Georgetown tradition since 1933 | Sunday Observer

Georgetown tradition since 1933

Georgetown, home to many popular designer shops, art galleries, restaurants and of course, the techie’s paradise - Apple Store, is one of the loveliest parts of Washington. Strolling down its bustling streets is a great experience as this part of the city has many historical buildings.

During a recent visit of a group of journalists from around the world on the sidelines of a State Department-sponsored tour, some members of the group discovered that Georgetown is a lot more than just a shopping city. For most in our group, the biggest attraction in the city was the Apple Store. But, for those who loved a stroll, the city gave a variety of choices for food and drinks. Those who were adventurous with food ended up in a little pub in the corner where the city’s Wisconsin Avenue meets N Street. That is Martin’s Tavern.

The pub was packed with tourists. The waiter took us to a wooden table in a corner, which is known as Booth 3. We had no idea of its significance until we ordered food and suddenly noticed the badge on the wall which read - ‘The Proposal Booth - where JFK proposed to Jackie’. That is not the only reason why this pub is quite popular. It’s a Georgetown tradition since 1933, and serves classic American cuisine enjoyed by every President from Harry Truman to George W. Bush. What a discovery!

We immediately did a Google search to find out more details about this pub. Apparently, Booth number 3 of Martin’s Tavern is known as the Proposal Booth, because that was where America’s 35th President, John F Kennedy often sat with his lovely partner, Jacqueline Bouvier for food and drinks. According to Tavern information, “JFK lived a couple of blocks away from Martin’s before he married. The Kennedy family went to Holy Trinity Church on N Street. After Mass, JFK would breakfast and read the Sunday paper at Martin’s Booth 1. While dating, Jack and Jackie frequently dined in Booth 3. On Wednesday, June 24, of 1953, Jackie returned from covering the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth for Washington Times Heralds, and when she met JFK at Martin’s, he proposed to her.”

Meanwhile, Kennedy’s biographers have offered at least two different versions to the story, placing Jackie in Paris or Boston, but the present owners say, the former owner who was present on the occasion had heard Kennedy asking her. According to Marion Smoak (Deputy Acting and Chief Protocol for the President and the Secretary of State, 1969-1974), who was there that evening, “After the Senator proposed, and she accepted, the news ran through the restaurant. That night we didn’t know his future and what it would bring. In hindsight it was great fun to witness a part of history.”

Tourism branding

So today, this significant incident is an effective tourism branding point for Martin’s. Many other couples, who knew about these historical facts, would have chosen the proposal booth to propose to their partners, down the line. For many other tourists visiting Washington or Georgetown, it is a ‘must visit’ place. Some of the tourists told us that they booked a table prior to coming there as sometimes it is difficult to walk-in and secure a booth at Martin’s. The natives also reserve seats at Martin’s when they host foreign guests.

According to Martin’s Tavern web, “The Martin’s has had the honour of serving every US President from Harry S. Truman (Booth 6) to George W. Bush (Table 12), all before they became Presidents - when they were congressmen, senators and governors. George H.W. Bush used to frequent the place in the 1970s when he was CIA Director. On page 73 of Bill Clinton’s book, My Life, he writes of going to Martin’s as a Georgetown University student.

John F. Kennedy proposed to Miss Jacqueline Lee Bouvier on Wednesday, June 24, 1953.

Food selection

Having discovered the JFK story, we were so excited to sit in the booth where JFK proposed to Jackie. Although it is a place with several plus points from a marketing point of view, we found their prices to be very reasonable – ranging from US $ 8 to US $ 25. The food on the menu is a wide selection while the portions are quite big.

(Text and pix: Chandani Jayatilleke)