The Dobbin House Tavern: 2+ Centuries Of History & Charm
If you want a serving of history along with a delicious meal, the Dobbin House Tavern in Gettysburg PA will satisfy both desires—take it from a local.
Built in 1776 by the Rev. Alexander Dobbin, this beautiful stone building is the oldest in Gettysburg and has been used for a variety of purposes during its long life.
Read on to discover the intriguing story of the Dobbin House Tavern and the many secrets it holds.
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Alexander Dobbin Of The Dobbin House
The Reverend Alexander Dobbin was born in Londonderry, Ireland on February 4, 1742, the son of a sailor. After studying Latin and Greek in Londonderry, he eventually continued his education in a Presbyterian Seminary in Glasgow, Scotland.
Although Dobbin never pastored a church in Ireland, his training from 1767-1774 was for the expressed purpose of coming to America and establishing a congregation.
Over a period of six weeks he was licensed, ordained, married, and sailing for America.
Dobbin was said to have retained his heavy Irish accent throughout his life in Gettysburg. He was not tall in stature and was always dressed in short pantaloons with long stockings.
In 1774 he purchased 300 acres of land which became known as “Dobbin’s Farm” and began to construct his house. The house was completed in 1776, the same year as the Declaration of Independence was signed and America began its split from Great Britain.
As a Reformed Presbyterian, Dobbin established a congregation at Rock Creek, approximately one mile north of the present town of Gettysburg.
He also established a congregation at Greencastle in Franklin County, and made “missionary tours” to more remote areas.
Eventually Dobbin split most of his time preaching in Gettysburg, where his Rock Creek congregation had moved, and at Marsh Creek.
The Dobbin House History
The house that the Rev. Dobbin built wasn’t small, but as fate would have it, neither was his family.
When asked how many children he had, he would reply, “Madam, I have seven sons, and every one of them has a sister.”
This, of course, would cause quite a stir until he explained that (at the time) he had seven sons and one daughter.
Eventually he and Isabella had ten children, (seven sons and three daughters).
But that wasn’t all. When his wife died on August 19, 1800 at the age of 49, he married a widow, Mary Agnew.
She had nine children of her own to add to Alexander’s 10.
The Dobbin House School
Obviously, it was good that Alexander Dobbin had built a large house, but it is thought that he never intended it to be just a dwelling.
He established a Classical School in the building, the first to open its doors west of the Susquehanna River. Teaching a combination of liberal arts and theology, Dobbin earned a reputation as a highly respected educator, which brought more prestige to the school.
According to the book, The History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, “Many distinguished men of the last generation, in this and surrounding counties, received their education in this school.”
Through both the school and his preaching, Dobbin was instrumental in advancing the cause of the gospel in the Gettysburg region. He taught Latin, Hebrew and Greek in his classical school, and 25 of his male students became ministers.
His status and standing helped to eventually distinguish Adams County as a separate entity from York County. He was also one of two appointed commissioners to choose Gettysburg as the county seat.
Dobbin’s school was still in existence in 1801, but was discontinued soon after.
The Academy Bed and Breakfast is an eye witness to history and served as an early Gettysburg learning institution as well.
Dobbin House Part Of The Underground Railroad
Over the years, the Dobbin House continued to contribute to the pages of history.
Although there is no concrete evidence to confirm the Dobbin House’s involvement in the Underground Railroad (mid 1800s), there are several pieces of circumstantial evidence that exist.
For example, the house’s hidden attic has a secret door, which is consistent with the type of hiding places that were used by Underground Railroad conductors to hide escaping slaves.
The Dobin House’s location, only a few miles north of the Maryland line, would make it among the first stops above the Mason-Dixon line.
While the exact role of the Dobbin House in the Underground Railroad is not known, its connection to this important chapter in American history is undeniable.
Today, the Dobbin House helps keep history alive by sharing a free museum that provides information about colonial life and those who helped slaves in their journey to escape from bondage.
