History of Gadsby's Tavern

Learn more about the historic tavern.

Page updated on Mar 4, 2020 at 10:10 AM

History of Gadsby's Tavern

JohnGadsbyGadsby’s Tavern Museum, named for proprietor John Gadsby, consists of two buildings, the c. 1785 tavern and the 1792 City Hotel.  Gadsby was tavern keeper from 1796 to 1808.  He propelled the buildings to fame, managing operations with his enslaved staff, and made it a center of political, business, and social life in early Alexandria. Tavern keepers throughout the buildings’ history hosted dancing assemblies, theatrical and musical performances, and meetings of local organizations.  Notable patrons included General and Mrs. George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and the Marquis de Lafayette.

After serving as a tavern and hotel until the late 19th century, the buildings went through a variety of commercial uses and fell into disrepair. In 1929, American Legion Post 24 purchased the buildings, saving them from demolition.  In 1972, the buildings were donated to the City of Alexandria, restored, and re-opened in 1976 for America’s Bicentennial Celebration.

Ice Well History

The Historic Ice Well at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum offers a glimpse into early Alexandria’s commercial and social history. An important and rare example of a commercial well in an urban environment, it provided the tavern with a ready supply of ice to cool beverages or help make the new dessert of the day, ice cream. 

Research at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum

Gadsby’s Tavern Museum has a wide variety of research materials to offer – from primary documents to a vast library. Some primary and secondary sources are available online.