A Moment in (Local) History


The Chase Tavern on Court Street in Keene is pictured.

From the middle of the 18th century through the early decades of the 19th century Keene was the home of many taverns. When people traveled by horseback or stagecoach, they wanted to be able to stop often to warm themselves by the tavern fireplaces.

One of the most popular in Keene was the Chase Tavern on the Third New Hampshire Turnpike. The tavern was built in 1794 by Stephen Chase. The house remains today at 712 Court St. as a wonderful example of the colonial architecture of Keene’s early days.

Taverns were very different from the hotels of today. One person traveling through Keene in 1800 kept a journal of his travels. He stayed at the Chase Tavern.

His journal entry for that day gives us a delightful view of tavern life more than 200 years ago. The entry reads: “Chase’s Tavern where we lodged last night is a good tavern in many respects. Good attendance, but all sorts put up there. We lodged in a large chamber with 3 beds in it; then up came 4 creatures after we got to bed who were as noisy, profane mortals as my ears were ever the witness of. Their obscene discourse and filthy stories were exceeding burdensome. They appear to be hardened inconsiderate wretches. We said nothing to them, arose early, paid our reckoning, mounted and pursued on our journey.”

It was indeed common for unacquainted travelers to share the same room, or even the same bed. A fire in the room cost extra, and so did a bath.

Chase’s Tavern in Keene remained popular for many years; as late as 1825 it had the reputation of being “a good comfortable place, and quite clear of lice.”

Alan F. Rumrill is executive director of the Historical Society of Cheshire County, which has been collecting, preserving and sharing the history of the region since 1927. It’s on Main Street. To learn more about its public programs and collections, visit hsccnh.org.