City Tavern, built in 1773, also called the Merchants' Coffee House, was the political and business center of Philadelphia. All the leading persons who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution met here. In fact, the Founders of the Constitution had their farewell dinner here on September 17, 1787. George Washington's diary indicates that he would dine and talk politics with other delegates here at least once a week. William Samuel Johnson, Rufus King, and John Lansing resided here during the Constitutional Convention.
According to contemporaneous accounts, the Tavern was considered among the leading establishments of its kind in the entire United States. Not only were food and wine served there, one could view dramas and listen to music.
According to David Stewart, "William Samuel Johnson of Connecticut incurred large charges as a host at the City Tavern. Much politicking occurred at such occasions."
Birch's painting actually focuses on the Bank of Pennsylvania showing the influence on American architecture of what came to be known as the "Greek Revival Movement." But we want to pay attention to another portion of the painting. To the left of the bank is a wonderful painting of the City Tavern with people either entering or leaving the busy premises.
According to Robert Teitelman, the Board of Directors of the City Tavern "represented the city's most socially, financially, and politically prominent individuals, among who were
William Shippen Jr., Robert Morris, and Thomas Willing
Torn down in 1854-1855 it was faithfully reconstructed by the National Park Service in 1975-1976 for the bicentennial celebrations."