Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tales of a Wayside Inn

The Wayside Inn
72 Wayside Inn Rd.
Sudbury, Ma. 01776

The Wayside Inn and Tavern has been in existence since 1716 when David Howe first opened his home to travelers. Located on the old Boston Post Road the Inn was ideally located for farmers bringing their livestock and produce to market and to travelers from Connecticut, New York and other points south.

In the period just before the American Revolution the proprietor of the Inn was Ezekiel Howe, a Lt. Colonel in the Sudbury militia. The Howe Tavern, as it was known then, was a popular gathering spot for the local militia as talk of insurrection spread throughout Massachusetts. On the morning of 19 April 1775, in response to a call out to arms, Col. Howe led the Sudbury militia to Concord Bridge to fight the British Regulars. The present-day Sudbury Militia recreates this in a pre-dawn march through Sudbury and Wayland every year on April 19. The recreated Sudbury
Militia holds its meeting at the Wayside Inn and the metal tankards of its retired Colonels can be found hung from the rafters in the Inn's taproom.

George Washington passed by the old Inn in June of 1775 as he made his way to Cambridge to accept command of the new Continental Army. A slate marker just in front of the Wayside Inn commemorates this event.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the Cambridge poet and professor at Harvard College, wrote a series of poems set in the Inn. The poems, called "Tales of a Wayside Inn", consisted of a series of stories spun by fictional characters at a Sudbury Inn where "The Red Horse prances on the sign." The Inn formerly know as Howe's Tavern became the Wayside Inn in recognition of Longfellow's poem.

With the advent of the stage coach as a regular means of travel the Inn again became an important way-station between Worcester and Boston. But in the early 1900's as the automobile became more and more popular, an historic Inn like the Wayside was easily bypassed by travelers who were able to make much better time on the road with the new "horseless carriages".

Ironically it was Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, who gave the Inn new life when he acquired the property. Fords plans to create a "living history" community never came to fruition but he established the charter under which the Inn operates today. He also was responsible for moving the old school house and the chapel onto the property and had the grist mill built. The mill still is in operation today and has a miller on site.

The British Union flag flying at the entrance is part of another old tradition at the Wayside. The British flag is flown daily until the 19th of April of every year when a new revolutionary (American) flag is flown.

Visitors to the Wayside Inn on "Patriot's Day" have been known to meet up with "William Dawes" (actually a re-enactor) who stopped in for a pint after his exertions of alerting the citizens throughout the countryside to the fact that the "Regulars were out".

The Wayside Inn is located just off Boston Post Road (Rt. 20) in Sudbury on its own private road. The Inn is still operated as a non-profit enterprise with an educational purpose. The Inn welcomes overnight guests as well as those who enjoy the Wayside's restaurant, which serves excellent New England style fare, its gift shop, the tap room and its historic ambiance.

1 comment:

FRANCIS D 3 said...

As a former student and eventually teacher of architectural history in New England, I found the "Inn" to be a gem of past history, literature and a wonderful reminder of our history. Places such as this are integral to our understanding and appreciation of our history, our culture, and the importance of the vernacular of our heritage.