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  • 1402. Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center

    Hi there!
    I bet you came here to Great Falls in a car or a bus, or maybe on a bike. Or maybe you're hiking or just taking a leisurely stroll. And I bet you've either seen the Great Falls or are going out to see them. And maybe stop in at this Visitor Center.
    Well, folks just like you have been coming up here for quite a long time, ever since the Tavern opened in 1831. They used to come here from Georgetown in carriages, even on steam-powered packet boats.
    Now these steam-powered packet boats - one was called the Peggy - used to leave Georgetown around 8 a.m. from Congress or High Streets, take four or more hours to come up the canal to Great Falls, tie up here for four hours while folks would have a look around. Then around four, they'd head back to Washington.
    Now the boatmen, who were hauling all that coal on the frieght boats, didn't much like all those tourists up here. Claimed those packet boats slowed down the traffic, especially at the locks.
    One of the first lockkeepers here was W.W. Fenlon. He also kept the inn. And he said, "I could dine one hundred in the house at a time, and on a boat, forty is as many as I can dine."
    And if you came up here around say 1880, Mr. J.W. Carroll, the innkeeper, held an annual jousting tournament and holiday feasts. So for Christmas, you could dine on some wild turkeys they had caught. And sometimes there were string bands, brass bands, square dancing in the ball room. Folks had a grand ol' time here!
    If you wanted to stay longer at the inn, you could. For 25 cents, you could reserve a bunk in either the ladies or mens quarters up on the second floor. And on the third floor was the honeymoon suite where privacy could be secured for those with 50 cents - and a marriage certificate.
    The funny thing was that from 1848 to after the end of the Civil War, the C&O Canal Company forbade the sale of intoxicating beverages at the Tavern. Maybe they just didn't want the boatmen getting drunk. Or the lockkeeper.
    Yessir, the Tavern has seen quite a lot of people come through over the years, just like you. And we hope there'll be a whole lot more to come!

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