New England Heritage: Oldest Operating New England Taverns - Part 1

By. Jim Crooks White Horse Tavern - Newport, RI The White Horse Tavern, constructed before 1673 in Newport, Rhode Island, is one of the oldest...

New England Heritage: Oldest Operating New England Taverns - Part 1

By. Jim Crooks

White Horse Tavern - Newport, RI


The White Horse Tavern, constructed before 1673 in Newport, Rhode Island, is one of the oldest tavern buildings in the United States. It is located on the corner of Farewell and Marlborough Streets in Newport. Frances Brinley constructed the original building on the site in 1652. In 1673 the lot was sold to William Mayes and the building was enlarged to become a tavern. The building was also used for large meetings including use as a Rhode Island General Assembly meeting place, a court house, and a city hall. William Mayes, Sr. obtained a tavern license in 1687 and William Mayes, Jr., a well-known pirate, operated the tavern through the early eighteenth century. The operation was named "The White Horse Tavern" in 1730 by owner, Jonathan Nichols. During the American Revolution Tories and British troops were quartered there around the time of the British occupation and the Battle of Rhode Island. After years of neglect as a boarding house, Newport's Van Bueren family donated money to the private Preservation Society of Newport to restore the building in 1952. After the restoration, the building was sold and once again operated as a private tavern and restaurant. As of 2008, it still remains a popular drinking and dining location, so grab a Gansett at the White Horse next time you’re in Newport.

Jacob Wirths - Boston, MA


In addition to being a fine restaurant, Jake Wirth’s is a legendary Boston institution.
Jacob Wirth came from a family of wine growers in Kreuznach, Prussia. He came to America and shortly thereafter, in 1868, he opened his restaurant. In 1878, he moved across the street, to where the restaurant still stands.

The establishment’s most notable feature was its bar, a long mahogany structure well equipped to dispense draught beers. Above the bar, a Latin motto proclaimed SUUM CUIQCE, generally translated to mean "Each his own." A clock and a portrait of the founder - in a circular medallion - added the finishing touches. The customers included the rich and famous of the day. Boxing champion John L. Sullivan was among them. (Legend is that he suffered a rare knockdown when he was hit by a beer barrel rolling off a brewer’s wagon into the restaurant.)

In 1890, Jacob and 5 other immigrants of Germanic decent founded Narragansett Brewing Company in Providence, RI, which would later rise to become the largest brewery in New England. The Gansett Lager is still available there today as "Jake’s Light".

Jacob Wirth died in 1892 and was succeeded by his son, a Harvard dropout who shared his father’s name. It flourished through the years, despite prohibition and anti-German sentiments of the two World Wars. Its clientele spanned society ’ truck drivers, athletes, scholars and celebrities shared the great mahogany bar and thrived on the menu that changed little over the years. In 1975, the ownership of the restaurant passed to the Fitzgerald family. Ever mindful of their obligations as stewards of a Boston tradition, they respected the establishment’s now-unique ambience and even restored the exterior of the building to look exactly as it did when Jacob Wirth opened it. It is a fine modern restaurant with an authentic, well preserved past: for a meal before theater, a drink after work, or an excellent lunch or dinner anytime, Jake Wirth’s still offers happy times and "Each His Own."

Ye Olde Tavern - Manchester, VT


Ye Olde Tavern wears its more than two hundred years with grace and style. Built in 1790 by Dorset master builder Aaron Sheldon, it is distinguished by the spring floor in its third floor ballroom and by the high square columns of its porch. Called the Stagecoach Inn, it was built while Vermont was still an independent republic, its statehood opposed by the hated "Yorkers" until 1791. About 1850, while it was known as Lockwood's Hotel, the marble porch was added. In 1860 Steven Thayer purchased the inn and renamed it Thayer's Hotel, a name that would last for 50 years. The first telephone line in Manchester was installed at the inn. It connected the railroad station with the South Dorset marble quarry. In 1902 as the Fairview Hotel, the tavern became headquarters for the movement to license the sale of "spirituous beverages". Two years later the revocation of the license closed the hotel. Extensive and careful restoration in 1975 by Peter Palmer allowed the re-opening in time for the 1976 Bicentennial. At that time, the name changed to Ye Olde Tavern and it was listed by the Vermont Register of Historic Places.

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