the story of pinhead susan's
On Christmas Eve in 1981, seventeen year old Claire Duggan made good on the threat she had made to her fourteen year old sister Susan. With paint brush in hand she painted, "Susan is a pinhead" on the wall at the rear of the Amtrak station's parking lot in downtown Schenectady. Claire and Susan had always called each other 'Pinhead'. The playful insult remained on the wall, and when it was eventually painted over, the words "Susan is still a pinhead" appeared. When they were erased, "Susan remains to be a pinhead" appeared. Claire takes credit only for the original graffiti. No one knows who returned the message to the wall each time. For over a decade, the words calling Susan a pinhead remained. In 1996, as the City of Schenectady strove to revitalize, they painted the wall with a special anti-graffiti paint and Susan's name was eliminated. Although some called the message a Schenectady landmark and a classic part of Schenectady's heritage, the City felt that graffiti, no matter what its history, might promote more undesirable graffiti, and so the story might have ended.
But three years later, Jack and Dennis McDonald saw a building for sale at the corner of Liberty and North Broadway, just steps from the wall. For many years they had dreamed of creating an Irish pub and this property had real potential. It had an interesting history, and with much imagination, they began to plan how to make the dilapidated former print shop into a special place in downtown Schenectady. They purchased the building and created a new Schenectady landmark, a revitalization of a historic property, and a return of the locally famous reference to Susan being a pinhead. They called their new pub Pinhead Susan's.
On June 29, 2000, Pinhead Susan's opened and the public got to see the elegant transformation made by the McDonald brothers and their family and friends. The antique walnut bar with it's marble top and brass foot rails is the centerpiece of the main barroom. There are hardwood floors and oak paneled walls to provide a beautiful contrast to the rustic red brick with it's graceful arches. The custom accent paint named Pinhead Red by the local paint store was matched to the wallpaper which was selected as close to the style found on scraps of ancient paper uncovered during the renovation process. Many large windows were installed to create an open, airy atmosphere, and antique-style lighting added a final elegant touch. The building dates back to 1852, originally a shop for carriage-making, but sometime after the Civil War in the 1870's, it was converted to a hotel, though not Irish, but German. Charlie Wiencke's Hotel Germania served good beer and excellent German food, and was a popular spot for the young men from Union College. The building remained a hotel for most of it's years, well into the 1960's, but was most recently a print shop. The McDonald brothers have returned to the tradition of serving good food and good beer from this location in Schenectady.
We hope you enjoy our Irish hospitality during your visit and will return again soon. As you look around at our little corner of history, take a moment to recall the many patrons of the past who have raised a glass of good cheer in this same place.