The Daily Times and Chronicle, Tuesday, March 25, 1980
Burlington Past and Present, by John E. Fogelberg
(Article # 040)
There was a tavern in the town
A tavern today is an establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold to be consumed on the premises. A glorified restaurant. A barroom. But the old-time taverns, of which Burlington had at least six at one time, were much more than that. They were very interesting places even in the very early days, when they were called “ordinaries.”
As early as 1656, the Great and General Court decreed that every town should support some kind of a public house. They provided a gathering place near the church where one could get warm in winter or a cold drink in summer. They provided comfort newcomers and convenience for travelers. And they made it easier to regulate the sale of intoxicating liquors. A tavern was a place where news was heard, letters picked up, information given and politics debated.
Although both clergy and selectmen disapproved of excessive drinking, the amount of liquor consumed in the tavern on some occasions was amazing. The year before the Burlington church was organized, the Woburn church, to which all belonged then, celebrated the ordination of Mr. Edward Jackson. A Mr. Poole, Esq. furnished the refreshments for that occasion, which cost the town better than 83 pounds, a very considerable sum. Poole furnished 433 dinners, 178 suppers and breakfasts, fodder for 32 horses for four days, six and one- half barrels of cider, 25 gallons of wine, two gallons of brandy, four gallons of rum and the necessary sugar and lime juice. That was in 1729.
- One of the older taverns in Burlington, about which very little is known, was the Nichols Tavern. It stood on Great Meadow Road about where the turnpike crosses it now. In 1775, the turnpike wasn’t there and the tavern stood on what was then the road to Concord.
- Next to it, close to where the radio towers are now, was the Deacon Samuel Reed house, in which the library of Harvard College was hidden during the siege of Boston. Harvard’s library at that time was not too extensive, consisting only of several cases of books and a box of instruments.
- A mile or so south of the Nichols Tavern, at the corner of what is now Adams Street and the Middlesex Turnpike, stood the Richardson Tavern. The older part of it may have been there prior to 1800 and run by an Amos Hill. By 1830, it belonged to Franklin Richardson. It was a stage stop on the route from Boston to Nashua. Fernald Ham bought it in 1870 and turned it into a very productive farm instead. But the old tavern had a spiritual rebirth when it became the property of Jacob Bernstein and enjoyed a notorious few years during Prohibition days as the Red Dog Inn. Later when the town went “wet,” it became a night club and did a rather hectic business, a business of which many old-time town residents did not approve. In January 1938, on one of the coldest nights of the winter, the ell of the old tavern caught fire and when pumps pulling water from the pond 2,500 feet away froze solid, the entire building was destroyed.
- In the very center of town stood the Wood Tavern. Built shortly before the Revolution by Capt. John Wood, it stood where the fire station is today. In the second floor social hall, the incorporation of the town was celebrated by a large gathering of townspeople in March 1799. Wood’s Tavern was also the headquarters for military meetings. Musters were held there periodically. Colonel William Winn called such a muster for August 1823, and ordered that “the officers, non-commissioned officers and musicians belonging to the Regiment assemble for drilling, according to law, with dark colored coats and white undercloths, the musicians with their respective uniforms.” Nothing is said about the rank and file. Presumably they were included. The place ceased to function as a tavern about 1830.
- The noted Marion Tavern still stands in all its quiet dignity with its imposing complex of house, ell and barn over looking the common; its very solidity giving permanence to a landscape all too rapidly changing. The older part of the building is pre-Revolution and the newer section was built by Abner Marion about 1834 to care for the stage coach stop here in town, taking the business once going to the Wood Tavern. The Amherst Mail Stage, which left Boston every Wednesday and Saturday and returned every Monday and Thursday, passed through Medford, Woburn, Burlington, Billerica, Chelmsford and Dunstable. It was a lucrative business until about 1850, the last year Abner was assessed for “stage stock.” Charles McIntire bought the tavern in 1870 and christened it “Grand View Farm.” At the turn of the century, it was well-known and prosperous. The Marion Tavern has been fortunate in that the people who have owned the property have loved it and have kept it in repair over a period of 150 years.
- North of the center of town on Chestnut Avenue stood the Chubb Tavern. Not much is known about it. Mrs. Dunham says it was built by a Jeremiah Fuller, who sold it to the Chubb family. There is a connection with the Reed family as well, for Thomas Chubb married Abigail Reed in 1810. Chubb imported several shade trees from England to enhance his tavern. They grew to enormous size and were still standing long after Zynsky built his brick houses there in the 1940s. In 1860, the property passed to a Franklin Foster and was assessed to the heirs of Charles G. Foster in 1900. The house slowly deteriorated and then disappeared, but the barn stood until 1932.
- Last, but not least, of Burlington’s taverns is the house in which Jerome Lynch lives today on the corner of Winn and Wyman streets. Built in 1734, it became a tavern when Lt. Joseph Winn returned from the campaigns of the Revolution and opened his home to travelers. His home had been used at the time of the battle of Bunker Hill as a storage place for the valuables of Boston and Charlestown families. There was no Winn Street at that time, but Wyman Street was the well-travelled road to Billerica and points north. Wanting a fine tavern sign to hang outside his establishment, Lt. Joe used the Winn Coat of Arms as a model: three spread eagles on a shield. But the artist did such a horrible job of painting the birds involved that the tavern became known derisively as the Three Broiled Chickens. In more agreeable parlance, it was referred to as the Hen and Chickens Tavern. The ell of the house, which has long since disappeared, would have extended into Winn Street. It housed the carriage sheds with a long dance hall above. The big barn is also gone, as are the stately ash trees that once flanked the front entrance. Hearsay has it that Washington once slept here. Could be. After all, George hung around Boston and vicinity for quite a while.