Fraunces Tavern in New York City is a tavern, restaurant and museum housed in a conjectural reconstruction of a building that played a prominent role in pre-Revolution and American Revolution history. The building, located at 54 Pearl Street at the corner of Broad Street, has been owned by Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York Inc. since 1904, which claims it is Manhattan's oldest surviving building. The building is a tourist site and a part of the American Whiskey Trail and the New York Freedom Trail.
New York Mayor Stephanus van Cortlandt built his home in 1671 on the site, but retired to his manor on the Hudson River and gave the property in 1700 to his son-in-law, Etienne "Stephen" DeLancey, a French Huguenot who had married Van Cortlandt's daughter, Anne. The DeLancey family contended with the Livingston family for leadership of the Province of New York.
DeLancey built the current building as a house in 1719. The small yellow bricks used in its construction were imported from the Dutch Republic and the sizable mansion ranked highly in the province for its quality. His heirs sold the building in 1762 to Samuel Fraunces who converted the home into the popular tavern, first named the Queen's Head.
Before the Revolution, the building was one of the meeting places of the Sons of Liberty. During the tea crisis of 1765, the patriots forced a British naval captain who tried to bring tea to New York to give a public apology at the building. The patriots, disguised as American Indians (like those of the subsequent Boston Tea Party), then dumped the ship's tea cargo into New York Harbor.
In 1768, the New York Chamber of Commerce was founded by a meeting in the building.
In August 1775, Americans took possession of cannons from the artillery battery at the southern point of Manhattan and fired on the HMS Asia. The British ship retaliated by firing a 32-gun broadside on the city, sending a cannonball through the roof of the building.
When the war was all but won, the building was the site of "British-American Board of Inquiry" meetings, which negotiated to ensure to American leaders that no "American property" (meaning former slaves who were emancipated by the British for their military service) be allowed to leave with British troops. Board members reviewed the evidence and testimonies that were given by freed slaves every Wednesday from April to November 1783, and British representatives were successful in ensuring that almost all of the loyalist blacks of New York maintained their liberty.
Washington's farewell to his officers
|Date||December 4, 1783|
After British troops evacuated New York, the tavern hosted an elaborate "turtle feast" dinner on December 4, 1783, in the building's Long Room for U.S. Gen. George Washington where he bade farewell to his officers of the Continental Army by saying "[w]ith a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable."
The building housed some offices of the Confederation Congress as the nation struggled under the Articles of Confederation. With the establishment of the U.S. Constitution and the inauguration of Washington as president in 1789, the departments of Foreign Affairs, Treasury and War located offices at the building. The offices were vacated when the location of the U.S. capital moved on December 6, 1790, from New York to Philadelphia.
Damage, reconstruction and landmarks
The building operated throughout much of the 19th century, but suffered several serious fires beginning in 1832. Having been rebuilt several times, the structure's appearance was changed to the extent that the original building design is not known. The building was owned by Malvina Keteltas in the early 1800s. Ernst Buermeyer and his family leased part of the property in 1845 and ran a hotel called the Broad Street House at this location until 1860. After a disastrous fire in 1852, two stories were added, making the Tavern a total of five stories high. In 1890, the taproom was lowered to street level and the first floor exterior was remodeled, and its original timbers sold as souvenirs.
The building was threatened in 1900 with demolition by its owners, who wanted to use the land for a parking lot. A number of organizations, notably the Daughters of the American Revolution, worked to preserve it, and convinced New York government leaders to use their power of eminent domain and designate the building as a park. The designation was rescinded when the property was acquired in 1904 by the Sons of the Revolution In the State of New York Inc., primarily with funds willed by Frederick Samuel Tallmadge, the grandson of Benjamin Tallmadge, George Washington's chief of intelligence during the Revolution (a plaque depicting Tallmadge is affixed to the building). An extensive reconstruction was completed in 1907 under the supervision of preservation architect William Mersereau.
