The Tabard Inn was established at 1739 N Street in 1922 by entrepreneur Marie Willoughby Rogers. At the time she was recently widowed; her husband, a prominent geologist, had died unexpectedly while on a mission with the US Geological Survey. Mrs. Rogers, who had previously operated a small restaurant in New York City, initially intended to operate the townhouse as a guest house and party space. Within months of its opening, however, she had introduced a tearoom, and the guest house was operating more formally as an inn. She sought to imbue the hostelry with the ambiance of an English Country Inn and named it after the inn in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In 1928 and 1937, Rogers expanded the business into the adjacent houses at 1741 N Street and 1737 N Street, respectively, connecting the three internally.
During the 1910s, independent tearooms, increasingly run by women, were opened to a broader clientele. Often in converted residences or small commercial establishments, tearooms offered a domestic feel and home-cooked meals. By the 1920s, and especially during Prohibition, tearooms were profitable business ventures that even supported their own trade publications, largely to provide women with advice on how to succeed in business. The Tabard, which regularly advertised itself as a tea house, fit the model, but was not alone in DC. The economic pressures of the Great Depression and material shortages of World War II shuttered tearooms nationwide but, as a whole, those in DC survived.
Rogers oversaw operations until her death in 1970. The building was then threatened with demolition. Most independent teahouses in the city had already succumbed to redevelopment and other forces. But in 1974, the Tabard Inn was rescued by Fritzi and Edward Cohen, who purchased the property and re-opened the inn and restaurant. Still operating today under the ownership of Mrs. Cohen and her employees, the Tabard Inn is a survivor, distinguished as the oldest inn in the city to be continuously owned and operated by women.
DC Inventory: February 27, 2020
National Register: June 22, 2020