Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Homestead Tavern's History Tied to Its Owner

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Homestead Tavern's History Tied to Its Owner

Article excerpt

The tin ceiling is seldom seen or remarked upon, for it is hidden from view by the thousands of things that dangle over the heads of customers at Chiodo's Tavern.

The leather boots of a World War II German officer, the water canteen of a U.S. soldier, a gas mask and canister, a hand- operated coffee grinder, steel mill tools, train lanterns, vintage shoes, a whaling harpoon, football helmets and so much more hang from the ceiling of the century-old building.

And then there are the brassieres -- dozens of them, in all sizes and colors.

It's simply a Chiodo's tradition.

"The young ladies they come in here and get in a mood," Joe Chiodo himself explains, and the next thing you know, another bra has been added to the ceiling display.

"There's some fine lingerie up there," said David Barlow, of Munhall. "My wife Bonne was down here for her bachelorette party six years ago and that's when she gave it up."

Barlow has been a Chiodo's regular since then, which would make him a veritable newcomer in a bar that opened in 1947.

If the ceiling artifacts are one of the things that draw customers in, on one occasion they kept a customer out.

When Charles, the Prince of Wales, visited the Mon Valley in the late 1980s, "I wanted him to see what an American tavern is all about," said David Lewis, of West Homestead, an urban planner and architect who has long worked to revitalize the Mon Valley. "We were stopped by Scotland Yard and the FBI because of all those things hanging from the ceiling. They said what if there's a gun up there."

Lewis is one of many who have passionately lobbied to save Chiodo's Tavern, which he believes is a vital part of Homestead's Eighth Avenue business district.

But Joe Chiodo, 86, says he's tired, overdue for retirement and wants to eat dinner with his wife, Florence, for a change. He says he has been unable to sell his bar.

Until now.

Anchor Properties, a Cincinnati developer, wants to buy Chiodo's, tear down the tavern and build a Walgreens drugstore.

Chiodo and his tavern have a long and colorful history in Homestead, and much of it is chronicled in fading photographs on the walls of the bar.

One of those photos shows a small boy posed formally with his family in Calabria, Italy, where he was born.

Joe Chiodo was 10 years old when he and his family moved to Homestead. His father opened a cobbler's shop and Chiodo worked in the family business until 1947. Tired of paying $175 monthly rent on the shop, the family bought property at 107 W. Eighth Ave.

"We were going to turn it into a shoe shop but it had been a bar since the 1800s," Chiodo said. He decided to try operating it as a bar, at least for a while, and the rest is history.

Homestead had many bars back then, catering to the blue collar workers from the steel mills and related businesses that opened in the riverfront towns. …

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