THE LEGEND OF ISAAC HUNTER'S TAVERN
You should never underestimate the importance of your local watering hole. Did you know that
the City of Raleigh was founded in a bar?
The Legend of Isaac Hunter's Tavern goes back to the very beginning of this great nation. Back in 1787, the General Assembly of North Carolina was faced with an important decision. It was time to call a Convention to consider the adoption of the Constitution of the United States.
If North Carolina was going to become one of the United States, then it would need a capital city. The General Assembly decreed that a suitable location be found to designate as the "unalterable seat of government".
In those days, government representatives would have to travel from all corners of North Carolina to conduct their official duties. As these folks made the long journey across the state, word began to spread of a place called Isaac Hunter's Tavern.
Isaac Hunter's hospitality was known throughout the land. His tavern offered clean beds, quality food, and fine spirits for the weary travelers. Often times, officials would host meetings at Isaac Hunter's itself because they were so fond of the tavern.
In 1791, the time came to pick a plot of land to build the new capital city. The members of the General Assembly had all spent their fair share of time at Isaac Hunter's Tavern, and they knew a good thing when they saw it. They selected 9 commissioners and issued them strict instructions: fix the unalterable seat of government within 10 miles of Isaac Hunter's Tavern.
Those 9 commissioners were dispatched to meet at Isaac Hunter's Tavern and ascertain the perfect spot for a new capital city. The commissioners names might sound familiar:
Joseph McDowell, James Martin, Thomas Person, Thomas Blount Edenton, William Johnston Dawson, Frederick Hargett, Henry William Harrington, James Bloodworth and Willie Jones.
Various plots of land were submitted as suitable sites for the commission to review, including a plot owned by Isaac Hunter's close friend, Joel Lane.
The commissioners spent eight days visiting the each plot, returning each night to Isaac Hunter's. After reviewing each plot, it was time for the commission to vote. On the first ballot, Joel Lane's slightly swampy plot only received two votes, while his Father-in-Law John Hinton's land received three votes. Neither plot received enough votes to secure a decision so a second ballot was necessary.
Legend has it that when the first ballot failed to show a consensus, Joel Lane and Isaac Hunter decided to work together. The two of them threw the grandest party that North Carolina had ever seen. Joel Lane introduced the commissioners to a the "jammiest bits of local jam" while Isaac Hunter poured his Cherry Bounce whiskey with a heavy hand. The festivities lasted all night, and into early morning.
The next day, a second ballot was cast. With bleary eyes and throbbing heads, the commissioners voted 5-1 for Joel Lane's land, leaving poor John Hinton out in the cold.
The deal was sealed, and Raleigh was built on Joel Lane's plot of land. If it wasn't for Isaac Hunter's Tavern, none of us would be here this very day.
We decided from day one that we wanted to build a bar that was dedicated to celebrating exactly what makes Raleigh unique, and why we are proud to call it our home. The story of the original Isaac Hunter’s Tavern lies at the very heart of who we are, and what we want this bar to aspire to be.
The three of us, Zack Medford, Brad Bowles, and Ben Yannessa had the life-long dream of owning our own bar. We first opened our doors back in 2009 a little further up the street. Back then, Downtown was just an idea. The street lights on Fayetteville Street didn't even stay on past 10pm. Raleigh has come a long way since our early days.
We spent five incredible years making friends, making memories, and drinking a few beers along the way. When our lease expired in 2014, we were forced to close our doors but we promised to return stronger than ever. The time is right, and in 2016 we will open our doors once again. Isaac Hunter's Tavern is back.
We hope that Isaac Hunter's is more than just a place for you to spend a wild Saturday night. It's our mission to build a rich, inclusive community right here inside these walls. We’re here because we want to build a space that was by Raleigh, about Raleigh, and for Raleigh.
That’s our mission statement. Please feel free to let us know how we’re doing.