This tavern, built around 1785, was a gathering place for dudes who wanted to smoke, debate and occasionally brawl, then cram eight to a room upstairs, where they shared mattresses, chamber pots and bedbugs.
George Washington and other luminaries worked, dined and slept here also, albeit in the nicer rooms. A hotel was added in 1792; Englishman John Gadsby took over in 1796 and turned the place into Alexandria’s equivalent of the Four Seasons.
The older building’s rooms are now vermin-free; the docents’ vivid descriptions of 18th-century hygiene make up for this. If you’re squeamish, cover your ears when the guide starts talking about dentists. The hotel ballroom, where Washington had two birthday parties and Thomas Jefferson an inaugural ball, is a vision in sky-blue woodwork and red velvet.
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 N. Royal St., Alexandria; Wed.-Sun., $5; 703-746-4242. (King Street)
Did You Know?
›› Gadsby’s Tavern Museum is a stop on the American Whiskey Trail, a self-proclaimed “educational journey into the cultural heritage and history of spirits in America.”
›› The Metropolitan Museum of Art bought the inn’s front door and original ballroom woodwork in 1917. After Gadsby’s was restored, Alexandria wanted its stuff returned. The Met sold back the door.
›› The American Legion bought Gadsby’s in 1928, intending to turn what had become a flophouse and junk store into a World War I memorial. To raise funds, it put slot machines in the basement.
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