Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dear MUNROE cousins, Revolutionary War Buffs, Scots Prisoner of War (SPOW) Researchers, and Family Historians

Munroe Tavern before the "Red Coat Museum" renovation

Earlier this week I received this very interesting email from a reader whose mother lives on Tavern Lane in Lexington, Massachusetts.  She read my blog post “Rebranding History”*  from 2011, which described the renovations of the Munroe Tavern in Lexington from a historical home of the Patriotic MUNROE family into “The Redcoat Museum”.    I’ve been watching how the home the Munroe family donated to the Lexington Historical Society has changed its mission from honoring this family that lost so much during the Battle of Lexington, into a museum honoring the British Regulars that attacked their homestead and village.

The Munroe Tavern was formerly a place to honor the MUNROE family.  It told the story of the William Munroe (1742 - 1827) Family, descendants of William Munroe (1625 - 1718) who was a Scots prisoner of War from the Battle of Worcester in 1650.  He was sold into servitude in Massachusetts, but ended up being a property owner in Cambridge Farms, now the town of Lexington, Massachusetts.  William Munroe, 4th, was the militia leader during the Battle of Lexington in 1775.  His home, the tavern, was used by the British as a field hospital and headquarters on the day of the Battle.  The British Regulars then killed his handyman and set the house ablaze before abandoning it upon their flight back to Boston. 

This reader now wrote to me about more changes at Lexington’s Munroe Tavern:

“Since the rebranding of the Munroe Tavern and the opening of the new wing in 2011, the Lexington Historical Society has moved forward and is planning to construct another addition to your family's house.  They plan to expand Munroe Tavern with a barn-like structure featuring a massive display window typically found in retail stores.

 Last week the Society received a variance from the Lexington Board of Appeals to place the new 32 X 24 foot structure a distance of just 7.3 feet from Tavern Lane -- instead of the required 30 feet.  The new addition will house Lexington historical archives that are currently residing in the basement of the Hancock-Clarke house.  After being refused by other Lexington locations, the Society selected Munroe Tavern to build the archive structure.  The Tavern will continue to operate as the Redcoat Museum.

 My Mother lives on Tavern Lane and she is opposed to constructing another addition to Munroe Tavern because it will change the character of the Tavern and the neighborhood.  There is a meeting scheduled on Thursday, February 4, with Lexington's Historic Districts Commission (They oversee the Munroe Tavern Historic district and other notable town districts.) to review the Historical Society's expansion plans for the Tavern.

 We wanted to see if you would be interested in voicing your opinion regarding the changes planned to Munroe Tavern.   We also are interested in your advice on how we can persuade the Commission to stop the construction changes to the Tavern.

 In my Mother's title search documents for her Tavern Lane house there is a copy of the will from James S. Munroe.  In his January 26, 1911 will, as you know, he donated the Tavern to the Lexington Historical Society.  In reading his will I wonder how Mr. Munroe would have weighed in today on the new construction planned to his house.  His will states:

  “…This device is made upon the express condition that said Historical Society shall keep the premises in good repair and forever maintain the same in substantially their present or original condition, shall pay all taxes and other municipal charges and assessments, if any, which may be levied thereon, shall appoint a suitable custodian to have charge thereof, and shall at stated and suitable times open the house for the inspection of the public.  Said Society shall make reasonable rules and regulations for the care of said Munroe Tavern as it may deem expedient, and shall have the right to charge a reasonable admission fee.  If, however, said Society shall refuse to accept this devise, or in case of such acceptance, shall cease to exist, or shall fail to comply with the conditions herein set forth, I give, devise and bequeath said real estate to the Town of Lexington upon the same conditions, but if said Town shall refuse to accept said devise, or having accepted said devise, shall not comply with the conditions herein set forth, I devise said real estate to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts upon the same terms and conditions as above set forth but if said Commonwealth shall refuse said gift, then I device said real estate to my heirs at law… " "

In a separate email she also wrote:

“Here are details on this week's meeting:  The Historic Districts Commission will be holding a public hearing on Thursday, February 4, at 7:10 pm "with respect to the exterior architectural changes of 1332 Massachusetts Avenue (the Tavern), which is located within the Munroe Tavern District."  Also here is the email address for submitting letters to the Commission:

The Public Meeting Notice is at this link: 
and will be held at the Selectman's Meeting Room, 1652 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington, Massachusetts at 7 PM.  


“Letters should also be copied to  (the Commission's assistant who will make sure that everyone on the Historic Districts Commission gets a copy of the letter.)”

The Red Coat Museum in 2011

I will be writing to the Historic Districts Commission of Lexington with my opinions of the project.  I’m not optimistic because my email and mail from before the “rebranding” of the Munroe Tavern to the “Red Coat Museum” received canned replies not very sympathetic to Munroe family members and the descendants of William Munroe. It is my opinion that the original terms of the will were violated with the first rebranding of the Munroe Tavern, and this second renovation and addition are even further violations of the will. But, I'm not a lawyer. Just a descendant. 

I’d love to hear your opinions of the project, too.  Perhaps I will forward them all to the Historic Districts Commission in Lexington in another email.  Please leave your comments below.
For more information on the Munroe Tavern, you can scroll through all the blog posts I have previously written about this historic home here:

*”Rebranding History” my previous blog post on the renovation of the Munroe Tavern into the Red Coat Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts : 


Published under a Creative Commons License
Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Dear MUNROE cousins, Revolutionary War Buffs, Scots Prisoner of War (SPOW) Researchers and Family Historians", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 3, 2016, (  accessed [access date]). 


  1. It my completely non-professional (legal) opinion, I agree that the terms were violated with the first re-branding. It seems so inappropriate to me. I would be so angry if an ancestral home in my family were treated this way. I can't even stand to see what new owners have done to my grandparents' homes, but this is terrible.

  2. This is a horrible misuse of donated property Heather. I would be very angry if this were my ancestor. I will do what I can with email or letter or phone calls. I pray you and other supporters can stop this.

  3. First and custom of our family. Always goes to to the heirs. Problem solved.

  4. Hello, An online petition has been started to get public support for finding an alternate solution to the Historical Society's need for additional Archive space that does not involve adding onto the historic Munroe Tavern: