The Oldest Bars In America

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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. Barnsboro Inn; Sewell, NJ (1720)
  7. Three Tuns Tavern; Mount Holly, NJ (1723)
  8. Jessop’s Tavern; New Castle, DE (1724)
  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. The Publick House, Sturbridge, MA (1771)
  32. Jean Lafittes Blacksmith Shop; New Orleans, LA (1772)
  33. The Red Lion; Stockbridge, MA (1773)
  34. Horse You Came In On; Baltimore, MD (1775)
  35. Griswold Inn; Essex, CT (1776)
  36. The Tavern; Abingdon, VA (1779)
  37. The Union Hotel (a.k.a. The Allentown Hotel, now DiMattias Restaurant & Lounge);
    Allentown, NJ (1779)
  38. The Old Talbott Tavern; Bardstown, KY (1779)
  39. The Warren Tavern; Charlestown, MA (1780)
  40. Michie Tavern; Charlottesville, VA (1784)
  41. Gadsby’s Tavern; Alexandria, VA (1785)
  42. Wiggins Tavern; Northampton, MA (1786)
    [tavern moved from Hopkinton, New Hampshire]
  43. Moore’s Tavern; Freehold, NJ (1787)
  44. Conestoga Inn; Lancaster, PA (1789)
  45. Ye Old Tavern; Manchester, VT (1790)
  46. The Bridge Cafe; New York, NY (1794) [Appears to have not always been a bar.]
  47. Century Inn; Scenery Hill, PA (1794)
  48. Bell In Hand; Boston, MA (1795)
  49. Dorset Inn; Dorset, MA (1796)
  50. Old Absinthe House; New Orleans, LA (1815, possibly 1807)
  51. James Brown House/operating as the Ear Inn; New York, NY (1817)
  52. Union Oyster House; Boston, MA (1826)
  53. Broadway Hotel & Tavern; Madison, IN (1834)
  54. Knickerbocker Saloon; Lafayette, IN (1835)
  55. The Old Tavern; Niles, MI (1835)
  56. Spread Eagle Tavern & Inn; Hanoverton, OH (1837)
  57. O’Malley’s Pub; Weston, MO (1842)
  58. Landmark 1850 Inn; Milwaukee, WI (1847; but currently closed for renovations)
  59. Ye Olde Trail Tavern; Yellow Springs, OH (1848)
  60. The Slippery Noodle; Indianapolis, IN (1850) [Wikipedia]
  61. Deer Park Tavern; Newark, DE (1851)
    [occupying the same spot as St. Patrick’s Inn, founded in 1747, but burned down in 1848]
  62. Breitbach’s Country Dining; Balltown, IA (1852)
  63. Iron Door Saloon; Groveland, CA (1852)
  64. Genoa Bar & Saloon; Genoa, NV (1853) [new]
  65. McSorley’s Old Ale House; New York, NY (1854)
  66. Anvil Restaurant & Saloon; Ste. Genevieve, MO (1855)
  67. Old Ebbitt Grill; Washington, DC (1856)
  68. Tujague’s; New Orleans, LA (1856)
  69. Central Hotel and A. Bube’s Brewery; Mount Joy, PA (1859)
  70. McGillin’s Olde Ale House; Philadelphia, PA (1860)
  71. Old Angler’s Inn; Potomac, MD (1860)
  72. Arnold’s Bar and Grill; Cincinnati, OH (1861)
  73. The Saloon; San Francisco, CA (1861)
  74. Waterfront Hotel; Baltimore, MD (1861; building built in 1771)
  75. The Mint; Silverthorne, CO (1862)
  76. Pete’s Tavern; New York, NY (1864)
  77. Scholz Garten; Austin, TX (1866)
  78. Jacob Wirth Co.; Boston, MA (1868)
  79. The Original Oyster House; Pittsburgh, PA (1870)
    [Bear Tavern also opened on same site in 1827]
  80. Ulrich’s Tavern; Buffalo, NY (1870)
  81. Puddler’s Hall; Milwaukee, WI (1873; historical info)
  82. Ear Inn; New York, NY (1874)
  83. The Bucket of Blood; Virginia City, NV (1876)
  84. Gold Pan Saloon; Breckenridge, CO (1879)
  85. Shooting Star Saloon; Hunstsville, UT (1879)
  86. White Horse Tavern; New York, NY (1880)
  87. Heinhold’s First and Last Chance Saloon; Oakland, CA (1883)
  88. The Silver Dollar Saloon; Leadville, CO (1883)
  89. P.J. Clarke’s; New York, NY (1884)
  90. The Uptowner; Milwaukee, WI (1884)
  91. J-Bar; Aspen, CO (1889)
  92. Buckhorn Exchange; Denver, CO (1893)
  93. 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]
  94. New Sheridan Bar; Telluride, CO (1895)

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

the-76-house
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.”

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.

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.]
  • 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.]
  • Napoleon House; New Orleans, LA (1797) [Originally a residence, it appears to have been converted to a bar no earlier than 1914.]

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The Flagon and Trencher

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