In 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published a collection of poems that included a description of a historic tavern “built in the old Colonial day, when men lived in a grander way.” The collection, titled Tales of a Wayside Inn, is named for a real place located along Old Boston Post Road in a scenic and picturesque area of Sudbury, Massachusetts. The Wayside Inn is a true jewel that encapsulates the aura, history, and legacy of colonial North America.
Originally built as a family home in 1686, it opened as Howe’s Tavern in 1716. Throughout its 300-year history, the inn has hosted many notable visitors, including George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, publisher Isiah Thomas, abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, writer Henry David Thoreau, and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
In 1923, the inn was purchased by Henry Ford, who had a replica grist mill and a non-denominational chapel constructed nearby. Ford also had a one-room schoolhouse relocated from Sterling, Massachusetts, onto the property. He believed the titular Mary from Sarah Josepha Hale’s poem Mary Had a Little Lamb once attended the schoolhouse.
Visiting the Wayside Inn is almost like stepping back in time. The atmosphere is pastoral, rustic, and extremely welcoming. The interior is remarkably well preserved and despite having modern amenities it captures the look and feel of 18th and 19th-century American architecture and design perfectly. The rooms and hallways are elegant, decorated with many historic documents and artifacts, the food at the restaurant is exquisite, and the gift shop is a delight where one can even purchase whole wheat flour made at the grist mill.
If you are interested in early American history and would like to stay or dine at a truly historic location in a serene area, the Wayside Inn is one of the best places to visit in Massachusetts and New England.