On the night of the American Revolution, militia from Lexington and surrounding Massachusetts towns waited all night in a tavern for the British military as it marched to Concord to look for colonists’ weapons.
Today, that tavern serves as the headquarters for Lexington’s historical society. And if you venture farther into Boston you’ll find pubs and watering holes with all manner of claims to history — “first pub in the U.S.” or “Paul Revere’s favorite hangout.”
On Sunday, the city of Burbank’s 101st birthday, a new downtown tavern began its footnote in history by also helping preserve it.
The Story Tavern, at 150 S. San Fernando Blvd., is named for the San Fernando hardware store that once stood on the site. The store was owned by Burbank’s first mayor, Thomas Story.
Going beyond some clever marketing and PR (although the association won’t hurt it), the business owners have partnered with the Burbank Historical Society to ensure the city’s story is told. Black-and-white prints from the society’s archive line the walls of the dining room, reflecting Burbank’s aeronautical, entertainment and cultural past.
Though the volunteer-staffed Gordon Howard Museum is open only on Saturday afternoons, the historical society hopes to rotate out some of the tavern’s prints and provide a satellite gallery that’s open all week. One society member at Sunday’s grand opening went so far as to call it “the historical society East,” with the West location its headquarters.
And if patrons don’t know the address, a plaque inside the tavern reads, “For more of the Burbank story, visit the Gordon Howard Museum 115 Lomita Street, Burbank.”
“They’re keeping us in everybody’s sight, and in turn we’re always here to help them,” said Historical Society President Sue Baldaseroni.
Brian Slaught, proprietor of Story Tavern and son of building developer Ted Slaught, said he modeled the restaurant after the pubs in England and Ireland, where he lived for a year. A history major in college, he wanted to bring some of the European neighborhood meeting-place feel to the L.A. area, where a family-owned business could be part of its community while helping preserve its story. No pun intended.
Already, airline pilots staying in the area for overnights have staked out their booth in the Lockheed section. Many diners on Sunday traded stories about going to Story Hardware as kids.
Several patrons were members of the Road Kings, the Burbank car club that helped forge the sport of drag racing.
Burbank Historical Society members hope Story Tavern will give residents and visitors a new appreciation for what a century can accomplish. Brian Slaught and his sister, Diane, hope their tavern and its “pre-Prohibition fare” (prepared with no freezers or fryers) will bring the city’s history into the mainstream.
If the historic pubs of New England can teach them anything, it’s that history is always better enjoyed over a beer.