Gadsby's Tavern is a famous landmark in Alexandria, Virginia. Consisting of a Tavern (1785), a City Tavern and Hotel (1792), and a hotel wing (1878). The Tavern was a center for social business and economic life in early Alexandria.
It is known by many for its association with our nation's early leaders.
Historically speaking, Gadsby's is the oldest Post home in The American Legion.
Highlights of the many historic events at Gadsby's over the past 200 years include:
The Birth Night Ball celebration in honor of George Washington in the ballroom.
A review of the troops by General Washington from the steps of Gadsby’s Tavern in 1798. This was one one of his final military appearances. He started and ended his military career in Alexandria.
A parade by the citizens of Alexandria to honor President John Adams on June 11 1800.
The inaugural banquet of Thomas Jefferson in March 1801.
A dinner for President James Madison on May 9, 1808 shortly after his inauguration ceremony in Washington.
President James Monroe dined here in 1817.
The Marquis de Lafayette was honored at, what was heralded as, “one of the most brilliant of banquets” on October 16, 1824. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams (one year before he became president) also attended.
The Union Governor of Virginia, Francis H. Pierpont was entertained and quartered at the City Hotel in August 1863.
George Washington’s birthday was celebrated at the Tavern in 1932. This event was recreated by our Post. Alexandrians have continued this tradition with an annual parade and banquet.
Following the Civil War, Alexandria entered into a long period of decline. Gadsby’s Tavern also declined. Nobody would lease it so the furnishings were auctioned off.
In 1917, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased the ballroom woodwork and the unique musician’s gallery and took them to New York City, along with the dining room mantel piece and front door.
In 1928, our World War I post members heard rumors that a developer planned to purchase and demolish Gadsby's. The located heirs of the Irwin family, who had owned the complex for 114 years, and negotiated a deal to purchase it for $18,000.
A public subscription helped the Post raise a $4,000 down payment and assume a $14,000 mortgage. Local civic and patriotic organizations assisted the Post in raising funds for critical structural repairs.
By the 1960s, the rapidly deteriorating buildings were in dire need of structural improvement, as well as updating electrical, plumbing, and heating systems. Estimated costs were in the millions. It was proposed to the City of Alexandria that we give them the complex along with all the furnishings. We proposed the city restore the entire complex for the 1976 bicentennial; the back wing (1878) be decorated, furnished and equipped to Legion specifications; the city to maintain it and Post 24 to have use of it as its home in perpetuity, free of any cost or charge whatsoever, other than telephone and television. Also, the Post shall have the privilege to use, free of charge, the two historic buildings and the courtyard for commemorative occasions, and the city was to install a bronze plaque in the Little Tavern crediting Post 24 with saving the historic complex from demolition.
The original front door and mantelpiece were returned from New York and reinstalled in their original places. Betty Ford unveiled the mantle piece in the dining room. The City Council agreed and the title was signed over to the city on August 11, 1972.