In October 2004, the Folsom Tavern was moved to its current location on Water St. in downtown Exeter. Restoration of the building has included installing a new roof and clapboards and removing a 1950's-era kitchen and bathroom.
Interior restoration began in January 2006. On May 8, 2006, the museum received $100,000 from New Hampshire's Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) to complete interior restoration of the tavern. The project was completed in Spring 2007.
The Folsom Tavern was built c. 1775 by Colonel Samuel Folsom, brother of General Nathaniel Folsom. The tavern stood facing the square, located on the corner of Court and Mill streets (now Front and Water streets).
Revolutionary officers met at the Folsom Tavern on Tuesday, November 18, 1783, and formed the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Hampshire. President George Washington stopped by the tavern on the morning of November 4, 1789 to ‘partake of a collation’ during his tour of New England.
After Samuel Folsom’s death in 1790, one-third of his estate with half-part
of the ‘mansion’ was bequeathed to his wife Elizabeth, and the
remaining two-thirds of his estate went to his three daughters. Elizabeth continued
to run the tavern until her death in 1805 as “Widow Folsom’s Inn.” The
historic structure stayed in the family until 1856 when it was sold to George
Washington Dearborn, a retired druggist who kept a “curiosity” antiques
shop in the building.
In May 1869, approval for the widening of Water Street was granted to alleviate
the traffic congestion in the center of town, and the tavern was set back
closer to Sleeper’s jewelry store. During the first move, the original
chimneys were removed and the building was put on a high foundation that
allowed for shops beneath.
Upon Dearborn’s death in 1896, he bequeathed his ‘corner estate’ to Elizabeth Ewer, an unmarried local woman who was known as “Miss Lizzie Ewer, Inspirational Lecturer and Test Medium,” a mystic and landscape painter.
|Folsom Tavern on its original foundation,
|Folsom Tavern, c. 1910|
|Folsom Tavern, c. 1930|
|Exeter bandstand with tavern to right, c. 1917|
|The Museum uses the Tavern mostly for special events and programs.|
The Exeter, Hampton and Amesbury Street Railway began in 1897 and the lower floor of the tavern became the passenger station waiting room. The upper floors of the building held apartments and offices, including the headquarters for the Exeter and Hampton Electric Co. In the basement at various times were a shoe repair shop, a Chinese laundry, a millinery shop operated by Nellie Rollins, and the passenger waiting station. Oliver R. Yeaton and his wife, Augusta Cenith Beardslee ran the streetcar waiting station and opened their restaurant, later called “Washington’s Lunch,” in the waiting room around 1907.
The tavern was purchased from Elizabeth Ewer on November 4, 1909, by John Scammon. Twenty years later, Scammon sold the Folsom site to the Standard Oil Co. and “with a fine appreciation of the niceties” gave the building to the Society of the Cincinnati.
Society members raised the funds needed to move the tavern to its third foundation at 21 Spring Street. The old tavern site became a Standard Oil filling station. The Folsom Tavern remained empty until 1947 when Foster and Martha G. Stearns moved into the tavern after a major renovation and modernization by Boston architects Downer & Root. The kitchen of the Folsom Tavern was in an ell and this was not moved when the tavern was brought from its original location. After Foster Stearns died in 1956, Martha moved to a suite in the Exeter Inn, and the tavern subsequently housed four more tenants off and on until 1992.
164 Water Street, Exeter, NH 03833 603-772-2622
From North, South and East
From I-95N and I-95S, take Exit 2 to Route 101 West “Exeter/Hampton”. Take Exit 10 “Exeter/Newfields, Rte. 85” off 101W.
At top of exit ramp, turn left onto Newfields Rd. and follow to end. Turn left onto Water Street. Folsom Tavern is on the right.
From the West
From Rte. 101E, take Exit 9 “Exeter/Rte. 27”. Follow Rte. 27 (Epping Road) into downtown Exeter. Epping Road becomes Water Street and the Folsom Tavern is on the right after Phillips Exeter Academy campus.
Parking is available on Water Street, Center Street, or in the museum's Spring Street parking area. A free municipal lot is also available behind St. Anthony's Bakery, directly across from the front of the tavern.
Detail from 1802 map of Exeter, by Phineas Merrill. "Widow Folsom's Inn" is just below the Court House.
George Washington c. 1840, by Thomas Wilcox Sully Oil on canvas Gift of Samuel S. Spaulding, 1904
The Waiting Station,
The tavern’s woodwork that remains from the 18th century shows fine detail by excellent regional craftsmen.
Features include raised panels, double-faced doors, full classical cornices, front and rear staircases, and well-turned front balustrade.
The tavern was renovated during the early 19th century, resulting in some interior Greek Revival features, but no significant modifications took place before 1830.
The original 18th century room configurations, detailed in an 1805 probate inventory of Elizabeth Folsom, can be matched to the current floor plan.
With the exception of bathrooms and a 1947 kitchen, the tavern retains its symmetrical Georgian layout.
The second floor escaped much 19th century remodeling and retains a greater amount of original woodwork, including original six-panel and four-panel doors.