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Tun Tavern, birthplace of the Marine Corps, to be rebuilt

"Tun Tavern to Belleau Wood - Marine Corps - Making history so it's understood!"
Miguel Ortiz Avatar
On the left, a promotional poster for Tun Tavern, on the left, a sketch of the Tavern in pencil

Left: UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1900: Tun Tavern (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images); Right: Sketch of Tun Tavern in the Revolutionary War, Public Domain

“Tun Tavern to Belleau Wood, Marine Corps, Making history so it’s understood!” The popular running cadence “1, 2, 3, 4, Marine Corps,” notes the origin of the United States Marine Corps at a tavern in colonial Philadelphia. Way back in 1775, on November 10, the Second Continental Congress charged Samuel Nichols with raising two battalions of Marines; he did so at Tun Tavern. While some historians have questioned the accuracy of “The Tun” being the site of Nichols’ recruiting, feel free to challenge a Marine on that. In fact, if you ask a Marine when their beloved Corps was founded, there’s a good chance that “November 10, 1775,” will be followed by “Tun Tavern, Philadelphia.” While the original tavern no longer exists, plans to recreate the birthplace of the Marine Corps are underway.

A pencil drawing of the old Tun Tavern in Philadelphia
A pencil drawing of the old Tun Tavern in Philadelphia/Public Domain

The fabled location where Nichols carried out his Congressional charge is now under Interstate 95; a nearby historical marker notes that Tun Tavern stood from 1693-1781. Spearheaded by The Tun Tavern Legacy Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, efforts are underway to rebuild The Tun approximately 250 yards from the original location. In addition to the Marine Corps, the original Tun Tavern was the birthplace of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania and the St. Andrew’s Society. It also served as the first meeting place of the Friendly Sons & Daughters of St. Patrick and the Society of St. George. Finally, The Tun is reportedly where John Adams met with Naval Committee to draft documents and outline the structure of what would become the U.S. Navy.

A rendering of the Tun Tavern. Patrons wait at tables and stand by a bar.
A rendering of the inside of The Tun (The Tun Tavern Legacy Foundation, Inc.)

These historic organizations, with ties to The Tun, are helping to raise funds for its reconstruction and re-establishment. Yes, the new Tun is planned to be a fully functioning tavern with private dining and even a raw bar. Commemorative items can be purchased from the foundation’s website ranging from shirts and a brick paver for the new Tun Alley to a 32 oz. “bottomless” copper stein that can be displayed in a locked glass case at The Tun and entitles the supporter to complimentary beer or ale. Of course, the first step to reestablishing The Tun is getting the land; the foundation announced this acquisition on April 30, 2024.

A rendering of Tun Tavern. Patrons sit at a chef's table and smile
The Tun will feature a Chef’s Table and Raw Bar (The Tun Tavern Legacy Foundation, Inc.)

“The land purchase is the first step in reconstructing Tun Tavern. With the land acquisition, we have a strong base to move forward with the fundraising necessary to rebuild the historic Tun Tavern,” Foundation Board Chair and Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania Free and Accepted Masons Rob Brink said in the announcement. “The Foundation will operate The Tun™ as a functioning mariner’s tavern and restaurant reminiscent of colonial Philadelphia. By providing educational experiences through exhibits, historical documents and special events, we will educate visitors about the significance of Tun Tavern in American history.” Through its construction and future operations, The Tun is expected to generate millions of dollars in annual economic impact and hundreds of jobs for the local economy.

A rendering of the new Tun Tavern outside. Marines stand in front of a brick building with a sign that says "The Tun"
The (new) Tun (The Tun Tavern Legacy Foundation, Inc.)

Following the acquisition of the land, the next milestone on the road to rebuilding The Tun is a Black-Tie Gala Fundraiser in September 2024. Two months later, the foundation aims to hold a groundbreaking ceremony and to start construction. To coincide with the Navy and Marine Corps 250th Homecoming Celebration in Philadelphia, The Tun is expected to have its grand reopening in November 2025.