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Historical Sites

Yates Tavern

The only block-house standing in Pittsylvania County and possibly the state, Yates Tavern is located on U.S. 29 business about a fourth of a mile south of Gretna.

It was built around 1750 and sheltered travelers in what was then a western wilderness. It is said to be the only dwelling in Virginia constructed with Elizabethan or Tudor overhangs or front and back jetties.

It is deemed a blockhouse because of the 10-inch overhang of the second story.

Indian campgrounds were mentioned in deeds on Potter’s and Reddies’ creeks a few miles away. Saponi Town, near Altavista, was only about 12 miles away.

The Yates family came to Pittsylvania County earlier than 1767 when both John Yates and John Yates Jr. were listed among the first tithables. It is not clear which of the Yates family members built the tavern.

According to 18th Century Landmarks of Pittsylvania County by Madalene Vaden Fitzgerald and Frances Hallam Hurt, Stephen Yates paid a tax of $8.50 in 1813 to keep an ordinary at his house.

In 1818, Yates paid the sum of $1.67 tax and a license was granted him “to keep a house of private entertainment where he now resides.”

The house is made from weather-boarding and has a rock chimney. There is a large public room with a rock fire-place beneath an impressive mantel. A smaller adjoining main floor room has an under the staircase closet.

The corner stairway leads to a two-roomed loft upstairs.

The English basement, half in and half out of the ground, has walls two-feet thick. It was in the enormous basement fireplace that meals were prepared. There is trap door access from the main floor into the basement.

One of the first acts of the Gentlemen Justices in 1767 was to set prices for liquors and lodging. Overnight lodging with breakfast or dinner was six shillings, with the same for a horse. Brandy was eight shillings a gallon; whiskey, six; West India rum, 10; with Virginia beer and cider going for two shillings, six pence.

Near the tavern was Pigg River Road which ran from Peytonsburg to Smith Mountain and from which Yates Tavern drew its customers.

Several members of the Yates family are buried in a nearby cemetery.

The tavern was restored through grants from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Virginia Landmarks, Pittsylvania County Board of Su-pervisors, and the late DeWitt Wallace of Reader’s Digest.

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