The oldest tavern in the United States sits at 26 Marlborough Street in Newport, Rhode Island. In nearly 350 years of business, the White Horse Tavern has hosted members of colonial legislature, stood in as a criminal court and survived the British invasion of Newport.
Through it all this historical landmark has grown and changed with the times, becoming a fine dining establishment that still draws a crowd today. Here’s everything you need to know about the White Horse Tavern, one of New England’s most important monuments.
It was constructed in 1652, but did not open until 1673.
When the lovely farmhouse style building was first constructed in 1652, it was home to two different colonial families before being converted to a tavern in 1673.
The white horse symbol has a special meaning.
Back in the 1600’s, most people could not read or write, so symbols were used to indicate different types of businesses. The white horse represented a tavern, and the symbol and name remain to this day.
For more than 100 years the tavern stood in for many other city buildings.
Before Newport’s Colony House was constructed, the city needed a place to conduct official business and the White Horse took on that roll. For over 100 years, the tavern hosted the Colony’s General Assembly, Criminal Court and City Council.
The White Horse received a major makeover in the 1950’s.
By 1954 the structure of the tavern was worn and neglected. Thanks to the wealthy Van Beuren family, The Preservation Society of Newport County acquired the building and restored it with meticulous attention to preserving its history. It re-opened in 1957.
The tavern has only had 6 owners in nearly 350 years.
The White Horse remains a beloved Rhode Island institution and is lovingly preserved by each new caretaker, including the current owner, Jeff Farrar, who also owns the Mill Street Inn in Newport.
Today the White Horse Tavern is an upscale dining establishment.
Featuring fresh fish, clams and lobster straight from Narragansett Bay and picked-today produce, the restaurant prides itself on serving fresh, locally-sourced ingredients from across the state. According to their website:
We embrace RI’s vibrant food scene to bring you the very best artisan cheeses, honeys, prime cuts of beef and local fish right off the boat.
So if you’re looking for a night out, consider a visit to the White Horse Tavern for a deliciously fresh meal with a side of rich New England history!