The Dobbin House During The Civil War
In the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Dobbin House became a hospital, where wounded soldiers from both sides were treated, despite its location where it was frequently struck by shellfire during the Battle.
When Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address, the residents of the house could have watched him riding to the Gettysburg National Cemetery from the balcony.
Diners at the Dobbin House Tavern today can sit by a window on the second floor and imagine the scene as it appeared on November 19, 1863, when the long processioned walked by.
Alexander Dobbin’s Gravesite
In October, 1808, while on his way to church in Gettysburg, Alexander Dobbin coughed and ruptured a blood vessel. He eventually developed “consumption.”
Alexander Dobbin died on June 1, 1809 at the age of 67 years.
He is buried at the graveyard of the Lower Marsh Creek Presbyterian Church.
Alexander’s legacy lives on through the Dobbin House, which has been carefully preserved and restored over the years and remains an important landmark in the town’s history.
The Dobbin House Tavern Today
The Dobbin House Tavern is an iconic restaurant known for its romantic candlelit atmosphere, excellent food, and period style of service that reflects the sights and sounds of centuries ago.
This is a place where locals celebrate milestones or treat themselves to a night out, and where visitors to Gettysburg flock to experience the unique colonial atmosphere.
Many of the Tavern’s antique furnishings are identical to those listed in the inventory of Rev. Dobbin’s estate.
In fact, the china and flatware exactly match fragments which were unearthed during the re-excavation of the cellar. The servant’s period-clothing is completely authentic right down to the tie on the pockets.
This historic Gettysburg tavern offers a number of dining options and a lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch menu.
Alexander Dobbin Dining Rooms
The Alexander Dobbin Dining Rooms offer a unique fine-dining experience, because you can eat in one of six historic rooms of the Dobbin House. Each one is decorated with authentic antiques and colonial décor:
- The Dining Room (15-25 people) Two hundred year old wide board floors and beautiful antique decorations make this a great dining experience.
- Library (10-15 people) My favorite room, with shelves of old books, warm oriental rug, and glowing fireplace.
- Parlour and Study (15-35 people) Two fireplaces flank this private area that is a perfect place for a family gathering or celebration.
- Spinning Room (6-14 people) A one-of-a-kind room with spinning wheel, oak beams, century old coverlets, and other antiques create a romantic and private vibe.
- Bedrooms (12-70 people) Where else can you dine in canopy tester beds? This large upstairs room is decorated based on the original room’s purpose from the eighteenth century.
The Springhouse Tavern
The Springhouse Tavern is a small casual colonial style restaurant and bar that sits below the Dobbin House.
The Springhouse is cozy, with its thick stone walls and dim lighting adding to the atmosphere. They serve fresh deli sandwiches and salads, homemade soups and delicious desserts.
Abigail Adams Ballroom
This beautiful dining room is perfect for special occasions like wedding receptions or a family part. Lots of colonial charm thanks to three fireplaces and a log cabin feel.
This room can hold up to 130 people and can be divided for smaller groups.
A Sample Of The Dobbin House Menu
Yes, the Dobbin House Tavern has two centuries of history to draw visitors through its doors, but it’s the food that keeps them coming back.
The Dobbin House serves colonial and continental cuisine, prepared from the finest and freshest ingredients.
(And, by the way, their recipes have been published in “Bon Appetite” and “Cuisine” magazines)
The menu is vast and ranges from appetizers and salads to sandwiches, seafood and steak.
And don’t forget the soups. The Dobbin House is famous for its wonderful French Onion Soup!
Sample Of The Alexander Dobbin Dining Room Menu
Main courses are served with a basket of assorted colonial breads fresh from the Dobbin House Tavern in-house bakery.
