|Oak Harbor Tavern, Oak Harbor, WA|
|"Write 'em as you get 'em." -- Oak Harbor Tavern|
Of course to answer the question of what is the oldest bar in the state requires you to make several fairly arbitrary decisions about what constitutes a single bar. I tend to lean toward a definition that the bar must have been run for all or virtually all of its history under an approximation of its current name and in its current building. This would make Merchants (est. 1890), in Seattle, and then The Brick (est. 1898), in Roslyn, the two oldest bars in the state. But another valid way to consider a "bar" is simply a place where a bar has operated fairly continuously (e.g. exceptions for prohibition) in one place, even through various name changes. Until a recent trip to Whidbey Island, I had been fairly confident in the assertions that by this definition the oldest bar in the state is Bickleton's Bluebird Inn, est. 1882.
|Barrington store, 1850s (Photo courtesy Peggy Darst Townsdin)|
|Naval memorabilia at Oak Harbor Tavern|
|A back closet at the OHT offers a glimpse of original wood|
A 1939 newspaper article documents a change from Forner's Tavern to the "Oak Harbor Tavern," as of Dec 16 of that year. New owner H.J. "Bert" Nunan invited the locals to explore the new annex in the remodeled bar, including a card room and a room with booths "for the convenience of ladies and gentlemen who do not wish to mingle at the bar."
The annex is not apparent now, perhaps simply the side that now contains a pool table, and no one seemed to be particularly reluctant to mingle at the bar. We chatted with Kelly, who generously showed us around, and a number of the patrons, including Brett, who grew up as a rare white kid in Rainier Valley, and went on to play jazz at Seattle area bars like Gabe's. Kelly knew a lot of the history of the old place, but didn't know exactly where it fit into the oldest bars in the state -- I'm guessing no one did. Until now.
|Memorabilia at Oak Harbor Tavern|
Est. Dec 16, 1939 - First bar in current location 1856 - Building constructed: c.1852
Previous bars in this location: Forner's Tavern, Barrington's
Web site: oakharbortavern.com - facebook