10 Oldest Bars & Taverns in America
Although America may be a younger country as opposed to others our short history is deep. Our love of booze is even deeper. Here are 10 of the oldest pubs in the US thirsty for you to visit. All are still in operation as bars/restaurants.
1) The White Horse Tavern – Newport, Rhode Island est.1673
Built as a residence in 1652 it wasn’t converted it to a tavern until 1673 by the new owner. The pub’s name is derived from the fact that most people could not read and the’ white horse’ was a symbol for a tavern. As most taverns during that time is was also used as a meeting space for meeting place of the Colony’s General Assembly, Criminal Court and City Council. In 1702 the White Horse was granted a license to sell ‘…all sorts of Strong Drink.’ The building has changed hands of ownership only six times in almost 350 years.
2) The Broad Axe Tavern – Ambler, Pennsylvania est. 1681
Not long after being built the tavern soon became a place for locals to gather and exchange news. When mail started being delivered there newspapers began to be were read aloud each day for those who could not read. The legend goes that the name came from a rival business owner to a ‘Mrs. Hatchet’ who lived across the street and sold beer and candy. He opened up a public house directly opposite with a large sign saying ‘Broad Axe’. The Broad Axe was established in the 1650s but legally licensed in 1681, “as we see it, we are the oldest tavern.”
3) Barnsboro Inn – Sewell, New Jersey est. 1720
When owner John Barnes petitioned the license he stated, “An inn at this said house is much wanting, as there is not one on said road nearer than eight miles on one side and five on the other.” So basically…we need a bar because I don’t want to travel. Good on you John. His petition was approved, but required him to keep at least two spare beds, stabling, and feed for traveler’s horses. Sadly today pubs are no longer required to feed our ponies. During it’s time the inn has been known as the Spread Eagle, the Crooked Billet Inn, and Barnsboro Hotel.
4) Jessop’s Tavern – New Castle, Delaware est. 1724
Originally built in 1674 by a cooper and as the base for his barrel making business it wasn’t licensed until 1724. Over the years is has been residential housing as changed owners many times. In the 1950’s it was a restaurant called the Captain’s Log. In 1974 it was changed to The Green Frog Tavern. In 1996 the current owner’s reopened the tavern as it is now and named it after Abraham Jessop the original owner.
5) Middleton Tavern – Annapolis, Maryland est. 1750
A frequent haunt for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and other members of the Continental Congress. The mayor of the town in 1818 was the owner of this pub and drank with President Monroe here. The bar was seen as a beacon for thirsty seafarers crossing the Bay. The Tavern was more than just a place to wet your whistle important meetings and discussions happened here from out most celebrated patriots.
6) Pirate’s House – Savannah, Georgia est. 1753
The Pirate’s House is adjoined to one of the most historic spots in Georgia. In fact it actually is the oldest building in Georgia, built in 1734. This building originally housed the gardener of Trustees’ Garden, which was the first experimental garden in America. It’s current owner (wife of the President of Savannah Gas Company) is the one responsible for creating the kitschy restaurant that stands today. This is a place Savannahians keep going back to…because there are 15 different dining rooms staged as if it is the 1700s!
7) King’s Tavern – Natchez, Mississippi est. 1769
The bar is the oldest structure in Natchez. In 1789, a New Yorker named of Richard King moved in with his family and opened a combination tavern and inn. As the tavern also operated as a mail distribution center business become very good for Richard. King and his wife became prominent residents of the town. Legend has it the King’s mistress was murdered by his wife on the premises. The infamous outlaws/serial killers the Harpe Brothers are also said to have committed murders in and around the property. The tavern was sold in 1817. The building was once again a private home for almost 150 years. Rumors of hauntings drove the Ghost Adventures team to investigate. The King’s Tavern was reopened in 2013 as a bar and restaurant.
8) Jean Lafitte’s – New Orleans, Louisiana est. 1772
One of the oldest structures in Louisiana has survived two fires in the early 19th Century. Between 1772 and 1791, the bar is believed to have been used by the Lafitte Brothers as a base for their smuggling operation. The property was owned by a prominent privateer, Captain Beluche and Castillion, the adventurer and entrepreneur. ” Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is a gumbo of truth and French, Spanish, African, Cajun and American embellishments,” says the current owner of the property.
9) Griswold Inn – Essex, Connecticut est. 1776
The Griswold Inn was the site of protests by the Women’s Temperance Movement in the 1840’s and several temperance banners still hang in the dining rooms. The Griswold Inn itself became a “first class temperance hotel”, although that doesn’t seem to have lasted for very long. The bar must have been that good because they remained open even during the Prohibition. They were often raided and fined but stayed open. Featured in television and film, The Inn was famously used as the ‘Collinsport Inn’ for the ’60s TV drama, Dark Shadows. The Griswold has been used in several TV shows and movies. The Paul Family bought the Inn in 1995 and have preserved and improved the historic property.
10) McCrady’s – Charleston, South Carolina est. 1778
From my hometown there’s the four-story Georgian house on East Bay Street. During the Revolutionary War owner Edward McCrady was imprisoned with other patriots. He vowed to return to his ‘high society establishment’ and in 1788 he built the second story double piazza. This space became a favorite venue, including it being the spot of a 30-course dinner for President George Washington in 1791. When Edward died the tavern had many owners who used it for various purposes, including a tavern, coffeehouse, paper company, and warehouse. The building wasn’t restored until 1982, leading to its recognition on the National Register of Historic Places and Landmarks.