History
History

Shortly after the Liberty Bell cracked and long before ground was broken for City Hall, McGillin’s Olde Ale House threw open its doors. Its beer taps have been flowing since 1860 — making it the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia. McGillin’s has outlasted Strawbridge’s, the Civil War and even Prohibition. McGillin’s celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2010.

 

1860

Catherine & William McGillin opened the Bell in Hand Tavern.The Irish immigrants, who raised their 13 children upstairs, soon become known as “Ma” and “Pa” and the laborers who frequented the bar called it “McGillin’s.” The nicknames eventually stuck. The tavern grew to include the oyster house next door, the back alley/washroom and the house upstairs.

Abe Lincoln elected president. Although Lincoln visits Philadelphia, we have no proof that he visits McGillin’s. Of course, we have no proof that he doesn’t either.

1860

1862

Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla — now marked by Cinco de Mayo, celebrated annually at McGillin’s, with an Irish twist.

1862

1865

Civil War ends. McGillin’s doesn’t really have anything to do with this — but will happily take credit.

1865

1871

Construction of City Hall begins (completed by 1901) two blocks from McGillin’s. Every liquor license since 1871 hangs on the wall at McGillin’s.

1871

1876

America celebrates 100th Anniversary, The Centennial. John Wanamaker Department Store opens around the corner from McGillin’s (now Macy’s). McGillin’s outlasts Wanamaker’s. Wanamaker sign part of McGillin’s collection of iconic Philadelphia signs.

1876

1879

Woolworth opens. Its sign added to McGillin’s sign collection when it closes in 1997.

1879

1880

McGillin’s customer, W.C. Fields, born. “Philadelphia is a wonderful place; I spent a week there one night.”

1880

1885

McGillin’s celebrates 25th anniversary.

1887

Gimbel Brothers opens in Philadelphia. Its sign added to McGillin’s iconic sign collection when it closes in 1987.

1887

1901

Pa McGillin dies & Ma McGillin takes over bar. No pushover, Ma has a list of troublemakers who weren’t allowed in. The list reads like the social registry, including some of Philadelphia’s most prominent citizens.

1901

1910

McGillin’s celebrates 50th anniversary with a new façade. Name officially changes to McGillin’s Olde Ale House.

1920

Prohibition enacted. During Prohibition, Ma McGillin hires a chef. Serves food and ice cream and perhaps, a few tea cups were tipped on the second floor.

1920

1930

Philadelphia cheesesteak invented. A top-seller at McGillin’s.

1933

Prohibition ends! Ma McGillin takes the key from her breast pocket and reopens the pub’s front door.

1933

October 2015

1935

McGillin’s celebrates 75th anniversary.

1937

Ma McGillin dies at age 90. Daughter, Mercedes McGillin Hooper, one of the 13 children who grew up in the room above the tavern, runs the Ale House until 1958, with her nephew Doc.

1937

1941

Pearl Harbor Day. Thousands of soldiers and sailors pass through McGillin’s doors on their way to the front.

1941

1958

Brothers Henry Spaniak & Joe Shepaniak (yes, they spell it differently) buy the bar from McGillin’s family. Three generations later, it’s still in the family – with the same old fashioned values & prices.

1958

1960

McGillin’s Olde Ale House celebrates 100th anniversary.

1964

Ethel Merman, frequents McGillin’s, where she reminisces about her childhood days on the road with her Vaudeville parents. Says to owner Henry Spaniak “tell anyone I’m here and I’ll never come back.” Guess she’s not coming back?!

1964

1971

Tennessee Williams visits McGillin’s.

Corestates Opens. When is closes in 2008, it’s sign is added to McGillin’s sign collection.

1971

October 2015

1977

Lit Brothers close after almost 100 years. Sign added to McGillin’s collection of iconic Philadelphia signs.

1977

1985

McGillin’s celebrates 125th anniversary.

1987

One Liberty Place breaks Philadelphia skyline. Curse of Billy Penn is born (see 2008). Don’t blame McGillin’s — we were here 41 years before City Hall (see 1871).

1987

1993

McGillin’s sold to second generation of Spaniaks- Henry’s daughter, Mary Ellen Spaniak Mullins, & son-in-law, Chris Mullins.

McGillin’s Real Ale & McGillin’s Genuine Lager debut on draft, Philadelphia Craft Beer Scene begins.

1993

2003

J.E. Caldwell, a jeweler in business since 1939, closes. Sign added to McGillin’s collection of iconic signs.

2003

2006-2007

McGillin’s named to the list of Top 100 Nightclubs & Bars in the U.S. by Nightclub & Bar Magazine — 2 years in a row!

Third generation of Spaniak family joins management team at McGillin’s — Christopher Mullins, Jr., son of Mary Ellen & Chris Mullins & grandson of Henry Spaniak.

Deux Cheminees and Strawbridge & Clothiers signs added to McGillin’s collection. The former opened in 1970s and the latter in 1868.

2006-2007

2008

Gourmet magazine names McGillin’s “one of the 14 coolest bars in the U.S.”

McGillin’s dives into social media (Twitter & Facebook) — proving you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Curse of Billy Penn ends — Phillies win World Series! Big crowd watches at McGillin’s!

2008

2010

McGillin’s made history – celebrated 150th anniversary with giant party, visit from Budweiser Clydesdales and introduction of McGillin’s 1860 IPA.

McGillin’s wins “Best Bartender” award from Philadelphia magazine.

2010

2011

McGillin’s wins “Best Happy Hour” award from Philadelphia magazine.

2012

Complex Magazine named McGillin’s to list of The 50 Best Irish Pubs in America

Irish Pubs Global named McGillin’s to list of America’s Best Irish Bars

McGillin’s wins best Happy Hour award from DrinkPhilly.com

McGillin’s runner up for Best Sports Bar award from DrinkPhilly.com

2013

Fodor’s names McGillin’s One of Ten Best Historic Bars in the U.S. and one of Best Irish Bars in America

Irish Central Named McGillin’s to list of 10 Best Irish Pubs in the U.S.

Fox News named McGillin’s to the list of Top Irish Pubs in the U.S.

CBS named McGillin’s to list of top Karaoke Spots in Philadelphia

Le Bec Fin, which kicked off Philadelphia’s restaurant renaissance in 1970, closes and its sign is added to collection at McGillin’s.

2013

2014

McGillin’s named One of Top St. Patrick’s Day Bars in U.S. by Huffington Post

McGillin’s on thrillist.com’s list of Best Irish Pubs in the United States

McGillin’s named 1 of 10 Best Irish Pubs in the Country by bustle.com

McGillin’s called one of 10 Best Authentic Irish Pubs in America by American Profiles
Yahoo Travel and Gayot name McGillin’s to list of Top 10 Irish Pubs in the U.S.

Named McGillin’s one of 18 most Authentic Irish Pubs in America

2015

The Travel Channel names McGillin’s one of the Best Irish Bars in the U.S.
International Business Times names McGillin’s on list of Where to Celebrate St Patrick’s Day

McGillin’s Named one of Most Authentic Irish Pubs in America by USA Today & Huffington Post.

Named one of Most Popular Tourist Attractions in Philadelphia by Philadelphia Business Journal


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