Get a true taste of Dayton history at these special 3-course feasts


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Get a true taste of Dayton history at these special 3-course feasts

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Rachael Zimmerman, Living History Specialist and Alex Pearl, Interpretation Volunteer, preparing the dinner early in the day. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

For the last 14 years, Carillon Historical Park’s Tavern Dinners have offered the public an opportunity to relish in an authentic, three-course, hearth-cooked meal in the original 1796 Newcom Tavern.

The experience offers a taste of history that is special on multiple levels.

The remarkable setting is complemented by a three-course feast — all cooked over open fire using Dutch ovens, brick-layered bake ovens and reflecting ovens in the William Morris House and Hetzel Summer Kitchen. Costumed interpreters who do the cooking bring the 19th Century to life by adding authentic ambiance to these unique candlelit dinners inspired by history.

“Tavern Dinners combine history, food and education in an enriching and delicious event. The three-course meal is fully prepared using historic methods including fire, wooden utensils and cast iron. Planning the menu includes scouring cookbooks published prior to 1840 and using ingredients that would be available in Dayton, OH in the 1830s. Dayton History hosts two series of Tavern Dinners — End of Winter in the Spring and Harvest in the Fall with menus appropriate to that time of year,” said Rachael Zimmerman, Living History Specialist who helps cook and coordinate the events. “For the cooking portion of the day, I usually have three to four people helping. The event includes demonstrations of cooking where the guests get the opportunity to finish some of the cooking.”


The evening flavors begin with carrot soup and sourdough bread. The main course is a herb and sausage stuffed pork loin served with a green bean tart, fried beets, sweet potatoes and roasted onions. An apple spice cake with ice cream fills in for dessert.

The featured recipes were pulled from 19th century recipe books. It’s a glimpse at how people living in this region may have dined in the 1800s.

“I search through several different cookbooks that would have been available to a household in Dayton, Ohio in the 1830s so I try to get ingredients as accurate as we can … Some of my favorite books include The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse and The Kentucky Housewife by Lettice Bryan. Just like cookbooks and recipes today, we may add our own touches and unless an owner of the time wrote notes in the margin, we can’t know exactly how recipes were prepared,” said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman explains that dinner, as we know it today, would have been a small meal centuries ago.

“The term dinner traditionally refers to the mid-day meal which would have been a large meal suitable to farmers and laborers to keep up their strength for the work day. Morning and mid-day meals in early Ohio had influences from England and Germany, which meant meat and potatoes. The addition of the Miami and Erie Canal connecting us to the world gave Dayton new spices, flavors and people that helped Dayton grow into the city we know today,” said Zimmerman.

July 3, 2014: Newcom Tavern, now located at Carillon Park in Dayton, was built in 1798 by Col. George Newcom, one of Dayton's first settlers. The tavern was located at the Main St. and Water St., (now Monument St.) in downtown Dayton. Lisa Powell


The approach using food as an educational component to teach history is something that Dayton History employs throughout the year. Historic cooking in the early settlement area has become a staple over the past few years. Settler Survival Summer Camps are offered during July and August where campers spend a day learning how to cook over the fire, baking sweets and creating ginger ale as well as working in the garden learning how to grow vegetables. Carillon Brewing Company bakes crackers with the spent grains as well as bakes bread over the fire a few days each week. This is all in addition to employing a historic brewing process for their authentic beers. All are based on historic recipes and methods.

“Dayton History prides itself on presenting history through food at various locations in Carillon Historical Park. Our recipes represent Dayton’s history with specific interest in the early settlers, the Culp family and the brewers and immigrants in the mid-19th Century. We use food as an educational experience to connect to those who have lived before us and inspire those who share in our stories,” said Zimmerman. “I believe Tavern Dinners are unique because they give us a taste of the past as much as is possible. I have long been interested in knowing the lives of my ancestors and of those around me. Personally, I most enjoy this aspect of living history and hope that I can provide our guests with a similar experience and influence them to learn more about their past. Our stories all connect through this event and serving a delicious meal is an added benefit. The series allows visitors to interact with our staff and each other through the meal preparation and consumption and hopefully a closer connection to Dayton’s past.”

>> Carillon Brewing bottles its first wine


What: Tavern Dinner Harvest Feast

Where: Carillon Historical Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton

When: Oct. 27, 28 and Nov. 3, 4

Cost: $45 for Dayton History members, $50 for non-members

Tickets: 937-293-2841 or email

Please note: Limited space is available. Newcom Tavern seats slightly more than 25 people. Advanced reservations required.

Did you know? Newcom Tavern is the oldest standing building in Dayton. Newcom Tavern served as the Gem City’s first church, jail, general store and Montgomery County’s first courthouse.


  • Victorian Teas at the Patterson Homestead: featuring a three-course tea service served in the family home of John H. Patterson, founder of NCR. $20 members and $25 non-members. Oct. 29, Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10 2-4 p.m.
  • A Carillon Christmas: Carillon Historical Park is turned into a winter wonderland of lights, music, food, and family fun. $8 adults, $7 seniors, $5 children ages 3-17. Nov. 29-Dec. 31 Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve
  • Artisan Day: Third annual Museum Store Artisan Day featuring locally made products, Noon-5 p.m. Dec. 3

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