Edgar Allan Poe and Jack Kerouac may have been patrons at this historic tavern, the first such establishment in Lowell, Massachusetts, but the real draw of Worthen House Café is its pulley-driven fan system. Firetruck-red and gleaming against the cafe’s original pressed-tin ceiling, the fan system is one of the last remaining such contraptions in the United States. A complex network of belts and pulleys work in symphony to move the two decorative paddles of the fan, which was originally propelled by steam and now runs on electric. Ask nicely, and the bartender will turn it on.
Built in 1834 the Worthen House once served as a dried goods store and was converted to a hotel and tavern in 1889. It remained staunchly anti-establishment during the Prohibition years, hiding alcohol in false wall panels behind the mahogany bar, still preserved today. Legend goes that Poe was lodging in the upstairs quarters of the tavern while working on parts of “The Raven.” There are whispers of a ghost haunting the upper floors, whom the bar staff, welcoming of all spirits irrespective of alcohol content, have lovingly named “Matthew.” Despite this rich history, one that has earned Worthen House a spot in the National Register of Historic Places, the café is just as much a beloved local hangout as it is a popular stop for visiting history buffs.
The cafe serves typical bar foods such as burgers and sandwiches and there’s an impressive list of martinis that sound like dessert (Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Key Lime Pie, Chocolatini) in addition to cocktails and beer.
Know Before You Go
Worthen House is open 365 days a year, from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, Sunday to Wednesday, and 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. The upstairs rooms can be rented out for private events and musical performances.