History

Meet Me in an Old Cellar at Reynolds Tavern

What could be more fun than hanging out in a 280-year-old cellar? Annapolis is home to many downstairs pubs, but the 1747 Pub under Reynolds Tavern (7 Church Circle, Annapolis, MD) just might be my favorite. This colonial-era watering hole is to this day the coziest venue for meeting friends for a craft beer and burger. And, it’s been here since time began—well, almost.

The Oldest Tavern in Town

Reynolds Tavern
Courtesy of Reynolds Tavern

Built in 1747, Reynolds Tavern is the oldest tavern in Annapolis and among the oldest in the country. Founder William Reynolds built the brick building on “glebe” land that he leased from the savvy vestry of St. Anne’s Church across Church Circle. Glebe land was used to support church property and personnel, so a tavern and hat shop on the land probably seemed like a pretty good plan for everyone.

The inner West Street area in those days was experiencing a small business boom with all sorts of local purveyors of colonial goods and services opening small businesses. They hoped to take advantage of arrivals via the city gates on West Street and the proximity to the always busy Church and State House. Sound familiar?

Reynolds Tavern
Courtesy of Reynolds Tavern

Reynolds dealt in hats, dry goods, and innkeeping. He named his tavern The Beaver and Lac’d Hat, which today seems an odd name indeed for an eating establishment. His “ordinary” was a popular meeting place for businessmen, as well as the town’s governing officials, Maryland legislators, and visiting future Founding Fathers.

Today’s Pub Is Comfortable and Inviting

Reynolds Tavern
Courtesy of Reynolds Tavern

The 1747 Pub of today was actually the basement kitchen of the original tavern, which explains the ginormous walk-in fireplace. You can enter the Pub via the circa 1737 stairwell from Franklin Street, just off Church Circle. Or you can arrive by the fancy front door upstairs on Church Circle, through the 1813 entry porch built by famed cabinet maker John Shaw, carpenter to the colonial stars.

Reynolds Tavern
Courtesy of Reynolds Tavern

The working 1747 Pub offers all sorts of tasty brews and gourmet pub fare. They’ve done an outstanding job with the ambiance and the menu. The food is really delicious, and the place has a patina that can only develop over a couple of centuries.

Reynolds Tavern
Courtesy of Reynolds Tavern

Exposed wood beams hold up the Pub’s low ceilings, and white-washed plaster keeps hundreds of years of masonry in place. The floors and walls are well-worn brick, and candles and fireplaces provide much of the illumination. Flat-screened televisions and beer taps behind the heavy burnished wood bars are the few reminders that we’re not in the thirteen colonies anymore.

Second Floor Dining and a Third Floor Inn

Upstairs, the dining and tea rooms offer fine food and a genteel afternoon high tea, all served 1700s style among the china hutches and fireplaces. The wainscoted center hall has an original 1747 staircase, where the overhead beam had to be notched out after 150 years to make way for taller guests. Under the staircase, you can get back down to the 1747 Pub via a narrow head-bumper flight of stairs.

Reynolds Tavern
Courtesy of Reynolds Tavern

On the top floor, you’ll find the elegant Jefferson and Washington Suites and the Mary Reynolds Room – all lovely options for an overnight in the historic city. Just beware of the ghost of Mary, the third Reynolds wife who operated a boarding house here. I’d haunt something, too, if I were the third wife of a dead colonial hatter.

A Courtyard Beer Garden Out Back

In warm weather, the 1747 Pub flows onto a brick and ivy enclosed courtyard behind the building. Reimagined in modern times as the Beer Garden, the courtyard originally contained the Reynolds stables. Today the weathered 1737 smoke house backs the outdoor bar, and a beautiful vintage magnolia tree graces the garden. The tavern keepers host weekly events here, including Monday night trivia, outdoor movie screenings, happy hour live music, and even Annapolis Shakespeare Company performances.

Reynolds Tavern
Courtesy of Reynolds Tavern

The cellar Pub was once the children’s library room back in the mid-1900s when the Reynolds Tavern building became the first Anne Arundel County Public Library. My own husband remembers being turned loose as a wee lad to browse the children’s shelves while his book-loving mom perused the upstairs library collection. Charming as that is, and much as we both love books, we find the cellar’s current use as a pub more appealing.

It’s hard to believe that this treasure of a building was nearly demolished in 1935 by Standard Oil Company for a new filling station. What a horrible tragedy that would have been. To learn more about the Reynolds Tavern, its unique Georgian architecture, and its modern-day reincarnation as a lovely pub, restaurant, and inn, visit Reynolds Tavern’s website.

 

Images courtesy of VisitAnnapolis.org and Reynolds Tavern

Ann Powell, Blogger
Ann Powell

Ann Powell loves living and boating on the Chesapeake Bay. A former attorney and graduate of the University Of Maryland School Of Law, she enjoys sharing with readers her travel, boating, and gardening experiences. Ann’s writing and photography have appeared in a variety of print magazines and online resources. Her photography can be viewed on Istockphoto.com in her Coastalpics portfolio.