Rising Sun Tavern
The Rising Sun Tavern was built in 1760 by Charles Washington, brother of George Washington. Originally serving as Charles' personal residence, the building was visited by many of the Founding Fathers including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Marshall. After Charles left, the home was opened as a tavern for the next several decades. An establishment such as the Rising Sun was considered to be an "upper" tavern, where people of the upper class would typically lodge. The tavern was acquired by Preservation Virginia in 1907, and turned over to Washington Heritage Museums in 2013. It is open to the public for guided tours. Visitors can view the taproom, private dining room, and public and private accommodations.
Backstory and Context
The Rising Sun Tavern was originally a home owned by Charles Washington, the youngest brother of George Washington. Charles bought the property and constructed the one-and-a-half story residence around 1760. He lived here for the next twenty years before leaving to establish Charles Town in present-day West Virginia. During the Revolutionary War, the home was visited by prominent figures including Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, John Marshall, James Madison, and John Paul Jones. In 1781, George Washington held a “Peace Ball” here to celebrate his victory at the Battle of Yorktown nearby. The Virginia chapter of the Society of Cincinnati held their first meeting here in 1783.
In 1786, Charles transferred ownership of the home to his son George Augustine Washington. From there it apparently changed hands several times, and at some point was converted into a tavern. It was originally named the Eagle or Golden Eagle Tavern, but was known as the Rising Sun Tavern by 1822. It was considered to be an “upper” or “proper” tavern- a respectable establishment that could be used by the upper class and women. In addition to providing lodging for both travelers and their horses, taverns also served as restaurants and an assembly place for socializing. At one point, the Rising Sun Tavern also housed Fredericksburg’s post office. It closed at some point around 1830.
In 1907, the tavern was purchased by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (Preservation Virginia). It has since been restored and renovated several times over the past century, and retains much of its original woodwork. In 2013, Preservation Virginia transferred ownership of the tavern to the Washington Heritage Museums organization. Today the Rising Sun Tavern is open to the public as a museum, and also hosts events throughout the year.
“Historic American Buildings Survey: Rising Sun Tavern.” National Park Service. https://cdn.loc.gov/master/pnp/habshaer/va/va0900/va0929/data/va0929data.pdf.
“National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form: Rising Sun Tavern.” www.dhr.Virginia.gov/registers/Cities/Fredericksburg/111-0088_Rising_Sun_Tavern_1966_NRHP.pdf.