Established in 1673! A few things have changed America since then! That is 100 years before Independence and empires have risen and fallen. This was before England and Scotland united to form the United Kingdom and was the year that the Dutch relinquished New Netherlands (New York) to the British. That is a long time for an American Tavern to last!
It is considered the oldest operating restaurant in the United States and the 10th oldest in the world. Next time in Rhode Island be sure to drop into The White Horse Tavern and enjoy one of their gourmet meals while pondering how America has changed since it was founded. Looking for something else in America's smallest state? Block Island is Rhode Island's most iconic vacation spot.
History Of The White Horse Tavern
The White Horse Tavern terms itself as "America's Oldest Tavern," they say.
"Originally opened in 1673, our restaurant exudes colonial charm, but we are anything but dated... Join us for a taste of 21st century Rhode Island in a colonial tavern that’s been serving locals and visitors for over 350 years."
Knowing which is really the oldest tavern in the United States is easier said than done (some sources claim it to be the second oldest), but most sources seem to concur that this is indeed the oldest tavern building in America.
- Listed: National Historic Landmark
- Oldest: Tavern Building In The United States
It is located on the corner of Farewell and Marlborough Streets in Newport, Rhode Island, and resembles a barn.
The original building was constructed even earlier in 1652 by Francis Brinley - an English immigrant. It was built as a two-story, two-room private residence. In 1673 he sold it to William Mayes who proceeded to enlarge the building and transform it into a tavern.
- First Built: 1652
- Fireplaces: They Have Famously Oversized Fireplaces That Are Lit In Colder Weather
In its history, it has had something of a colorful career. It was variously used as a Rhode Island General Assembly meeting place, a city hall, and even a criminal courthouse - this continued for almost 100 years.
The tavern license (to sell "all sorts of strong drink") was acquired in 1687 by William Mayes' son William Mayes Junior. He was actually known as a notorious pirate in the Red Sea and returned to Rhode Island with his ill-gotten bounty. He enjoyed the protection of the local townsfolk in Newport - and so it was difficult for the embarrassed British Colony to do much about the enterprising privateer.
A new owner called Jonathan Nichols acquired the tavern and gave it the name "The White Horse Tavern" in 1730.
- Served As: A Tavern, City Hall, General Assembly, Courthouse, Barracks, And Boarding House
During the American War of Independence Tories and British troops (or rather German mercenary Hessians) were quartered there as they garrisoned Newport (around the time of the Battle of Rhode Island).
After years of neglect as a boarding house, it was restored in 1952 (thankfully saving the historic structure from demolition). After restoration, it was again sold and once again became a private tavern and restaurant.
Dining At The White Horse Tavern
Today diners can choose from a decerning menu - one that offers the freshest fish, clams, and lobsters right from the nearby Narragansett Bay. Sample their artisan cheese and quality honey. Order their prime cuts of beef, the highest quality chops, and poultry all sourced from local farms. This is one of many of Rhode Island's best seafood or waterfront eats.
Dine at their age-old establishment and enjoy the sophistication of their local Rhode Island meals in their truly historic dining rooms. Sample extensive wine pairings from around the world and remark on the experience and skill of their chefs.
Opening Hours - Dinner
- Sunday To Thursday: 5.00 pm to 9.00 pm
- Friday To Saturday: 4.00 pm to 9.00 pm
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Address: 26 Marlborough St, Newport, RI 02840
Other Things To Know About The Tavern
One can make reservations online for 4 people or less and guests are recommended to make the reservations 2 to 4 weeks early. For larger groups or if one has questions, they can be contacted on 401-849-3600.
- Bar: The Bar's Seating is On A First Come First Served Basis
The dress code is suggested to be smart casual (gone are the days of full suits). They ask that guests not wear athletic clothing, sleeveless shirts, etc.
They have dining rooms on both the first and second floors, but as this is a historic building the stairs are narrow and may be a problem for those with mobility issues.