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|A Historic Trip down The Boston Post Road to The Wayside Inn|
|Written by Debi Lander|
|Thursday, 01 October 2009 08:39|
Visiting New England? For some Yankee hospitality, check out the historic Wayside Inn.
On a crisp, rainy September afternoon I pulled up to the bucolic Wayside Inn, in Sudbury, Massachusetts. The sign post near the road boasts "food, drink and lodging for man, woman and beast." I hoped I didn't fit into the last category.
As soon as I entered, a warm welcoming aura enveloped me. The scent of smoky wood burning fireplaces mixed with the aroma of fresh baked bread and pies. The candlelight tavern bustled with activity, as it has for almost 300 years. Patrons were sitting at wooden tables enjoying meals and conversation. A bride and her wedding party stood near the entrance. Waiters and waitresses scooted about with food and drink trays.
The old tap room (part of the original building) overflowed with laughter from guests standing at the colonial cage bar. A "cage" bar was standard in 18th-century taverns, used to secure the house whiskey, rum and wine from lodgers unknown to the innkeeper.
Seems the Wayside is the oldest operating tavern in the US on one of the oldest commissioned roads- the Boston Post Road. The mail-delivery route between New York City and Boston evolved into the first major highways in the United States.
The Upper Post Road, originally called the Pequot Path, had been in use by Native Americans long before Europeans arrived. Picture this: some of these trails had been pounded by foot for so many years that they were two feet below the surrounding woodland.
The colonists first used this trail to deliver the mail in 1673. Later, the path was widened and smoothed for horse-drawn wagons or stagecoaches. This route was, without exaggeration, the colonies' (and, later, the country's) Main Street. The road has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is also famous for milestones that date from the eighteenth century, many of which survive to this day.
In 1702, David Howe built a two room homestead along the Boston Post Road in South Sudbury. He expanded and obtained a license to open "Howe's Inn," in 1716. He offered provisions for men, their horses and cattle.
Tradition says Colonel Ezekiel Howe changed the name to "The Red Horse", when he succeeded his father in 1746. Colonel Howe led Sudbury farmers to Concord on April 19, 1775, the famous battle that started the Revolutionary War.
One hundred years later, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was inspired by visits to the tavern and published "The Tales of a Wayside Inn" in 1863. The Red Horse then became known as "Longfellow's Wayside Inn," as it remains today.
In 1923, auto maker Henry Ford bought the Inn with the intention of creating a living museum of Americana. He added buildings to the property including the one-room Redstone School, a fully functioning Grist Mill, and the Martha-Mary Chapel. In 1944, Henry and Clara Ford formed a non-profit trust to continue preservation.
A Board of Trustees made up of Ford family members and their associates governed from 1944 to 1957; then they transitioned control of the Inn to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
If You Go
Sudbury is close to Lexington and Concord, suburbs of Boston. The multiple-roomed restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serves traditional Yankee fare like Clam Chowder and pot roast.
Make lodging reservations early as the Inn houses just ten guest rooms, all individually decorated with country antiques. Breakfast is included in the price of a room and there's discreet wireless Internet access with single occupancy running from $104 to $125; double occupancy will run $125 to 175.