Handy’s Tavern // 1812

Before the days of cars and even trains ruled, people in New England would get around by horseback or stagecoach (horse-drawn carriages) from town to town. Due to the long travel times to get everywhere, many New Englanders built taverns, which served as inns and bars for the weary traveller on their journey. In 1812, a recently married Caleb Handy built this house to serve as a residence and source of income, as a tavern for travellers on the Plymouth-New Bedford stagecoach route. He married Sophia Dexter in 1811, who died just two years later at the age of 22. Two years after the death of his first wife, he married Sophia’s sister, Mary, who just turned 18 (he was 33). The tavern had a ballroom for local dances and a room for serving drinks, based principally on West Indian rum, that was shipped in from sugar plantations, owned by many wealthy white families in New England (many of whom exploited the slavery abroad). The Tavern was later owned by Benjamin Handy, who continued to operate it as a Tavern until the railroad made the stagecoach route obsolete in the middle of the 19th century. It then became a family home. The house was sold to the Sippican Women’s Club in 1923, who renovated and restored much of the building, and held luncheons and events inside. They maintain the building to this day.

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