Fraunces Tavern

New York City, New York (NY)

Fraunces Tavern is the oldest bar in Manhattan.

Fraunces Tavern 1
- Jonathan Dawkins

Discover Fraunces Tavern in New York City

Established in 1762, Fraunces Tavern is the oldest and most historic bar in New York City. Today, Fraunces Tavern has been reconstructed and stands as a popular tourist destination and after-work spot for Wall Street workers. Alongside its role as a bar and restaurant, it houses a museum commemorating its revolutionary history. A plaque dedicated to the victims of a 1970s bombing serves as a reminder of its enduring resilience.

Fraunces Tavern 3
- Karl Loeffler

The History of Fraunces Tavern

Early Origins

Fraunces Tavern was originally the home of New York Mayor Stephanus van Cortlandt in 1671, later passing into the hands of Étienne "Stephen" DeLancey, Cortlandt’s son-in-law, who constructed the current building in 1719.

In 1759, the building became part of the firm De Lancey, Robinson, & Co., which dealt in imported goods. However, business slowed, leading to the sale of the property to Samuel Fraunces in 1762, where it was opened as the Queen's Head Tavern.

Fraunces Tavern 5
- Dan Nguyen

Pre-Revolutionary Era

In the pre-revolutionary period, it became known as the "Independence Bar," and served as a gathering place for Groups like the Sons of Liberty. They hosted many important events, including meetings related to the Boston Tea Party of 1773 and the founding of the New York Chamber of Commerce in 1768.

The tavern also witnessed significant milestones in healthcare history. In 1771, King George III granted a royal charter for the establishment of what is now known as NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, with the first regular meeting of its Board of Governors held at Fraunces Tavern.

Frances Tavern 2
- Matthew D. Britt

During the Revolutionary War

During the American Revolution, Fraunces Tavern continued to act as a meeting point for revolutionaries. Samuel Fraunces opened its doors to the New York Provincial Congress in 1775, which acted as a temporary government for the colony throughout the conflict.

In August 1775, the tavern witnessed an exchange of gunfire between American militia, including the Hearts of Oak led by Alexander Hamilton, and the British Royal Navy ship HMS Asia. The conflict left its mark on the building when a cannonball pierced its roof showing how closely associated the tavern was with America’s revolutionary past.

Fraunces Tavern
- Wally Gobetz

George Washington and Fraunces Tavern

“The time now drew near when General Washington intended to leave this part of the country for his beloved retreat at Mt. Vernon. On Tuesday the 4th of December it was made known to the officers then in New York that General Washington intended to commence his journey on that day. At 12 o’clock the officers repaired to Fraunces Tavern in Pearl Street where General Washington had appointed to meet them and to take his final leave.”

From the Memoirs of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge, written in 1830 and now in the collection of Fraunces Tavern Museum.

However, the tavern's pivotal moment came on December 4, 1783, with George Washington's "turtle feast." This was when he famously bid farewell to his officers in the tavern’s Long Room after the departure of the British Army, at the end of the Revolutionary War. Amidst tears and embraces, Washington expressed his gratitude to the men who had fought alongside him, marking the end of an era and the beginning of a nation's journey toward self-governance.

Frances Tavern 9
- Augie Ray

Post-Revolutionary Period

In the years following the war, the tavern served as a venue for early American governmental congresses when New York briefly became the country's capital. During this period the tavern hosted the departments of Foreign Affairs, Finance, and War.

It was also the site of important negotiations and activities related to the drafting of the Constitution and the inauguration of George Washington as the first President of the United States in 1789. However, Congress relocated to Philadelphia under the Residence Act of July 1789 and the federal departments departed Fraunces Tavern in 1790.

Transitioning from its governmental role, Fraunces Tavern resumed its identity as a social watering hole. Under new ownership, it welcomed diverse gatherings, from dances and lectures to meetings of esteemed societies and even served as a polling station.

Fraunces Tavern 1
- Jonathan Dawkins

19th and 20th Centuries

Throughout the 19th century, Fraunces Tavern endured multiple fires starting in 1832, and reoccurring in 1837 and 1852, subsequent reconstructions altered its appearance drastically. By the late 19th century, Fraunces Tavern had evolved into a five-story structure with a changed interior layout, including thirteen bedrooms on each upper floor. Despite these changes, it remained recognised as Fraunces Tavern, with signs affixed to the masonry bearing its name.

By the turn of the 20th century, Fraunces Tavern had to be saved from demolition threats by the Daughters of the American Revolution and was later acquired by the Sons of the Revolution. In 1905, William H. Mersereau led extensive renovations on the tavern to preserve its historical significance, culminating in its reopening as a museum and restaurant in 1907. In 1965, the tavern was designated a New York City Landmark and included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

Fraunces Tavern 6
- KatieThebeau

The Bombing of Fraunces Tavern

On January 24, 1975, a tragic event shook Fraunces Tavern when a bomb exploded, claiming the lives of four individuals and injuring over 50 others. The bomb was approximately 10 pounds of dynamite concealed in an attaché case and placed in the tavern's entrance hallway.

Responsibility was later attributed to the Puerto Rican clandestine paramilitary organisations "Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña" (FALN), after a note was discovered by the authorities in a nearby phone booth. The note condemned the presence of "reactionary corporate executives" at Fraunces Tavern and cited retaliation for a previous bombing in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, allegedly orchestrated by the CIA.

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- Ernest McGray, Jr.

Visiting Fraunces Tavern Today

Today Fraunces Tavern has several bars and dining rooms: the street-side 54 Pearl Street bar for outdoor dining, the refined Tallmadge Room, the intimate Independence Bar, and the Hideout Bar. Venturing upstairs, guests encounter a museum brimming with historical treasures in the Piano Bar. Among these is an unexpected relic – the tooth of George Washington, displayed alongside significant artefacts.

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- rufus

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What you need to know

Fraunces Tavern
54 Pearl St, New York, NY 10004
40.703407, -74.011375
Official Website
Tips before you visit