July 19, 2018

Fly North for the Winter to the Swan Tavern

By day, the restored 1897 Manchester No. 3 Schoolhouse in Fairview, Pennsylvania, serves as a charming event space, hosting weddings, graduation parties, and bridal showers. But for two nights each week, its basement transforms into the beautiful Swan Tavern, a snug, full-service bar that’s perfect for catching up with old friends and making new ones.

The interior of Swan Tavern.

photo by: Swan Tavern

The Swan Tavern is located in the basement of the one-room Manchester No. 3 Schoolhouse.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the one-room building served as the local school for grades one through eight for over 50 years. It then saw tenants as varied as antique dealers and dog obedience trainers who set up shop inside before the structure fell vacant around 2000.

Current owners Gail and Eric Root had passed by it for years, hoping someone would revive it—Eric, who grew up in the area, recalls visiting the schoolhouse during its antique store days. Finally, they decided to take matters into their own hands. Despite not knowing exactly what they wanted to do with the building, the Roots purchased it in May of 2013 and set about restoring it to its former grandeur.

While plenty of work was needed on the main floor, the basement presented a unique set of challenges. Less than 6 feet separated the concrete floor from the ceiling, crossing the boundary from cozy to cramped. The Roots lowered the floor by 18 inches, breaking down and hauling out the musty concrete. They replaced it with radiant heat flooring, helping customers feel warm both inside and out during the frigid northern Pennsylvania winters.

The Swan Tavern’s name does not stem from avian origins, but rather from local historical figure Captain Richard Swan, a veteran of the American Revolution. Swan settled down in the region after the war and, just like the structure that became his namesake, allowed his house to be used as a schoolhouse during the day and a tavern at night.

It’s that sense of community that the Swan Tavern and Schoolhouse pay forward, just as the Roots hoped they would. And now, the tavern is an ideal destination for locals and travelers alike to enjoy a drink in historic comfort.

Location: 6610 W. Lake Road, Fairview, Pennsylvania 16415

Hours: Thursday to Friday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Don’t Miss: The many historic features the building retains, from the tavern’s original stone walls to the chalkboards that add further authenticity to the Schoolhouse event space upstairs.

You’re Having: A Paul Allen Old Fashioned, which is just as fun to watch being made as it is to drink. The process involves burning an orange peel to bring out its oils, setting a torch to a plank of cedar wood, and capturing the smoke inside the glass before filling it with the cocktail—pretty much a pyromaniac’s dream.

Best Yelp Review: “For all those that did not enjoy going to school, this place is for you!”

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Nicholas Som is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He enjoys museums of all kinds, Philadelphia sports, and tracking down great restaurants.


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