RARE TAVERN RELICS: THE FRESH FLOW TROUGH SPITTOON
The neighborhood tavern was not the cleanest business on the block. It was a time of heavy, working-class drinking. Men would often bring the smell of industry with them for a “quick one” before heading home. Horse manure from city streets often found its way on men’s boots. The chewing of tobacco created noxious spit which ended up on the floor, the bar and the walls. There is no getting around the fact that taverns were dirty places not for the likes of women and children.
Sometime during the turn-of-the-century, tavern owners replaced traditional spittoons with a constant flow trough spittoon. Running the full length of the bar, fresh water would wash away un-pleasantries to an awaiting drain. These troughs were commonly made out of tile, sheet metal or if in a few cases marble. Although designed for tobacco chewing customer, countless stories tell of patrons relieving themselves right at the bar.
Few of these flow trough spittoons remain in North America. These include working and non-working relics at The Brick in Roslyn, Washington, The U.S. Hotel, Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania; Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Birches Restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland and the Black Pearl in Rochester, New York.
Water spittoon found at the historic Brick Tavern in Roslyn, WA. Estalished in 1889, the Brick is the oldest operating tavern in Washington State. The trough is 23 feet long.
So popular an attraction, the Brick Tavern sponsors an annual Water Spittoon Race. Racers enter boats in paper, wood, soap, experimental and motor racing divisions and send their contraptions down the running water spittoon. Depending on the division entered, contestants could win nearly $200.
The Black Pearl - Meigs Street - Rochester, New York
Reportedly the old operating tavern in Rochester, New York
A rare base of bar water gutter found at the Black Pearl
An extremely rare relic from pre-Prohibition taverns. The Black Pearl Bar and Grill on Meigs Street in Rochester, New York still has an original sanitary drain at the base of the bar. To replace spittoons, many turn-of-the-century taverns adopted flowing gutters such as this to wash away manure from boots and spit & other bodily fluids left by patrons. Not much is known about these gutters. If you have any information, please e-mail ForgottenBuffalo.com