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White Horse Tavern remodel uncovers history

One story claims that the nature scenes on the wall of the White Horse Tavern were painted by a vagrant with no money, in exchange for room and board. - KIRK BOXLEITNER The Arlington Times
One story claims that the nature scenes on the wall of the White Horse Tavern were painted by a vagrant with no money, in exchange for room and board.
— image credit: KIRK BOXLEITNER The Arlington Times

ARLINGTON It's got a lot of history, and Barbara Jones wants the White Horse Tavern on Olympic Avenue to have a future, too.

Jones acquired the White Horse in March, and plans to reopen the tavern in June, but she admitted that there will be a lot of work done before reopening.

"There was 60-70 years' worth of dirt that needed to be cleaned up," said Jones, who has worked in Arlington for 11 years and lived here the past four. "The refrigeration equipment was old and rotten. We went in blind when we took ownership. We just decided to start from scratch. We took off the wooden wall shingles and got down to the basics."

Jones has contracted masons, electricians and carpenters, and acknowledged that the intervening weeks of work, which have included rebuilding the bar and installing new furniture, have been a "slow process." In the meantime, she's made some discoveries about the White Horse, which have only left her with more questions about the tavern's history.

"The nature scenes on the one wall have always been exposed," Jones said. "There are a few stories about those murals. Some folks say a vagrant with no money painted them in exchange for room and board. On the wall behind the bar, though, is an art deco paint scheme, that had been covered up by wooden shingles for as long as anyone could remember. No one that I've talked to has been old enough to remember seeing the art deco wall before it was covered up with shingles, so I'm looking to find out its origin."

Jones has enjoyed the many stories she's already heard about the White Horse, but she hopes the tavern's story is far from over.

"This place is legendary," Jones said. "It used to be a happening spot, years ago. It made me wonder, what had happened to this once-popular place?"

Jones believes that the White Horse can become an inviting location for an eclectic crowd of visitors and regulars, contributing to the ongoing revitalization of the city's downtown.

"I've always toyed with the idea of buying a bar or a tavern," Jones said, who is pleased to be able to do so in Arlington. "I love the charm of this little town. It won't be Smokey Point or Island Crossing. It is what it is."

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