La Carafe: Houston’s Oldest Bar inside Its Oldest Building
La Carafe is listed on the National Register for Historic Places and is believed to be the oldest bar in all of Houston. The eatery is nestled right in the oldest commercial building still in use in Houston, so it’s not hard to imagine that it also holds the title of the oldest watering hole. It was initially built by real estate developer Nathaniel Kellum in 1847 and has remained a public venue since its inception.
These days, regulars say that they’ve felt a woman dressed in a gauzy white try to push them down the stairs, have heard the voices of ghostly children playing on the second floor, and have even heard the ghost of a bartender named Carl make his presence known with a disembodied voice yelling, ‘last call!’
Who or what is sending chills down the spines of locals and staff members? Keep reading to unveil the spirits of the haunted La Carafe.
If you’d like to experience Houston’s hauntings for yourself, book a thrilling ghost tour with Houston Ghosts!
History of La Carafe
The building in which La Carafe is located is the oldest in Houston, dating back to 1860. It’s had many faces, including a bakery and a drugstore. La Carafe itself opened in the spot just 50 years ago. Nestled in downtown Market Square, the bar surely has an undeniable Old World charm. It feels like something straight out of Louisiana’s French Quarter and reminds visitors that Houston hasn’t been lost to monotonous cookie-cutter-esque architecture.
Inside, the bar bears a similar story — one wall is covered with black and white photographs detailing the history of the building and the goings-on inside. Patrons feel the weight of a hundred years of history as they sit at the dark wooden bar, looking back on its past and present inhabitants.
Figures such as Sam Houston are said to have enjoyed a drink at La Carafe, and many visitors and staff alike are convinced that their energies haven’t left yet.
A Bit About Sam
As his name suggests, Sam Houston was responsible for settling the city of Houston, Texas. Born in Virginia, Sam was a lawyer, soldier, and politician who gained fame as a leader of the Texas Revolution. After he commanded Texan troops to their victory over Mexican forces during the Battle of San Jacinto, he became the very first president of the Lone Star Republic and one of the first of two U.S. senators to represent Texas after it joined the Union in 1845.
His early life was humble. Born on March 2nd, 1793, he moved to Tennessee with his mother and eight siblings after his father died when he was only thirteen. He ran away from his childhood home in 1809 and spent nearly three years living among a Cherokee tribe in eastern Tennessee. He was adopted by a clan led by Chief Oolooteka and learned to speak the Cherokee language and many of their customs. They gave him the name ‘Colonneh’ or ‘the Raven.’
Later in life, he joined the U.S. Army to fight against Britain in the War of 1812. While serving under Andrew Jackson in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, he suffered not just one but three nearly fatal wounds and carried fragments of the musket ball that lodged in his right shoulder until he died.
Impressed with Houston’s bravery, Andrew Jackson became somewhat of a father figure and mentored Houston, helping him launch his law career. After serving as attorney general in Nashville, Houston won the U.S. House of Representatives election and headed over to Washington, D.C., in 1823.
He won a second congressional term in 1825 and, two years later, became the governor of Tennessee at the age of 34.
Houston's Arrival in The Lone Star State
In 1832, Houston arrived in Texas and settled in Nacogdoches, where he was baptized into the Catholic Church, a requirement under Mexican law. He represented Nacogdoches at the Convention of 1833, during which Anglo-Texan settlers decided to petition against the Mexican government to grant Texas independent statehood status.
In 1835, Texan and Mexican forces clashed in the Battle of Gonzales, which began the Texas Revolution. Houston was appointed commander-in-chief of the Texan army and soon helped to negotiate a treaty with the Cherokee tribes living in eastern Texas.
With the news of the fall of the Alamo, Houston ordered his army to retreat eastward, allowing Houston to better prepare his soldiers for battle. On April 21st, the Texans caught Santa Anna’s troops in a surprise attack along the San Jacinto River. This stunning victory led to Santa Anna’s capture and surrender, and the battle for Texan Independence was won!
Houston and the Hauntings of La Carafe
Now that we’ve learned a bit of interesting history on ‘Old San Jacinto,’ as they called him, let’s get back to the bar and settle in for the spookier side of this article — the ghosts!
One of the most reported happenings at La Carafe is the old-fashioned cash register that clicks open and closes by unseen hands, perhaps by the old bartender we mentioned, Carl. Wine glasses are also known to shatter into pieces on their own accord.
Sometimes, the ghosts of La Carafe get a bit picky about the music playing and change the songs in the jukebox. Locals have grown accustomed to these strange occurrences and often joke about the ghosts’ good taste in music.
Other guests are lucky enough to see the apparition of who they believe to be Sam Houston sitting at the bar, sipping a pint. He’s foggy, doesn’t stick around too long, and is known to just up and vanish once noticed.
Have you ever visited La Carafe? What do you think about the ghosts there? Do they have good taste in music, or are we too afraid to tell them we hate the oldies?