Updated: Dec 1, 2022
766 Longmeadow Street- c. 1982 via MACRIS
Longmeadow was home to multiple taverns in earlier centuries. One well known tavern in town was the Old White Tavern located at 766 Longmeadow Street. It has also been referred to as the Colton Tavern and the Allen Guest House. Some of what we know about the Old White Tavern comes from Annie Coomes Leete (1856-1961) who lived in the house as a young girl. Living to the remarkable age of nearly 105 in Longmeadow, Mrs. Leete recorded some of her memories about the home during her lifetime.
100 years after the home was built, Seth Steele was the first to operate it as a tavern from The Hampden Federalist,1818
Taverns were meeting places for both travelers and local residents, and the Old White Tavern was no exception. Being located on the Green, the Old White Tavern was centrally located. Travelers passing through could rest and replenish themselves and their animals and exchange news. Local residents held dances and gathered to casually discuss topics of public interest as well as hold official meetings, although the tavern had to be kept clear during church services. Town residents also used the inn to celebrate victories in competitions like turkey shooting. Annie Coomes Leete even describes the discovery of a paper from 1822 advertising the exhibition of an elephant for one day only!
The property transferred ownership through different families for about 100 years until it was deeded to “Seth Steele, Tavern keeper” in 1811. This is the earliest indication we have at this time of this property serving as a tavern, though we know there was at least one other house operating as a tavern in the 18th century. The deed passed to Calvin Burt in 1819 and then to William White in 1825, who also operated the building as a tavern. Dimon Colton, Sr purchased and took over the tavern in 1832. The house has also been referred to as a hotel while in the care of Colton.
A sign bearing an eagle hung from an elm tree on the property at some point in time. According to the recollections of Annie Coomes Leete a sign reading , “The Old White Tavern” or “Hotel D. Colton, Keeper” also identified the property. The space inside the Old White Tavern was adaptable to suit different social settings. One floor housed a bar in addition to three dining rooms. These were separated by folding doors that could be opened to create one large room. The second floor was also partitioned by hinged panels that could be fastened to the ceiling. The third floor was one large hall suited to many different purposes.
Dimon Colton is the last known tavern keeper of 766 Longmeadow Street. When Dimond Chandler bought the house in 1856, it served for a time as a boarding house for workers at the Newell family button shop. More history on the Newell Button Factory can be found in this History Note from last year by board member Beth Hoff, and this article by former board member Michael Gelinas from The Town Crier. Later, the house passed to the Coomes family in 1866, when some alterations and remodeling were done. The Old White Tavern then became a private residence, occupied for almost thirty years by gold and silver manufacturer William Coomes, who operated out of a nearby shop. The house has continued to serve as a private residence since.
We'll be continuing our research into the taverns of Longmeadow and look forward to sharing more stories with you as we uncover them.
Annie Coomes Leete’s recollections via Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System database (MACRIS)
Longmeadow Assessor Database
LHS Archives National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places
National Archives (NARA)
Contributed by Becky Vitkauskas, Longmeadow Historical Society Board Member
Originally published January 13, 2022