Pull up a bar stool, we are pouring out a history of some of Boston’s oldest bars today. Like any historical topic, there is some debate when it comes to which bar is actually the oldest (based on when the bar was established, versus the oldest consecutive location). We’ll let you decide.
Bell in Hand Tavern, Est. 1795
This tavern dates back to the 18th century and was first owned by Jimmy Wilson — the town crier for 50 years. He reported on everything from the Boston Tea Party to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and decided to open the bar once he retired. The name of the bar was inspired by his former occupation. Jimmy was adamant about only offering ales and skipping on serving the “hard stuff” like whisky, rum, and gin. People came for the conversation and stayed for the beer, which was poured in two mugs: one for the ale + one for the froth.
The original location was on Elm Street and it moved around a few times before landing at its current location on Union Street around 1844. Inside the space, you can still see the physical bar from the original location.
Union Oyster House, Est. 1826
Order a pint inside this national historic landmark at 41 Union St. This historic street dates back to 1636 — however, there are no municipal records to officially document when the building was constructed. The building served as a seafood house + a fancy dress business around 1742.
Around 1775, Capen’s Silk and Dry Goods Store offered mending and sewing services for many colonists, including the wives of Adams, Hancock, and Quincy. This business continued until 1826 when Atwood and Bacon’s establishment opened. A semi-circle oyster bar was installed and the rest is history. The bar has been remembered as a favorite destination for Daniel Webster and JFK, and you can even sit in the “Kennedy Booth” when you visit.
The Last Hurrah at the Omni Parker House, Est. 1855
The Last Hurrah has a page turning story to share. It was at this bar that Charles Dickens read “A Christmas Carol” for the first time in America. It has been the meeting spot for writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow — just to name a few. Want to know more historic events that happened here? It is the location where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier and where he later announced his candidacy for President. In other sweet news, this is also the home of the Boston Creme Pie. Today, you can order a Dickens Punch here to enjoy with your dessert.
Green Dragon Bar, Est. 1654
The fate of the country could have been much different if Paul Revere didn’t frequent this tavern in the mid-1600s. It has been confirmed by historians that he overheard the plans for the invasion of Lexington and Concord inside the historic bar, which led to the famous Midnight Ride. We’ll raise a pint to Paul.
The original location was torn down in the 1850s and the name was reborn years later as part of a chain of local bars, which dates back to 1993. Stop by the bar located at 11 Marshall St., you never know what you might overhear over a drink.
Warren Tavern, Est. 1780
This bar is located inside one of the first rebuilt structures after the British burned Charlestown. Curious as to who the bar is named after? Doctor Joseph Warren attended Harvard and practiced medicine in Boston. He was involved in the revolution in many ways as a member of the Sons of Liberty, from drafting the Suffolk Resolves to connecting Paul Revere and William Dawes + serving as the appointed Major General during the Battle of Bunker Hill, where he died. Today, there is a marble statue of Joseph Warren at the base of the Charlestown monument.
A short walk away from the monument at 2 Pleasant St., you’ll find The Warren Tavern. The bar is still in operation and has hosted historical figures like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Paul Revere.