HISTORY OF
THE BLACK TAVERN

 

The Black Tavern in Dudley, Massachusetts is presently the only building in Dudley on the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Register of Historic Buildings.  Three structures make up The Black Tavern; the Tavern, the annex/shop, and the Barn.  The Black Tavern Historical Society (BTHS) was established in 1983 by an extremely dedicated group of preservation-minded local residents in order to save the Tavern, which was in imminent danger of being demolished.

The original structure was built in 1804 by Hezekiah Healy and opened as Healy’s Inn.  Hezekiah had married Becca Corbin in 1798 and was a cabinetmaker and a captain in the local militia company.  The local residents began calling his inn The Black Tavern since Hezekiah, noting that black paint lasted the longest, had painted the building black. The Tavern was located in the middle of the Boston-to-Hartford stagecoach route and catered to travelers as well as the local inhabitants.  The inn had a sign out in front that was hung between two upright posts.  It was said that if you could drive your wagon and team of horses between the posts, you were still sober!

Hezekiah died suddenly in 1817.  Becca Healy next lost her only son, Hezekiah Jr., in a shooting accident in 1821.  He had stopped his wagon to give a vagrant a ride and was killed when the vagrant’s gun supposedly caught on the boards of the wagon and went off.  Hezekiah Jr. was only 11 years old.  His mother laid him to rest next to his father in what is now Corbin Cemetery.  The vagrant was never legally convicted of the boy’s death but was banished from town.  The original mourning picture commemorating the father and son is in the collections of the Black Tavern, donated by a member of the family, and a facsimile hangs in the Meeting Room at the Tavern.

A tall case clock made by Hezekiah is also at the Tavern, as well as a grandson’s Civil War letters and the lost but then returned “traveling teapot.”  A Museum Room holds many other artifacts from the Tavern.

Becca and her two daughters, Clarinda and Becca D., continued to run the Tavern for about five years.  Thereafter it became the family’s home exclusively.

Because ownership of the Tavern stayed in the same family for almost all of its existence, it had remained as Hezekiah built it with very little alteration.  The descendents of Hezekiah and Becca still live in the area and are active in the BTHS. 

The Tavern eventually became the summer home of Dr. Charles Goodell, Hezekiah’s grandson and a well-known Methodist radio preacher in the 1920s.  The large table in the Meeting Room was a gift to Dr. Goodell from the widow of President Calvin Coolidge.

The current project at the Tavern is the restoration of the barn.  The Dudley Elementary School has taken a great interest in the project and has been very successful in helping to raise money.

 The Tavern sits across the street from the Congregational Church, the Grange and the Town Common in Old Dudley Center and may be rented for small and medium-sized events.  (Weddings, anniversaries, meetings, etc.)  For more information call Bob or Chris  at 508-943-8782.


THE BLACK TAVERN HISTORICAL SOCIETY

BOX 143

DUDLEY, MA   01571