The Role Of Taverns
In early America, taverns or "ordinaries" offered food and shelter. both for travelers and their horses. The term "ordinary" originally applied to a tavern meal regulary offered at a fixed price, but later designated the tavern itself. The Maryland Assembly, like other legislatures, not only required a license for operation and a bond for good conduct, but alsomandated a listing of the set prices for food, drink, and accommodations.[Picture included]
Because of poor roads, early taverns were generally 15 to 20 miles apart, a convenient day's travel. On the Great Road (now MD Route 355), a traveler from Georgetown to Frederick could stop at a tavern in Rockville before spending the next night at Dowden's Ordinary in Clarksburg. In his petition for a tavern license in 1750, Michael Dowden wrote that becausehis house was situated on the road between Rockville and Frederick Towne, he regularly recieved visitors requesting food and lodging for the night. Dowden decided to turn his hospitality into a business operation.
In addition to providing meals and lodging, taverns served as places for the locals to socialize, argue politics, conduct business, play cards, or bet on a horse race. At Dowden's, stagecoaches stopped twice a week bringing mail and news from communities along the route. More than a place to have a drink, taverns were the hub of community life. [Picture included]
Taverns's Ghost Structure
The tavern "ghost structure" represents the original Dowden's Ordinary. The inn was a one-and-one-half story log structure with gabled dormers, a shingled roof, a covered porch, and two fireplaces. Later Dowden built an addition to his tavern giving it an L-shaped form. The actural site is located on the hill and is accessible by following the path past the cannon.