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Raise a Glass: 10 of the Oldest Bars in America

Every once in a while, you want a night out with a bit of gravity to it.

Oldest Bars in America - McSorleys Old Ale House NYC 1

Looking to enjoy a drink with some friends over a bit of history? Come with us as we take a virtual pub crawl through ten of the oldest bars in America.

Raise your glass where presidents, revolutionaries and even pirates have done before, as these classic watering holes are the ideal place to link up.

Some Of The Oldest Bars in America

Join us to explore 10 of the most historic, oldest bars in the USA.

1. Fraunces Tavern NYC – Founded 1762

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Throughout the American Revolution, this bar at Broad and Pearl in Manhattan served as a meeting place for the Sons of Liberty. It hosted a who’s who of famous American icons in the 18th century, including General George Washington himself. President Washington bid farewell to the Continental Army on this very spot in December of 1783, saying to them

I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.

How’s that for a quote to raise a drink to. At the Fraunces Tavern in NYC, you’re sharing your drink with the ghosts of legends.

2. White Horse Tavern – Rhode Island – Founded 1673

Oldest Bars in America - White Horse Tavern

The oldest bar in the United States has nearly a century on the Fraunces Tavern in New York. The White Horse Tavern of Newport, Rhode Island was founded in 1673 and has been serving up ale and eats ever since.

Today, this nearly 350-year-old bar caters to fine diners and discerning drinkers who visit to honor its history, tradition and culinary expertise. As the people at the White Horse Tavern say themselves, they offer a “taste of 21st century Rhode Island in our 17th century tavern.” We’re hungry just thinking about it.

3. Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop – New Orleans – Founded 1775

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In the late 1700s, this little tavern in New Orleans was the base of operations for Jean Lafitte, a pirate, spy and celebrated hero of the Battle of New Orleans.

Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop still stands today as a revered bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter. The story of Lafitte may be held together with a few admitted embellishments, but that story continues to be told today in his favorite watering hole and the oldest bar in the American South. [images courtesy: katedahl, wallyg 1, 2]

4. Bell in Hand Tavern – Boston – Founded 1795

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How does a Revolutionary War town crier spend his twilight years? Opening a bar, of course.

The Bell in Hand Tavern was founded in 1795 by Jimmy Wilson, an 18th century town crier who quite literally heralded in the birth of a nation. Since then, Wilson’s bar has stood on Union Street in Boston’s North End, welcoming every walk of Bostonian who wishes to raise a glass to their health. Listen carefully, and you can almost hear the echoes of the voices that came before in this 200-year-old bar. [images courtesy: sly the fox, trace meek, jeremy brooks]

5. Pete’s Tavern NYC – Founded 1864

Oldest Bars in the US - Petes Tavern NYC 1

While it may not have the historical reach of Fraunces Tavern, Pete’s Tavern boasts the longest continuous service record in New York City. Since 1864, Pete’s has served up food and drink to Manhattan’s busy populace without pause, having maintained its old world integrity since its original opening. Come to Pete’s for the historic atmosphere, stay for the well-known Italian cuisine.

6. Old Ebbitt Grill – Washington D.C. – Founded 1856

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The oldest bar in Washington D.C. is still serving the political elite today, a continuance of early guests like Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Harding and Theodore Roosevelt. Located just steps away from the White House, the Old Ebbitt Grill provides a chance for out-of-town guests to rub elbows with political insiders… or at least glance at the White House and the Washington Monument in the distance.

In a city so filled with American history, this culinary gem is a treat for those who wish to dine and drink in the District of Columbia. [images courtesy: dgrice, katieharbarth, afagen]

7. Jessop’s Tavern – Delaware – Founded 1724

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Another New England classic is one of the oldest in the United States; in fact Jessop’s Tavern of New Castle, Delaware is approaching its 300th birthday, while maintaining the style and tradition that made it special three centuries ago. This tavern and colonial restaurant features Dutch, English, Swedish and Old American cuisine to guests with a taste for a bit of American History, served like it was so long ago. [images courtesy: ron cogswell 1, 2,rwsinclair]

8. Napoleon House – New Orleans – Founded 1797

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In the early 1800s, the Mayor of New Orleans offered his own house as a refuge to Napoleon Bonaparte during his exile late in life. While Napoleon never arrived, the name of the famous building in New Orleans has remained the same as the house he never occupied.

Indoors, the Napoleon House bar and restaurant serves locals and tourists alike, providing European cuisine, classical music and the famous Pimm’s Cup cocktail it has carried for generations. It’s open for business today, not far from Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop explored above. [images courtesy: Exit Lines, wallyg, cmccorkle2005]

9. City Tavern – Philadelphia – Founded 1773

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Editor’s note 01/21/21 – Sadly, the City Tavern has shuttered due to hardships from Covid-19. We’re keeping it up for posterity–and with the hopes that it may come back someday.

Another relic of the American Revolution served many noteworthy guests in the 18th century. The City Tavern of Philadelphia hosted revolutionaries like Paul Revere and John Adams, the latter of which called the City Tavern “the most genteel tavern in America“.

In the modern parlance, that compliment suggests a polite, refined and respectable place. Those values remain in the City Tavern today, where craft beers and Colonial-inspired dining are served with a side dish of great American history. [images courtesy: teachandlearn, theqspeaks, ricklibrarian]

10. Sorley’s Old Ale House – NYC – Founded 1854

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The oldest Irish bar in New York City hosted only men for more than a hundred years in business. McSorley’s Old Ale House had to change its rules in 1970, forced by a discrimination lawsuit that allowed women to enter this historic boy’s club. Now anyone of age can enjoy a strong drink at McSorley’s, exploring the historic memorabilia which has remained on its walls for more than a century. What little cleaning we men do when left to our own devices… [images courtesy: Jon McNab, Scott Beale, Usonian]

The Oldest Bar in America

Be sure to raise your glasses to us when you visit any of these fine relics of American history.

