelp - tripadvisor - pittsburghmagazine - butlerradio