- Broiled Filet Mignon
- Of Flesh and Fish (Lobster Tail and Filet Mignon)
- Primal Rib of Beef
- Hunters Chicken (Baked boneless chicken breast w/tomatoes, mushrooms, brown sauce)
- William Penn’s Pork Tenderloin
- Road Duck Adams County
- Maryland Crab Cakes
- Seafood Isabella (Fresh vegetables with a medley of scallops, shrimp and crabmeat in a wine sauce)
Seafood dishes include the best Maryland crab cakes (my opinion), imperial crab, sea scallops, shrimp and catch of the day.
A Glance At The Springhouse Tavern Menu
At the Springhouse Tavern, you can start with a salad or an appetizer like a Shrimp Cocktail or Datenut Bread with Cream Cheese.
Some of the favorites on the Springhouse Tavern menu include:
- Dobbin’s Hot Beef Sandwich
- Char-Grilled Steak
- Ciabatta Deli
- Dobbin’s Cheeseburger
- Broiled Crab Cake
Oh my! The Dobbin House Dessert Menu
With its own bakery, the Dobbin House serves up mouth-watering desserts and fresh breads that are irresistible.
Make sure you leave room for dessert, which includes a variety of ice cream, sorbet, and pies.
Some of the favorites on the Dobbin House menu are:
- Mrs. Penn’s Cheesecake Recipe
- Hot Adam’s Apple Pie
- Warm Colonial Gingerbread
- Fudge Brownie with Ice Cream
- Pecan Pye
Dobbin House Tavern “Spirits”
I love trying specialty drinks at restaurants and the Dobbin House Tavern has plenty.
At the time of my last visit their Featured Cocktail was a Shamrock Martini because it was close to St. Patrick’s Day.
They also have drinks like a Rum Bellies Vengeance and a Philadelphia Fish House Punch. The Cannon in the Orchard caught my eye. It’s made of Spiced Rum, Peach Schnapps, Pineapple and Cranberry Juice.
For chilly days, you can warm up with Hot Buttered Rum or Hot Cyder with Apple Jack Brandy.
Featured Beers on the day I was there were the Aldus Salted Caramel Pretzel and Brew Dog Elvis Juice IPA (non alcoholic).
They have a wide variety of other beers and hard ciders, as well as wines like a Chaddsford Spiced Apple (served warm).
Quick Facts About The Dobbin House Gettysburg
Dobbin House Tavern Hours
The current hours of the Dobbin House Tavern Gettysburg are:
Springhouse Tavern is open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Alexander Dobbin Dining Rooms: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Dobbin House Tavern Reservations
With the current state of affairs, the Dobbin House asks that reservations for the Alexander Dobbin Dining Rooms be made about a week in advance.
This is due to the increased number of visitors, the lack of staff availability, and the closing of other area restaurants on certain days (due to staff shortages), which has increased the number of people wishing to dine at the Dobbin House.
This means that their reservations fill up quickly, especially when there are big events in town like the annual Gettysburg battle reenactment and the popular Remembrance Day weekend in November.
The best way to make sure you get a reservation is to call well in advance of your visit.
Phone: (717) 334-2100
Dobbin House Parking
The Dobbin House is located at 89 Steinwehr Avenue (Business Route 15 South) in Gettysburg.
They offer plenty of free parking in front of the building, as well as an overflow lot behind.
Dobbin House FAQ
What Is The Dobbin House Dress Code?
There is no stated dress code at the Dobbin House, but the upstairs Alexander Dobbin Dining Rooms is fine dining, so you should dress appropriately. The Springhouse Tavern downstairs is casual.
The Spring At the Dobbin House
Another unique aspect of the Dobbin House Tavern is the original spring that the house was built upon.
Of course, the availability of a water supply was one of the most important aspects of colonial life.
Alexander Dobbin built his house over a spring for convenience and also to be assured of water in the event of an Indian attack.
In addition to providing cool, clean water, the spring served as a refrigerator for perishable foods.
Visitors can see the Dobbin House spring through a window and how it would have been used to keep foods cool.