The building served as the location of the General Society Sons of the Revolution office until 2002, when the general society moved to its current location at Independence, Mo. The museum maintains several galleries of art and artifacts about the Revolution including the McEntee "Sons of the Revolution" Gallery that displays much of the history of the society.
Historian Randall Gabrielan wrote in 2000 that "Mersereau claimed his remodeling of Fraunces Tavern was faithful to the original, but the design was controversial in his time. There was no argument over removing the upper stories, which were known to have been added during the building's 19th-century commercial use, but adding the hipped roof was questioned. He used the Philipse Manor House in Yonkers, N.Y. as a style guide and claimed to follow the roof line of the original, as found during construction, traced on the bricks of an adjoining building."
Architects Norval White and Elliot Willensky wrote in 2000 that the building was "a highly conjectural reconstruction – not a restoration – based on 'typical' buildings of 'the period,' parts of remaining walls, and a lot of guesswork."
A bomb was exploded in the building on January 24, 1975, killing four (4) people and injuring more than 50 others. The Puerto Rico nationalist group FALN, the Armed Forces of Puerto Rican National Liberation, which had other bomb incidents in New York in the 70's, claimed responsibility. No one had been prosecuted for the bombing as of April 17, 2013.
Among the victims who died was a young banker, Frank Connor (Fair Lawn, NJ,) 33, who had worked his way up over 15 years from clerk to assistant vice president (AVP) at Morgan Guaranty Trust. Mr. Connor left behind his wife Mary (Connor-Tully) and two sons, Thomas, 11, and Joseph, 9. A second New York worker was Harold H. Sherburne, 66, whose career on Wall Street spanned four decades. Two executives, James Gezork, 32, of Wilmington, Del., and Alejandro Berger, 28, who worked for a Philadelphia-based chemical company, had traveled to New York for business meetings.
Sherburne, Connor and Berger died on the spot. Gezork lost his fight for life later at the hospital.
In a note police found in a phone booth nearby, the FALN wrote, “we … take full responsibility for the especially detornated (sic) bomb that exploded today at Fraunces Tavern, with reactionary corporate executives inside.”
The note explained that the bomb — roughly 10 pounds of dynamite that had been crammed into an attaché case and slipped into the tavern’s entrance hallway — was retaliation for the “CIA ordered bomb” that killed three and injured 11, one a child (6 yrs old,) in a restaurant in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico two (2) weeks earlier.
A memorial plaque with some victims' names is hung in the newly restored/renovated Tavern's (December 2012) large dining room.
The building was declared a landmark in 1965 by New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the building's block bounded by Pearl Street, Water Street, Broad Street and Coenties Slip was included on November 14, 1978. The building's block was included on April 28, 1977 on the National Register of Historic Places by National Park Service, and the building was included on March 6, 2008.
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- "The Happy Hour Guys at Fraunces Tavern". YouTube.com. San Bruno, Calif.: YouTube LLC. February 7, 2008. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VyXYuFhcjw. Retrieved September 15, 2009.
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- "Liberty's Kids, episode 38 "The Man Who Wouldn't Be King"". YouTube.com. San Bruno, Calif.: YouTube LLC. December 26, 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHY1kDirTx4. Retrieved December 29, 2009.
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- Mara Bovsun (January 21, 2012). "Justice Story: FALN bomb kills 4 at Fraunces Tavern, where George Washington said farewell to troops". http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/justice-story-faln-bomb-kills-4-fraunces-tavern-george-washington-farewell-troops-article-1.1008711. Retrieved April 17, 2013.
- Edward D. Reuss. "Terrorism in New York". nycop.com. http://www.nycop.com/Mar_00/Terrorism_in_NY/body_terrorism_in_ny.html. Retrieved April 17, 2013.
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- "Fraunces Tavern". NPS.gov. Washington: National Register of Historic Places. March 6, 2008. http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natregsearchresult.do?fullresult=true&recordid=0. Retrieved September 23, 2009. [dead link]
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