In 1719, a Frenchman named Oliver DeLancy, whose family contended with the Livingstons for leadership in colonial New York, built a mansion on one of Manhattan Island’s first landfills, then called Dock Street and now Pearl Street.
In 1762 an enterprising and ambitious innkeeper named Samuel Fraunces purchased the three-story brick building. He began to operate it as a tavern. Under Samuel Fraunces’ proprietorship the building became a well-known gathering place -- a place for friends and strangers to meet, mingle and share a drink. But Mr. Fraunces tavern was frequented by the leaders of a revolution and thus became more than just a local watering hole. Taverns were vital centers of community activity in the 18th Century, as important as the local church or Town Hall. They were a crucial link in a new and growing society, places where strangers were introduced, where merchants could conduct business, and where everyone could get the latest gossip as well as the news on the growing political unrest in the colonies.
Samuel Fraunces owned the tavern building for 23 years, during which it witnessed unprecedented events that changed the course of history. It was here, in 1768, that the first New York Chamber of Commerce was born. Fraunces also played host to the Sons of Liberty who galvanized popular support for the coming revolution. It was at a meeting of the provincial Congress of New York, that Samuel Fraunces first met George Washington. The two men developed a long lasting friendship, which led to Fraunces’ appointment as Chief Steward in our first President’s household.
Randall tells us that on August 23, 1775 the British sixty four gun man-of-war Asia fired on Fort George while Patriot Alexander Hamilton and Hercules Mulligan and others pulled cannons out. There was also an exchange of musket fire with one British soldier killed. As Hamilton and his friends pulled the cannons away at midnight, the Asia fired on New York. A cannonball hit the roof of Fraunces Tavern at Broad and Pearl Streets.
In 1783 Washington said farewell to his officers to Fraunces Tavern where only a few days earlier British officers had dined. He said: “With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your later days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.”
With the establishment of the Constitution and the inauguration of Washington as president in 1789, Fraunces Tavern became the home of several government agencies, including the departments of Foreign Affairs, Treasury and War.
Twenty years later, on July 4, 1804, a week before the duel, Burr and Hamilton dined together at the annual meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati (for Veteran War officers) held at Fraunces Tavern. Society President Hamilton was cheerful, while Burr was reserved. By the way, Roman warrior (kincinatus) was a farmer who dropped his plow to lead his troops in battle. Hamilton sang either the song The Drum or Why Soldiers Why?
Today the yellow and red brick building is a 1906 recreation of the original. Fraunces Tavern is an elegant restaurant and museum. The ground floor of the Tavern serves its original function and is a popular watering hole for Wall Street's busy financial workers. It is also a fine and atmospheric restaurant, full of historic charm.
The Museum is upstairs and it features a number of changing exhibitions, which reflect various aspects of American history. Lectures and films add further value to the Fraunces Tavern experience.
Special Events are held here on Washington's Birthday and Independence Day.
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