It is a piece of history and a source of legend - even the backdrop for local ghost stories.
History says Benjamin Kimball built the tavern shortly after his marriage to Mercy Haseltine of Salisbury - whose father was one of the three original settlers of what is now Bradford. Serving at first as a social center and meeting place, it was also a stop for weary travelers of an old route from Boston to Portland, Maine. In 1803, 30 members of the Bradford Parish met at the tavern and founded Bradford Academy - which eventually became Bradford College.
There is folklore about ghosts still frequenting the halls and rooms of the tavern.
This week the tavern again became a topic of conversation among those who've passed by and have noticed something strange at night in the window of an upper floor of the unoccupied building.
Peter Carbone, co-owner of the local EZ Way Cleaners, said he first noticed a pulsating light through an upstairs window of the tavern while driving toward Bradford Square last week. At first he thought it was a warning light indicating the power to the building may have been out.
"I see it every morning and night, and I'm sure others have noticed it too," he said.
Thomas Spitalere, chairman of the Haverhill Historical Commission, said he is curious about the light and will visit the tavern this week and take a look.
"It's probably an alarm system," Spitalere said.
But Spitalere would also like to think something supernatural is taking place at the tavern, rather than something as uninteresting as an alarm light.
Andrew Jacobs, director of Angelo Gordon & Company, the majority owners of the vacant Bradford College campus and Kimball Tavern, said yesterday he did not know the source of the blinking light but will send someone to investigate.
"If it was a ghost, it would be a much better story than just a blinking light," Jacobs said.
While a senior at Bradford College in the fall of 1999 - the year before the college closed due to financial problems - Spitalere had a chance to step foot inside the historic tavern. He and other students were there to present research papers to their professors.
"When I was there giving my presentation, I could sense someone watching," Spitalere said. "For me, being a ghost hunter, it didn't bother me."
When Spitalere tried to show a slide show presentation, the slide projector somehow became unplugged.
"I distinctly remember having plugged it in, and no one was near the cord," he said. "That was a sign there may have been a ghost playing pranks."
A fellow student had taken a photograph of Spitalere during his presentation. When the photograph was developed, it was discovered to be blank.
"This usually means an entity was either in front of the camera, or an entity was close to me when the photograph was being taken," he said.
Mark Hayden of Bradford had heard about the ghosts of the tavern when he was a kid.
"We always thought it was haunted," Hayden said. "When I was 10, there was a storm and a tree punctured a hole in the roof. I climbed into the tavern to investigate ghosts but did not find any. I was very disappointed."
Address: 2 Salem St., across from Bradford Common
Designed by: Architect Benjamin Kimball
When built: 1690
1921: Sold by the Kimball family to the Marble family, who used it as a home and antique shop
1967: Bought by Bradford Junior College for use by students and faculty
Today: Owned by Angelo Gordon & Company, majority owners of the Bradford College campus