Alexandria civic and cultural leaders flocked to a coming-out party this week for tavern owners John and Provey Gadsby.

And despite a century and a half of age, the couple never looked better.

The occasion was the City of Alexandria's unveiling of recently restored portraits of Gadsby's Tavern, proprietor John Gadsby and his third wife, Provey.

"For 150 years, these portraits have gone through the vicissitudes of time and, apparently, a great deal of restoring," said Sumner Moore, president of the Alexandria Association, which helped pay for the work the two paintings.

Marion Mecklenburg, with aid from the Washington Conservation Studio, has spent the last year restoring the portraits, at a cost of $12,000. Half the money came from the City of Alexandria Association, a historical preservation group.

Mecklenburg said the two paintings were disintegrating when he started work on them. He discovered there had been at least four previous attempts to restore the paintings. In some of these efforts, the portraits had been completely repainted, hiding many of the original details.

"He found these people had hands and they had hats," said Moore, of Mecklenburg's work in uncovering and restoring some obscured parts of the portraits.

Gretchen Sorin, curator of the Gadsby's Tavern Museum, said historians believe the portraits were painted between 1830 and 1835 by Gadsby's grandson, John Gadsby Chapman.

Gadsby was proprietor of the Alexandria tavern from 1796 until 1808. He also owned the adjacent building, now Gadsby's Tavern Museum, from 1802 until 1808.

After 1808, Gadsby left Alexandria and went into business in Baltimore. He eventually wound up in the hotel business across the Potomac River in Washington, where he opened the old Franklin Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. w

The portraits remained in the Franklin until 1974, when Gadsby's Tavern was donated to the City of Alexandria for restoration as a Bicentennial project. The tavern, restored at a cost to the city of $1.6 million, is at Cameron and N. Royal streets near City Hall.

Restoration of the portraits began a year ago under the guidance of a committee appointed by the Alexandria Association.

The efforts culminated with this week's unveiling, which was attended by Mayor Charles E. Beatley Jr., City Manager Douglas Harman and other city and civic officials.

"This should inspire more people to do some of the good work needed in the years ahead," Beatley said.