Heralded as the oldest pub in Virginia and the oldest building in Abingdon, The Tavern stands as the historical foundation of the town. Erected in 1779, The Tavern first served as a tavern and stagecoach stop for westward bound travelers. During the next two centuries, the building survived the Civil War, welcomed such visitors as Andrew Jackson and Louis Philippe, future King of France, and changed its function a dozen times. In 1994, Max Hermann opened The Tavern as a restaurant where it continues to provide fine dining in a historical atmosphere.
Backstory and Context
Dating back to 1779, Abingdon’s Tavern is proudly respected as the town’s oldest building and the oldest continually-operated pub in Virginia. The walls of this two-story log and stone Colonial style building are two-feet thick and constructed of hand-cut local limestone. The Tavern originally served as a stagecoach stop for travelers heading west into Kentucky on the Great Road, now roughly I-81. Many famous individuals visited the Tavern, including Henry Clay, President Andrew Jackson, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, and even Louis Philippe, later King of France. In addition to a tavern, the building was also the first post office west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the original mail slot can still be seen today. Up until the mid-20th-Century, the building held many other functions, such as a Civil War hospital, bank, bakery, antique shop, general store, private residence, barber shop, and cabinet shop.
The Tavern changed hands several times after 1965. The building had remained in possession of the descendants of Thaddeus Harris from 1858-1965, when Mary Dudley Porterfield, wife of the founder of the Barter Theatre, purchased the building. Then in 1984, the Tavern was acquired and restored by local attorney Emmitt F. Yeary. Yeary held onto the building until 1994 when Max Hermann assumed ownership and continues to operate The Tavern as a fine dining restaurant today.
Abingdon Historic District. Virginia Main Street Communities: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. January 30, 2019. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/vamainstreet/abingdon.htm.
Hermann, Max. History. The Tavern Restaurant. January 30, 2019. http://www.abingdontavern.com/history.htm.
The Tavern. African American Historic Sites Database. January 30, 2019. http://www.aahistoricsitesva.org/items/show/427.
A Brief History of Washington County, Virginia. Historical Society of Washington County, Virginia. January 30, 2019. http://www.hswcv.org/history.html.
Moody, Jr., James W. National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form. Virginia Department of Historic Resources. February 26, 1970. January 30, 2019. https://www.dhr.Virginia.gov/VLR_to_transfer/PDFNoms/140-0037_Abingdon_Historic_District_1970_Final_Nomination.pdf.
Division of Historic Landmarks Staff. National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form. Virginia Department of Historic Resources. September 17, 1986. January 30, 2019. https://www.dhr.Virginia.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/140-0039_Abingdon_HD_Extension_1986_Final_NR_Nomination.pdf.