Top 10 things about Gadsby’s Tavern that you may not know and why you should go to the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum Society’s Hallmark Best Bib & Tucker Ball:
Ten: “Over the span of two centuries, the Tavern has attracted leading figures in this country and guests from abroad who considered is accommodations among the finest to be had at any inn in the United States. Beginning with General Washington, five Presidents are known to have been winded and dined at Gadsby’s, while a sixth, President Harry S. Truman, twice attended plays staged by the Little Theatre of Alexandria.” [Quote from Dorothy Parker “The Story of Gadsby’s Tavern”]
Nine: George Washington partied like it was 1999 – really 1799 (and 1798) – at his Birthnight Ball held at the City Tavern. Thomas Jefferson celebrated his inauguration as president in the historic ballroom in 1801, and was regaled with 16 toasts throughout the night. The newspaper said, “… style and elegance with which it was furnished, at so short a notice, reflect the highest credit on the taste and industry of Mr. Gadsby.”
Eight: Gadsby’s visitors have also included three First Ladies: Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford, and Rosalynn Carter; and one Pope — Pope John Paul II.
Seven: During his 1824 tour in honor of his service as a Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette was celebrated at Gadsby’s Tavern where a banquet was held in his honor. It is in recognition and appreciation of its long connection and historic connection with France, that the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum Society decided on its Springtime in Paris theme for this year’s Ball.
Six: Gadsby boasts one of the last remaining urban ice wells in the area. It preserved ice harvested from the river in the winter. The ice well could hold up to 68 tons of ice. The recent renovation of the Ice Well has won three architectural design awards.
Five: The City Tavern (part of the Gadsby complex we know today) was the 5-star hotel of the 18th century in Alexandria. The hotels amenities included a “large stock of good old liquors,” the services of a washerwoman, and — for only 20 cents in 1801 — clean sheets.
Four: The building’s most famous ghost story — the Tale of the Female Stranger — inspired Port City Brewery’s Long Black Veil beer. The tale of the Female Stranger is about a woman who arrived in Alexandria by ship in October of 1816. Having become ill, she was taken to the finest tavern in town – Gadsby’s Tavern – and was given a room, a doctor and two nurses to care for her. Her identity, however, was kept a mystery. On the 14th, she died at the age of 23. She is buried at St. Paul’s Cemetery and a table-top tomb bears the inscription “In the memory of the Female Stranger …”
Three: In the summer of 2017, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum was the first place in Alexandria to host a Time & Place exhibit — an initiative of the Alexandria Office of the Arts’ public art program, in partnership with the Office of Historic Alexandria. The exhibit was called “Centennial of the Everyday” which featured a series of installations throughout the historic Gadsby’s Tavern Museum reflecting the artists’ research on the history of women, enslaved peoples, and anonymous citizens in Alexandria whose stories are rarely told.
Two: On March 1, 2018, thanks to its ongoing fundraising efforts, the Gadsby's Tavern Museum Society purchased an important archival collection, the Irwin Papers, and officially donated it to the Museum which will now be preserved at Gadsby's Tavern Museum. This collection consists of 373 items, detailing the business, shipping, and real estate enterprise of the Irwin family of Alexandria from 1776-1925. Thomas Irwin owned the City Hotel, now part of Gadsby's Tavern Museum, from 1815 to 1929. A key item is an original copy of John Gadsby's inventory from 1802, listing his assets from furniture to enslaved people by name.
One: Mr. Gadsby was known for his lavish events, and that tradition continues today. Do not miss your opportunity to attend one of Alexandria’s social events of the year — The Gadsby’s Tavern Museum Society’s Best Bib and Tucker Ball. The Society introduced the annual Best Bib & Tucker Ball to raise money for preservation, restoration and educational and cultural programs for Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. The term Best Bib and Tucker means one’s best clothes and was first used in 1747.
On April 14 from 7 to 10:30 p.m., Paris comes to Alexandria as this year’s theme is Springtime in Paris. The Ball will feature a “joie de vivre” atmosphere with live music and entertainment by Doc Scantlin and the Dazzling Chou Chou performing the Can Can with the “Girlfriends.” Dining will feature sumptuous cuisine, libations, an oyster bar, and champagne. Fabulous Silent Auction including fine jewelry, fine French glass and art. To add to the fun there the Marquis de Layfayette and his wife will be joining the Ball. Tickets for his wonderful evening of are $150 per person and can be purchased at www.gadsbystavernmuseum.us. It is not often that one can partake of a truly historic setting with so much merriment, cuisine and libation, and at the same time support a worthy cause.