90 OXFORD ROAD Washband (Washburn) Tavern

1714 (1976 #72, WPA #38)



At number 90, on the east side of Oxford Road, is the Washband or Washburn Tavern. Originally it was a small, one-story and attic dwelling built by John Twitchell in 1714.


Around 1741, the Washburn family purchased the property, enlarged the house, and began to operate a tavern. A larger addition, actually another house, was added around 1794, coinciding with the opening of the Oxford Turnpike which brought many travelers and trade to and from the Port of New Haven.


This second addition was “set at the same angle as the old one…built in the best style, with plank siding to make it warm and strong…. Back of the front room was the bar room, extending the length of the house…the bar proper being at the east end and somewhat secluded by a little partition…. The house contained seventeen rooms, nine below and eight above so that many could be accommodated at one time.” A large ballroom on the second floor doubled as a dormitory during the busy season. These architectural features are still evident today.


The Washburn family lived in the house for at least four generations, successfully operating the tavern. Nearby fields provided pens for livestock being driven to market.


While travelers were expected to provide their own food and food for their animals, cider brandy was produced at the tavern’s own mill and sold at six cents a glass. Rowdy teamsters who had over-indulged presented a problem.


One of the innkeepers, remembered as “Aunt Tury,” returned upstairs at bedtime with a horsewhip to silence a troublemaker. Since that young man was a “giant,” his friends threatened to broadcast that he’d been punished by a smaller person and a woman at that if he didn’t pay for a ready supply of alcohol at future stops on their journey.


The house played a role in the Civil War as a station on the Underground Railroad. Runaway slaves are said to have hidden in the cellar. A massive elm tree that stood to the north of the house served as the boundary between the Native Americans of Chusetown (now Seymour) and those of Woodbury before white settlers arrived and in colonial times.


Today the Washburn Tavern is owned by Nancy Daoud and is home to Opus: Advice First, a private wealth advisory practice.