Once Enslaved, Now Commemorated
For Immediate Release
October 18, 2021
Photo of Alfred D. Clarke now permanently displayed at The City Tavern
Washington, D.C. – October 18, 2021. The City Tavern Preservation Foundation announced that a photo of Alfred Delaney Clarke is now on permanent display at The City Tavern. Mr. Clarke and ten other family members were enslaved by a former owner of the two hundred twenty-five-year-old building in Georgetown. The inclusion of the photo in the storied building was commemorated in a dedication program on October 15, 2021, attended by seventeen of Mr. Clarke’s descendants.
Alfred Delaney Clarke (1852 – 1925) was in the third generation of his family enslaved by Eleanor Lang, the proprietor of The Georgetown Hotel from 1834 – 1865. Lang’s hotel did business in the historic building that is now The City Tavern. Mr. Clarke, his mother Elizabeth, and nine other family members were forced to labor in the hotel. They were emancipated on April 16, 1862, by the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act.
The photo of Alfred D. Clarke, made available by his descendants, is the only portrait known to exist of anyone who resided in the building. Constructed in 1796, City Tavern is believed to be one of the oldest buildings and the last remaining Federal-period tavern in the District of Columbia. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Throughout the nineteenth century, the tavern was at the center of Georgetown’s civic, business, and social activity. While continuing to celebrate its ties to early American leaders, the City Tavern Preservation Foundation has determined that it will document and share all facets of the site’s history.
During the commemoration luncheon, Mr. Clarke’s great-granddaughter Lynette Clarke led libations in tribute to the memory of her ancestors who once lived and toiled in the hotel. Breena Clarke, another great-granddaughter and a best-selling author of historical fiction, commented on her family history in Georgetown and the relationship to her literary works.
Yvette LaGonterie, the researcher who uncovered the history of the Clarke family at The City Tavern, explained that Eleanor Lang’s connection to the Clarke family began with her purchase of two teenage girls in the mid-1820s. In the mid-1830s, Lang brought the girls and their offspring with her to The City Tavern, which Lang renamed Georgetown Hotel. Ms. LaGonterie also noted that African-Americans, enslaved and free, had a role in the history of every historic building in Georgetown. Ms. LaGonterie is distantly related to the Clarkes. She was recently elected a director on the board of the City Tavern Preservation Foundation.
Mary Beth Torpey, president of The City Tavern Club, remarked “it is through the Clarke lineage that we collectively can honor and appreciate the full story of the building’s past.”
The City Tavern Preservation Foundation conducts free tours of The City Tavern and holds educational events open to the public.
PR Contact: Yvette LaGonterie