The Dobbin House Gettysburg Curiosity Store
Attached to the Dobbin House Tavern is a Country Curiosity Store where you can find both an eclectic collection of old-time wares and new treasures.
The store sells jewelry, books, scented candles, stuffed animals, travel essentials and souvenirs.
There are also candy sticks, jellies, lotions, scarves and old-fashioned candy.
Is The Dobbin House Haunted?
As the scene of a violent three-day battle that left more than 51,000 casualties, Gettysburg is known as one the most haunted towns in the United States.
Since the Battle of Gettysburg took place in the streets and the farmland surrounding the town, some of the most haunted places in Gettysburg are indeed bars, restaurants and Bed and Breakfasts that were used as field hospitals after the battle.
As for the Dobbin House, it is said that the ghost of Alexander Dobbin is still seen around the house smoking a cigar.
Some people also believe that the slaves who came to the house never really left. Apparitions of slaves have been spotted throughout the house, including in the hiding places.
And, lastly, the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg, and perhaps died in the house when it was used as a field hospital, still haunt the Tavern.
If you don’t see any ghosts at the Dobbin House, you can walk down the street and go on a Gettysburg ghost tour or book a full ghost investigation online.
Dobbin House Bed and Breakfast
The Dobbin House also has guest rooms at the GettysTown Inn located adjacent to the Dobbin House Tavern.
Nine guest rooms are furnished with antiques and period reproductions. Each room has a private bath, air conditioning, and modern amenities like cable TV and wireless internet.
Guests can also enjoy the building’s gardens and courtyard, which are decorated with historic artifacts and feature a spring-fed pond.
The Dobbin House also rents out the historic 1858 Little Round Top Farm, where Jacob and Tillie Weikert and their four children, Henry, Elizabeth Ann, Amanda, and baby John lived during the Battle of Gettysburg.
The home is located on 12 acres, and includes a large pond, numerous granite boulders, and a walking trail to the spot where General Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine Infantry saved the Union’s flank.
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The Dobbin House And Tourism
The Dobbin House is one of the most popular destinations in Gettysburg for visitors who are interested in the town’s history and culture.
As a landmark that has stood for more than two centuries, the Dobbin House offers visitors a glimpse into the town’s past and its wide-ranging role in American history.
The tavern’s location in the heart of Gettysburg’s tourist district makes it a convenient stop for visitors after they tour the battlefield, or while they’re exploring the town’s many museums, monuments and attractions.
The Dobbin House is on the National Register of Historic Places (U.S.A.) and is a Registered Historic Landmark (PA).
Where To Stay In Gettysburg
If you’re planning a trip to Gettysburg, you have lots of options on where to stay, including many hotels that are located in downtown Gettysburg.
For those who enjoy immersing themselves in history in a historical home, there are a wide variety of Gettysburg Bed and Breakfasts in addition to the Dobbin House lodging options.
Some of them are located in buildings that were used as Civil War hospitals.
The Gettysburg area also offers a choice of campgrounds near the battlefield with accommodations that range from RV spaces to tents, as well as cabins and cottages.
Wrap-Up Of The Dobbin House Tavern
From a home and school to a hospital and tavern, the Dobbin House has played an essential role in the town of Gettysburg’s evolution and the nation’s history.
As Gettysburg’s oldest and most historic house, the tavern stands as an iconic attraction that draws visitors from all over the country to experience its timeless charm and rich heritage.
Amazingly, the historic house appears virtually the same as it did almost 250 years ago. Its native stone walls, original fireplaces, and hand carved woodwork have been painstakingly restored to their original beauty and character, with interior décor in the traditional eighteenth century manner.
As they say, “eat well and drink deeply of the rich history that resides in Reverend Alexander Dobbin’s home.”
Disclosure: I was treated to a complimentary meal at the Dobbin House by Destination Gettysburg. The opinions expressed are my own from dozens of dining experiences over many years at this historic tavern.