Abel Lewis Inn Tavern Sign

A tavern sign from the Abel Lewis Inn of Bristol, Connecticut with Federal & State decoration

p4A ItemID D9847264

Abel Lewis Inn, Bristol, Connecticut

The A. Lewis Inn, opened in 1794, and is still standing in Bristol, Connecticut. The original proprietor, Abel Lewis, is buried in Bristol’s old North Cemetery located on Lewis Street. Abel Lewis was born September 16, 1749 and married Ruth Adams January 10th, 1771. The Lewis family progenitor was William Lewis (from England on the ship “Lion” to Boston in 1632).

A. Lewis Inn was core part of Bristol’s “quartette” of church, school, green, and tavern. Abel Lewis’s son, Miles, erected a house next to the A. Lewis Inn. Today the Miles Lewis House is the home of the American Clock and Watch Museum. The two great seals of the state and new republic show the patriotism of the time. The bold wing span of the Federal eagle runs from one side to the other, and the eagle is holding the olive branch and arrows. The state side shows the designed punchbowl and the state’s grapevine seal.

References to the A. Lewis Inn from “Bristol, Connecticut,” published by Eddy N. Smith, George Benton Smith, and Allena J. Dates, 1907:

“Until some time after the town’s incorporation the roads leading out of town were hardly better than the Indian trails which had preceded them. When the Lewis family came to Bristol, Josiah Lewis was a week in traveling from Southington with his family and goods, having to cut his way through woods, and to find a ford or make a bridge across the brooks. The turnpike, which was laid out in 1805, taught people how to make roads for the first time. Before that, “corduroying” muddy places, and removing stumps and stones to some extent, as in our cart-paths, had been all that was attempted on most of the roads.

The opening of the Abel Lewis tavern, in 1794, in the Stearns’ house completed the quartette of public buildings–meeting-house, church, school, and tavern–and made this green a well-equipped village centre.

The number of taverns which were then kept is one of the curiosities of the time. Each one of these had its pole and sign, consisting of a tin ball with decanter, foot-glass and punch-bowl painted thereon. Their principal business was the supply of liquor to neighbors, and probably only one or two of them exceeded the lawful requirements for the entertainment of travelers, namely, one spare bed and stable-room for two horses.”

The Abel Lewis house, built in 1794, still stands at the corner of Stearns and Maple Streets, currently housing a real estate office.

Information courtesy of Sotheby’s, January 2009.


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