In 1716, 300 years ago, an Innkeeping tradition began in Sudbury, Massachusetts that is now recognized as Longfellow’s Wayside Inn. David How’s four room house was granted a license as a “House of Entertainment” known as How’s Tavern. He hosted travelers of the Post Road, a busy thoroughfare linking Boston to points west. His mission was simple, to provide food and lodging for “man and beast”. The Tavern accommodated travelers with hospitality and continued serving guests as it grew for 145 years. Four generations of Howe’s would oversee the family tavern business until 1861.
In 1862, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow visited How’s Tavern perhaps also referred to as the Red Horse Tavern. The natural beauty of the building, its placement on the landscape as well as the stories of many guests, inspired Longfellow to create a new work of poetry which he titled Tales of a Wayside Inn. His book was published in 1863, and as news spread of the inspirational setting for the book, many were curious to visit. Wool merchant Edward Lemon capitalized on this renewed interest and bought the Inn from Howe descendants in 1897. He renamed it, and once again offered food and lodging to travelers of the Post Road.
In 1923, industrialist Henry Ford purchased the Wayside Inn and its acreage, becoming the last private owner of this colonial landmark. After adding many acres to the property, a Chapel, a Gristmill, as well as many other buildings, the Ford family dissolved their interest in 1945 when they created a non-profit trust to oversee the operation of this historic site. It now operates as a non-profit 501(c) (3) with no endowment or support from the town, state, or federal governments.
Although the Inn has thrived for 300 years, the care and maintenance of this site continues to be tested with today’s fiscal challenges. Historic preservation is expensive, and The Inn’s food and lodging operations, while doing well, cannot alone provide all the funding necessary to maintain these historic buildings and lands. Volunteer hours and generous donations make it possible. If interested in helping, please visit our website to donate, www.wayside.org. You can also sign up for our emails or join us on Facebook.
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to Longfellow’s Wayside Inn during this celebratory year, our 300th year of hospitality. Feel free to visit us anytime… our museum rooms, our gift shop, or just wander the grounds and enjoy the property and its history as so many others have. Our goal is to provide hospitality for another 300 years.
Most Respectfully Yours,
Steve Pickford, Innkeeper