The Oldest Bars In America

The list below is an on-going project attempting to list the oldest bars still operating in the United States. This was originally a post that I did in August of 2008, prompted by another website’s list that contained many inaccuracies and omissions. My list is far more comprehensive, and is based on reader comments to the original post plus some of my own research and poking around. Even so, I’m sure I’m missing a lot, because there’s no central repository for this sort of information. As one commenter made clear, I need to point out that these are bars that are still open, and still bars, not old pieces of dirt with scattered bricks and other evidence that a bar once stood there. If you know of any others that should be on this list, please do let me know by sending me an e-mail.

  1. White Horse Tavern; Newport, RI (1673)
  2. The Broad Axe Tavern; Ambler, PA (1681)
  3. Old Yarmouth Inn; Yarmouth Port, MA [Cape Cod] (1696)
  4. Robert Morris Inn; Oxford, MD (1710)
  5. Longfellow’s Wayside Inn; Sudbury, MA (1716)
  6. Colt’s Neck Inn; Colts Neck, NJ (1717) [ancestry]
  7. Barnsboro Inn; Sewell, NJ (1720)
  8. Three Tuns Tavern; Mount Holly, NJ (1723)
  9. Logan Inn; New Hope, PA (1727)
  10. Red Fox Inn; Middleburg, VA (1728)
  11. White Swan Tavern; Chestertown, MD (1730)
  12. General Lafayette Inn & Brewery/recently sold and now Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery; Lafayette Hill, PA (1732)
  13. Hanover Tavern; Hanover, VA (1733)
  14. Mike’s York Street Bar & Grill; Warminster, PA (1734) [Date from reader, no claim on website.]
  15. New Boston Inn; Sandisfield, MA (1737)
  16. White Horse Inn; White Horse (Gap), PA (1740)
  17. Brittingham’s; Lafayette Hill, PA (1743)
  18. Blue Bell Inn; Blue Bell, PA (1743)
  19. General Warren Inn; Malvern, PA (1745)
  20. Reynolds Tavern; Annapolis, MD (1747)
  21. Middleton Tavern, Annapolis, MD (1750)
  22. Cranbury Inn, Cranbury, NJ (1750s)
  23. The Curtis House Inn, Woodbury, CT (1754)
  24. The Old ’76 House; Tappan, NY (1755) [Note: Building built in 1668, but the Tavern Room was built around 1755, so not sure which date should be used.]
  25. The Avon Old Farms Inn, Avon, CT (1757) [Seems to be a hotel now.]
  26. The Fairfield Inn, Fairfield, PA (1757)
  27. The Sun Inn, Bethlehem, PA (1758)
  28. Fraunces Tavern, New York, NY (1762)
  29. Jean Bonnet Tavern, Bedford, PA (1762)
  30. Beekman Arms/originally the Traphagen Tavern, Rheinbeck, NY (1766)
  31. Gadsby’s Tavern; Alexandria, VA (1770) [According to Wikipedia, it may not have been a tavern at all times in its history.]
  32. The Publick House, Sturbridge, MA (1771)
  33. Jean Lafittes Blacksmith Shop; New Orleans, LA (1772)
  34. The Red Lion; Stockbridge, MA (1773)
  35. Horse You Came In On; Baltimore, MD (1775)
  36. Griswold Inn; Essex, CT (1776)
  37. The Tavern; Abingdon, VA (1779)
  38. The Union Hotel (a.k.a. The Allentown Hotel, now DiMattias Restaurant & Lounge);
    Allentown, NJ (1779)
  39. The Old Talbott Tavern; Bardstown, KY (1779)
  40. The Warren Tavern; Charlestown, MA (1780)
  41. Michie Tavern; Charlottesville, VA (1784)
  42. The Tavern in Old Salem; Winston-Salem, NC (1784) [It may the current tavern was “built in 1816 as an annex to the historic 1784 Tavern.”]
  43. Gadsby’s Tavern; Alexandria, VA (1785)
  44. Wiggins Tavern; Northampton, MA (1786)
    [tavern moved from Hopkinton, New Hampshire]
  45. Moore’s Tavern; Freehold, NJ (1787)
  46. Conestoga Inn; Lancaster, PA (1789)
  47. The Hancock Inn; Hancock, NH (1789)
  48. Ye Old Tavern; Manchester, VT (1790)
  49. The Bridge Cafe; New York, NY (1794) [Appears to have not always been a bar.]
  50. Century Inn; Scenery Hill, PA (1794)
  51. Bell In Hand; Boston, MA (1795)
  52. Dorset Inn; Dorset, MA (1796)
  53. The Golden Lamb; Lebanon, OH (1803) [Moved to present location in 1815.]
  54. Old Absinthe House; New Orleans, LA (1815, possibly 1807)
  55. James Brown House/operating as the Ear Inn; New York, NY (1817)
  56. Union Oyster House; Boston, MA (1826)
  57. New Hudson Inn; Hudson, MI (1831)
  58. Broadway Hotel & Tavern; Madison, IN (1834)
