America's 10 oldest taverns

Pack up the car. It's time for a serious road trip. These taverns are the oldest of the old, America's founding bars. Visited by everyone from pirates to presidents to British generals, these are America's ultimate bucket list taverns (excerpts from Taverns of the American Revolution).  

10. Old '76 House, est. c. 1755

110 Main St, Tappan, NY 10983

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Located in the old Dutch hamlet of Tappan, the Old ’76 House is one of the most famous taverns in the United States. The building was known during the Revolutionary era as the Casparus Mabie House and, later, Mabies Tavern. It was in this tavern that American forces first learned of Benedict Arnold's betrayal following the capture and imprisonment of British spymaster John Andre (who was ultimately hanged behind the tavern). Today, the Old ’76 House has been expertly restored under the ownership of Robert Norden, who purchased the property in 1987. The tavern’s low ceilings, diverse menu, and original fireplaces and taproom make it one of the best-preserved taverns from the Revolutionary era.

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9. Pirates' House, est. c. 1753 (Savannah, GA)

20 E Broad St, Savannah, GA 31401

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Built in 1753 along the Savannah River, the Pirates’ House was known as a rough grogshop frequented by all stripes of sailors—fishermen, merchants, and pirates. A secret tunnel beneath the tavern supposedly still connects to the nearby harbor and was used to shanghai unsuspecting drunkards to far-flung locales.

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8. Middleton Tavern, est. c. 1753

2 Market Space, Annapolis, MD 21401

© All Rights Reserved by Midnight Rider

© All Rights Reserved by Midnight Rider

The Middleton has its own impressive history. The tavern is mere blocks away from the seat of the Continental Congress from 1883-84. It was in Annapolis where Washington resigned his military commission and Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris, officially ending the Revolutionary War. Many of America's Founders are believed to have walked Middleton Tavern's narrow dining halls. 

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7. New Boston Inn, est. c. 1743

101 N Main St, Sandisfield, MA 01255

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Since 1743, the New Boston Inn has been hosting guests and pouring drinks. The Inn is the oldest in Berkshire County, and one of the oldest in Massachusetts. Today, the Inn combines its existing colonial pup and restaurant with seven overnight rooms, giving it the look, feel and history of an authentic survivor. The New Boston Inn is the real deal.

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6. Jessop's Tavern, est. c. 1724

114 Delaware St, New Castle, DE 19720

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The building now housing Jessop's Tavern was actually built way back in 1674, making it the second oldest building on this list. However, booze didn't get involved with the property until 1724, when Abraham Jessop moved in and opened his barrel making workshop. Today, Jessop's specializes in classic American and English pub fare and boasts 300+ Belgian beers. 

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5. Mill Street Hotel & Tavern, est. c. 1723

67 Mill St, Mt Holly, NJ 08060

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The Mill Street Hotel & Tavern first opened its doors in 1723 as the impressively named Three Tun Tavern, signifying the tavern was permitted to store up to three tuns (about 750 gallons) of liquor onsite. The tavern’s location along the outer boundary of town makes it easy to miss but also makes it a haven for local residents. The bar is tended by the current owners, whose family has owned the tavern for nearly seventy years. Entertainment consists of a corner jukebox and lone television set, and the front door’s sensor squeal is so meekly annoying it’s charming. Nothing—not the floors, not the ceilings, not the bar itself—appears original, and the tavern has the distinction of being perhaps the only Revolutionary tavern with beer neon signs in its windows. The tavern still rents out rooms, seven in total. What the bar lacks in polished mahogany or post-and-beam ceilings, it makes up for with a sense of deep socioeconomic continuity and a feeling that its current state is the result of an unbroken line of repairs and tweaks made by proud tavern keepers going back three hundred years.  A modest sign near the bar signals the establishment’s 1723 construction, and the owners keep behind the bar a framed copy of each of the building’s liquor licenses going back to 1887. 

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4. Longfellow's Wayside Inn, est c. 1716

72 Wayside Inn Rd, Sudbury, MA 01776

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On a rugged continent with little infrastructure, America’s post roads were bustling commer- cial corridors along which taverns could do brisk business. It was on the Boston Post Road where, in 1716, David Howe expanded his house and opened an establishment known simply as Howe’s Tavern, today Longfellow’s Wayside Inn. The Wayside Inn was once owned by Ezekiel Howe, a lieutenant colonel in the Sudbury Militia, who fought in the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Both George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette are known to have passed the tavern, and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow stayed here in 1861 It was during Longfellow's stay that the famous poet penned Tales of a Wayside InnThe tavern was purchased by Henry Ford in 1923 and restored it to its current glory. Today the taproom is low and dark and from the ceiling hang steel mugs; the bartender specializes in mixing the Coow Woow (pro- nounced coo woo), America’s first cocktail. 

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3. Dan'l Webster Inn, est c. 1692

149 Main St, Sandwich, MA 02563

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Originally known as the Fessenden Tavern, today's Dan'l Webster Inn is the latest iteration of a long and unbroken history of taverns at this location. The tavern served as the local patriot headquarters during the Revolutionary War, and was later renamed after regular patron, and 19th century U.S. Senator, Daniel Webster. The Inn has today been extensively renovated and expanded.

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2. King George II Inn, est. c. 1681

102 Radcliffe St, Bristol, PA 19007

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First opened in 1681, the King George II Inn predates the colony of Pennsylvania and is one of, if not the, oldest continuously operating inns in the United States. The inn was part of George Washington’s famous attack on the Hessians on Christmas night, 1776. As Washington crossed the Delaware River near McConkey’s Tavern north of Trenton, officer John Cadwalader was to cross at the King George II Inn 20 miles downstream and converge on Trenton from the south. Poor weather and heavy iceflows prevented Cadwalader’s crossing, and Washington was left without reinforcements, which he ultimately didn't need. While the restaurant and bar have closed at times during its 325-year history, the building has continuously provided guest rooms for medium- and long-term stays. In this last respect, the King George II Inn functions as one of Americas most authentic surviving colonial taverns. Today the inns bar and restaurant have been fully restored to a neighborhood tavern, including an added back patio overlooking the Delaware River.

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1. White Horse Tavern, est. c. 1673

26 Marlborough St, Newport, RI 02840

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The White Horse Tavern has the honored distinction of being the oldest tavern in the United States. The building was erected in 1652 as the home of Francis Brinley and was converted to a tavern in 1673 by new owner William Mayes Sr. While many surviving taverns today feature enough expansions and renovations to make you wonder what part of the structure is original, you don’t have to ask with the White Horse. The stand-alone barnlike structure looks mostly as it would have since before the birth of George Washington. Throughout its incredible 343 year run (as of 2016), the White Horse is thought to have been out of commission only once, between 1954 and 1957. Today the White Horse is a destination taproom and restaurant with everything expected in a historic tavern: low ceilings, low lights, its own beer (Long Trail Limbo IPA), and a fireplace in every room. But the White Horse doesnt use its history as a crutch to draw tourists. The farm-to-table ethos of chef Richard Silvia delivers locally sourced goods, from duck scotch egg with house-made sriracha to beef Wellington with foie gras.