When researching my first historical adventure novel, Mooncussers, I needed to know how people got from point A to point B.
During the 1700s and 1800s, Cape Cod inhabitants walked, used horses, wagons or packet boats (small vessels that sailed along the coastlines of all the villages on the bay side). The Old Kings Highway, or Route 6A that we know today, was just an idea in the late 1600s. At that time, the road was a dirt path that followed Native American pathways already well worn throughout the land. As more people traveled, this historic cart path got wider. Population increased on the Cape, commerce grew and better roads were needed. It became an extension of Plymouth County's "Old Kings Highway" in the early 1700s.
I decided to travel along Route 6A past the Orleans rotary to see what could possibly still be around on either side of this now four lane highway. My character, Maria Hallett needed to travel from the easterly edges of Eastham to Brewster. Brewster was part of Harwich and called North Harwich in the 1700s.
Within a short time, I found the Penny House Inn with 1700 on its sign. I wasn't sure if it was the address number, or the year, so I stopped in and asked. To my delight, it was referring to the year. The gracious innkeeper informed me that the house was built in the late 1600s but research on her part found no exact date, there was only a mention of taxes paid in 1700. The information was perfect for me and I inquired further about the house.
The original owner of the house was an innkeeper and tavern owner. His land encompassed all that was behind his house to the bay and across the road to the ocean side. In the past, women travelers were forbidden to stay overnight in a tavern, so the men would stay at the tavern and the women would sleep at the tavern's owner's house across the street. The property opposite the inn is now St. Aubins Nursery.