Anyone passing through Lexington on May 25th and 26th might have noticed some demolition going on at the historic Munroe Tavern. The rear ell, the newest addition to the building, was removed as part of the Lexington Historical Society’s plans to restore the structure. Their plans include building a replacement ell that will house new curatorial, office, and educational space as well as climate control systems to protect the rest of the house.
Before the new ell is built, the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at UMass Boston will conduct archaeological excavations in the ell footprint to look for deposits and outbuildings that were behind the main building. The excavation will take place during July 2010, and the public is invited to visit the site and talk to the archaeologists. We’ll also post updates with our progress here.
Brief Site History
The core of the Munroe Tavern was constructed ca. 1735 with a series of 18th and 19th century alterations and additions that resulted in the building’s current layout. The most recent addition was the building’s rear ell which was added sometime in the 1860s and has been subject to substantial 20th-century alterations. There is a documentary reference to an even older house on the property in a 1697 deed, but the location of this older house is unknown.
As its name suggests, the building was a tavern and inn, at first intermittently, then steadily. It was also a residence, farm, store, and site of a Masonic Hall (added in 1798). The Munroe family, whose name the structure now bears, ran the tavern from at least 1769 and purchased it in 1770. During the Battle of Lexington and Concord in April of 1775, the site was briefly occupied by the English troops who used it as a field hospital. The tavern closed in the 1850s, and the Masonic Hall was torn down at the same time. The building became a private residence until it was acquired by the Lexington Historical Society in 1911.
As a shop, inn, tavern, hall, and house museum, the site has had a long history of public use. By excavating under the ell, which was added when the building was converted from a public tavern to a private residence, we hope to find evidence of the tavern period and Lexington community life in the early 19th century and before.
For more information on the Lexington Historical Society and the Munroe Tavern, visit the LHS’s website.
For more information about the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston, visit our website at www.fiskecenter.umb.edu