It’s spring break week and I’m slowly making my way down to “New Sweden” but as I write this I’m stuck in a snowstorm at my brother’s house in New York! I should be able to get out tomorrow and want to spend three or four days looking at old houses in Delaware, south Jersey, and Pennsylvania. This was supposed to be a Revolutionary tavern tour, but I think it’s going to be a bit more general: we’ll see! But because it was supposed to be a tavern tour, I did visit a tavern back in Massachusetts on Sunday: a sunny day which seems like it was weeks away rather than days away. I’ve driven by the Golden Ball Tavern Museum on the old Boston Post Road in Weston for years but never ventured inside before, and decided to take advanage of its monthly second Sunday open houses to take a tour. It was very interesting: a spacious eighteenth-century building left quite deliberately in a lived-in, layered condition. Weston is a very wealthy town, and I expected the house to be in mint restored condition but that is not the approach here: the ceilings were sloping in places, patchy plaster was everywhere, and I read a cautionary note on the central stairway: “original avocado paint—do not paint.” This house museum is an independent, self-sustaining operation which is staffed by enthusiastic docents who appeared to be discovering the house right alongside its visitors: it all felt very personal, like we were all just dropping in, or into a house built by tavern-keeper Isaac Jones in 1768 which sheltered six successive generations of his family. In the heated environment of the early 1770s, Jones gave shelter and sustenance (in the form of tea!) to British soldiers, prompting his neighbors to attack the tavern on March 28, 1774 in what later became known as the “Weston Tea Party.” He later came around to the right side, but the interpretive identity of the Tavern as museum seems to be focused on family history and Loyalist history. And layers, literally. If you’re into material textures, this tavern is the place for you: the historic paint, paper, and hardware was on full revelatory display.
The first floor of the Golden Ball Tavern: proceeding from the rear old kitchen, with many layers exposed, towards the tavern room in the front. LOVED this little Sheraton settee! Original paint and plaster in the central hallway and the right-side parlor and bedroom have been refinished.
Upstairs there are bedrooms, of course, but also a room which was used for more public purposes: and consequently it has one of the most interesting and practical architectural details I have ever seen. Doors that open up to the ceiling and are affixed to hooks! Hooks which are still there! And right across from this room is that in which poor Mrs. Jones was lying in bed with her newborn infant when her neighbors broke in in search of her Tory husband (these little notes are everwhere in the tavern, another aspect of its very personal presentation). I really loved all the colors and textures in this room, including the adjacent “office” and stairways upstairs and downstairs. So many details in this one space, just a corner of this one house.
Details, details, details! The door on the ceiling, hooks, paint, stairs, and a colonial filing system.