A Jamestown Tavern Site - 1670s

17th-century Jamestown tavern scene by NPS artist Sydney King
17th-century Jamestown tavern scene

pen and ink sketch by NPS artist Sydney King

Colonists came to Jamestown to participate in the General Assembly, attend court, and have their tobacco crops graded, weighed and taxed. An ordinary (tavern) provided a much-needed service for visitors and an attractive, if sporadic, income for Jamestown inhabitants. In the 1670s, an Englishman remarked upon the Jamestown ordinaries charging “extraordinary rates.”

Ordinaries and their operation were of concern to the Virginia Assembly from the 1640s on. Anyone wishing to keep an ordinary had to be bonded and licensed. Acts were passed requiring keepers to use English measures in pouring out drinks and punishing them for watering down their stock. The Assembly strictly regulated the price of food and drink; extensive credit was not to be offered to tipplers who “are not master of two servants, or being visiably worth fifty pounds sterling at least.”

Evidence from the excavation of a large brick foundation near here identifies the site as likely being an ordinary. Its elongated four-room ground floor plan with a cold middle room was typical of Virginia’s early taverns. Artifacts from a large cellar room included many glass bottle fragments; charred timber and a brass spigot suggest storage racks for casks of beer or cider.


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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