Ohio History Journal

136 Ohio Arch

136        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.




In "Old Boston Taverns" -a rare little pamphlet published in

Boston in 1886 and written by Samuel Adams Drake--is an entertain-

ing little chapter on the "Bunch of Grapes Tavern," the inn that figured

so historically in the early stages of the organization of the Ohio Com-

pany of Associates. The tavern stood in King Street, now State Street,

at the upper corner of Kilby Street. It was not far from the site of

the Boston Massacre and in the engraving of that bloody scene by Paul

Revere the balcony over the entrance to the tavern is shown on the

extreme left, while the town hall is in the background. Mr. Drake

states that "three gilded clusters of grapes temptingly dangled over the

door before the eye of the passer-by." These bunches of grapes were

of course large wooden imitations of the real clusters. He also adds

that "apart from its palate-tickling suggestions, the pleasant aroma of

antiquity surrounds this symbol, so dear to all devotees of Bacchus

from immemorial time." Shakespeare in "Measure for Measure" has

his clown say, "'Twas in the Bunch of Grapes, where indeed you have

a delight to sit, have you not?" And Froth answers, "I have so, be-

cause it is an open room and good for winter." The Boston tavern

thus named dates back to 1712, from which time until the Revolution

it was a public inn and as such feelingly referred to by various travelers

as the best "punch-house" to be found in all Boston.

When the line came to be drawn between conditional loyalty and

loyalty at any rate the Bunch of Grapes Tavern became the resort and

headquarters of the high Whigs in which patriotism only passed current

and the Royalists found cold reception. It was in this tavern, states

Drake, "on Monday, July 30, 1733, that the first grand lodge of Masons

in America was organized by Henry Price, a Boston tailor, who had received

authority from Lord Montague, Grand Master of England, for the

purpose." Upon the evacuation of Boston by the Royal troops and the

entrance of the Colonists, General Washington was handsomely enter-

tained at this tavern and later after reading the Declaration of Inde-

pendence from the balcony of the town hall, the populace proceeded to

pull down from the public buildings the Royal arms which had dis-

tinguished them and gathered them in a heap in front of the Bunch

of Grapes Tavern, made a bonfire thereof. The register of the Bunch

of Grapes Tavern, if it had kept one, would show an illustrious list

of guests, such as General Stark, Lafayette, and many of the Revolu-

tionary leaders and heroes, but probably what most distinguishes it is

the fact that there were held in this tavern the initial meetings of the

officers and directors of the Ohio Company, their first gathering being

held there March 1, 1786.

In the summer just passed (1910) the Editor during a visit to

Boston endeavored to find the location of the Bunch of Grapes Tavern.

The site was easily discovered, but alas the surroundings were com-

pletely changed, and where the original tavern once stood is now a sky-

scraper business block, in the basement of which, under the very corner

where stood the old tavern, is a little restaurant, perhaps twenty feet

square, with a lunch-counter at the end, over which was arched the

imitation of a large grapevine, from which hung many clusters of

ingeniously similated grapes.