McGillin’s Makes History

McGillin’s Olde Ale House threw open its doors more than 150 years ago -- making it the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia and one of the oldest in the country. The tavern marked its 150th anniversary in 2010 with a series of events including the launch of its own anniversary ale, called McGillin’s 1860 IPA, beer tours, roll back pricing, costume parties, street festivals, readings of books featuring McGillin’s, special events, contests and more.


Pa McGillin 1860

Ma & Pa  McGillin open the Bell in Hand (patrons call it "McGillin's" and the name eventually sticks).

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.



Abe Lincoln

Original front of McGillin's 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.  
1865 Civil War ends. McGillin's doesn't really have anything to do with this -- but will happily take credit.



Construction of City Hall begins (completed 1901) two blocks from McGillin's.
Philadelphia City Hall
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.
W.C. Fields



McGillin's customer, W.C. Fields, born. "Philadelphia is a wonderful place; I spent a week there one night."  
1885 McGillin's celebrates 25th anniversary.


Historic photo of McGillin's Olde Ale House

1901 Pa McGillin dies & Ma McGillin takes over bar. William McGillin's obituary
1910 McGillin's celebrates 50th anniversary with a new facade. 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.


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

Philadelphia cheesesteak
1933 Prohibition ends! Ma McGillin takes the key from her breast pocket and reopens the pub's front door.
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 rooms above the tavern, runs the Ale House until 1958, with her nephew, Doc.  
1941 Pearl Harbor Day. Thousands of soldiers and sailors pass through McGillin's doors on their way to the front.
1958 Brothers Henry Spaniak & Joe Shepaniak (yes, they spell it differently) buy McGillin's from McGillin's family. 52 years (& 3 generations) later, it's still in the family - with the same old fashioned values & prices.


Henry Spaniak & Joe Shepaniak

  1960 McGillin's Olde Ale House celebrates 100th anniversary.  
Ethel Merman
1964 Ethel Merman, frequent visitors to 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?!



Liberty Place 1971 Tennessee Williams visits McGillin's Tennessee Williams
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).
Chris & Mary Ellen Mullins 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, the Philadelphia Craft Beer Scene begins.




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



Chris Mullins, Sr with Mayor Michael Nutter & Chris Mullins, Jr.

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




McGillin's interior


Gourmet magazine names McGillin's "one of the 14 coolest bars in the U.S."



Phillies win World Series

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!

McGillin's made history - celebrated 150th anniversary!

Pix from McGillin's 150th Anniversary party on Facebook! More at:, phillychitchat, &!

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