The Red Lion Inn Tavern Sign – A Palimpsest

This sign originally hung in front of the Red Lion Inn Tavern, built by Captain John Heald in 1771, which stood on the west side of what was then Groton Road and is now West Street, when that portion of Carlisle was part of Concord. It is thought to have functioned as a tavern until the advent of automobiles at the end of the 19th century. In the winter of 1934-5, the building was moved across the street, where it now stands, a privately owned dwelling.

The sign, painted on a single wide board, originally showed a crowned lion rampant, but at some point- probably near the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1775 – the lion, being a symbol of England, was scrubbed off, and an elm tree painted over it, and the tavern was rechristened the Liberty Tree Tavern. Nevertheless, on the sign the lion is still quite visible (Can you see it?), presumably because the paint protected the wood underneath while the unpainted surround was left to weather. This is a palimpsest, a word formed from the Greek words meaning to scratch again, first applied to wax tablets used by the Romans for writing.

This sign was on loan to the Historical Society through the courtesy of Janet Lovejoy and her daughter Hillary.