  59. Knickerbocker Saloon; Lafayette, IN (1835)
  60. The Old Tavern; Niles, MI (1835)
  61. Spread Eagle Tavern & Inn; Hanoverton, OH (1837)
  62. O’Malley’s Pub; Weston, MO (1842)
  63. Landmark 1850 Inn; Milwaukee, WI (1847; but currently closed for renovations)
  64. Ye Olde Trail Tavern; Yellow Springs, OH (1848)
  65. The Village Tavern; Long Grove, IL (1849)
  66. The Slippery Noodle; Indianapolis, IN (1850) [Wikipedia]
  67. Valley Inn Ale House; Pleasant Valley, IA (1850)
  68. Deer Park Tavern; Newark, DE (1851)
    [occupying the same spot as St. Patrick’s Inn, founded in 1747, but burned down in 1848]
  69. Old Ship Saloon; San Francisco, CA (1851) [ History ]
  70. Smiley’s Schooner Saloon; Bolinas, CA (1851)
  71. Golden Gate Saloon; Grass Valley, CA (1852)
  72. Genoa Bar & Saloon; Genoa, NV (1853)
  73. McSorley’s Old Ale House; New York, NY (1854)
  74. Anvil Restaurant & Saloon; Ste. Genevieve, MO (1855)
  75. Old Ebbitt Grill; Washington, DC (1856)
  76. Tujague’s; New Orleans, LA (1856)
  77. Hays House; Council Grove, KS (1857)
  78. Elixir; San Francisco, CA (1858)
  79. Central Hotel and A. Bube’s Brewery; Mount Joy, PA (1859)
  80. Washoe House; Petaluma, CA (1859)
  81. McGillin’s Olde Ale House; Philadelphia, PA (1860)
  82. Old Angler’s Inn; Potomac, MD (1860)
  83. The Saloon; San Francisco, CA (1860)
  84. Arnold’s Bar and Grill; Cincinnati, OH (1861)
  85. Waterfront Hotel; Baltimore, MD (1861; building built in 1771)
  86. Miner’s and Stockmen’s Steakhouse; Hartville, WY (1862)
  87. The Mint; Silverthorne, CO (1862)
  88. Bale of Hay Saloon; Virginia City, MT (1863) [Note: no date claimed on saloon website, 1863 listed on SouthWest Montana and other tourist websites, but “A Guide to Historic Virginia City,” by Marylyn Grant (published in 1998) states the Bale of Hay opened in 1866.]
  89. Pete’s Tavern; New York, NY (1864)
  90. Scholz Garten; Austin, TX (1866)
  91. Dick’s Bar & Grill; Hudson, WI (1867) [First opened as Hendees Hall in 1855, and was a saloon by 1860 before burning down in 1886, the present building built the following year.]
  92. Jacob Wirth Co.; Boston, MA (1868)
  93. The Original Oyster House; Pittsburgh, PA (1870)
    [Bear Tavern also opened on same site in 1827]
  94. Ulrich’s Tavern; Buffalo, NY (1870)
  95. Puddler’s Hall; Milwaukee, WI (1873; historical info)
  96. Hotel Leger; Molumke Hill, CA (1874)
  97. Ear Inn; New York, NY (1874)
  98. The Bucket of Blood; Virginia City, NV (1876)
  99. Glur’s Tavern; Columbus, NE (1876)
  100. Yellow Kittens Tavern; Block Island, RI (1876)
  101. Buffalo Bodega; Deadwood, SD (1877)
  102. Gruene Hall; New Braunfels, TX (1878)
  103. Gold Pan Saloon; Breckenridge, CO (1879)
  104. Huber’s; Portland, OR (1879) [In 1910 they moved to their present location in the “Historic Oregon Pioneer Building.”]
  105. Shooting Star Saloon; Hunstsville, UT (1879)
  106. White Horse Tavern; New York, NY (1880)
  107. Crystal Palace Saloon; Tombstone, AZ (1882) [Originally built in 1879, burned down in 1881, rebuilt then burned down again in 1882, rebuilt a second time the same year.]
  108. North Star Cafe; San Francisco, CA (1882)
  109. Heinhold’s First and Last Chance Saloon; Oakland, CA (1883)
  110. The Silver Dollar Saloon; Leadville, CO (1883)
  111. P.J. Clarke’s; New York, NY (1884)
  112. The Uptowner; Milwaukee, WI (1884)
  113. Tivoli Bar & Grill; San Diego, CA (1885)
  114. The Spot Bar; Saint Paul MN (1885)
  115. Neumann’s Bar; North St. Paul, MN (1887)
  116. Spring House Tavern; Spring House, PA (1888) [Note: original opened in 1719, but burned down in 1888, but was quickly rebuilt.]
  117. Brick Saloon; Roslyn, WA (1889)
  118. J-Bar; Aspen, CO (1889)
  119. Shotwell’s; San Francisco, CA (1891)
  120. Buckhorn Exchange; Denver, CO (1893)
  121. The Little Shamrock; San Francisco, CA (1893) [thanks to LS bartender Mike Flynn for correcting the date. The LS opened October 28, 1893, not 1863]
  122. New Sheridan Bar; Telluride, CO (1895)
  123. Iron Door Saloon; Groveland, CA (1896) [See below for explanation]
  124. Springwater Supper Club; Nashville, TN (1896)
  125. North End Tavern; Parkersburg, WV (1899)

