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A New Website About Colonial Taverns

July 2024
2min read

American Heritage is launching a major effort to research and promote historic taverns from the Founding era.

A comprehensive website about historic taverns is much needed — there’s no info in one place on the Internet.

Some taverns from the Colonial era sit on street corners where ancient Indian trails once crossed. Others survive in the center of major cities, their welcome signs standing out incongruously against skyscrapers looming overhead. 

If you do the research, you'll find more than 200 taverns still existing that served the first generation of Americans. Some of them, like the White Horse Tavern in Newport, RI, have hosted patrons for more than three centuries.

Watch our announcement video

But that research is not easy to do because, surprisingly, there is not a single place on the Internet where you can find a definitive list of these living museums. American Heritage is going to fix that deficiency.

White Horse Tavern in Newport, RI has been serving since 1673.
The White Horse Tavern in Newport, RI has been serving patrons since 1673, from Hessian soldiers to local politicians who charged their large bar tabs to the state.

An informal team of writers and videographers has been crisscrossing the Thirteen Colonies (and beyond), dedicating many hours to research, photograph, and describe the most important Colonial and Founding-era taverns — hallowed places where you can still lift a drink to the men and women who built our country.

“The project got started when I was looking for a way to get my two sons more interested in American history,” says Edwin S. Grosvenor, the magazine's editor. “I thought maybe beer would work.”

“As we traveled from tavern to tavern, it was great to see my sons get fascinated with these historic sites,” he continued. “They learned about major dramas that happened in places like Lexington and Philadelphia. And they discovered that many of the men who fought for our freedom were young guys their age.”

An initial team doing research on taverns included American Heritage Editor Edwin Grosvenor and his sons Alec (left) and Stuart.
A team doing initial research on taverns included American Heritage Editor Edwin S. Grosvenor and his sons Alec (left) and Stuart Grosvenor (right).

Please help us in our quest to find the most authentic and enjoyable taverns and inns in all the Thirteen Colonies!

American Heritage is now looking for a sponsor or sponsors to help it build a major website and create videos so that more people can discover these wonderful places. 

Starting at the Mount Vernon gristmill built by George Washington (who was America’s largest distiller at the time), American Heritage will film taverns and interview their proprietors from New Orleans to Maine in a quest to find the most historic and authentic taverns.

Grosvenor interviews Robert Norden, owner of the Old ’76 House where British officer and spy John Andre was imprisoned for conspiring with Benedict Arnold, and later hanged.
Grosvenor interviews Robert Norden, owner of the Old ’76 House, in the room where British officer and spy John Andre was imprisoned for conspiring with Benedict Arnold, and later hanged.

The website will provide detailed listings of the taverns, with photographs, addresses, and the detailed research we are able to uncover.

An interactive map will enable web visitors to quickly find the nearest taverns they can visit.

We will also create more than a dozen videos providing interviews of experts and views of what can be seen at the various locations.

"We're excited about the possibility of connecting Americans to their shared heritage — like we have for 70 years — but with videos and new media," says Grosvenor. "And show them fun places to visit and enjoy a nice meal!"

The team plans to interview archaeologists at the original Jamestown fort to uncover evidence about what beer and spirits were consumed their 400 years ago.  

Thomas Jefferson met with friends at the Catamount Tavern.
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison met with friends at the Catamount Tavern in Bennington, Vermont, in June, 1791​​​​​​. See "Thomas Jefferson Takes A Vacation" in the July/August 1996 issue of American Heritage.

And make a special effort to research nearly 40 taverns and inns where George Washington is alleged to have visited, including Gadsby’s Tavern where our first President celebrated his birthdays and took refreshment before the long coach ride home to Mount Vernon. 

“There's really no one better to undertake this huge task than American Heritage,” Grosvenor says. “We've been working on this for a long time, but we really need a sponsor or donors to help us underwrite the costs of the research, the writing, the travel, the editing, the video production. It's a big job, but with your help I think we can do something really important.”

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.