November 22, 2021 : By Ryan Klinker - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
UPDATE: On Nov. 17, Liberty was informed that Mead’s Tavern is now officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sept. 27, 2021:
The Liberty University-owned property of Mead’s Tavern, located in the nearby historic community of New London, was recently added to the Virginia Landmarks Register (VLR) by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Located roughly 15 minutes away from Liberty’s campus, Mead’s Tavern is a two-story structure built in 1763 that once served as an ordinary that provided meals and a night’s stay to travelers. The building was later turned into a school and doctor’s office before becoming a single-family dwelling during the 1820s. It is the oldest standing structure in Central Virginia.
In its announcement recognizing Mead’s Tavern, DHR said the property “offers insight into the commerce of an 18th-century community and tavern establishment” and “retains a substantial amount of historic building fabric and integrity of workmanship.”
According to Liberty’s Director of Public History Initiatives, Donna Davis Donald, who has spearheaded the university’s work to preserve history and restore properties in New London, this designation as a Virginia Landmark is a step toward Mead’s Tavern also being added to the National Register of Historic Places.
“Gaining this recognition for this property elevates its status as a historic site and improves our chances of grant funding for further research and preservation. History students have been involved with preservationists throughout every step of this process and will continue to benefit from the hands-on opportunities that arise in the restoration of the site. We are grateful for the continued support and guidance of College of Arts & Sciences Dean Dr. Roger Schultz throughout these years of research.”
Since purchasing Mead’s Tavern in 2015, the site has become a living history lab for students in the Department of History. They have participated in ongoing excavation and restoration projects in association with the local nonprofit preservation group Friends of New London and local archaeologists. Students have assisted in unearthing thousands of domestic and architectural artifacts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. An excavation of its basement also uncovered the remains of an original corner fireplace which was removed and replaced in the early 1800s.
“The artifacts offer a better understanding of the complexity of life on the Virginia frontier during the latter 1700s,” the DHR announcement said.
Mead’s Tavern was one of eight historical locations added to the DHR this month.
After the approval of Mead’s Tavern by the Virginia State Review Board and the Department of Historic Resources, the nomination goes to the keeper of the National Register of Historic Places for final approval. Once the property is listed, which would happen in the next few weeks, Liberty University will make a formal announcement and install a plaque noting the designation.
The public will have the chance to visit Mead’s Tavern as well as the Liberty-owned Bedford Alum Springs Hotel and other properties of New London on Oct. 2 during New London Day, an annual community festival celebrating the history of the Central Virginia town. The event also serves as a showcase of the ongoing work done by Liberty students to study and preserve the rich history of the town.
“New London Day is a great opportunity for students to share what they are learning with the community and to give our visitors a closer look at sites like Mead’s Tavern and the historic African American Church at New London,” Donald said. Visitors also have a chance to enjoy live music, children’s activities, historic reenactors, and much more.”
Mead’s Tavern is the second university-owned property to be recognized by the Department of Historic Resources. The Montview Mansion on Liberty’s campus (now called Montview) was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, with the nomination being written by the late Liberty history chair Dr. Cline Hall. Built in 1923, the home was originally owned by former Secretary of the Treasury and U.S. Sen. Carter Glass, most well-known as the co-founder of the Federal Reserve. Liberty acquired the home in 1977, and it housed the office of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Liberty’s founder, from 1990 until his death in 2007.