Patriots’ Day is by far our busiest day of the year, with Buckman Tavern operating as the hub of activity that morning. The tavern is an integral part of the battle reenactment that takes place on the Green, as this is where the American militia spent their night before the battle, having been rallied together by Paul Revere and Captain John Parker. Members of the modern Lexington Minute Men occasionally spend the night in the tavern the night before the reenactment, wandering the rooms to make it look properly inhabited for any early-morning spectators walking past. A large group meets in the tap room in the early morning hours, taking in the historical ambiance, until it is time for them to face off against the British troops across the street.
The staff is on hand early as well, to prepare for the events of the day, and it is by far my favorite time to be in the tavern. Reenactors wander through the tavern and gather in the taproom, illuminated in the predawn hours by minimal light. It’s rare that the space is properly filled with historically-clothed people and seeing them huddled together in this historic place can make you feel like you’re seeing ghosts. You get a palpable sense of how a large group of men would have interacted with this space. The taproom seems to shrink in size when filled with men and weaponry, a testament to the crowding and fear that must have pervaded the building that morning. As the sound of the British drums get closer and louder, it is all too easy to imagine what it might have been like inside the house in the minutes before the battle.
The Buckman family and any tavern guests would have had a clear view of the fight from a number of windows, giving them a vivid, graphic view of the violence unfolding across the street. There were fewer trees in 1775 to obstruct the view, and no massive crowd of spectators. Instead, the colonists could only watch in horror as eight of their friends and neighbors were shot to death, right in their unimpeded sightline. Nowadays, the back window of the second floor is our best viewpoint, with the battle visible over the tops of the heads of those watching on the ground, and out of the way of the militiaman firing the first shot of the battle from the attic! It’s a completely unique viewpoint to watch the battle from. There are still times when I feel a new jolt of recognition that I am in a sacred space, getting an experience that few others do.
This year we are trying something new with this battle-viewing tradition. Every few years we like to get a newfound look at how we’re doing in terms of serving the community. Recently we have been surveying our visitors and locals to get their opinions on our institution. Anyone who completes the brief survey is entered to win a coveted spot in our favorite window on Patriots’ Day morning. For anyone who has been on the fence about taking the survey, this is your last chance! The drawing will take place later today, so be sure to let us know how you feel now, and you may be guaranteed a warm, dry Patriots’ Day morning.
UPDATE: the contest winner has been drawn and the survey is now closed!
-Sarah McDonough, Programs Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.