Arguably America’s oldest bar, the White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island.

Or perhaps it’s the Old ’76 House in Tappan, New York, which was built in 1668.

The following are also contenders, but for one reason or another it isn’t clear if they were originally bars. They’re old, but they weren’t necessarily bars from their beginning or at a remote enough date in the past to make the list above.

Another list claims that The Pirate’s House in Savannah, Georgia is the oldest, despite there being over a dozen with earlier dates. And more troubling, the front page of their website says “[s]ince 1753, The Pirate’s House has been welcoming visitors to Savannah with a bounty of delicious food and drink and rousing good times,” but under their page on history, it becomes clear that it wasn’t always a bar or even a restaurant, negating their claim of “welcoming visitors” with drinks since 1753. The “American Museum Society … lists this historic tavern as a house museum. The property was acquired by the Savannah Gas Company in 1948 and the buildings soon fell under the magic of Mrs. Hansell Hillyer, wife of the president of the company, who with great imagination, and skill transformed the fascinating museum into its present use as a restaurant.” After detailing the earlier history of the area, they remark that “[t]hese very same buildings have recently been converted into one of America’s most unique restaurants.”

The Napoleon House, which claims its origin as 1797, appears on numerous lists of the oldest taverns. But on its own history page, it reveals that the “building’s first occupant, Nicholas Girod, was mayor of New Orleans from 1812 to 1815. He offered his residence to Napoleon in 1821 as a refuge during his exile.” That means it wasn’t a bar at all, but someone’s home. The history also includes that it has been “[o]wned and operated by the Impastato family since 1914″ and that “the Napoleon House has become one of the most famous bars in America, a haunt for artists and writers throughout most of the 20th century.” That’s 20th century, not the 18th century.

Also, the Green Dragon in Boston, MA opened in 1654 so presumably might be considered the oldest. In 1764, the St. Andrews Lodge of Freemasons bought the tavern. Unfortunately, the original location on Union Street was demolished in 1854. Its present location at 11 Marshall Street was built at a later date, but I can’t find out exactly when. It’s certainly old, but probably not more than 100 years, if that.

Not As Old As They Appear

There appear to be quite a few others that are old-looking bars or taverns that have been built recently to resemble what they looked like when they originally existed. In many cases, they use the date of the original as their founding date, despite not being the same building or even located at the same spot. It didn’t seem fair to include those in the main list, but because they’re still interesting places, as I find more of them, I’ll add them to this separate list:

