Hartwell Tavern

Militia paraded in front of Hartwell Tavern

Hartwell Tavern is a restored 18th century home and tavern. It sits on a beautifully restored section of the actual "Battle Road." It was here at the time of the battle on April 19, 1775 and is what we call a witness house. It is staffed Memorial Day weekend through October by Park Rangers dressed in colonial attire who offer programs daily.

How old is this building? Is any of it original?
It was built 1732-1733. When Ephraim and Elizabeth Hartwell got married, Ephraim's father Samuel gave them a new house surrounded by 18 acres of land, as well as 12 other acres (30 acres total). The couple quickly began raising a family. In 1756, when the Hartwells had 9 children living in the house, Ephraim applied for and received a license to open part of their home as an inn. He and his family continued to do so until the 1780's.

The house continued to be a residence until it was purchased in 1967 by the National Park Service. Over the years, it was modernized and changed.

In the 1980's, the Park Service restored it to its 1775 appearance, however keeping its 1783 and 1830 additions. The main structure, the foundation, and most of the walls, and some of the flooring are original.

In all, about 60 - 70 % of the "original" structure remains within the restored house.

What connection does this tavern have with April 19, 1775?
(1) The tavern was on the main road, the "Bay Road," running from Boston through western Massachusetts out to Crown Point, N.Y. This was the road that the British troops used on April 19. The soldiers passed by the tavern on their way to Concord, and again on their way back to Boston. There are no records or stories about soldiers entering the tavern for any reason.

(2) Three of Ephraim and Elizabeth Hartwell's sons were in the Lincoln Minute Man Company (Capt. William Smith's Co.) that fought at the NorthBridge and on the battleroad on April 19: Samuel and John were both sergeants, and Isaac was a private. All three went on to later military service in the RevolutionaryWar.

(3) The other connections with April 19th are based on stories told by Mary Hartwell. These Hartwell legends vary in detail, having been remembered many years after 1775. One legend goes like this:

On the night of April 18th, an advance guard of British soldiers captured Paul Revere and William Dawes just down the road from the tavern. Dr. Samuel Prescott of Concord, who was riding with them, escaped by leaping his horse over a stone wall and fleeing through pasture and swamp. He emerged at the Hartwell Tavern. Prescott awakened old Ephraim and told him that the British regulars on the march. Ephraim sent his black slave Violet down the road to awaken Samuel Hartwell next door. Mary then took over and relayed the message to Captain William Smith, commanding officer of the Lincoln Minute Men. Thus the Lincoln Minute Men were warned in time, and arrived at the NorthBridge before the British soldiers got there.

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Why is the kitchen ceiling so low? Were people much shorter back then?
No, there was a great variation in height back then, as today. George Washington was 6'3." The average height in the 18th c. was about 1" shorter than today's average. Just like today, tall people got used to bending when they went from the higher-ceiling rooms like the tavern room into a back kitchen lean-to area.

Notice the kitchen is on the north side of the house, the side that gets the cold winds in winter. Low ceilings keep in the heat. Also, to minimize the wall exposure on the north side, many New England houses were built in a "Saltbox" style-- the long slanted roof sometimes even going all the way to the ground to protect the house from the cold north wind. Because of the low slant, the loft above the kitchen would have no headspace at all if the kitchen ceiling were any higher. The southern exposure (the front of the house) has the most windows, to maximize solar heat. Modern home-builders could learn much from these 18th c. houses about energy conservation.

Colonial saltbox house design
The Colonial "saltbox" style.

Last updated: October 31, 2017

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