Town Diary - July 2001
Squires Tavern Open House - July 15, 2001
On Sunday, July 15 the Barkhamsted Historical Society threw open the doors of the Squires Tavern and invited everyone to inspect the 200 year old building inside and out. About 200 people took advantage of the offer on a beautiful summer day. The Squires Tavern is located on East River Road in Peoples State Forest and is owned by the Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP used the building for about 60 years as the residence for the Peoples Forest ranger. During the 1990's the building was no longer used as a year round residence and started to fall into disrepair.
Photo - Oxen on the old Farmington River Turnpike again after all these years! A team of oxen pull a cart with VIP passengers past the Squires Tavern to the Open House ceremony. In the cart (and barely visible) are State DEP Manager Mark Rickert, Barkhamsted First Selectman Mike Fox and Barkhamsted Historical Society Chairwomen Sharon Lynes.
The Historical Society has negotiated a 30 year lease (from the State to the Town of Barkhamsted) and on the Open House day a ceremonial lease signing was one of the main events. Representatives of the State DEP, the Town of Barkhamsted and of course the Barkhamsted Historical Society were on hand for the ceremony which included a passing of a gold key from DEP manager Mark Rickert to Town of Barkhamsted First Selectman Mike Fox and then to Historical Society President Sharon Lynes. These officials arrived at the ceremony in a cart drawn by two oxen, symbolizing the stagecoach and freight traffic that has passed by the Squires Tavern over the years. The old Wolcott Road, which later became the Farmington River Turnpike, was a busy route. It is likely that Bela Squires, who was a farmer, tavern keeper and blacksmith, provided refreshment and boarding services for both draft animals and teamsters.
Photo - Ceremony at the Squires Tavern Open House. Squires Tavern committee chair Leslie Cosgrove is addressing the wonderful crowd that turned out to see the transfer of the building (via a lease) from the State of Connecticut to the Town of Barkhamsted and the Barkhamsted Historical Society.
During the Open House the old building once again came alive with activity. Inside the Squires Tavern were displays and Historical Society guides to point out some of the history of the building and the families that have lived there over the years. The building was probably a tavern for only the first 50 years or so of its life. The Ullmann family operated a large farm here for about 45 years up to the 1929. Johann Ullmann, the family patriarch who emigrated from Germany, was killed by a bull on the farm in 1924.
Photo - Historical Society docents Don Goetz and Doug Roberts share information on the Squires family with visitors at the Open House. This second floor room is one of the better preserved rooms in the building and may have been the "ballroom" of the old tavern.
The Historical Society's plan is to not only preserve and start restoring the building but also utilize it as the headquarters for the organization. A historic building expert has already inspected the Squires Tavern and provided a written report with priorities, suggestions and options on how to proceed. Some critical repairs to water damaged sections of the exterior have already been finished and a new roof, exterior painting and chimney repairs are planned. Historical Society president Sharon Lynes says "this is a big project for our organization, but it has already energized our group and brought in a lot of support from new people. This is a worthwhile project and we can do it!".
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