Historic Structures

The City Tavern, Washington DC

Date added: November 18, 2010 Categories: Commercial

City Tavern was center for a large and important cross-section of early capital and national history. Its first proprietor was Clement Sewell who was innkeeper until 1799. Charles McLaughlin followed until 1801, then Joseph Semes until 1805. Senmes operated it under the sign of the Indian King and established it as a stop on stage routes to and from the Federal City. The Tavern has close associations with Jefferson and Adams. Jefferson's letters reveal that he held the place in high regard and that he recommended it to important visitors. Plans were laid here for greeting John Adams in 1800 as he arrived at the District boundary and he was escorted to the White House by Georgetown citizens. Townspeople later entertained him at City Tavern with an official dinner on June 6, 1800. It was President Adams in 1804, who commended its central location to the artist, Charles Willson Peale.

Clement Sewell proprietor until 1799; Charles McLaughlin until 1801; Joseph Semmes until 1805. It was a Tavern until the 1830's, subsequently a drugstore owned by 0'Donnell family. Ground floor rented for various commercial purposes.

Until recent years this building has seized a number of commercial uses, during which time the street floor has been gutted and a stucco facade superimposed, yet above remains the early, even severe, brickwork in Flemish bond. A five-bay composition with string course that carries across at the sill line of the third story windows, results in a facade that must have been all the more imposing against the foil that was the Bank of Columbia (before alterations). Inside, one finds the fine stairway is intact above the first floor, likewise dog-ear mouldings, carved chair rail, some paneling, together with specimens of plaster cornices. An outbuilding may possibly date back to the "Store House" described in an ad of 1801. This latter building, now divorced from the City Tavern property, is owned by Capital Transit.