Built in the late 18th century, Squire’s Tavern represents over 100 years of adaptive reuse architecture. Starting in the 1820s and lasting into the 1860s, Bela Squire and his family operated the building as a tavern, providing it with its current moniker. During this time, travelers along the Farmington River Turnpike (a major trade route) found a warm meal and a straw mattress on which to spend the night at Squire’s in Barkhamsted. In addition to the income from the tavern, Bela Squire farmed the surrounding land, worked as a blacksmith, and housed the sick and needy on behalf of the town.
Approximately 20 years after the Squires ceased operating their tavern, a family of German immigrants purchased the property and began farming. Born in Rentnitz, Germany, in 1845, Johann Ullmann came to America in 1884 with his wife Augusta and their 6 children. After spending 9 months in New Hartford, he purchased the Squire’s former property from a man named John Allen.
Squire’s Tavern Becomes Part of Peoples State Forest
The Ullmanns remained on the land well into the 20th century. Augusta Ullman died of pneumonia in 1912, leaving the farm in the hands of her husband and their son, Oswald. In March of 1924, an enraged bull living on the family farm charged and killed Johann Ullman, one week after goring and hospitalizing his granddaughter. Oswald continued to operate the farm until 1929 when he sold it to the State of Connecticut which promptly made it a part of the Peoples State Forest. At that point the property fell under the auspices of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP, now known as the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection or DEEP).
The DEEP moved into the tavern building, making it their headquarters until the latter part of the 20th century. After the DEEP relocated to new offices, a movement to preserve the building began. In the early 2000s, the Barkhamsted Historical Society undertook renovations to the walls, floors, ceilings, electrical wiring, fireplaces, shingles, and numerous other aspects of the property that had fallen into disrepair in the preceding decades. Today, renovations are ongoing as Barkhamsted focuses on preserving a piece of its history that helps characterize the town’s evolution over the better part of two centuries.