Make Mine An Old Fashioned | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Make Mine An Old Fashioned

Preservations use happy hour to celebrate history

If you fancy a bit of history with your happy-hour drink, the Society of Tavern Seekers (SOTS) is ready to bend your ear. 

Held every three months, SOTS events are a hybrid of cocktail-hour networking and history lesson, where the focus is on highlighting some local historic landmarks.

 "We are bringing together people who are big into preservation and people who might not know much about what historic preservation is," says Karamagi Rujumba, one of the organizers.

The series, sponsored by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, just had its fourth happy-hour event, a mixer at the Allegheny HYP Club. Originally, the private club was open only to Harvard, Yale and Princeton alumni. Now open to anyone with a college affiliation, it's housed in a Downtown building constructed in 1894, and is a registered National Historic Landmark.

Events so far have highlighted: a bar in a renovated train depot (The Gandy Dancer in Station Square); a building that represents the revitalization of a historic Main Street-style business corridor (Tamari in Lower Lawrenceville); and the third-oldest freestanding building in Pittsburgh (Papa J's, Downtown) which housed a brothel, before it housed a bar.

The mission of SOTS is to help younger Pittsburghers take an interest in preserving the city's architectural heritage. 

"There was a perception of historic preservation as an out-of-touch, almost high-society thing," says Rujumba, a staffer at the Landmarks Foundation. The happy hours, he hopes, will improve "interaction between our long-standing members and our younger members, who are the base of our future."

SOTS has yet to incorporate historic cocktails into its preservation ethos, though co-organizer David Farkis says the group is considering adding historic cocktails to future events.

But the events are already catching on, with attendance rising each time: The Dec. 15 gathering attracted 50 people. 

"They're taking people to places that are little different than happy hours at random bars here and there," said Emily Chiodo, one of those on hand. "That stuff is fascinating." 

For more information, visit or call 412-471-5808. 

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