In 1750, John and Ebenezer Preston opened the doors of The Old Drovers Inn, which was then called the Clear Water Tavern. This watering hole catered to the desires of the cattle drovers – a group of professional middle men who purchased herds of cattle and swine from New England farmers. They would drive animals down post roads to the New York City markets, and sell them “for as good a price as they could get.”
These New England “cowboys” were a sporty lot who liked their rum and always seemed to have an abundance of ready cash gleaned from their lucrative trade. They supplemented from time to time with the rewards of a midnight gathering at the card table. As their financial prominence became even greater, they hired others to handle the tedious business of keeping the herds moving while the drovers themselves galloped from Inn to Inn along the route.
One of the six bedrooms of the Inn is called the Meeting Room because it was used for public meetings. It was in this room that the Town of Dover separated from the Town of Pawling in 1807.
The Inn remained in the Preston Family until it was sold to the Potter family in 1910.
In 1962, the Inn served as a romantic hideaway for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton after the filming of “Cleopatra.” Taylor was still married to Eddie Fisher at the time, so the couple needed a romantic hideaway. They rented all the rooms at the Old Drovers Inn. It offered an idyllic and secret haven for the duo, who later married.
In 1988, the Inn was sold to Kemper Peacock and Alice Pitcher. Together they brought the Inn to a new level and made Old Drovers a designation retreat for many Manhattanites and people worldwide. It became a favorite stop for the Berkshire-bound, and the tap room was noted for its generous martini.
In 1988 the Inn was admitted to the prestigious Relais & Chateaux. Pitcher later ran the Inn with her partner Tom Dott up until it was sold once again in 2005 to a Brooklyn restaurateur. Within five years the business succumbed to a weak economy.
Luckily, a construction firm called Structure Works, started by Jim Muncey, a lifelong Dover resident, purchased the Inn at auction after years of neglect. A two-million dollar renovation, which honored its history and architectural detail took almost two years to complete. The Federal Room, the current dining room, has murals (recently restored), which were executed by Edward Paine in 1941. They depict scenes of the schoolhouse in Millerton, Springwood, The Roosevelt Mansion of Hyde Park, the turrets of West Point and scenes of Old Drovers Inn itself.
The Inn is now open to the public as a bed and breakfast, and for private functions, weddings and dinner parties. In the spring of 2017, Old Drovers will celebrate the opening of its newly construction barn for large weddings and events of up to 250 people. This structure, which sits to the left of the Inn, will have all the modern amenities that event-goers desire while maintaining a rustic charm with re-purposed beams and stone-work.
The Barn at Old Drovers Inn will hopefully introduce the charm and history of this Inn to a new generation..