Video: Patriots Day: Munroe Tavern a hangout and hospital

Ian B. Murphy

When Lord Percy reached Lexington with 1,100 reserve troops on the afternoon of April 19, 1775, his plan was to continue on to Concord to bolster the redcoats’ ranks.

Then he received word of the staggering line of wound British soldiers limping back towards Lexington, harried at every turn by a swarm of angry militia.

“At [that] point, [Percy] realized that he wasn’t here on a back-up mission, but a rescue mission,” said Jane Morse, the Lexington Historical Society’s head tour guide.

Percy commandeered Munroe Tavern on what is now Massachusetts Avenue and set up a command post, ensuring its place in both Lexington’s and America’s history.

That building is now one of Lexington’s three historic homes owned by the Lexington Historical Society that serve as museums, and it has recently been refurbished to better depict the British experience in Lexington on April 19.

The museum now features more artifacts and a better understanding of the events that occurred at the dawn of American liberty. Previously, it focused on the Munroe family, whose compelling tale told only part of that building’s story.

“There is a lot more information about the redcoats here now,” said Morse. “We’ve connected the whole story together.”

The building is also where the nation’s first president, George Washington, became Lexington’s first tourist. The Munroe family invited Washington for dinner on Nov. 5, 1789 when he came to see where America’s first free blood was spilled.

The museum still has the chair on which he sat, the cup from which he drank, and the spoon from which he slurped. The items were kept and commemorated by the Munroe family, who kept the house in historic reverence until it was willed to the Historical Society in 1913.

“[The Munroes] were people who began to really understand the importance of the events that [their family] took part in,” Morse said. “[The house] had Munroes living in it the entire time.”

The family kept the bullet hole in the ceiling of the tavern’s taproom in tact, now believed to be an accidental musket shot perhaps while a soldier reported to Earl Percy himself. The museum has tried to recreate the taproom as Percy’s office, with a desk set near the fireplace as it may have been 233 years ago.

The museum has also recreated a surgery in what was Anna Munroe’s sitting room, with era-appropriate surgical tools and in-depth explanations of the gruesome practices of the British field surgeon.