|The colonial inn's great room|
One of the most interesting things I found out was that during colonial times, an inn was more commonly known as an ordinary. And that wasn’t a term I could handily explain in the context of my story, without serious author intrusion, so I avoided using it. (I was already 1k over the allotted word count when I finished the first draft.)
First, I had to sort out the difference between a tavern and an inn. Both were considered general gathering-places of the day, where men of a community could meet not only for refreshment but to share local news and gossip, conduct business, and hold formal meetings. A tavern might serve meals, but only an inn or ordinary also provided for travelers to stay overnight.
|Hartwell Tavern, Massachusetts|
Larger taverns provided rooms for travelers, especially in county seats that housed the county court. Upscale taverns had a lounge with a huge fireplace, a bar at one side, plenty of benches and chairs, and several dining tables. The best houses had a separate parlor for ladies, an affable landlord, good cooking, soft, roomy beds, fires in all rooms in cold weather, and warming pans used on the beds at night. In the backwoods, the taverns were wretched hovels, dirty with vermin for company; even so they were more pleasant and safer for the stranger than camping by the roadside. Even on main highways such as the Boston Post Road, travelers routinely reported the taverns had bad food, hard beds, scanty blankets, inadequate heat, and poor service.
While my fictional Brewster’s Inn might not be the most upscale establishment, nestled in the lower Shenandoah Valley along the Great Wagon Road in colonial Staunton, Virginia, you can bet that Sally and her parents take pride in keeping the place clean and serving very good food!
Some notable taverns and inns:
|The Smithfield Inn, Smithfield, VA (Wikipedia)|
McCrady's Tavern and Long Room in Charleston, South Carolina. Purchased in 1778 and opened as a tavern, expanded upon over the next decade, and a hub of social activity including plays and banquets for Charleston residents. Washington was entertained at a banquet at McCrady’s during his visit to the city in 1791.
Cobb's Tavern in Sharon, Massachusetts—built in 1740’s, now a private residence.
The Indian King Tavern. Site of a New Jersey General Assembly meeting that ratified the Declaration of Independence in 1777, rumored to be frequented by Dolly Madison and a site on the Underground Railroad.