Pitt Tavern was the home of John Stavers and his family. Mr. Stavers was an English immigrant who settled in Portsmouth around 1750. In Portsmouth, he met his first wife, Margaret Campbel. They had three children: Mary, Margaret, and John. After Margaret passed away in 1757, Mr. Stavers married Katharine Walker. They had four children: Lucy, Susanna, Elizabeth, and William.
Built in 1766, the tavern was not just the Stavers’ family home, but their place of business. At a tavern, travelers could rent a space in a bed for the night, and buy a meal and a drink. Taverns gave the community and travelers a place to meet and exchange information, and provided entertainments, such as concerts, plays, or dances. From time to time, Mr. Stavers even had traveling shows with exotic animals like camels at the tavern! Pitt Tavern served another important function in the community by being the Portsmouth terminus of the Flying Stage-Coach, which traveled between Portsmouth and Boston. Successfully running such a large business required the help of the entire Stavers family. Mr. Stavers also owned slaves, who provided much of the labor that kept the tavern and stagecoach line running.
Inside Pitt Tavern, the year is 1777. At this time, the colonies were fighting the British in the Revolutionary War. The Stavers’ continued to run their tavern despite the war and the neighborhood’s suspicions that Mr. Stavers was loyal to England.
When you visit the tavern, you can visit the kitchen and the common rooms, where the meals would be served and guests could sit and discuss news and the politics of the day or occupy themselves playing tavern games. You cannot visit the upper levels of the tavern, but the second floor is where the Stavers family and their guests slept, and the third floor was designed to be a meeting hall for a fraternity called the Masons, who use the top floor to this day. Instead of being divided into many smaller rooms, like you find on the first two floors, the top floor is one big room. This made the tavern ideal not only for Masonic meetings, but gave Mr. Stavers the space he needed to host concerts and plays or hold a dance. Pitt Tavern also had two stables for horses and other outbuildings which no longer exist.
Unlike many of the houses at Strawbery Banke, the furniture and tavern games in Pitt Tavern are made to look like they are from the 1700s but are not actual artifacts. This means you can sit at the tables just as visitors to the tavern would have done in the 1700s!
Some items in the tavern, however, are artifacts, such as the clockjack. Take a look at the clockjack in the picture below. Do you know to which room it belongs? Can you guess what the clockjack was used for? Click on the picture for the correct answer.
A clockjack may have made life easier for the Stavers family, but there was still a lot of work to do around the tavern. Watch this video about Lucy Stavers and compare her life to yours. If you send a question or a comment to Lucy, she will write you back!