Liberty University has purchased a Revolutionary War-era tavern and plans to restore the New London property to its original state.
The Alum Springs Road property called Mead’s Tavern was sold to Liberty by the historical preservation group Friends of New London Virginia Inc., which has owned the property since 2012.
“I think it’s a win-win — for LU and the village area,” Friends Chairman Randy Lichtenberger said.
After Friends of New London purchased the oldest-known building in the New London area for $120,000, the group’s efforts focused on raising enough money to make mortgage payments.
The fundraising got in the way of other projects, like restoring a historically black church nearby.
“It was starting to suck up all of our time,” Lichtenberger said.
Seeing the partnership between Lynchburg College and its restoration of Historic Sandusky in Lynchburg, the Friends approached Liberty hoping it would sign onto the tavern project.
Liberty agreed to purchase the property for $120,000 and stipulated it would restore the building, Lichtenberger said.
“We’re very happy with the decision,” he said. “It’s going to help revitalize the town, to get that building restored.”
Mead’s was built as a tavern and a hotel by William Mead, who lived on a plantation in Forest.
Located off U.S. 460 near the border of Campbell and Bedford counties, it was situated along a main road in the village that once served as the county seat of Bedford.
It served New London’s travelers until about 1785, when Mead sold the structure.
The Roland Academy for Girls operated in the building until the 1820s, Lichtenberger said.
For the next two centuries, the structure briefly was used as a parsonage and a doctor’s office, but mostly was a private home until it was purchased by the Friends group from an older couple looking to downsize in 2012.
The building has two additions, and the home has been upgraded with 20th-century amenities such as running water, dark wood paneling, vinyl siding, drywall and drop ceilings.
The original structure is well hidden, but a few exposed antique elements hint at what lies beneath, said Roger Schultz, dean of the Liberty’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“We are excited to see what’s there from 1763,” he said. “If you go into the basement, you can see these hand-hewn beams, it’s really amazing.”
Glimpses of what’s under the home’s surface also have been discovered in preliminary archaeological digs in the yard around Mead’s.
Metal artifacts, a skeleton key, glassware, leaded crystal and other relics have been uncovered, and Liberty students will be involved in additional exploration, Schultz said.
The histories of people who have crossed the tavern’s threshold are extremely interesting, Schultz said.
Mead’s son, Stith Mead, became a famously fiery Methodist evangelist.
“As a religious historian, that’s the thing that just pops for me,” Schultz said.
When New London was the seat of Bedford County, and Lynchburg was barely a dot on the map, Patrick Henry and possibly Thomas Jefferson argued cases in the courthouse across the street from Mead’s.
With the many different historical possibilities at Mead’s, Liberty faculty are working to integrate the tavern into classroom activities.
“Mead’s Tavern will give us a unique opportunity for new curriculum dealing with public history,” Schultz said. “We expect that our students will be involved.”
Final approval on the project is expected in the next few weeks, and the project’s price tag has not yet been determined.
Crews are expected to begin work on the project soon, but officials have not yet set an official start date.