Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Green Dragon Tavern

   I thought that this description, taken from an officially commissioned  1870 City of Boston work titled "A Topographical and Historical Description of Boston" by Nathaniel B Shurtleff might be of interest:

  The old tavern stood on the left side of the street, formerly called Green Dragon Lane, now the northerly portion of Union Street, leading from Hanover street to the old mill-pond, now filled up and built upon. It was built of brick, and in latter days was painted of a dingy color. In front it showed only two stories and an attic; but in the rear, from the slope of the land and the peculiar shape of the roof, three stories, with a basement, were perceptible. It covered a piece of land fifty feet in front and thirty-four in depth, and had connected with it a large stable and other out-buildings. In recent times the lower story was used as the common rooms of a tavern, while in the second, on the street front, was a large hall used for public as well as Masonic purposes. The attic story afforded ample accomodations for sleeping apartments. The chimneys were substantially built in the side walls, and were of the style usually found in homes built at the close of the seventeenth century. The attic windows on the front part of the roof, and the walk railed in on the upper part, added much to the appearance and comfort of the building, which, in its best days, must have been commodious, and comfortably arranged.                                      
          The whole estate comprised a large lot of land, the main portion being situated back of
          Green Dragon Lane, with other estates in front, and extending northerly to the mill-pond.
          The extensive yard was much used by the boys who dwelt in the neighborhood as a play-
          ground; and here it was, undoubtedly, that the youthful Franklin first essayed his
          mechanical feat of building his stone wharf, alluded to in his autobiography.* The old
          tavern-stable in its latter days a well-known convenience; and served many years as a
          livery stable kept by men well acquainted with their business.
          In front of the building there projected from the wall an iron crane, upon which was couched 
          a Green Dragon.This peculiar mark of designation was very ancient, perhaps as old as the 
          building itself. It was formed of thick sheet copper, and had a curled tail; and from its
          mouth projected a fearful looking tongue, the wonder of all the boys who dwelt in the
          neighborhood. When the building was taken down, this curious relic of the ancient
          mechanics of the town disappeared, and has never since been found.....

   It also seems that the Green Dragon Tavern was used by a hospital by the British during the siege of Boston as evidenced by a document signed by Lt Gov Thomas Oliver on February 24th, 1776 ordering the British Army to seize the Green Dragon Tavern "for the Purpose of a Hospital in which the poor -------Infirm and Aged can be lodged upon the Charity in which you are appointed Stewards..."

   The Green Dragon Tavern was demolished in October 1828 when the street was widened.

* This is the passage in Franklin's autobiography to which the author alludes:
     There was a salt-marsh that bounded part of the mill-pond, on the edge of which, at high water, we used to stand to fish for minnows. By much trampling we had made it a mere quagmire. My proposal was to build a wharf there fit for us to stand upon, and I showed my comrades a large heap of stones, which were intended for a new house near the marsh, and which would very well suit our purpose. Accordingly, in the evening, when the workmen were gone, I assembled a number of my playfellows, and working with them diligently like so many emmets, sometimes two or three to a stone, we brought them all away and built our little wharf. The next morning the workmen were surprised at missing the stones, which were found in our wharf. Inquiry was made after the removers; we were discovered and complained of; several of us were correct by our fathers; and, though I pleaded the usefulness of the work, mine convinced me that nothing was useful which was not honest.


  1. Are there floor plans of the original tavern? I'm sure you could find them in the city's archives. I would love to have a copy.

  2. It was also the location of the Saint Andrews Freemason Lodge from 1768 until the British occupation. Once they were removed, the Lodge contiuned on. At it's destruction by the city a well-attended "last-rites" was given to the old lodge. It is now thought the majority of the "Mohawks" were members of the lodge.