Minute Man National Historical Park | HARTWELL TAVERN

Hartwell Tavern in Minute Man National Historical Park

Hartwell Tavern in Minute Man National Historical Park


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The Hartwell Tavern is located at the center of the Battle Road Unit of Minute Man National Historical Park. It is one of eleven houses within the park that existed when the Battles of Lexington and Concord took place on April 19, 1775. The National Park Service calls it a “witness house,” so other than being old and standing on the grounds of the battlefield, there is nothing special about it—no famous people lived here and no historic events took place inside.

The tavern sits right along what is today called Battle Road. In fact, this is an original segment of the road that once ran between Cambridge and Concord (it was called Bay Road or Concord Road, among other names). The tavern can be reached by anyone hiking or biking the Battle Road Trail, and for those coming by vehicle, there is a parking lot on Route 2A. It is a .2-mile walk along a gravel path between the parking lot and the tavern. A modern restroom facility is located at the start of the path near the parking lot, and a small picnic area can be found in a field at the midway point.

Hartwell Tavern Parking (click to enlarge)

Hartwell Tavern Parking (click to enlarge)

The Hartwell Tavern is typically open to the public on select days of the week from Memorial Day weekend through October 31st. Guests are welcome to come inside to see the furnished lower level. None of the furnishings are original to the house, but they are reproductions typical of the time period. Costumed Rangers and park volunteers are inside to answer any questions. The tavern is also the meeting place for the popular The Minute Men: Neighbors in Arms Ranger program, which includes a musket-firing demonstration. To get the current operating hours for Hartwell Tavern, see the National Park Service’s official Visit Hartwell Tavern web page for Minute Man National Historical Park.

Costumed Rangers at Hartwell Tavern in Minute Man National Historical Park

Costumed Rangers at Hartwell Tavern in Minute Man National Historical Park

Bar inside the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Historical Park

Bar inside the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Historical Park

Room in the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Historical Park

Room in the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Historical Park

Bedroom in the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Historical Park

Bedroom in the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Historical Park

Room in the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Historical Park

Room in the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Historical Park

The Hartwell Tavern was the home of Ephraim Hartwell, his wife, and their nine children (three fought at the North Bridge and in the ensuing skirmishes). The house was built between 1732 and 1733 as a wedding present from Ephriam’s father. Because it was situated right along the main road and accessible to many potential customers, the Hartwells decided to open a tavern to supplement their income as farmers. The business operated from 1756 until the 1780s in the main house. The addition on the left side wasn’t added until 1783, and the backside addition was added in 1830.

Main Hartwell House and additions, Minute Man National Historical Park

Main Hartwell House and additions, Minute Man National Historical Park

According to legend, Hartwell Tavern may have played a small part in the events of April 19th. Paul Revere and William Dawes rode out of Boston on the night of April 18th to warn fellow Patriots along the Bay Road that British soldiers were marching to Concord to confiscate a cache of weapons. On the way they met Samuel Prescott, a fellow Patriot who joined them on their ride west (he lived in Concord and was heading that way). About a mile to the east of the tavern, the men ran into a patrol of British soldiers. Revere ended up being captured, and Dawes fell off of and subsequently lost his horse while trying to escape. Only Prescott managed to get away, using his knowledge of the area to continue off-road towards Concord.

One version of the story has Prescott rejoining Bay Road at Hartwell Tavern and rousing Ephraim and his son John. Ephraim, who was too old to fight himself, sent a female slave down the road to Captain William Smith’s house to alert him that the British troops were on their way (Smith was the commander of the Lincoln Minute Men). The woman first stopped at the house next door, the home of Ephraim’s son Samuel, who was a sergeant in the Lincoln Minute Men. While he got ready, his wife Mary ran down the road to wake Captain Smith (Samuel’s house lies in ruins between Hartwell Tavern and the Smith House).

Another account has Prescott arriving at Samuel’s house to begin with, and when his female slave was too terrified to run down the road to Captain Smith’s, Mary took it upon herself to do so. The only problem with this story is that there is no record of Samuel Hartwell owning a slave. Anyway, the stories are different takes on the same event, and both end with the same results.

Rear view of the main Hartwell Tavern in Minute Man National Historical Park

Rear view of the main Hartwell Tavern in Minute Man National Historical Park

There is also a barn on the property, but this is not open to the public and has nothing to do with the American Revolution—it was built in 1939.

Hartwell Tavern barn built in 1939, Minute Man National Historical Park

Hartwell Tavern barn built in 1939, Minute Man National Historical Park

The Hartwell Tavern remained a private residence all the way up until it was purchased by the National Park Service in 1967 for inclusion in Minute Man National Historical Park. It had been modernized over the years, so the main house was restored to its 1775 appearance. The two additions were kept despite their not being part of house’s American Revolution history.

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Last updated on September 4, 2023
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