Hanover Tavern

Historical Significance

Four enslaved men belonging to tavern owner Paul Thilman participated in Gabriel's Slave Rebellion of 1800. Led by an enslaved blacksmith, over one thousand men attempted to attack the armory in Richmond to arm themselves and escape slavery. The initial assault was postponed due to a storm, and before they could reconvene they were betrayed by some of the participants.

The four individuals enslaved at the Hanover Tavern suffered a variety of fates. One of the men, Thornton, was convicted and "transported" to Spanish New Orleans in January 1801. A second man, Scipio, was found guilty but was pardoned by Governor Monroe. A third was found innocent; and the fourth escaped from the Hanover County jail.

The Tavern, with the original Courthouse (1735), clerk's office (early 19th century), and an early jail (1830s) together comprise the Hanover Courthouse Historic District and are listed on the National and Virginia Registers of historic places. 

Physical Description

The current, surviving building was built in 1791, but includes 19th and 20th century additions. The Tavern is a large (12,000 sq. ft.) wood frame vernacular building, erected in stages and much altered over time. In 1953 a group of young actors from New York bought the Tavern and established the Barksdale Theatre, a nationally acclaimed professional theater, and the first dinner theatre in the U.S. In 1990, the Hanover Tavern Foundation acquired the Tavern and the 3.5 acre site and is working on historic renovations.

Geographical and Contact Information

13181 Hanover Courthouse Road
Hanover, Virginia
Phone: 804-537-5050
Fax: 804-537-5823