The non-profit Friends of New London, Virginia, Inc.(FNL) on July 5th purchased a property that holds a prominent place in the settlement of Central Virginia. The historic Mead’s Tavern, built in 1763 by Colonel William Mead, is one of the oldest surviving structures in Campbell County and the region. The group intends to restore the building for use as its museum headquarters.
Originally the seat of Bedford County, by 1775, New London had grown to include the county courthouse, several businesses, stores, a Continental arsenal, and eighty houses. The tavern sat at the intersection of the connecting roads to two historic highways, the Wilderness Road and the Great Wagon Road. Patriots such as Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson likely visited it, since the tavern was built facing the courthouse, an important gathering place. It served as a tavern and ordinary until 1785, two turbulent decades filled with protests against British rule and ultimately the American Revolution. After the Mead family sold the property in 1786, it became a private residence and possibly a hotel. From 1810 to the late 1820s, the building took on new life as Roland Academy, a private boarding school for young girls. Surviving the traumatic events of the Civil War, the house once again became a private dwelling, served in the 1890s as the parsonage for the Academy Presbyterian Church, then a doctor’s office, then for the last hundred years as a private residence. Despite many changes in its usage, it is in remarkably good condition for a structure dating from the Colonial period.
FNL plans a phased restoration of this historic tavern to its original eighteenth-century configuration. A potentially multipurpose structure, it can house historic exhibits, a research library, and the FNL offices, and can serve as a regional meeting place. FNL volunteers continue to research its history and encourage members of the public to share any information they may have about this fascinating structure or of the families and students who inhabited it. As fundraising efforts continue, FNL will begin the process of nominating the tavern for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. A grand opening and tours of the property will take place in the near future.