If you’ve had a chance to enjoy these or any other of America’s oldest bars, tell us about your experience on facebook or twitter, or share your thoughts in the comments below.

Cheers!

57 comments

  1. Some day you should try Le Carafe in Houston. It’s one of the oldest buildings in, if not the oldest. In the beginning it was a bakery. As a bar it’s wonderful and has some great stories about it.

  2. For those of you in the southwest, check out Whiskey Row in Prescott, AZ and especially the Palace. I believe it’s the oldest in Arizona (1877) and they do it right there. Great ambiance.

  3. The bar at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, where Teddy Roosevelt rounded up the Rough Riders to charge up San Juan Hill.

  4. I built the Shire’s Green Dragon tavern in my barn in rural Maine. It looks better than some of these: it has an inglenook fireplace and NO bar stools, thank you. Nice to have a handy place since Covid made pub crawls problematic.

  5. Two note worthy both in Annapolis MD Middletons and McGarvey’s every single US president has dined there including George.

  6. Well living in San Diego, I must say………………ok, I got nothing. Just a list to take with me and do an East Coast road trip and visit some of these cool places, but only after masks are banned from society. Good read!

  7. Kentucky has the Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, which was built in 1779 and is known as the oldest western stage coach stop in America. Abraham Lincoln stayed here with his family as a young child, and Andrew Jackson, Stephen Foster, Jesse James, and King Louis Phillipe of France were all guests here.

  8. Glur’s Tavern is a drinking establishment built in 1876 in the city of Columbus, in the state of Nebraska in the Midwestern United States. It is said to be the oldest continuously operated tavern west of the Mississippi. It was patronized by “Buffalo Bill” Cody during a visit to Columbus. The tavern is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

  9. Arnold’s Bar in Cincinnati has been operating since 1861, which would beat out Pete’s in NY. Do your homework.

  10. The longest operating bar in Iowa is Breitbachs in Sherill Iowa. It is on Balltown road. It was open all through prohibition due to the fact the government agents couldn’t locate it. Great food and a great view of Eastern Iowa river(Mississippi) country.

  11. I was stopped by a sign once when walking in London claiming the drinking establishment below was founded in 12 something. It had about twenty seats max. I stopped, told the well endowed bleach blonde bartender I wanted a pint, she poured one gave it to me and spit out a huge laugh when I told her I was from America. It was a great place for thirty minutes of people watching that afternoon.

  12. The Green Dragon Tavern in Boston (right behind the Bell & Hand) was established in 1654. It’s importance in America’s history
    should be noted as the Sons of Liberty overhead British officers speaking of the their plans to cross over to Cambridge and onto Lexington and Concord to capture munitions from the traitor Colonists. Hearing this information, Paul Revere / William Dawes rode through the countryside warning the residents that the British were coming. hope the English enjoyed the shepherd’s pie and several pints before making their ill-thought journey!

  13. While it is not one of the oldest, the #10 Saloon in Deadwood has one of the richest history. From “Wild Bill” and the “Dead Mans” hand, Calamity Jane and many other “Wild West” characters. It’s the “Only Museum with a bar” and a rich part of our “Wild West ” history !

  14. Griswold Inn was established in 1776, 245 years ago. It was also used as a base of operations by the colonial forces in the War of 1812. Lots of ghosts.

  15. To the author: what does it say above the nav bar? Using chrome I see “The 10 Oldest Bars in America”. However, I enjoyed the article. It would be nice to know if those bars have been operating in the same location or are just using the same name as the original location.

  16. Check out the Griswold Inn in Essex, CT. It’s amazing. Been around since the Revolutionary War and has a rich history along the Connecticut River.

  17. Looking back at the article I guess it doesn’t say The 10 Oldest Bars in America, it just says 10 of the Oldest Bars in America. So the 10 selected are correct to that point. But stating that Jessop’s is the oldest outside of NY is still wrong. Proofread Seamus, and who does your editing?

  18. A bar in my wife’s hometown of Bolton England, has operated under the same name since 1251. The Ye Olde Man and Scythe. Quickly approaching 800 years!

  19. It’s obvious from the comments that some people do not understand the difference between “10 of the oldest” and “10 oldest.”

  20. While not as old as these being founded in 1893, Buckhorn Exchange in Denver has a very robust history. Colorado’s first liquor license and most of the animals on the wall were served there at some point.

  21. Glur’s Tavern is a drinking establishment built in 1876 in the city of Columbus, in the state of Nebraska in the Midwestern United States. It is said to be the oldest continuously operated tavern west of the Mississippi. It was patronized by “Buffalo Bill” Cody during a visit to Columbus. The tavern is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

  22. Warren Tavern in Charlestown, MA George Washington dined there. 1780. warrentavern.com
    Do your homework kid…….sheeesh.

  23. The Warren Tavern founded in 1780 in Charlestown MA. George Washington and Paul Revere were regulars, and GW funeral speech was given there.

  24. what did these places do during prohibition? were they legally open? there is a bar in Wisconsin that was look up Nelsons Hall on Washington Island.

  25. Not quite: “the original wasn’t exactly in the same location where you’ll find it today, although it was nearby. . . the tavern moved around a few times back in the early days. The original building no longer exists, although you can see a small sketch of it on the wall.” By your standards, a pub could have been first in the British Isles sometime in the Dark Ages and transferred its title here.

  26. what about the 76 house in tappan ny? the revolutionary war british spy major john andre was held there until he was hanged just up the street in tappan ny?

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