I was invited to the press preview of a place which figured prominently in story of my early 20s, and all day, I’ve been remembering so many happy times spent at the Mt. Washington Tavern. The Tavern was a place of stories and friends, and was even mentioned in the Original Preppy Handbook (and you know I have a copy!). I remember going to Orioles games and then seeing the players at The Tavern afterwards, attending birthday celebrations, having quiet dinners with a wide range of friends, seeing and being seen… Just a place where everybody knew your name. But for the past year, it’s been an unhappy time for the devoted fans of this iconic gathering place in Baltimore. A fire raged through the building late on Halloween night of 2011 and the bar was virtually destroyed. Owner, and old friend, Rob Fritsch, vowed to rebuild, and did so with the help of other friends, the firm SMG Architects. The original Tavern had grown and expanded with no real plan. A “back porch” was added, and then was covered by a sliding roof. There were odd hallways, awkward stairs, cramped rooms and lots of stone and brick from the original building. All of that’s changed.Mt. Washington Tavern 2.0, as Rob calls it, was a chance to make the space, a long corner lot in a small village in the city, work to its advantage. The main bar is open and comfortable with banquette seating and long benches, so a group of friends can crowd together. They were able to incorporate some of the Tavern’s original stone and brick walls, adding to the ambience of the room.
All around the room, there are images of Maryland’s Eastern Shore taken by famed local photographer, A. Aubrey Bodine, and old oyster cans and other waterman’s paraphernalia.
In a nod to the local horse race, The Preakness Stakes, there’s the elegant Preakness Room, complete with the authentic equestrian motif. Many of the Tavern’s long-time patrons are horse-men and –women from the nearby Greenspring Valley and Pimlico Racecourse.
Rob, along with the architects at SMG, designed the space and picked all of the furnishings and finishes. He hunted up the old plat maps of the city,pictures of the winners of the Preakness to hang on white bead-board walls,and the great old demi-john lamps with their Edison bulbs.
As a philanthropic gesture, bricks line the path in front of the Tavern. Each has a sentiment from a friend of the Tavern’s and the funds raised support the Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital, just a short distance away. It was fun seeing a brick from old friends Tommy and Sara!
It is to Rob’s great credit that 100% of his kitchen and bar staff returned, and 80% of his waitstaff came back. Congratulations to Rob and the SMG crew for doing such an excellent job in bringing the Mt. Washington Tavern back to life, and providing a place where many more happy memories will be made by future generations of Baltimoreans!