Wow, the Broad Axe is an old bar!!! The updated interior and well-appointed bar almost conceal the fact that this establishment has stood in the same place several centuries. Our server gave us a history sheet which states that the Broad Axe was build beside an old Indian path in 1681. You can only imagine the number of historical events that took place both in and just outside the Tavern’s walls. During the American Revolution, for example a British General described his plan to capture the Marquis De Lafayette, a French nobleman serving the American cause. The plan was overheard by the American General James Grant while dining at the Broad Axe, who made sure the plan was thwarted. Lafayette went on to become a great Revolutionary war hero.
George Washington marched by the Broad Axe at least 6 times during his life, and soldiers from both sides of the revolutionary war were buried alongside the road after dying in nearby skirmishes. My favorite story of this place is that the former landowner, George Brisbring stole fifty grave markers from a nearby abandoned cemetery to build the hearth in his adjacent home. The spirits from those graves would apparently gather by his fireside. Brisbring eventually joined those spirits when he died, and they now roam the countryside together.
As if sitting in front of an old fireplace in the 335 year tavern wasn’t enough, we were very satisfied with a nice meal and just one more cold beer. This was a great finale to a busy day, making this the third bar and the third state in one day!
July 8th 2016 was a particularly special day in our journey of bars because it was close to where I grew up. Friends and family members joined us for the day. The proximity of the oldest bars in New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania were within an hour of each other. Though we prefer to take more time to explore the area in which each bar is located, it worked out best to visit all three taverns in a single day of historical bar hopping! We arrived at the Philadelphia Airport at about 10:30 in the morning where my parents, my Aunt Marcia and Bruce’s lifelong friend, Jim picked us up. By 11:30 am, we were ordering lunch at The Barnsboro Inn in Sewell, NJ.
The Barnsboro was originally a log cabin built by John Budd in 1720. It was eventually purchased by John Barnes who petitioned to have his home licensed as a Tavern in 1776. Later owners converted it into an ice cream parlor during the prohibition era, but rumor suggests it also operated as a speakeasy. The building has been added on to several times over the years, but retains its original log cabin ambiance with dark wood beams framing the charming bar room. We had a great lunch of upscale bar food while enjoying the company of good friends and family. I had the corncake poppers, which were delicious, but the Barnsboro also had a pretty impressive dinner menu.
We really enjoyed our friendly bartender, Alyssa. She was very patient with 6 of us roaming around the place, admiring the preserved architecture and asking questions. She distributed copies of a one-page history of the tavern, and even gave Bruce and I embroidered Barnsboro staff shirts after we explained to her the nature of our quest! We were once again reminded of one of the great reasons these old watering holes continue to survive… their hospitality.
The second bar we visited in a single day was Jessop’s Tavern. We found it tucked in the historic section of New Castle, Delaware. A life size statue of William Penn graces a local park since it is here that William Penn first landed in the new world in 1682! The stone buildings and red brick sidewalks made New Castle a strikingly pretty place to spend the afternoon. With our friends and family along we first strolled the waterfront, read historic markers, toured old buildings, and visited antique and gift shops. We eventually decided we were ready for another beer. Known for its wide selection of Belgian beers, we looked forward to seeing what was on tap at the oldest bar in Delaware.
Jessop’s Tavern was built as a private residence in 1674 and later purchased by a cooper smith (barrel-maker) named Abraham Jessop in 1724. One source credits the established date of the bar as 1724 while another source states that it was a private home in until the late 1940’s or early 1950’s. Jessop Tavern’s dark green shutters, embellishing the multi paned windows and vintage tavern sign made it look like it came straight out of a beautiful old painting. The quaint décor carried through to the interior with a stained glass lighted bar-back highlighted the nicely decorated period room. Accented with old muskets and colonial scenery pictures on the walls, it was easy to imagine sitting down and enjoying a beer in these rooms 274 years ago. The servers all dressed in old world clothing which added to its historic charm. Jessop’s is known for its wide selection of Belgian beers, and our party felt compelled to sample several of the recommendations made by our server Darien. We were still fairly full from lunch at the Barnsboro Inn so we made due with some delicious snacks and desserts. I loved their fruit, cheese and nut plate almost as much as their Jessop’s Brambleberry Ale! Bruce was almost brought to tears by the tastiness of their traditional butter tart. We all left Jessop’s feeling closer to our countries’ beginning days.
Most of these posts are written by Cheryl and edited and added to by Bruce. Learn more about us on our About us page.