Indian Queen Tavern was reputed to have been built as a home in the early 1700s
along the New Brunswick waterfront. Later the structure was enlarged and
operated as a tavern during the Revolutionary War period. By the 1780s, it was
under the ownership of James Drake who also operated a ferry between New
Brunswick and Highland Park.
From the late 1700s until 1818, the name of the establishment intermittently
changed between Drake's Tavern and the Indian Queen. After 1818 and throughout
the rest of the nineteenth century, the tavern was known as the Bell Tavern
or Bell Hotel.
style architecture was gaining popularity during the post-Revolutionary War
period. It is often distinguished by lighter treatments of architectural
elements, a reaction to the heavy look of the Georgian style that preceded it -
which was noted for its wood paneling and highly decorative fireplace
surrounds. Staircases in the Federal
style are exemplified by simple rounded handrails and square balusters, with
light and flowing architectural features.
Indian Queen Tavern first floor areas have been interpreted to reflect December
9, 1783, as if tavern owner James Drake were setting-up for the festivities
that would take place later that evening. Although documents do not detail what
furniture was in the room for Washington's visit, a number of period pieces
help to depict the room setting.
Rush-bottom chairs and a looking glass (mirror) are typical of furnishings
found in New Brunswick taverns. Most
bedchambers were sparsely decorated in the eighteenth and early nineteenth
century, often containing only beds, washstand, and perhaps a looking glass
(mirror). During the eighteenth century it was not uncommon, especially in
rural taverns, to be placed in crowded rooms with multiple beds. In 1794,
French political refugee Moreau de St. Mery, while traveling though New Jersey,
remarked on the custom of sharing rooms, which on occasion included sleeping in
a bed with a stranger.
The custom transcended all classes, as even Benjamin Franklin was forced to
share a room with John Adams after finding that most of the inns in New
Brunswick had been filled.