Thursday, May 26, 2016

Flashback Thursday: The Rising Sun Tavern Fredericksburg

The Rising Sun Tavern in Fredericksburg, Va. 
is a surprisingly entertaining stop. You can’t eat here so plan your lunch at a different time. The house was originally built by George Washington’s brother Charles in 1760. He lived here for 20 years before moving to Charlestown, West Virginia. It was the second family who owned it who turned it into a tavern.

You must tour the tavern with a guide. The good news is the tours are continuous so you can join in at any time and just continue on to pick up anything you might have missed. This is one of the funniest and interesting tours we have ever taken. We learned all about what it would have been like in a tavern in 1790 or so. Our costumed tour guide tells us that she would wear a mob cap to keep her brain from freezing

We begin our tour in the office. None of the furniture in the building is original, it is only of the period. The innkeeper is also the postmaster. In this time period the sender didn’t pay for the mail, the receiver did. The postmaster would have opened it to see how important it was, so much for privacy. 

Common men slept with their boots on, gentlemen took them off, or rather a convenient wench or bootjack removed them. The staff would then take the boots to clean. The boots were identical so the right boot was placed standing up and the left boot upside down, thus getting off on the right foot in the morning. Your boots were returned to you when you paid your bill.

Our next stop is the taproom where no self-respecting woman of this period was allowed to venture. Women had their own separate ladies retiring room. Not much fun to be had there, there was a bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and a woman’s necessary chair (men had to use the privy). In the taproom the men could play draughts or checkers. It became known as the bar room because the alcohol and glasses were kept behind bars to prevent breakage.

Beyond visiting the building itself and seeing the guest rooms, which I have to admit were quite an eye opener. If you were rich you got to have your own room, most people were not rich and they slept in a common room and it was pretty darn common.

Many of the terms we use today have their origins in the tavern. Patrons were given a free chew of tobacco with their meals and told "don’t bite off more than you can chew." Mind your P’s & Q’s meant keep track of your pints and quarts. A two-fisted drinker was drinking from a stirrup cup with two handles and drinking like a fish meant whoever saw the fish on the bottom of the drink bought the next round. 

These and many more entertaining facts will keep smiling throughout your entire tour of The Rising Sun Tavern

For more reading about visiting Fredericksburg, Va these other posts may be of interest. . 

Mary Washington House

Ferry Farm

Chatham Manor 

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