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Specialty ‘Hamilton’ tour of Gadsby’s Tavern could get an encore after selling out this summer

Curtains will be closing this Friday on a temporary tour of Gadsby’s Tavern Museum inspired by the musical “Hamilton” but an encore may already be in the works.

Tickets for the specialty tour, dubbed “Hamilton’s BFFs and Frenemies,” have already sold out for the summer run, which is ending this week, a city spokeswoman said. The city’s Office of Historic Alexandria is making plans to offer the same tour this fall at the museum, located at 134 N. Royal Street, though dates have not yet been set, she said.

The tour explains how George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Aaron Burr each intersected with the historical tavern. It weaves in references to the musical — named for its titular character, Alexander Hamilton, and which suggests he was “frenemies” with Burr.

“Overall, whether [for] fans of the musical ‘Hamilton’ or just really into history, this tour dives into the challenges the young nation faced and how that played out at the local level,” says Michele Longo, the director of education and museum operations for the Office of Historic Alexandria. “You might think you know the story, but there is always more to discover.”

The tour plays up themes that are explored in the musical, too.

The people of color who play white Founding Fathers in “Hamilton” prompt viewers to think about the roles enslaved and free Black people had in the founding. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Burr questions the agency regular Americans had in the Founding when he sings about his jealousy of missing secret dinner table meetings that determined the course of history.

“Alexandria became part of the District of Columbia because of the events that took place in the ‘room where it happened,'” says Longo, borrowing Burr’s famous line from the hit songs, “The Room Where It Happens.”

“Not only did this change the trajectory of the local economy, but it influenced how the free Black community in Alexandria grew,” said Longo. “We dive into all this and more during the tour.”


Fans of the musical may also catch guides quoting Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Jefferson. In a song about the 1800 presidential election, which provides a window into the animosity between him and his opponent, Burr, Jefferson asks, “Can we get back to politics?”

“Thomas Jefferson actually spent the night at Gadsby’s Tavern as part of the events leading up to him becoming president,” Longo said. “A few months later, he raised a glass to ‘unity’ during an inaugural celebration in Gadsby’s famous ballroom, right next to his VP Aaron Burr — can you imagine?”

The climax of the musical is the 1804 duel between Burr and Hamilton, when Burr fatally shot his opponent.

Gadsby’s Tavern Museum is composed of a tavern dating back to around 1785 tavern and the City Tavern and Hotel dating back to 1792. Longo says historians know when Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Burr visited the tavern because period newspaper articles provided a “who’s who” of attendees at notable events held there.

The tavern also knows when Jefferson spent the night there because of his “incredibly detailed account books” and when Washington dined there because of a thank you note in his diary, she said.

That these men orbited around the tavern provides another connection between the city and the nation’s founding, which Longo says touched everyone who lived in colonial Alexandria.

“From enslaved individuals to the wealthiest in town, their lives were impacted by the decisions made in this young nation,” she said.

If and when new tours open up this fall, more people may be able to test the tour’s thesis that Gadsby’s Tavern is — to quote a rapping Burr — “the room where it happened.”

Photo 1 via Flickr/AlanStudt

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