Historic Mann's Hotel will become history

Demolition planned in McKees Rocks

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Mann's Hotel in McKees Rocks, a dilapidated wreck of a building where some say George Washington once stayed, will be consigned to history in September.

The borough condemned the property this spring and the owners, Ted and Karen Suslovic, have agreed to tear it down.

They initially asked for a stay on the order so they could retrieve some old items, but that's been done.

Borough Secretary William Beck said the building, one of the oldest in Allegheny County, has to be demolished.

"It's beyond repair," he said. "We'd like to see some development there."

The Suslovics could not be reached for comment.

The abandoned two-story structure, which sits on a cliff overlooking Chartiers Creek, is posted with a condemnation notice and "No Trespassing" signs. The back wall is gone, the floors have collapsed and there is debris all over the yard.

Most people probably drive by without giving it a second look as they enter McKees Rocks from the city, but the place has a colorful past.

The story about George Washington may be true, but it's hard to tell. A sign on the wall indicates the structure was built in 1803, too late for Washington (he died in 1799), although other sources put the construction in the 1700s.

Yet even without George, the building is unusual.

A Pittsburgh Press reporter who visited about 20 years ago, when it was still in business as a bar, wrote that "the floor is crooked, the dust is visible, and all the drinks are a dollar."

There were snapping turtles in a rubber trash can on the porch, waiting to be made into the soup that was one of owner Corny Mann's specialties.

Even then the building was falling apart, held together by tar paper in some places.

Corny Mann, who died in 1984 at age 86, often regaled visitors with stories of the bar and hotel. A man was once killed in the restroom, drunks rolled off the back hill and motorcycle gangs hung out there.

He also liked to show off the deer heads -- victims of his hunting prowess -- mounted on the walls and talk about his days of raising chickens for cockfighting.

He was proud of the hotel, which had been in his family for generations. It still is; Ted Suslovic is his stepson.

In old newspaper stories, the building was variably described as a one-time trading post, barber shop, post office, dry goods store and even a jail.

More than once, Corny Mann escorted visitors through the trapdoor in the middle of the barroom floor to show off the jail cells in the basement. At one time, thirsty constables transporting prisoners to the courthouse in Downtown Pittsburgh stopped by the hotel for a drink, hitched their horses to the posts out front and dragged the prisoners to the cells.

Mann's was also once the focus of a debate about its historic status.

In 1979, the county planned to tear down the hotel to make way for a new Windgap Bridge next to the old one.

The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation said Mann's should be preserved and tried to get it put on the National Register of Historic Places. A Public Utility Commission administrative law judge ruled that the county would have to pay to move the hotel a short distance if the new bridge needed the space.

"It is true we are not discussing the Acropolis or the Parthenon," the judge said at the time, "but we are talking about saving a monument to our Western Pennsylvania history which may be just as important."

But applications for the National Register were rejected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

In the end, the county tore down the old bridge and built the new one in its place, so Mann's didn't have to be disturbed.

This time, however, its fate seems sealed.

Torsten Ove can be reached at tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.


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