With portions dating back to 1736, New Kent Ordinary has a storied history. George Washington referred to and visited the ordinary a number of times during the Revolutionary War, when French troops and General Chastellux also visited. During the Civil War’s Peninsula Campaign (1862), Union Gen. George B. McClellan used the building as a communications point. Situated across a road from the courthouse green in the village of New Kent Court House, the building also recalls New Kent County’s early colonial history. Since the 1690s a tavern or ordinary is believed to have been in the same general location, attracting customers during courthouse sessions. The original building’s appearance has changed over time. In the early 19th century a significant renovation likely reconfigured its chimneys and floor plan. Around 1880, a new second story replaced the building’s garret level. The ordinary continued to operate until reportedly being abandoned in the 1930s. Thereafter, it remained mostly vacant until the 1960s when Richmond attorney Hunter Martin acquired the building and began an unprecedented historical restoration. Influenced by the Colonial Williamsburg restoration model—but prior to the enactment of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 or the ensuing guidance for the treatment of historic properties—Martin aimed to restore the ordinary to its colonial appearance, relying on historical sketches and accounts as a guide. The resulting effort was heralded as a recognition of one of the most important vestiges of colonial history in the county. Although no formal archaeology has been conducted at the property, there is a high likelihood for archaeological deposits that could yield important information about the property and the practices and operations of colonial-era taverns, as well as insight into the lifeways of both the tavern’s owners, clientele, and those enslaved persons who were likely pressed into service for much of the property’s pre-Civil War existence.
Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark