Lost Marlborough Landmarks
These buildings, which were once notable landmarks in Marlborough, have been lost to neglect and demolition.
This list is a work in process and far from complete. To nominate a Lost Landmark, please send us a message.
Williams Tavern (1662 - 1947)
If the original building were still standing, Williams Tavern would be the oldest tavern in the United States.
Williams House was built in 1662 by Lt. Abraham Williams near the eastern shore of what is known today as Lake Williams. It was licensed in 1663, the first tavern in the area for "feeding man and beast," and was burned to the ground during the King Philip War in 1676. Lt. Williams rebuilt the building, naming it Williams Tavern, and operated it until 1772, when it was taken over by his grandson, Colonel Abraham Williams.
That same year stages began running between New York and Boston, and Williams Tavern was one of three stops between Boston and Worcester.
A few years later, on July 2, 1775, George Washington, stopped at the tavern. He was traveling the Post Road, escorted by an honor guard of prominent citizens, to take command of the Continental Army in Cambridge from General Ward.
In 1803 Silas Gates took over following the death of his father-in-law and renamed it Gates House. (It reverted to "Williams Tavern" in the early 1900s.) Gates expanded the business, and with his success during the ten years he owned it, he became one of the wealthiest men in Marlborough. Among other improvements, he bought hundreds of acres of abutting land so that farmers bringing their cattle to Boston could stay at the tavern and graze their cattle in his pasture. And in 1822 he tore down the wooden structure and rebuilt the tavern with brick.
Williams Tavern (undated)
From the Moineau collection of historic photographs at the Marlborough Historical Society
During the following 80 years and numerous owners--one was a Williams who renamed it Williams Tavern--the tavern was adversely affected by the spread of rail travel, by the automobile and emerging highway system, and by the Great Depression.
When prohibition was finally repealed, the tavern did not have a liquor license, and in 1940 the city started foreclosure proceedings for back taxes.
Williams Tavern postcard (undated)
From the collection at the Marlborough Historical Society
Vacant and heavily damaged, the building was auctioned off by the city in November 1942 to Augustus Seymour, whose home was behind the Tavern.
In 1947 he tore down the tavern, though the chimney stood a few years longer.
Today, near the intersection of Lakeside Avenue (Route 20) and Williams Street, in front of what is now a small strip center, a marker is the only remaining sign that Williams Tavern once stood there.
Thanks to Trustee Bob Kane for his research of the history of Williams Tavern.
Material was also drawn from Early American Inns and Taverns (1926) by Elise Lathrop.
This list is far from complete. To nominate a Lost Landmark, please send us a message.