In 2007 the Continental Tavern was purchased and historical renovation began. The new proprietors intended to return the property to its original style and configuration from 1877. The previous two proprietors had owned the property for a combined 62 years, but were never aware of the treasure trove of history hidden beneath the building in a “secret” basement chamber.
During construction, a large chamber was found in the basement below the kitchen. The chamber was approximately 15 feet by 15 feet with 18 inch stone walls. There was no entrance into the chamber from the outside or from the rest of the basement, which means that there had to have been a trap door from above.
Construction workers had to enter the chamber to run mechanical systems through it. What they found inside was starling. One corner of the chamber contained a mysterious quarter circle stone wall. The chamber was 4 feet from floor to ceiling. As crews began to dig every shovelful of dirt contained unusual artifacts — alcohol bottles, apothecary items, figurines, personal care products, tungsten light bulbs, an enigmatic weapon, and numerous other items pictured here on the website.
A few stones were removed from the quarter circle stone wall to reveal a 5 foot diameter cylindrical stone tunnel which went deep into the ground. Local Underground Railroad historians indicated that the tunnel was connected to a series of tunnels which came up from the canal and connected the Tavern with 2 other Yardley structures. These buildings were way stations on the Underground Railroad which was in operation from the early 1800’s through the Civil War.
The excavation turned into an archeological dig, with all artifacts being cataloged and dated. It is estimated that the chamber holds over 10,000 empty whiskey bottles from the Prohibition era. The material is easily dated due to old newspapers, license plates and coins buried along with the artifacts.
The dig is truly a history of Yardley through buried treasures. Visitors to the Tavern can view these artifacts at different locations around the Tavern.