Historic Pub • Bowling Alley
If you ever find yourself across the Delaware River on the Pennsylvania side, and you’d like to see what bars looked like a long, long time before you were born, there’s a very unexpected place you may stumble into to grab a beer and a bite to eat. Winding down the shady wooded lanes in hilly northern Pennsylvania one day in early August, we found ourselves in the tiny town of Shohola on the banks of the of the Delaware, when we spied a place called Rohman’s Inn. Rohman’s looks just like an old time 1800s hotel, and that’s because it used to be just that. These days though, you won’t see horses tied up to hitching posts outside, but you are likely to find a line of gleaming Harley hogs and stable of pick-up trucks.
To set foot inside this place is to step backward in time. Pressed tin, rusted through in spots, covers the ceiling and walls. The wood floor is worn down from over a century of scuffs from shoes and boots. There is even an old timey upright piano that stands next to a coal-burning iron stove. The instrument is missing ivory on many of its keys and is hopelessly out of tune, though the bartender assured me that there is at least one elderly customer who comes in that can play it and make it sound great. We played a few chords on it and much to our surprise and delight it sounded exactly like the pianos you hear in the saloon scenes of old Hollywood Westerns! I kid you not. We had always assumed you had to put thumbtacks on the hammers of a piano to achieve that bright bangy, clanging tone, but the bartender swore the instrument had not be altered in anyway––it just sounded that way naturally from age.
The wooden bar, which is original to the place, features lavish hand carved decorations around the mirrors. When a customer places a food order it is written up on a piece of paper which is then placed in a dark wooden dumbwaiter at the end of the bar and then hoisted up to the kitchen on the second story. Go through the doors at the other end of the bar, up the old hotel staircase, and you will find a real surprise on the second floor––a full-length four-lane bowling alley. Without a doubt though, the most unique feature of the bar are the barstools––circular wooden seats which sit atop curved iron post and fold beneath the bar itself when not in use.
Rohman’s is tucked away down by the river far off the main drag––if in fact you could call any road in Shohola a “main drag.” If you’re wondering why this old hotel would be located in such an out of the way spot, the reason is that things weren’t always the way they are today. You see, the train used to run right by the front door of the inn and a station was located directly across the tracks. Back in the heyday of the hotel, throngs of people would come by rail to spend time in the area, many of them among the rich and famous of their day.
The building that Rohman’s Inn now occupies was built in 1849 and was originally known as the Shohola Hotel. It operated in that capacity until it was purchased by a man named Art Rohman in 1909. He ran the place until he died in 1973, then the current owners took it over.