The City Tavern was constructed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1773. It was one of the finest buildings in the largest and most cosmopolitan North American city of the time. It arrived on the scene just in time for its date with destiny as the 1st Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in 1774. Delegates from the colonies, many of whom would go down in history as Founding Fathers, naturally gravitated to the City Tavern to unwind after debating with their counterparts all day about how to respond to the British and their intolerable acts.
Many of these same delegates and some new ones returned for the 2nd Continental Congress in 1775. Fighting in what would become the American Revolution had already begun and this congress set about taking charge and coordinating the escalating war. Once again the City Tavern offered these delegates some much needed respite from the daily debates and maneuvering. At the City Tavern, delegates who sparred, debated, or sat in opposition all day, could relax and enjoy each others company over a fine meal and a nice glass of Madeira. The bonds that formed within this fraternity created a sense of unity and solidarity that resulted in the issuance of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 (an outcome that was somewhat beyond many of the delegates original instructions and authority).The City Tavern continued to serve the city throughout the Revolutionary War and into the peace.
In 1787 a Grand Convention (later called the Constitutional Convention) met in Philadelphia to ostensibly fix the flaws in the badly functioning Articles of Confederation (another product of the 2nd Continental Congress). Once again when not debating, the delegates sought refuge in the City Tavern. Once again, the end result fell outside of their original mandate and authority. Instead of fixing the current government where the very limited federal power was granted by the whims of the states, they created a new government that derived its power directly from the people with the states filling a subordinate role in specific documented areas of governance and continuing to wield power in any area not mentioned. This constitution was ratified by enough states in 1788 and took effect on March 4, 1789.
The City Tavern fell out of the national limelight and declined in influence over the next several decades. In 1834, a fire badly damaged the tavern and it was torn down in 1854.
In 1946, the land on which the tavern sat became a national historic park and an effort was undertaken to create a reproduction of the original City Tavern. This reproduction was completed in time for bicentennial celebrations in 1976. Current management took over in 1994 and today you can enjoy historically inspired fare in an atmosphere reminiscent of the 18th century revolutionary time.
While the spirit of American history lives on at the faithfully recreated City Tavern. There are at least two spirits of another variety that found the reproduction authentic enough to call it home.
One story tells of a waiter who met his untimely death in a duel around 1790. His bloody apparition is sometimes seen falling to the ground in the tavern. He is also blamed for moving table settings and clattering silverware.
In another tale, a bride-to-be was upstairs with her attendants preparing for her nuptials. During the excitement, a candle set a curtain on fire and the flame quickly engulfed the room and the building. The bride died in that 1834 fire that badly damaged the structure. Today, her blurry white apparition still dressed in her wedding gown with a long train can sometimes be seen or sensed on the second floor of the premises.
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Address: 138 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106