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Wetherburn's Tavern

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c. 1742. c. 1751, addition. 1966–1967, restoration. Duke of Gloucester St. east of Botetourt St.
  • (Photograph by Jeffrey E. Klee, courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
  • Bull Head Room (Photograph by Jeffrey E. Klee, courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
  • Chamber over middle room (Photograph by Jeffrey E. Klee, courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

Although Wetherburn's Tavern evolved in somewhat the same manner as the Raleigh, its survival gives it a greater sense of veracity than its more famous competitor. It began in the 1740s as a five-bay house or tavern with a pair of rooms on both sides of the stair passage. By 1751 Henry Wetherburn had added a large entertaining space, called the great room, at the west end, embellished with a baroque marble mantel and lighted by six closely spaced windows. A second front door afforded direct access to this, presumably the room in which the tavernkeeper held a ball for a hundred ticket purchasers in March 1752. Affluent Virginians could rent the great room and two other first-floor rooms for private parties, drink, eat, and gamble there, and sleep in garret rooms above. At least one of the upper rooms seems to have been let to a full-time tenant when Wetherburn died in 1760. The tavernkeeper's family occupied small rear chambers.

The building remained unrestored until 1966–1967, when Colonial Williamsburg architect Paul Buchanan led a restoration based on a new, more rigorous approach to understanding how the old structure evolved. In the same era, archaeologist Ivor Noёl Hume carried out a thorough excavation of the site, providing evidence for the work buildings and the unrefined nature of the rear yard.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.


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Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Wetherburn's Tavern", [Williamsburg, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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