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michie tavern

Did Thomas Jefferson have a favorite tavern?

If he did, and he was a good neighbor, it would have been the Michie Tavern.

Not far from his home, Monticello, Michie Tavern was right there at the bottom of the hill.

Except it was moved from miles away, which doesn’t mean it wasn’t a favorite watering hole for the Founding Fathers.

Who wouldn’t go for a little roadie for the right place?

The Founding Moms work Michie Tavern

michie tavern

A little taller than Thom Jefferson, did this fine lady warn me about the low doorway?

Of course not. Why ruin the fun?

So I walked up to the door on the right.

michie tavern

Looks like a normal sized door from here.

It looked normal on the walk up.

At the right height it catches you right on top of your head and jams your neck down.

Not the perfect entrance.

michie tavern

With milled logs and small tables, it’s a throwback experience.

What isn’t a throwback is the menu.

Even if it feels like cafeteria ordering, the plate you end up with is a match for the table.

michie tavern

Michie Tavern’s Bill of Fare

Southern Fried Chicken
Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Barbecue ♥
Marinated Baked Chicken ♥ 

Homemade Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Black-eyed Peas Seasoned with Country Ham (vegetarian version available upon request)
Stewed Tomatoes
Green Beans with Ham (vegetarian version available upon request)
Cole Slaw
Whole Baby Beets
Cornbread and Biscuits

michie tavern

How one Michie Tavern owner read the future.

In 1927 a local businesswoman, Mrs. Mark Henderson, expressed an interest in purchasing Michie Tavern.  It was remotely located and rapidly deteriorating, but she felt confident that it was the ideal structure in which to house her vast collection of antiques and open a museum. 

A vast collection of antiques in 1927 is different than antiques in 2017.

Doesn’t it sound like a museum collection?

An astute entrepreneur, Mrs. Henderson had paid special attention to a new and growing industry in our nation. The rise in automobile production and ownership, coupled with the drop in workweek hours and higher wages spurred the development of tourism. 

How many people see new things and think, “Just a fad. Where’s my horse?”

In addition, she closely watched the growth of a relatively new movement taking hold in our country and soon found herself a pioneer in these preservation activities. 

First she saved old stuff, then a tavern?

Mrs. Henderson’s face ought to be on money.

Monticello had been opened for several years and was drawing thousands of visitors. Mrs. Henderson was merely following the precepts of her preservation peers when she decided to move Michie Tavern to a more accessible location. What better site than at the foot of Carter’s Mountain, one-half mile from Jefferson’s home.

That’s where I found it, or my wife found it. She probably had it scoped out for months.

Glad she did. Stopping there made me feel like a founding father, especially with a beer label featuring TJ’s face.

Within three months the old Inn had been painstakingly numbered, dismantled and moved 17 miles by horse and wagon and by truck.  The move itself  became a historic event, and her efforts would ultimately lead to Michie Tavern’s designation as a Virginia historic landmark. Michie Tavern opened as a museum in 1928. 

Lunch in a museum? With beer?

That’s a stop you don’t want to miss.

As in its heyday, the Tavern was once again located on a busy thoroughfare and welcoming strangers at its door.

Just remember the height of that first door.

About David Gillaspie
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