Excerpt from Preston E Pierce’s A Tour Guide to Black History Sites in Canandaigua, NY.
The Dudley Tavern, once located on the corner of Foster and South Main Streets in Canandaigua, burned in 1911. At that time, it was located well out of the business district on South Main Street. The area between Saltonstall Street and the lake was not developed and certainly not a resort area before the Civil War. A tavern in the area catered to those who worked on the lake or in the industries surrounding it. The Dudley Tavern did not have the upper class clientele that frequented the Sanborn Tavern across from the Court House.
Known for its bear pies in its early years, this tavern was built by Marvin Dudley in 1796. Known for its “cuisine and grand dances,” the tavern kitchen was run by the owner’s wife, “Mother” Dudley who was also known for her gingerbread cookies.
The tavern was once owned by Eldad Clark, and later by William K. Foster. That latter gentleman was an “ardent abolitionist and a relentless foe” of slavery, according to the 1911 report of the fire. There was a large ballroom on the second floor. The house stood flush with the edge of Main Street.
Changes in the landscape around possible Underground Railroad sites often makes it difficult to understand why the site was a good place to hide. Fugitives needed to be in a place where approach would be inconspicuous; where escape was possible; and where they would not be out of place with the other people in the immediate area. A tavern on the edge of town would be just such a place.