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Gadsby’s Tavern, A Beacon of History and Hospitality

The N. Royal Street Entrance to Gadsby’s Tavern and Museum. (Photo: Eliza Nela)

Alexandria, VA – As Alexandria celebrated its 275th birthday, Gadsby’s Tavern and Museum is a testament to the city’s rich history and hospitality. Nestled in the heart of the Alexandria Historical District, Gadsby’s Tavern has been an enduring symbol of community, culture, and cuisine since its inception in 1752.

Situated at 134 and 138 North Royal Street, Gadsby’s Tavern comprises a complex of historic buildings, including a tavern dating back to the late 18th century and the 1792 City Tavern and Hotel. These structures have witnessed the ebb and flow of Alexandria’s social, economic, and political life, serving as hubs of activity for locals and visitors alike.

Gadsby’s Tavern before guests arrive for dinner reservations. (Photo: Eliza Nela)
Room 8, where the mysterious Female Stranger died. Some believe she has not left. (Photo: Gadsby’s Tavern)

Established by Marylander John Wise in the mid-1700s, Gadsby’s Tavern gained prominence under the stewardship of Englishman John Gadsby, who leased and operated the tavern from 1796 to 1808. During Gadsby’s tenure, the tavern welcomed an illustrious array of patrons, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, who frequented the establishment for lively discussions, sumptuous banquets, and grand balls.

The tavern’s storied past is woven with intrigue and mystery, including the enigmatic “Female Stranger,” whose tragic demise in 1816 shrouded her identity in secrecy, leaving behind a haunting legacy that lingers still within the walls of Room 8.

The Surrey Co. Peanut Soop is made of roasted peanuts simmered in fresh chicken stock with garlic and ginger. Peanut soup is a delicious nod to the history of the peanut trade in Virginia. (Photo: Eliza Nela)

Facing the threat of demolition in the early 20th century, Gadsby’s Tavern was rescued from oblivion through the efforts of preservationists like F. Clinton Knight and the American Legion Post 24. Today, Gadsby’s is a cherished landmark, housing the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, which is dedicated to preserving the heritage of Alexandria.

Gadsby’s Tavern delights patrons with its culinary offerings, as the original 1792 City Tavern dining room now hosts Gadsby’s Tavern Restaurant. Guests can savor a blend of period-inspired and modern dishes while immersing themselves in the ambiance of early America.

George Washington’s Favorite roasted half duck with corn pudding, roasted potatoes, rhotekraut, and a cherry orange glacé. (Photo: Eliza Nela)

As Alexandria celebrates its milestone anniversary, Gadsby’s Tavern remains a beacon of tradition and hospitality, inviting locals and tourists to partake in a journey through time. Whether relishing a meal or exploring the museum exhibits, visitors are treated to a quintessential Alexandria experience steeped in history, culture, and timeless charm.

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