Gadsby's Tavern & Ice Well, Alexandria, Slideshow

Virginia State SealDHR logo

    The Tavern: Its Rise, Decline, and Rehabilitation

John Gadsby.

The history of Gadsby's Tavern is a story of American commerce and entrepreneurship. It starts with local businessman John Wise, who constructed today’s Gadsby’s Tavern buildings as well as several others in Alexandria. However, it was tavernkeeper John Gadsby (right), leasing the buildings from 1796 until 1808, who made them famous.
   As travelers ventured to the new Federal City of Washington, then arising above the tidal marshes across the Potomac River just northeast of Alexandria, John Gadsby set the standard for the nation's emerging hospitality industry.
   In 1801, traveler John Davis wrote, "I found elegant accommodations at Gadesby's hotel. It is observable that Gadesby keeps the best house of entertainment in the United States."
   Many people shared shared his view. Under Gadsby's management, the tavern gained a reputation for comfort and elegance that spread from Boston to New Orleans. It was Gadsby’s attention to details and his ability to offer the latest and most fashionable luxuries, such as iced beverages, that made his name synonymous with luxury. Gadsby even established his own stage coach line to bring guests directly to his door.

          Photo of painting