The oldest house in Pittsburgh is about to become its newest restaurant.
The Woods House Historic Pub, on Monongahela Street in a residential section of Hazelwood, is slated to open this spring. It’s a place where folks can get a hearty meal, a nice scotch and a history lesson.
Believed to have been built in 1792 by Col. George Woods, the surveyor who laid out Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle, the stone structure was home to generations of his family, starting with his son, John Woods.
Abandoned for more than 30 years, it was condemned and slated for demolition. Community groups rallied to save it. Thanks to their grassroots efforts, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) bought the site in 2001, replacing the roof and boarding up the windows. Five years later, the URA released a Request for Proposal for the structure’s redevelopment.
Chris Waraks, owner of the local remodeling company, Mr. Renovation, saw potential in the old building. Unlike a lot of landmarks in the area, it didn’t boast a sign indicating it was anything other than an eyesore.
“It’s a forgotten jewel,” says Krish Pandya, a former vice president at Alcoa, who is handling the financial side of the project. “The community wanted to preserve it as a museum, but it needed a business aspect to it. The amount of money involved and the number of hoops you have to jump through is tremendous.” But, he noted, “we wanted to find a way to give this back to the community so they could use it.”
Waraks and Pandya, along with friend and business partner Bob Sobocinski, worked for three years to get their plans approved by the City of Pittsburgh’s Historic Review Commission, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the National Park Service.
They closed on the property in December 2018, crediting City Councilman Corey O’Connor with rallying local residents and lawmakers to support the endeavor.
The original house is only 32 feet by 22 feet, so they built an addition that is 20 feet by 24 feet. The exterior of the new section is clad with wood made to look timeworn.
From the trim to the ceiling beams, they maintained as much of the original character as possible.
The first floor will boast a dining room and bar area (beer taps will be hidden in the fireplace mantel), as well as a back porch, kitchen and restrooms. Part of the ceiling will be open, giving patrons a view right up to the rafters.
The downstairs features a walk-in cooler and a food prep area, restrooms and the pub, which Waraks describes as the heart and soul of the structure. Thick walls, a mix of sandstone and limestone, and an enormous fireplace give the space an almost medieval ambiance.
A back door leads to a patio area, which was originally the front of the house. Patrons will be able to see the Monongahela River, Hazelwood Green and the Pittsburgh skyline from this vantage point.
In total, Woods House will be able to seat about 70 customers.
The menu will pay tribute to the Woods family’s Scottish heritage, featuring traditional pub food with modern flair and flavor. Woods House is partnering with nearby Community Kitchen Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization that provides culinary arts training to disenfranchised people while helping them find stable employment in the food service industry.
Sobocinski, who built a career in the fine dining scene before moving into construction, says the bar will be well-stocked with a variety of scotch, bourbon and whiskey. Woods House also will have its own Scottish red ale created by a local brewery.
“We want to build a traditional pub culture in Pittsburgh,” Sobocinski says. “It’s a family place where you can take your kids. We want everyone to feel comfortable here.”