Tavern" by Paul McGehee. Alexandria, Viginia's longtime two-building
landmark has been standing at the corner of North Royal and Cameron
Streets for over 200 years. The Georgian-style tavern building (1785)
was joined in 1792 by the larger of the two buildings, known as the
City Hotel. Named for John Gadsby who ran the establishment from 1796
until 1808, the building that was to become Gadsby's Tavern was
constructed upon the site of an older tavern named Mason's Ordinary
which dated back to 1749, followed by an establishment known as the
Hawkins Tavern, a popular spot for food and drink in the 1770's. The
present tavern building was built by John Wise in 1785, leased by
Gadsby until 1808. Along with fine dining, Gadsby's Tavern was
well-known as a venue for dances, musical and theatrical performances,
as well as being the local meeting house for various organizations.
Guests to the tavern in those days read like a "who's who" of people
who helped to create the young United States, in those turbulent years
following the Revolutionary War. George and Martha Washington, Thomas
Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, the Marquis de La Fayette and
James Monroe are but a few of the dignitaries who frequented Gadsby's.
After one of the three "Birthnight Balls" held in his honor there,
George Washington penned in his diary (1799) “Went up to Alexandria to
the celebration of my birth day. Many maneuvers were performed by the
Uniform Corps. And an elegant Ball & Supper at Night.” In later
years the tavern changed hands and purpose, serving as lawyers'
offices, an auction house, and a hospital during the Civil War. Known
in the late 1800's as the City Hotel and Tavern, the buildings fell
upon difficult times in the early years of the 20th century. Knowing of
the buildings' historic past, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New
York City procured the wooden interior of the old ballroom, had it
completely dismantled and shipped up the coast to become a museum
installation called the "Alexandria Ballroom." The architectural
elements from the old tavern and hotel were preserved by this bold
undertaking: the original buildings were slated for demolition. The
certain destruction was halted by City Councilman and Postmaster F.
Clinton Knight, who mortgaged his own home to find the money to
purchase the old tavern. Knight's local American Legion post assisted
as well, along with other like-minded preservationist groups.
Throughout the rest of the 20th century, the two buildings were
meticulously restored to the way they appeared in colonial days.
Gadsby's Tavern is once again open for business as a highly-regarded
restaurant and bar, as well as being a popular location for receptions
and meetings. You will frequently see people dressed in period costume
gathering at Gadsby's...just as they did over 200 years ago. "Gadsby's
Tavern" is faithfully reproduced as an archival-quality print from
McGehee's original color pencil drawing in a limited edition of only
500 pieces, each hand-signed by the artist.