sometimes buildings need saving too!
The DeVault Tavern was built between 1819-21 by Frederick DeVault as a resting place for travelers on the stagecoach road between Nashville and Washington D.C. It remained a thriving business in its heyday. Documents uncovered during the restoration process uncovered the first recorded evidence of the tavern’s business from a bill written in 1825. The bill charged for feeding three horses for 126 days and boarding for 18 weeks. In 1847, travelers and their horses could stay at the inn overnight for 50 cents, which now rounds out to about $14 in 2018, and drivers of coaches could stay for a week for $1.50.
The tavern housed many famous faces, including Presidents Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson. Rumors state that the infamous General Morgan spent his last night alive at the tavern prior to dying in Greenville the next day. The business flourished, but when the railroad was built in 1857, the train bypassed Leesburg in favor of Jonesborough. The DeVault Tavern lost much of its business but continued to remain standing in the family name.
In the later decades, the tavern served well as a makeshift post office for Leesburg and was a working farm of 200 acres until the early 1960s when the family started selling. It sat unattended for years taking on the wear of time until 2009 when it was sold to Robert and Brooke where the restoration process began. During this process, an extensive archive was discovered in the house — a trove of more than 1,100 items — including photographs, letters, ledger books, diaries and other material, spanning the Tavern’s entire history. These materials have been preserved for future generations through donation to the ETSU Archives of Appalachia and artistically through the efforts of Paul Kennedy in his book entitled “The DeVault Tavern“.
The two-story structure itself is considered a unique building in history. The house’s architectural design is an anomaly to historians. The house has five staircases, four of which lead to separate upstairs bedrooms that did not connect to the other rooms prior to renovation. The privacy intended for the tavern’s guests of old was ensured in this way but seen as a complexity in modern homes. While changes have been made to update it into a modern private residence, every effort has been made to maintain its historical charm and registry status. The tavern still boasts ornate wainscoting, eight beautiful fireplace mantles, and a charming smokehouse.
Recently, the tavern has taken on a new role as Tilted Tavern Animal Sanctuary’s headquarters, acting as a beacon of light for weary animal travelers that seek the sanctuary as a safe place to rest.