In early 1975, Fairfax County park Authority officials announced that they hoped to have the historic Dranesville tavern in use again as a tavern in time for the Bicentennial.
More than two and a half years and $160,000 later, the tavern is sitting almost completely restored but empty, and park officials are saying it won't be operational until late next spring, at the earliest.
Even when it does open it will be for guided tours by appointment only; it won't serve any of the 19th Century food and drink it was designed to offer for at least another year.
And by the time all the tavern's accompanying outbuildings and landscaping are completely set in place on the five and a half acres surrounding the two-story clapboard-covered tavern, about $500,000 will have been spent on the project.
Louis Cables, assistant director of the park authority, said tht early projections for completion of the park "have to be chalked up to optimism."
"You know how it is, starting out on something new. Everyone wants it finished before it can be, "Cable said. "Even though it never made the Bicentennial, the work has gone along at a healthy pace."
This project has not teken an inordinate amount of time," said Michael Rierson, director of the historical division of the park authority. "We've had the normal delays of brilding anything,and perhaps a few more, sonce it takes longer to bring an old structure up to building regulations than it does to build a new one."
Rierson said there have been few delays since renovation first started in January 1976, although the tavern had been mothballed was moving it 125 feet back from Rte. 7 when the quired the property in 1969. The only major work done on the tavern while it was mothballed was moving it was mothballed was moving it 125 feet abck from Rte. 7 when the highway was widened in 1973.
"It sat maybe a week or two while our crews worded on other priority projects,"Rierson said.
"The exterior has been finished sonce late last year, but we have been working on the inside all along."
The tavern originally was nothing more than two log cabins joined together that served bins joined together that served as a rest stop for Shenandoah Valley drovers and farmers enroute to market wigh their lovestock or produce by way of the Georgetown and Leesburg turnpikes.
Arouond 1850, the tavern grew to a two-story building, and remained in use as a road stop. In the late 19th Century, when Victorian era trimmings were added to the facade of the building, a family took over the tavern and continued to operate it until Page 1> 1946. It was not until 1963 that the last paying guest left the tavern, which was then a home for a family that tock in boarders.
"The tavern is basically a crude version of a Williamsburg tavern," Rierson said. "It reflects the same period, but instead of colonial elegance, you've got whitewashed exposed logs."
A modern kitchen, rest rooms, and restaurant support services are still to be installed, out of sight, in the building, along with 19th century wall lamps, doorknobs, and other accessories.
"It wouldn't take more than two weeks to finish what needs to be done inside," Rierson said. "The tavern is ready to reci!eive the equipment it needs to operate as a restaurant. Right now it's nine-tenths expty rooms."
He said that there is "no rush"to furnish the tavern while construction of cecess roads and parking lots for the tavern remains to be done. Construction on those projects will begin wthin two weeks.
When the tavern finally opens as a restaurnat, it will be able to accommodate 99 people in sevenr whitewashed rooms on both levels of the structure. Rierson said the park authority is meetion with firms interested in operating the tavern's restaurant "under very restrictive conditions." Some 19th century dishes suggested for the restaurant include a hearty stew, blackeyed peas, and corn bread.
"Interpritive windows" that reveal parts of the tavern's log skeleton have been carved into the walls throughout the building, wich appears as it did in 1850 on the outside, but combines all the periods of its architectural design on the inside.
Yellow-brown and green trim offsets the stark white of the small rooms, two high wall hearths, all with plank board flooring. Paint analyses determined that this was the color scheme of the tavern in the 1800s, Rierson said. The creamy whit epaint job with cocoa brown trim on the outside of the tavern also paproximates the tavern's 19th century look.
Here and there inside is a compromise with modernity, such as the glaring red "exit" sign hanging from the ceilion abouve the front door. AN unsightly set of cement stairs is hidden in the back wing of the building and a brand new cinderblock badement will house the kitchen.
When the grounds of the tavern are completed according to architects' sketches, the site will have a general store, a barn, several small outbuildings, and fenced feeding lots for live-stock.
"It will be sort of a working lesson in history," Rierson said. "We considered making it some sort of a passive exhibition of history, but it should prove much more interesting as a tavern really serving the public again."