Dear Ace: I was just wondering, who is Boyd, and what does he serve at his tavern?—Thirsty for Answers
Thirsty: Reading your question, poor Ace felt an insatiable need to wet his whistle. So, he hopped in the Acemobile and headed toward Boyd Tavern, at the junction of Route 616 and Three Chop’t Road, just south of Shadwell. What he found was confusing; Boyd was not tavern, but a house without a single barfly or beer glass in sight!
Desperate for answers, Ace trekked back into town to visit his wise muse, Margaret O’Bryan, over at the Albemarle Historical Society. What Ace found was that Boyd Tavern was not a tavern, but an “ordinary.” Granted, an “ordinary” is the same thing as an “inn,” which is the same thing as a “tavern,” as the distinction hinges upon what area of the country the structure in question is located in. Boyd is in the south, so it’s an ordinary.
In the pre-railroad era, Virginia travelers would follow along the James and Rivanna rivers aboard horse-drawn stagecoaches. Since the journey between Charlottesville and Richmond took 24 hours, “stage sick” passengers would take lodgings in the louse-filled beds of the local ordinaries. (And Ace doesn’t mean “louse” as in deadbeat dads or skeezy himbos. He’s talking the parasitic insects. Horrors!)
Col. Lilburn Lewis, the husband of Thomas Jefferson’s sister, Lucy, was the original owner of Boyd Tavern. In 1790, Lewis obtained an ordinary license for the property, which he leased to one Mr. Watson, who named the dive “Old Watson’s Ordinary.” Eventually, Lewis rented the site to Thomas D. Boyd. Boyd became the tavern’s new namesake, and so the spot remained Boyd Tavern until the building burned down in 1868. Rebuilt with the original foundation and chimney, Boyd Tavern—like Old Dirty Bastard/Big Baby Jesus and Prince/The Artist—changed names once again to become Shepherd’s Inn.
In its heyday, Boyd Tavern boasted two world-famous guests. The first notable visitor was Marquis de Lafayette, a French citizen turned Continental Army general who made two visits, once in 1781 with his army, and again in 1824. The second celebrity visitor was Senator William Cabell Rives, a two-term American ambassador to France.
So, Thirsty, Ace regrets to inform you that for local peach brandy, you should try another louse-y ordinary!