Taverns, Inns and Public Houses

Several officers and members of the Jamaica Plain Historical Society attended a one-day conference on New England taverns held September 23, 2001 in Weston, Massachusetts. The event, “New England Taverns: A Symposium on Tavern Culture from Colonial Days to the Early Republic,” was held at the Community League Barn of the Josiah Smith Tavern (358 Boston Post Road).

The talks covered a variety of topics, including the social life of rural New England taverns, how taverns affected public life, tavern fare in the 18th century, songs from colonial taverns, and how the first hotels came to be established in the late 1700s. David Conroy, author of In Public Houses: Drink and the Revolution of Authority in Colonial Massachusetts, described how “public houses,” or taverns, were used to conduct government, community and personal business: news was read aloud, small libraries were maintained, people posted signs to offer items for sale, meetings were held.

Jack Larkin, author of The Reshaping of Everyday Life: 1790-1840, and director of research, collections and library at Old Sturbridge Village, spoke on the foods of the early tavern period, when it was commonly believed that heated beverages were healthier than cold ones. A loggerhead, or heated poker, would be thrust into a drink in order to make it hot.

The conference was followed by tours of The Golden Ball Tavern Museum, an above ground “archaeological” site and historic house museum showing architectural, decorative and social change occurring over the 200 years of the Jones family residence. The Golden Ball is located at 662 Boston Post Road.