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City Tavern Timeline

1772 to 1773: Fifty-three prominent citizens commission the building of the City Tavern, which is to be “a large and commodious tavern” that will be worthy of Philadelphia’s standing as the largest, most prosperous city in the colonies.

December 1773: City Tavern opens for business. The building has five levels and includes kitchens, a bar room, two coffee rooms, and three dining rooms; the second largest ballroom in the New World; five lodging rooms and servants quarters. Daniel Smith, its first proprietor, leases the Tavern for £300 per year, an amount roughly equivalent to five years of wages for the common man. He resides there from 1774 to 1778.

May 1774: Paul Revere arrives at the Tavern to announce Parliament’s closing the port of Boston. The next day, two to three hundred prominent Philadelphians meet at City Tavern to select a committee of correspondence to draft a letter of sympathy for Revere to take back to Boston.

September to October 1774: City tavern is the unofficial meeting place of the delegates before and after sessions of the first Continental Congress, convened at nearby Carpenters’ Hall. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Richard Henry Lee and Peyton Randolph are among the participants.

1776 to 1777: Continental and British troops use City Tavern to house prisoners of war. Military courts-martial are also held there.

July 4, 1777: America’s first Fourth of July celebration is held at City Tavern.

August 3 to 5, 1777: General Washington and his aides-de-camp share table and quarters at City Tavern, making the Tavern the official headquarters of the Continental Army for three days.

1778: On December 10, politician John Jay is elected president of the Continental Congress, while staying as a guest at the Tavern.

1783: The Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati is formed at City Tavern in the second floor northwest dining room.

1784: Original subscribers sell City Tavern to Samuel Powel, a prominent Philadelphia and former mayor of the city.

January 1789: City Tavern’s two front rooms become headquarters of the Merchants’ Coffee House and Place of Exchange.

April 1789: City Tavern hosts a banquet for George Washington as he passes through Philadelphia on his way to New York for his inauguration.

March 1834: City Tavern’s roof catches fire; the building is heavily damaged.

1854: The surviving structure is razed.

1948: Congress authorized Independence National Historical Park to preserve certain important buildings and sites of significant national importance, encompassing more than forty buildings on forty-two acres, including the site of the original City Tavern.

1975: Historically accurate replication of the original Tavern is completed according to period images, written accounts and insurance surveys.

1976: The newly rebuilt Tavern opens in time for the bicentennial. The restaurant is managed by a large food service company.

1994: Walter Staib wins congressional approval as operator of the Tavern, which re-opens for business on July 4, featuring eighteenth century style gourmet cuisine.

 2009-Present: Chef Staib’s A Taste of History premiers on PBS winning ten Emmy Awards.