Old Lyme's historic "Peck Tavern" up for sale

Old Lyme — As David Duncan stood in his historic home, a former tavern at the crossroads of Sill Lane and Boston Post Road, he contemplated the gatherings here over the centuries, whether during the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812 and on through the present day.

"Think of the conversations that would have gone on in this house," he said.

George Washington danced in the tavern's upstairs ballroom, and Lafayette may have also visited the tavern, he said.

"Peck Tavern," currently owned as a private residence by David and Susan Duncan, at 1 Sill Lane is now up for sale and is listed for $1,195,000. The white two-story home with a blue door, which dates back to circa 1680, is on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the listing.

'Peck Tavern'

The building was home to a tavern from the second part of the 1700s through the early 1800s, Bruce P. Stark reported in "Lyme, Connecticut: From Founding to Independence."  

The Peck family ran for a period of time the tavern on the property, which Captain John Peck had purchased and was kept in the family for generations, according to the application nominating the property to the National Register of Historic Places.

John McCurdy, "a staunch patriot, and one of the wealthiest merchants in Connecticut" had run a store for a time at the tavern that was "stocked with items from all over the world," according to "Revolution in the Lymes" (History Press, 2016) by local authors Jim Lampos and Michaelle Pearson. 

With its second-floor ballroom, the tavern "for generations was a social center," and is believed to have been a site to hand out clothing and food to soldiers during the Revolutionary War, according to Susan H. Ely in the 1975 document "John Peck Tavern."

In the 20th century, during the Great Depression, the Old Lyme Guild, a non-profit, opened in 1934 in the home that was owned at the time by the Beardsley family, said Amy Kurtz Lansing, curator at Florence Griswold Museum.

A Nov. 5, 1934 article in the Rochester Times-Union, which she cited, reported that the guild formed as a response to the Depression and to machine-made goods and included "etchers, wrought iron workers, weavers, bookbinders, potters, carvers of wood and ivory, reproducers of colonial and English furniture, makers of fine tapestries, ships' bells and table chimes, sculptors and marine artists." The artisans used the house as a place to show and sell their goods and the barn as their workshop.

Families have owned the residence over the years, and it also operated as a bed and breakfast for a time.

With the former tavern located on the main road to New London, a mile marker from Benjamin Franklin remains on an adjacent land parcel that is now a town green, Duncan said.

'A soulful house'

Through the centuries, owners have put additions on the original structure and made repairs and upgrades, but have kept the soul of the home, said Duncan, who works as an architect.

"It's a very soulful house," said Colette Harron, real estate agent with William Pitt Sotheby's International Realty. "You can feel the history when you walk in."

Immediately visible upon walking through the front door is a stone wall and wooden stairway with a banister that Revolutionary War generals likely ran their hands along as they walked upstairs.

On the first floor, to the left, is the room with a fireplace that served as a taproom where visitors sat for meals and ale and drinks during the home's tavern days, and where at a time the store sold sundries. 

Beyond the taproom is the "keeping room" where people used to cook and where today stands the original wooden corner cupboard and a beehive oven.

The parlor, now the living room, to the right of the entrance, features a wall with tombstone-shaped wooden paneling, thought to be one of five such pieces in the Lower Connecticut River Valley, he said.

The former ballroom on the second floor has a wall attached to the ceiling that can swing down to divide the room in two.

"How many houses are left that are from 1680 and maybe earlier?" Duncan said.

"It's really significant and very special," he added.

k.drelich@theday.com

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