  • Green Dragon Tavern; Boston, MA (1654) [Original building demolished in 1854; re-built later at its current, and different, location.]
  • Raleigh Tavern; Williamsburg, VA (1717) [Destroyed by fire, 1859; re-built in 1932.]
  • Jessop’s Tavern; New Castle, DE (1724) [The building was built in 1674, but has been several other businesses, including residential housing before the current owners opened it as a bar in 1996.]
  • Dan’l Webster Inn; Sandwich, MA (1746) [Destroyed by fire, 1971; re-built shortly thereafter.]
  • City Tavern; Philadelphia, PA (1753) [Partially destroyed by fire, 1834; torn down in 1854; re-built in 1976 for the Bi-Centennial.]
  • The Pirates’ House; Savannah, GA (1753) [May have been a tavern originally, but appears to have been a house museum for a number of years, before being re-opened again as a tavern.]
  • Old Tavern Farm; Greenfield, MA (1760) [Building built in 1740, upgraded for tavern use in 1760, but in 1858 was converted to a private residence, before being re-opened as a tavern again in 1998.]
  • Dobbin House Tavern; Gettysburg, PA (1776) [Built as a house in 1776, was a gift center with a diorama in the mid-20th century (I think I visited it when I was a kid), before being opened as a tavern more recently, possibly around 1996.]
  • McCrady’s; Charleston, SC (1778) [After founder Edward McCrady died in 1801, the building was used as “a tavern, coffeehouse, paper company and warehouse,” before being abandoned “until 1982 when it was restored.”]
  • Jameson Tavern; Freeport, ME (1779) [Built as a residence in 1779, but according to their own history it wasn’t operated as a tavern until 1801, where it was a tavern under various names until 1856, when it became a private residence again. In 1981, it was restored to its present appearance and reopened as a colonial tavern.]
  • King’s Tavern; Natchez, MS (1789) [While the King’s Tavern appears to be located in the “oldest standing building in the Mississippi Territory and Natchez circa 1789,” that tortured language strongly suggests it wasn’t always a tavern, otherwise that’s what they would have claimed.]
  • City Tavern; Washington, DC (1796) [While built in 1796 as a tavern, in 1898 the building was converted for retail use and fell into disrepair in the 1960s. It was later restored and “reopened in 1962 as a private social club.”]
  • Napoleon House; New Orleans, LA (1797) [Originally a residence, it appears to have been converted to a bar no earlier than 1914.]
  • Breitbach’s Country Dining; Balltown/Sherrill, IA (1852) [It probably was the oldest tavern in Iowa at one time, but unfortunately according to Wikipedia it burned down in 2007 and had to be rebuilt, only to completely be destroyed a second time by fire less than a year later in 2008.]
  • Buffalo Rose; Golden, CO (1859) [The original building does appear to have been built in 1859, but it clearly is not the same today, which looks more like a concert venue than a tavern. Either way, the website reveals in their history that the building was first used as a grocery store with a public hall. After the Civil War it was a paper mill, and later a hotel and restaurant. The website concludes that “Now it has been remodeled again and ready to continue the legacy of the Colorado landmark,” but without a specific date. Whatever the new date, it has not been a tavern since 1859, of indeed it ever was one.]
  • T.P. Crockmiers; Mobile, AL (1875) [Originally a plantation residence, but even their Facebook page says it didn’t open as a bar until 1971. A news report from 2011] claims it was moving its location, though their website appears to be down as of December 2014. In any event, it’s clearly not the oldest tavern in Alabama.]
  • The Palace; Prescott, AZ (1877) [The Palace’s website reveals that the bar (and the entire block where it was located on Whiskey Row) was destroyed by fire in 1900, and rebuilt the following year.]
  • Eishen’s Bar; Okarche, OK (1896) [Eishen’s may indeed have originally opened in 1896, but everything but the 200-year old hand-carved was destroyed by a fire in January of 1993, reopening in August of the same year.]

Oldest Bar in California?

Several websites seem to list the Iron Door Saloon, of Groveland, as the oldest bar in California, though none of them has any compelling evidence or explanation. Trip Advisor‘s listing for the bar includes photos showing a sign outside the entrance giving the date as 1852 and making the claim that it’s the oldest bar, but the website for the Iron Door states that while the building may have been built in 1851 (though it never explicitly says so), it didn’t become a saloon until 1896. The Sierra Nevada Geotourism MapGuide seems to have the first part of their story.

The Historic Iron Door Saloon is the oldest continuously operating saloon in California. Located near Yosemite National Park, it was built in the California Gold Country sometime before 1852. It was first called the “Granite Store”, perhaps because the front and back walls are made of solid granite blocks. The sidewalls are made of “shist” rock and mortar and the roof consists of three feet of sod, covered by tin.

But both the SNGM and the Iron Door reveal the 1896 date as when it became a saloon, so I’m at a loss to understand why there are claims that it’s been a saloon since 1852.

James Tannahill was the first owner of the store that would become the Iron Door Saloon and served the Groveland community as the first Postmaster from 1863 to 1880, running the post office in the store.

The establishment became a saloon in 1896 when it was purchased by Giacomo DeFarrari and was named “Jake’s Place.”


The Flagon and Trencher

The Flagon and Trencher

An alert reader sent me some information about The Flagon and Trencher, an organization for “Descendants of Colonial Tavern Keepers.”