The precise date for the construction of Brigham’s Tavern, at 12 Boston Turnpike in Coventry, is uncertain, but what is certain is that George Washington stopped here for breakfast on November 9, 1789. The full entry from Washington’s Diary for that day reads as follows:
Set out about 7 o’clock, and for the first 24 miles had hilly, rocky, and disagreeable roads; the remaining 10 was level and good, but in places sandy. Arrived at Hartford a little before four. We passed through Mansfield, (which is a very hilly country, and the township in which they make the greatest qty. of silk of any in the State,) and breakfasted at one Brigham’s, in Coventry. Stopped at Woodbridge’s in Et. Hartford [now in Manchester], where the level land is entered upon, and from whence, through East Hartford, the country is pleasant, and the land in places very good; in others sandy and weak. I find by conversing with the farmers along this road, that a medium crop of wheat to the acre is about 15 bushels—of corn, 20—of oats, the same —and in their strong and fresh lands they get as much wheat as they can rye to the acre—but in warm or sandy land the latter yields most. They go more, however, upon grazing than either; and consequently beef, butter and cheese, with pork, are the articles which they carry to market.
The tavern served travelers from 1778 into the nineteenth century. Uriah Brigham, son of Elnathan Brigham, had acquired the property in 1753 from Mathias Marsh. He occupied what is now the rear section of the building, which may date to c. 1717. His son Gershom Brigham was the first tavern-keeper, constructing the tavern sometime before it was first licenced in 1778. The west section was also built around that time or a little later. The sections of the building have been much altered over the years.
The saltbox house at 566 Boston Post Road in Madison was long thought to have been built by John Dudley in 1675, making it the oldest house in town. The nomination for the Madison Green Historic District instead attributes it to Gilbert Dudley with a date of c. 1740. A plaque by the Madison Historical Society gives a date of c. 1720. On April 11, 1776, while on his way from Cambridge to New York, George Washington stopped to dine at the house, which was then a tavern run by Captain Gilbert Dudley.
Left Hartford about 7 o’clock, and took the middle road (instead of the one through Middletown, which I went).— Breakfasted at Worthington, in the township of Berlin, at the house of one Fuller.
The tavern that Washington writes about still stands today at 1055 Worthington Ridge in Berlin. It was built circa 1769 and has later nineteenth century alterations. Ephraim Fuller, listed in the 1790 census, was probably the Fuller who ran the tavern. Additional details about the tavern are recorded in Catharine M. North‘s History of Berlin (1916):
Some years since, when the house was repainted, the date 1769 was discovered on the brick work of the chimney, about half-way between the roof and the top of the chimney. It was built to be used as a tavern with a public hall and ballroom on the second floor. […] Amos Kirby assumed the proprietorship of Fuller’s tavern about the year 1814, and lived on the place until his death in 1846 at the age of seventy-one. During the latter part of his years he carried on the business of a butcher and peddled meat about the town.
Around 1884, when wallpaper was being removed from the Tavern’s east room on the second floor, a mural displaying Masonic symbols was uncovered. The room had once been part of the ballroom, which once ran across the entire house from east to west and was later converted into a Masonic Lodge room. It is thought to have been the meeting place of Berlin Lodge, No. 20, organized in 1791, which later became Harmony Lodge No. 20 of New Britain and merged with Friendship Lodge No. 33 of Southington in 1995.
The oldest house in Southington is the Jonathan Root House at 140-142 N Main Street. It was built in 1720 and Jonathan Root later kept a tavern in the house. When Southington became a town in 1779, Root was chosen as one of the First Selectmen. He was also a member of the Committee of Correspondence during the Revolutionary War. According to local tradition, George Washington stopped at the tavern in 1780. Extensive additions were later made to the house and the rear roof slope was raised in 1942, but these changes have now all been removed. The house, which today is used as lawyers’ offices, no longer has its original central chimney.
Sun Tavern, on the Fairfield Green, was built about 1780, replacing an earlier Sun Tavern, burnt during the British raid of 1779. The Tavern was operated by Samuel Penfield, who acquired the property in 1761. George Washington stayed at the Tavern the night of October 16, 1789, during a presidential tour of New England. The building, which had an early ballroom on the third floor, remained a tavern until Penfield’s death in 1811, after which it passed through several owners as a private home. It was purchased by Robert Manuel Smith in 1885 and remained in the Smith family until 1977. The following year, it was acquired by the Town of Fairfield and was used as the Town Historian’s residence into the early 1990s. Still owned by the town, Sun Tavern has been recently restored and is now managed as a historic site by the Fairfield Museum and History Center.
The Shaw-Perkins Mansion, on Blinman Street in New London, was built, beginning in 1756 for the wealthy merchant and shipowner, Capt. Nathaniel Shaw. The house, completed in 1758, was constructed by French Canadian builders, who used granite from the ledge behind the property. Nathaniel Shaw, Jr. inherited the house. He served as Naval Agent for Connecticut and the Mansion was a naval War office during the Revolutionary War. Nathan Hale was a visitor to the Mansion around 1775 and George Washington likely spent the night there in 1776. The house survived Benedict Arnold’s 1781 burning of New London, with only the kitchen being damaged. Shaw’s wife, Lucretia, died in 1781, after becoming ill from nursing prisoners and Shaw himself died the following year from a hunting accident. The house then passed to his brother, Thomas Shaw, and then to his sister, Lucretia Shaw Woodbridge and her husband, Judge Elias Perkins. The house was extensively remodeled by Dr. Nathaniel Shaw Perkins in 1845. His daughter, Jane Richards Perkins (1844-1930), sold the house and its contents to the New London County Historical Society in 1907, on condition she could reside there until her death. The house was restored and is open to the public as a museum.
Across from the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, on South Green, is a house built around 1700 by Amos Tinker. In 1753, it was purchased by John McCurdy, a Scotch-Irish ship merchant who was a patriot during the Revolutionary War. George Washington spent a night in the house in April, 1776, when he was on his way from Boston to New York. In July, 1778, Lafayette was also a guest at the McCurdy home. John McCurdy was the grandfather of Judge Charles Johnson McCurdy, who lived in the home in his later years.