Without Our Taverns, the U.S.A. Might Still Be a Bunch of British Colonies!
Almost every neighborhood has its own local pub, tavern or coffeehouse. The atmosphere in each of these local establishments reflects the unique character of its respective community.
It's no secret that people who frequent such gathering places tend to have common interests. There are taverns who cater to people who are avid sports fans, coffeehouses for intellectuals, musicians and poets, and in such places people discuss community affairs and even politics.
Furthermore, Coffeehouses and Taverns provide a venue for free speech as well as fellowship. And free speech often leads to social change
Consequently, Neighborhood Pubs, Taverns and Coffeehouses have always played an important role in our country's history.
... It's an American Tradition!
Gadsby's Tavern, a National Historical Landmark in Alexandria, Virginia, is a prime example of a neighborhood meeting place which played a prominent role in shaping American History.
Gadsby's Tavern existed before the United States became a country. The original tavern was a central part of the social, economic, political, and educational life of the city of Alexandria, and the United States. Starting out as Mason's Ordinary in 1749, the Tavern was purchased by Mary Hawkins who changed its name to Hawkins' Tavern in the early 1770's. After the Revolution, John Gadsby bought the tavern and added a hotel next door, which he ran until 1808.
Over the years, Gadsby's buildings have been used as a law office, auction house, and, during the Civil War, even a hospital. Today, Gadsby's Tavern is a functioning restaurant and museum which showcases life in Alexandria, Virginia around the time of the Revolutionary War.
Many important figures in American history sat in Gadsby's Tavern discussing various social and political issues, including the likes of George Washington, who recruited his first Military Command from among the group of tavern "regulars" to help protect their homes and families against the increasing oppression of British Colonialism, thereby beginning the American Revolution. The spirit of revolution quickly spread to other taverns throughout the Colonies, as other disgruntled colonists began to follow Washington's lead, and soon America was born.
Additional guests of Gadsby's during the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary time period included John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and Andrew Jackson, who spent the first night of his presidency in the tavern's adjoining hotel.
Gadsby's Tavern was indeed the center of social, political and business life in 18th century Alexandria. For two consecutive years, George and Martha Washington attended the annual Birthnight Ball held in his honor at Gadsby's Tavern. The tavern was leased by John Gadsby in 1796 to 1808 and that's what earned the tavern its name which stuck. The tavern had fallen into disrepair by the early 20th century, but was restored and was reopened to the public in 1976 as a museum and restaurant.
Visitors can tour the historic rooms and dine in the fine restaurant, which serves Washington's favorite meal glazed breast of duck with scalloped potatoes and other colonial favorites. Gadsby's was Washington's favorite dine-in and take-out joint, so much so that he didn't bother to include a kitchen in the design of his Alexandria townhome.
There are still some very interesting things going on at Gadsby's Tavern. These include fencing lessons as well as reenactments of 18th century swordfighting and a display of weaponry from that time period. And if you don't care for swordfighting, maybe you would like to have tea with Martha Washington! Martha talks about teatime customs, dancing and clothing, and guests are expected to dress appropriately for the program.