The Hanna’s Tavern is an important landmark of the Historic Hanna’s Town site. It’s showcases everyday life for people living day to day back in the time of Hanna’s town prime. It holds the Hanna’s Family bedroom, a travelers bedroom, a bar and grille, a guest bedroom and the main floor of the tavern. It shows how the community came together and mingled during these times. The tavern was a busy place full of local life and hospitality. The Hanna’s tavern was an essential pit stop when traveling Forbes Road during the late 18th century.
Backstory and Context
Robert Hanna immigrated from Northern Ireland in 1736. His father, Patrick, relocated the family to Newburgh Township in York County between 1738 and 1739. Robert Hanna married Elizabeth Kelly in 1762. Seven years later Robert applied for a survey of the land around Forbes Road. He moved the family onto the land by 1772. The Hannas had 4 children, Jane, Elizabeth, Margaret and Susanna. The Hanna’s bedroom in the tavern represents what the Hanna’s quarters could have looked like if they did indeed stay in the tavern. Of course it’s debatable whether or not they lived in the tavern or owned another house and just kept the tavern. Both practices were common around this time with wealthy tavern owners.
The travelers passing through Hanna’s town had a very simple set up. Of course the room wasn’t anything of luxury, in fact, if you were traveling through there was a good chance the only option most was to stay with the rest of the travelers. The guest bedroom in the tavern was for more well off guests and notable members of society that happened to pass through, such as guest judges during court days, or members of the church.
The travelers bedroom doesn’t exactly work how we’d imagine it. First of all, someone would pay for a meal and a spot on the bed, meaning they had to sleep and cram as many people as they could. Often times there would be travelers sleeping on the floor even. Disease and illness was quickly spread through travelers sleeping in taverns around this time. Since the men slept so close together, lice, mites and bacteria likely had a field day.
Taverns in the mid and late 18th century were multi-purpose buildings. Along with housing and feeding visitors of the town the tavern could also be used as a home for the family of the tavern keeper as well as a courthouse for the court of quarter session. Because Hanna’s Town was the first and founding county seat of Westmoreland County, and Robert Hanna was the founder and head judge of the Town, court was held in Hanna’s Tavern. The Tavern was used for business, as well as even church on some occasions. A tavern around this time made up for having to build separate buildings for each function. It really was a ‘all in one’ multipurpose building.
There is evidence of at least two other tavern existing at Hanna’s Town. This was the Foreman tavern and the Orr Tavern. The Foreman Tavern was most likely over on the other side of Forbes road in the field by the Fort. However we aren’t entirely sure where the Orr Tavern was located.
Being the county seat, court was held 4 times a year, in January, April, July and October. Court was considered a form of entertainment. The audience jeered and joked as the cases were being presented. Traveling merchants and tradesmen came to sell their goods at Hanna’s Town during Court Days. Charles Foreman, Owner of the other Tavern in Hanna’s Town Foreman’s Tavern and Arthur St. Clair, who later was president of the Continental Congress and governor of the Northwest Territory were justices alongside Robert. Court cases were tried at Hanna’s Town during the late Colonial Period, the Revolutionary War period, and the early days of the Republic until the Court was moved to Greensburg for the January court in 1787.
Drinks in the bar included assortments of ales, whiskeys, ciders and malts. Every Tavern that sold beer had to be licensed to legally. It is recorded that the Hanna’s Tavern license was registered under one of his daughters, Jane’s, name.
Colonies around this time tended to use Spanish coins, and English coins because the silver themselves allowed for universal currency across all colonies. This was considered the most common currency of the time. Paper money wasn’t as big of a deal as it is today, and mostly, unless someone was paying for a drink or a place to stay, they bartered or traded instead of ‘paying’ or ‘buying’ for items.
The Tavern at Hanna’s Town is a welcome sight, a landmark of Hanna’s Town and the wonder it used to be. Through archeological digs on sight, we mapped out roughly where Hanna’s Tavern would have been placed, along with artifacts that its existence. The tavern was reconstructed on July 11th, 1973, on the Bicentennial birthday of Hanna’s Town and Westmoreland County. The tavern itself is not original, but when being reconstructed, period-correct construction techniques were used to bring the building to life.
Westmoreland County Historical Society. 2020. “Hanna’s Town Tour Manual”. Westmoreland County Historical Society.