Philadelphia Pub Celebrates 150 Years

In January 2010, an old ale house in Philadelphia will celebrate one hundred and fifty years since it first opened its doors to the public.  The celebrations started in August, exactly one hundred and fifty days before the 1st of January 2010 and there is even a countdown clock on the pub’s website.

The McGillin’s Olde Ale House was named after its founder, an immigrant from Ireland, William “Pa” McGillin in the year 1860.  It is claimed to be one of the oldest taverns in the state, as well as in Philadelphia.   Its original name, the Bell in Hand Tavern, did not stick as many of the regulars preferred to call it McGillin’s.

The pub located on Drury Street was built just before the Civil War began and is set in the heart of downtown Philadelphia.  Not even the local residents are able to find it easily as it is situated in an alley way.

Don Russell whose pseudonym is Joe Sixpack is a local writer who writes about beer, he has stated that the pub is a hidden treasure as well as an institution.

Pub History

The ale house has a vast history to boast about which can be seen all around its interior and is well known as being somewhere that people can visit and eat in comfort.  It has been visited by many celebrities over the years including:

  • Alice Faye.
  • Def Leppard.
  • Michael Flatley.
  • Robin Williams.
  • Steven Carlton.
  • Tennessee Williams.
  • The Marx Brothers.
  • Thomas Eakins.
  • Vincent Price.
  • W C Fields.
  • Will Rogers.

After William McGillin died on 31st August 1901, the pub was run by his wife Catherine who incorporated a restaurant into the ale house to keep the business going.  William and Catherine had thirteen children together and when Catherine died at the age of ninety in 1937 one of them, Mercedes McGillin Hooper took over the running of the ale house for the next twenty one years.  It was then sold to Henry Spaniak and Joseph Shepaniak.

Mary Ellen, daughter of Henry Spaniak, bought the pub with her husband Chris Mullins in 1993 and the couple added a more modern feel to the house.  They are also very proud of the fact that they do not serve Guinness in their ale house since it was boycotted in 2000.

The Mullins’ are the current owners and they run the pub along with their son Christopher Junior and Kate Newcomer who is Mary Ellen’s sister.  The pub’s website shows a plethora of upcoming events in the lead up to its anniversary including an Oktoberfest, a Halloween party and of course its karaoke. 

Some Important Events of 1860

  • Abraham Lincoln becomes a candidate for the presidency.
  • Annie Oakley, America’s first female superstar was born on August 13th.
  • In Scotland the first British Open was played at Prestwick Golf Club.
  • John Bell is nominated for President.
  • On the 25th of January Charles Curtis, the 31st Vice President of the States was born.
  • The first episode of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens was published in the magazine ‘All the Year Round’.
  • The first nursery, St Thomas Infirmary is opened in England.
  • The first run of the Pony Express began from Missouri to California.
  • TSV München, the German football club is founded.

With over a hundred days to celebrate in the lead up to the anniversary, I am sure that every visitor to the pub will have an ‘ale’ of a time!