Saturday, October 24, 2015


The City Tavern, Philadelphia
I wrote two scenes in The Riddle of Penncroft Farm  that are set in the City Tavern, an 18th century eating place that was a favorite with the Founding Fathers. It was also where Washington and Lafayette met for the first time.

The original building was torn down in the 19th century, and re-built just in time for the Bicentennial celebration in 1976.  This also happened to be exactly when we moved to the Philadelphia area. We used to take our kids there to enjoy the authentic 18th century food, the costumed wait staff, and the period setting.

You may imagine my delight when I looked City Tavern up on Wikipedia many years later and found this:

City Tavern sign from the street,
City Tavern Dining Room
Of course, the Wiki writer got a few details wrong (Will is working as a servant, not an apprentice as such) but it is still thrilling!

Here is the street sign for the City Tavern, which is located at 2nd and Walnut in downtown Philadelphia. BTW, I have not been there since taking these pictures in 1992, and it might have changed a bit since then.

The next picture is of a City Tavern dining room.  The dish I usually ordered was the Tavern Pasty, as I recall.  I had a fondness for this dish, as I had used it in Riddle. (The following scene actually takes place at a different tavern, Welch's Tavern, just before the battle begins at the Brandywine).

I thanked the tavern keeper, then ran outside and hitched up my father’s slugfooted team, Daisy and Buttercup. A morning fog was rising, but I could clearly see the vedettes’ horses tied nearby. When I returned to the common room, Mr. Welsh handed me a small leather pouch full of coins and a bundle that smelt of spicy apple tart and savory beef pasty. 
                                                            -The Riddle of Penncroft Farm ©1989 by Dorothea Jensen

City Tavern Hallway
The final picture is the hallway inside the City Tavern, with a couple of costumed waiters who obligingly posed for me. In the background to the right is the door I imagined would lead to the basement stairs. I have no idea where it really leads.

Here's how I used it in Riddle, when Geordie goes to the City Tavern during the British occupation of Philadelphia to try and sell fruit and perry, a kind of hard cider, to the manager, "Little" Smith:

The situation was quite different at the elegant City Tavern, where a great blazing fire warmed the patrons to a nicety. Threading my way through the crowd of periwigged merchants and elegant officers to the Bar Room, I soon found the manager, Daniel Smith.   Much to my relief, he jumped at my shy offer of fruit and drink.
  “Of course, lad, I’ll take everything you’ve got—and whatever else you can bring me. Our
supplies are in a sorry state, and the British officers are like to drink my cellar dry. Here, I’ll get
someone to help you unload. Billy?”
   At his summons, a man poked his head out from the hallway door—a man dressed in
servant’s livery, who leaned on a hand-whittled cane and looked at me with eyes full of
  ’Twas Will. As if in a dream, I followed him outside. “Will, what in blazes are you . . .”
   Will looked about furtively. “Shhh. Billy, if you please,” he whispered out of the side of his
mouth in a way that, under ordinary circumstances, would have made me laugh. “And don’t
stand about like a ninnyhammer! Help me with these barrels.”

                                                      -The Riddle of Penncroft Farm ©1989 by Dorothea Jensen

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