Dating to 1763, the building known as Mead's Tavern is thought to be the oldest standing structure in Central Virginia. William Mead, one of the trustees of the town of New London, acquired Lot 6 when the town was first chartered. It was there that he erected a magnificent house which functioned as a tavern for several decades. In the early 19th century, the building was transformed into a girls school, Roland Academy. Although it served primarily as a family residence, Mead's also housed the office of Dr. Thaddeus Kabler and later the office of William Abbott, an insurance agent. After passing through the hands of various private owners, the building was purchased by the Friends of New London in 2012.
In 2015, Liberty University purchased Mead's Tavern from the Friends of New London. They have since contracted with local firms for archaeological and architectural studies which will pave the way for application to the National Register. Planned restoration will provide a hands-on learning lab for Liberty University history students.
The town of New London is an unincorporated community that
sits in Campbell County, Virginia, but it was once an important Colonial town
that was nestled at the bottom of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It served as a last stop before travelers
headed West over the Appalachian Mountains using the Great Wilderness Road.
The town became the county seat of Bedford County in
1754 and Mead’s Tavern was built shortly thereafter in 1763. Situated across
the street was the New London courthouse, where Patrick Henry gave the well-known
“Beef Speech” during the infamous Johnny Hook Trial. Mead's Tavern also resided down the road from a Colonial
Arsenal used in the Revolutionary War and served as an aid for General
The Tavern is thought to be the oldest
standing structure in Central Virginia and is the only Colonial era structure
still standing in New London. It has gone through numerous changes throughout
the past two and a half centuries. William Mead, a prominent and wealthy man from
Pennsylvania, was the original builder and owner of Mead’s Tavern, though he never lived there. William Mead sold the Tavern in 1784 and it continued to operate as a tavern until the early 1800s when it was turned into Roland Academy, a girls school run by Samuel Miller, who
also once owned the property of the Bedford Alum Springs Hotel, a New London
resort located a short walk away from the Tavern.
Once the girls school closed down, Mead’s Tavern
was then turned into a private home and used as the doctor’s office for Dr.Thaddeus
Kabler. After that, it was the insurance office for William Abbott before returning
to serve as a private home. The Friends of New London, a group of locals concerned
with the preservation of New London history, bought Mead’s Tavern in 2012 and
sold it to Liberty University in 2015. Since then, Liberty has been in the process
of restoring Mead’s Tavern and using it as a hands-on learning experience for the
students in their history department. An archaeological dig underneath the
porch of the Tavern turned up 18th century coins, most likely
dropped by patrons of Mead’s Tavern, as well as a button from the uniform of a soldier in Wayne's Legion, the first American Army.
The building is considered an important piece of American history as it has played a role in every century since the founding of the United States. Liberty University is working on learning more and gainging enough information about the building and its history to nominate it for the National Register.