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About the White Swan tavern

The White Swan Tavern has been a familiar landmark in Chestertown since pre-Revolutionary War days. Not far from many of the great East Coast cities, it is a quiet, elegant place nestled in the rich historical tapestry of Maryland's Eastern Shore. The White Swan offers privacy and seclusion, including continental breakfast in the Isaac Cannell Room, offstreet parking around the back of the building, a peaceful terrace ideal for relaxation, and in general a slower-paced atmosphere of bygone days.

The restoration of the White Swan Tavern began in 1978 with an archeological dig. Evidence uncovered indicated that the site was used prior to 1733 as a tannery, operated by the shoemaker of Chestertown, John Lovegrove. His one-room dwelling, now converted into one of our six period guest rooms as the Lovegrove Kitchen, was the first building constructed on the lot.american flag

Joseph Nicholson purchased the property from Lovegrove in 1733, and built his home on the location which comprises the front portion of the present structure. As a member of the Committee of Correspondence, Nicholson had a very real role in the revolution and emergence of the young Republic. He was influential in the founding of Chestertown's Washington College in 1782, the tenth oldest liberal arts college in the nation.

In 1793, the property passed to John Bordley, who enlarged the residence to accommodate the demands of tavern use. The charm of the present structure is due largely to Bordley's efforts.

Between 1803 and 1853, the property was operated as a tavern by various owners and innkeepers, the most notable of whom was the Reverend William H. Wilmer, then pastor of St. Paul's church, Alexandria, Virginia. The Reverend Wilmer was also the rector of Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, Virginia and president of the College of William & Mary.

"...The best tavern in town" was up for sale in 1853, and purchased by Thomas W. Eliason, a merchant in everything from clothing to lumber."

In 1978, the property was impeccably restored to its 1793 appearance in Bordley's time, with one room devoted to the display of many artifacts found on the site. During the entire process of restoration, the owners acquired pieces of furniture, both antique and reproduction, which they thought appropriate to the building. The two front rooms were furnished using the two known historic inventories as guides. The remainder of the building was furnished with the ideals of simplicity and comfort in mind.

Through painstaking analysis, the original paint color was reproduced for the wall paneling and trim. Even the contemporary stoneware dishes were modeled on a set of early chargers recovered from the tavern site. The rooms are named after the various owners of this historic building.

In March of 1981, after three years and five months preparation, The White Swan Tavern opened its doors to the public again. Today the tavern operates as an inn, offering accommodations and afternoon tea, as well as amenities for small conferences, weddings, and receptions. Just as it was described in the 18th century, the White Swan remains "a comfortable... Public House... with every attention given to render comfort and pleasure to such as favor it with their patronage."

Contact the White Swan for more information.

See Chestertown Spy Video: Christian Havemeyer on the Preservation of the White Swan Tavern

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Customer Testimonials

"A lovely place. Everything we had hoped for. Great accommodations.


"This tavern is a gem! My son and I were welcomed with an elegant afternoon tea in a colonial-era room. Peace, tranquility, warm and welcoming."

"Wonderful staff. Wonderful Inn. 

Thank You!"

"Great stay!  Very charming afternoon tea and an amazing staff - very friendly!"

"Thank you for such a wonderful stay. I felt right at home when I first walked through the door.

Hope to be back soon!"

"My wife and I wish to express to you and the others at The White Swan Tavern how very much we enjoyed our stay and how much we appreciated your generous hospitality. The Tavern is truly a jewel!"

"My wife and I stayed at the Tavern last night and are already planning when we can return. You did a serious, meticulous job of renovation. We want you to know that with us, as well as many others, you have people who appreciate all you have done."

"Beautifully restored and filled with lovely furnishings, topped only by the hospitable staff! Can’t wait for our next visit … and to bring friends!"

"Lovely time with great people. Same room as last time 20+ years ago. Love the dog footprint in brick hearth."

"Our thanks to the staff and the owner for their commitment to maintaining a beautiful historic site!"

"Thanks so much for your historic hospitality. We always enjoy staying here – believe it’s our 3rd time!"

"As an operator of a Bed & Breakfast myself I was interested in the White Swan. Beautiful accommodations. Innkeeper who greeted us was cheerful and helpful. Something I always find the most important quality of a B&B."

"Always wished I could time travel (backward) – White Swan & Chestertown may be as close as I get! An impeccable restoration and wonderful furniture collection (from someone who knows..)."

"A wonderful stay and peaceful night.

Thank you!"

"Great atmosphere and décor! Warm reception & delicious afternoon tea."

"Fantastic step back in time! Loved the décor and the service!"

"Thank you for such a wonderful stay. I felt right at home when I first walked through the door.

Hope to be back soon!"

"Loved staying here. Very cozy and charming."

"Thank you for sheltering two sailors from the storm."

"Delightful as usual."

"Just Fabulous."

"As always… a favorite place to stay."

Lovely setting in a lovely town."