Plans For Reopening Historic Tavern May Fit City's Taste

February 06, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Closed for more than two years, Reynolds Tavern, a meticulously restored Colonial inn in Annapolis, soon may be dusted off and reopened as a seafood restaurant.

A Virginia couple hopes to revive the red brick tavern on Church Circle, which was owned by a prosperous hatterbefore the American Revolution and refurbished in the 1980s.

Ramsay and Sandy Stallman, restaurateurs from Montross, Va., are seeking the city's approval to open an upscale restaurant featuring traditional American dishes and ale. A hearing on their request for a conditional use permit is scheduled tonight before the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Reynolds Tavern has a colorful history dating back to the Colonial period. It is said that George Washington was oncecaught in bed with another man's wife there.

The inn later servedas Anne Arundel County's library headquarters before it was given tothe National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1975.

In the mid-1980s, Annapolis entrepreneur Paul M. Pearson II transformed the tavern into a restaurant with hotel suites on the second floor. Waitresses dressed in period costumes served dinners, while tourists relaxed in individually designed suites with large dormer windows.

Pearson's partnership, Beaver and Lac'd Hat Ltd., painstakingly restored the tavern, analyzing 22 layers of paint to determine the original color of the walls and carefully numbering each brick. The restoration tookeight months longer than expected and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in overruns.

In the summer of 1989, the partnership defaulted on a $1.4 million loan from Farmers National Bank and declared bankruptcy.

Pearson tried for several months to avoid foreclosure --even proposing at one point that contractors forgive his debt in return for a plaque in the tavern noting that it had been "lovingly restored with the generous assistance of . . ."

The inn has been emptysince then, said Gillian Barr, assistant director of preservation for the Historic Annapolis Foundation, which leases the tavern from thenational trust for $1 a year.

Archaeologists with the Annapolis preservation group have been excavating a well and a road behind the tavern. Both indicate that William Reynolds, who ran the inn between 1757 and 1768, was one of Annapolis' more wealthy founding fathers. Reynolds spent his later years as a hatter.

Reynolds Tavern is one of the city's best-kept historic sites, said Barr. "A lot of the exterior and interior fabric is original," she said. "That's one of the things that makes it important."

Annapolis leaders have expressed support for reopening the tavern. Noting that it's been empty for two years, city administrator Michael Mallinoff said he was pleased someone had shown interest in the tavern.

"We hope to help them in any way we can," said Mary Berkholder, the city's director of economic development.

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