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The Legion Years

Gadsby's Tavern exhibit relives the early years.

There is a new exhibit at Gadsby’s Tavern chronicling the years that the building was owned by the American Legion.

Jane Yeingst, an archivist at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum and the curator of this new exhibit, said, “We devote a lot of time to what happened at Gadsby’s when it was a working tavern in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but we have never really had an exhibit that looks at the very important years when the American Legion owned and restored the building. Now, we are doing that with this new exhibit,” she said.

The exhibit opened on Memorial Day to coincide with the dedication of the new World War II memorial on the National Mall. The exhibit highlights the preservation and restoration of the building by American Legion Post 35.

“The Legion was looking for a suitable site to honor soldiers who lost their lives during World War I,” Yeingst said. “In 1929, they purchased the buildings, which had been scheduled for demolition.”

From 1929 until 1972, the buildings served both as a museum and as Post 24 headquarters. In 1972, the Legion gave the historic buildings to the City of Alexandria. Post 24 uses the 1878 wing of Gadsby’s Tavern as its headquarters.

THE EXHIBIT includes photographs and newspaper accounts of events that were held at Gadsby’s during the Legion ownership. In 1932, the first modern Birth Night Ball was held. That part of the exhibit includes a ticket from the ball and other photographs.

Also from the 1930s is a postcard depicting the historic woodwork from Gadsby’s Tavern that was installed in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The museum purchased this woodwork from Gadsby’s in 1917, and is still there today.

“We did get the doors back from the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” Yeingst said. “One of them is on loan and the other was purchased by a private collector and given back to Gadsby’s.”

Antiques, the magazine, wrote an article about the door being returned to Gadsby’s in 1949. “The door came back and was dedicated as part of the city’s 200th birthday celebration,” Yeingst said.