The Historic Hartwell Tavern


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 (age 33) and John (age 28) were both sergeants, and Isaac (23) was a private. All three went on to later military service in the RevolutionaryWar. --Massachusetts Soldiers & Sailors of the Revolutionary War, Boston, 1900, pp.393-396.

(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 (68 years old at the time) and told him about the British regulars on the march. Ephraim sent his black slave Violet down the road to awaken Capt. William Smith, Capt. of the Lincoln Minute Men. Violet made it to Mary and Sam Hartwell's house, and Mary took over and relayed the message to Smith's house. Thus the Lincoln MM were warned in time, and arrived at the NorthBridge before the British soldiers got there.

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 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.

Modern exterior clapboarding was removed and replaced with clapboarding made the same way that 18th c. clapboarding was made.

Many of the windows have original 18th c. glass that was salvaged from other old houses being demolished, and pieced into reproduction window frames. The nails were handwrought by modern blacksmiths using old techniques, as were the iron latches, hinges, etc. made by the blacksmith at Saugus Ironworks NHS.

New plastering was put in wherever remnants of 18th century plastering was found (every room except the tavern room).

Woodwork was painted with the same color paint that was found underneath the modern paint and wallpaper.

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

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Hobbits ala Peter Jackson

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.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

North Bridge Visitor Center / Park Head Quarters
174 Liberty St.

Concord, MA 01742


(978) 369-6993
Main number. North Bridge Visitor Center Front Desk, located in Concord, MA. 978-318-7810 Minute Man Visitor Center Main Number, located in Lexington, MA 781-674-1920

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