Sunday, May 17, 2009

Coffee Maker: New England's First Coffee House

The name coffee house did not come into use in New England until late in the seventeenth century. Early colonial records do not make it clear whether the London coffee house or the Gutteridge coffee house was the first to be opened in Boston with that distinctive title. In all likelihood the London is entitled to the honor, for Samuel Gardner Drake in his History and Antiquities of the City of Boston, published in 1854, says that "Benj. Harris sold books there in 1689." Drake seems to be the only historian of early Boston to mention the London coffee house. Granting that the London coffee house was the first in Boston, then the Gutteridge coffee house was the second. The latter stood on the north side of State Street, between Exchange and Washington Streets, and was named after Robert Gutteridge, who took out an innkeeper's license in 1691. Twenty-seven years later, his widow, Mary Gutteridge, petitioned the town for a renewal of her late husband's permit to keep a public coffee house. The British coffee house, which became the American coffee house when the crown officers and all things British became obnoxious to the colonists, also began its career about the time Gutteridge took out his license. It stood on the site that is now 66 State Street, and became one of the most widely known coffee houses in colonial New England. Of course, there were several inns and taverns in existence in Boston long before coffee and coffee houses came to the New England metropolis. Some of these taverns took up coffee when it became fashionable in the colony, and served it to those patrons who did not care for the stronger drinks. One of the first in New England to bear the distinctive name of coffee house; opened in 1711 and burned down in 1780 The earliest known inn was set up by Samuel Cole in Washington Street, midway between Faneuil Hall and State Street. Cole was licensed as a "comfit maker" in 1634, four years after the founding of Boston; and two years later, his inn was the temporary abiding place of the Indian chief Miantonomoh and his red warriors, who came to visit Governor Vane. In the following year, the Earl of Marlborough found that Cole's inn was so "exceedingly well governed," and afforded so desirable privacy, that he refused the hospitality of Governor Winthrop at the governor's mansion.

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