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In another post where we visited New Kent County Courthouse we saw in the quote from Martin’s Gazetteer from 1835 how the taverns and mercantile stores which had sprung up around the courthouse equaled the dwellings in the village. An ordinary or tavern was always located near the county seat being a very important part of the courthouse life. They provided the accommodation and food for the visitors to the court especially the judges, lawyers and litigants who needed somewhere to stay for the several days the court session lasted. In fact, without them the courts would struggle to provide their services. The New Kent Ordinary was one of the four taverns which existed in 1835. In fact, this particular structure is the oldest remaining in the area dating back to 1691.
Taverns served as social centers even when the courts were not in session. They provided gathering places where men, never any women, could meet to drink a glass of whiskey or beer and exchange news. With the general circulation of Newspapers many years away, the tavern provided a vital means of communicating the news of the day.
Originally, the terms ordinary and tavern were interchangeable. An Ordinary, however, is a particular type of tavern. It served food to all comers at a fixed price. Lodgings were also provided, although these were not necessarily at the same price for all. You could also expect the lodgings to be somewhat basic with two, three or maybe more men sharing the same bed.
This building lies within the preservation area of the County Courthouse but is privately owned.