Tour Gadsby's Tavern Museum Online: Private Dining Room

The tour of these two taverns - the 1785 tavern and the 1792 City Tavern - explores power in the new Republic and its impact on people.

Page updated on Jun 21, 2021 at 2:41 PM

Private Dining Room

Deep Dive Information 

On-Site Exhibit

Exhibit Pane in Private Dining Room. Text is written out on web page.

Public Dining Room

This space offered privacy for the upper class, social clubs, and business meetings.

As Alexandria grew, so did the distinction between social classes, making these private, multi-purpose spaces ideal for wealthier men and women. The tavern keeper made extra money by renting the two private rooms (our museum shop was the second) and offering services like music and games.

George Washington, who owned a small townhouse nearby on Cameron Street, wrote in his diary that he ate here in 1786. He, along with other planters and merchants, gathered here to discuss economic opportunities.

First-class service called for expertise and attention to detail. Enslaved men and women handled much of this specialized day-to-day work of the tavern. The tavern keeper hired additional help as needed, both enslaved and free, to meet customers’ needs.

  • Guests could hire a musician for private entertainment. Imagine the sounds of this room compared to the raucous public space. 
  • Not only did the enslaved men and women polish the silver, but they also carefully counted the set before locking it in a knife box, which, despite its name, held different types of tableware. 
  • Due to their expense, tablecloths were a mark of gentility and refinement. It took both skill and experience to clean white tablecloths and iron them. 
  • These finer quality meals would have included ingredients that were more expensive and took longer to prepare.

[note: this room in the museum has sounds of people eating, talking, and being served food and drink in the background.]

1785 Building: Small Dining RoomTour the Tavern