Monday, March 25, 2013

Munroe Tavern becomes a Public Museum

The Munroe Tavern was built by William Munroe, Jr.(1669 - 1759) in  Lexington, Massachusetts in 1695.   William was the brother of my 6 x great grandfather, George Munroe.  William later sold the house.  His son, William Munroe III (1742 - 1827) bought the house in 1770 and ran a tavern.  During the Battle of Lexington, 19 April 1775, William was the sergeant of the Minutemen company in Lexington.  His family hid in the forest behind the house during the battle, and the British Brigadier General Earl Percy took it over as a field hospital.  Before leaving the tavern, the British troops shot John Raymond, the handy man who had stayed with the house, and tried to burn down the building.  You can see bullet holes in the ceiling of the dining room, remnants of the damage done by the British.

In 1789 the Munroe family entertained President George Washington in the Munroe Tavern when he came to visit Lexington and other places in New England that had seen battle during the American Revolution.  You can still see the room, tea service and furniture Washington used on display at the house. The family continued to run the tavern until 1858.

In 1911 the Lexington Historical Society was deeded the house by the last Munroe to live in the tavern.  It was added to the list of the National Register of Historic Places during the bicentennial in 1976.  In 2011 the house underwent extensive renovation and reopened as the Museum of the British Redcoats.  This was a controversial move, considering that the Munroe family home was almost destroyed by the British during the aftermath of the Battle of Lexington.

The Munroe Tavern is located at 1332 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington, Massachusetts.  It is owned by the Lexington Historical Society and is open from April to October for guided tours.

1911 news clipping
unknown newspaper

The James Smith Munroe mentioned in this article is my 4th cousin, 4x removed.  His ancestor, William Munroe, Jr., (my 6x great grand uncle), built the tavern, and it was ultimately inherited by J. S. Munroe, who left it in his will to the Lexington Historical Society.  The first William Munroe (1625 -1718), our common ancestor, was a Scots prisoner of war, sold into servitude in Cambridge, and he later settled in Cambridge Farms, now known as the town of Lexington, Massachusetts.


Munroe Tavern Soon
to Open to Public

     Beginning Monday next the thousands
of pilgrims to historic spots in New
England will have a new point of in-
terest, and the equal thousands of auto-
mobilists will have a new place at
which to get afternoon tea.  I'dr on
that date is to be transferred into a
historical museum the famous Munroe
Tavern in Lexington, which, closed to
the public since about 1858, is now to be 
open every day throughout the warmer
monts and probably at inervals dur-
ing the winter.  Under the will of 
James Smith Munroe, who died Dec. 10
last the property has come into posses-
sion of the Lexington Historical So-
ciety, "which shall keep the premises
in good repair and forever maintain the
name in substanability their present
or original condition * * * and shall at
stated and suitable times open the 
house for the inspection of the public."
     Since the acceptance of the bequest
by the society  a special committee has
been actively at work putting the house
into shape.  Four rooms, together with
the great rambling garret, will be open
to the public from May to November,
every weekday from 10 AM to 6 PM,
and on Sundays from 8 to 6 PM.

The Lexington Historical Society Munroe Tavern website

Some previous blog posts I have written about the Munroe Tavern:

Rebranding History

5 November 1789, George Washington Dined Here!

You can help with Munroe Tavern Renovations

The URL for this post is

Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. The Munroe Tavern sure ain't the Museum of the Redcoats. Bastards came back after shooting up the Minutemen, put their wounded on the floor, while the family hid in the woods. Sergeant Munroe would rise from the dead to hear this. I was a tour guide there. My ancestors fought the Brits all the way down the road through Arlington to Cambridge. Somebody made a mistake

    1. Anonymous, it is time for you to revisit the Munroe Tavern to see the changes. I was at the ceremony last year when the British consul cut the ribbon at the re-naming ceremony. That same hour the archivist told me that the town of Lexington has no plans to remove the family items from storage for public display since the rebranding was complete. If you have strong opinions, like my family, please let the Lexington Historical Society know how you feel. And read my blog post from last fall at this link: