The New Boston Inn: Lodging, Food, and Spirits?
Tucked in the corner at the junction of Routes 8 and 57, in the quiet town of Sandisfield, Massachusetts lies the historic New Boston Inn. It’s one of the oldest inns in the country and its history begins at around 1751 when Daniel Brown, the town founder, settled in the area. It is known that he held the earliest tavern license between 1755 and 1764 suggesting that there was an active tavern from as early as that. The main Federal-style building is thought to be the work of Daniel Brown’s grandson, Sanford Jr. from about 1790.
The inn remained in the Brown family until 1844 when it was put up for public auction along with the rest of the Brown estate and was purchased by Dr. Samuel Parsons. It thrived in its early days because it was on the main stagecoach route between Hartford, Connecticut and Albany, New York. However, with the expansion of railroads came a decline in business as fewer people were traveling that route by stagecoach. Then the New Boston Inn saw a resurgence in business as automobile traffic increased with time bringing more and more tourists to the area. If you visit the inn you will see a guest book from 1908 sitting in the gentlemen’s parlor that was acquired from a local historian where one guest specified that he arrived by automobile. It’s a fun little piece of history.
Over the years, the inn has changed hands many times and had many notable guests including Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Bing Crosby, James Thurber, Pearl Buck, and Agatha Christie. The current owner, Barbara Colorio purchased The New Boston Inn 15 years ago and maintains it as the innkeeper and chef.
The Tragic Tale of Harriet
The New Boston Inn is also home to a legend. I’ve heard a few slightly different versions over the years but the gist is always the same. I’ll only share the version that Barbara shared with me when I visited a few weeks ago which is the same version on the New Boston Inn website.
In the 1800’s, a wealthy young woman from New York named Harriet was vacationing in the Berkshires with her family at the inn. While staying there she met and sparked up a romance with a young farm boy who worked there. He wanted to marry her and when he asked her parents for her hand in marriage they refused, claiming he couldn’t provide the comfortable lifestyle that she was accustomed to. So, Harriet returned to New York with a broken heart and the young man enlisted in the war.
The following summer Harriet returned to The Berkshires engaged to be married to a wealthy society man and the wedding took place shortly after. When her former love returned from the war he was unaware that the couple had already been married. Fearing that his one true love was going to marry another man he rushed to the inn. He dashed up the stairs of and rushed into the ballroom in an attempt to stop the wedding and convince her to run away with him, but he was too late. Upon his discovery, brokenhearted and filled with rage he declared if he couldn’t have her no one could and pulled out his pistol and fired it at Harriet. She stumbled across the ballroom floor and into room 4 directly across the hall where she bled out. It is said that her blood left a stain on the wood floor that could not be removed for over 100 years. Two days after he killed Harriet, the young man was hung from a tree on the property. Although the tree has since been cut down, the stump still remains.
Lodging, Food, and Spirits?
Bloodstains that can’t be removed are just the beginning of the curious things that reportedly happen at the New Boston Inn. The disembodied voice of a woman can be heard singing the same song over and over. At one point, Barbara, the owner, sang the song she hears echoing through the walls of the empty building to a musician. He researched the song and found that it was a popular wedding song from the 1800s, a song that would have probably been played at Harriet’s wedding. Other disembodied voices and footsteps are often heard reverberating through the inn. Doors shut and lock seemingly all by themselves and the collection of music boxes that line the hallway upstairs have been known to randomly go off. If you take a peek inside the guest books left in the bedrooms of the inn you will find numerous notes from guests describing strange noises during the night coming from rooms next to them where nobody was staying.
Barbara also told me a personal story about how the spirits have intervened in her life. One night she was intending to leave the Inn and a series of events caused her to abandon her plans. Things went missing only to reappear later where she knew she had left them. Frustrated, and sensing forces greater than her at work Barbara decided to just stay in for the night. Later, she got a visit from the local police informing her about a series of break-ins in town. The New Boston Inn had been spared because Barbara followed her intuition and didn’t leave. Was this a coincidence? Or the work the friendly spirits that call the Inn home? I’ll let you decide.
The lack of detail and hard historical evidence of the story of Harriet and her murder is a bit peculiar. There is no last name of Harriet, name of her killer, date, or year associated with the incident. I could find no newspaper article or any record of a death or burial. These details seem to be obscured by time. I spoke to several people that the Sandisfield Historical Society referred me to and they confirmed that they could find no evidence that a Harriet ever existed but the story has been told for a long time. However, this doesn’t mean it never happened. After all, stories like this don’t just come out of nowhere; there’s always at least a little bit of truth in every legend.
I’d like to give a special thanks to both Barbara Colorio and Ron Bernard, author of Sandisfield Then and Now, 1762-2012 for helping with the research on this post and eagerly answering all of my questions.
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