As history buffs who greatly admire and study the lives and works of the fathers of our nation, we couldn’t visit New York City without a pilgrimage to Fraunces Tavern Museum on Pearl Street. The diminutive building is overshadowed by rising skyscrapers of modern times, testaments to the success of the nation as a bastion of religious and economic liberty.
Oh, this is better.
Fraunces Tavern is where George Washington said his farewell to his officers in 1783 after years of military service in the Continental Army. It is said that many men openly cried while Washington gave his speech. Little did they know that the Great American Experiment was just beginning. Washington would be back in a few years, inaugurated as President of the United States at nearby Federal Hall on Wall Street.
The original building is gone, having suffered a series of fires and renovations so that no one knows exactly what the building looked like before 1890. Originally, on this site a house was built in 1671 as a residence for wealthy New York Mayor New York Mayor Stephanus van Cortlandt. It was replaced with another residence in 1719. Samuel Fraunces purchased the building in 1792. He converted it into a tavern and named it The Queen’s Head.
The New York Sons of Liberty secretly met at the tavern before and during the American Revolution. Did you know that New York had its own little version of the Boston Tea Party? In 1765, fed up with taxes and encroaching liberties from England, a handful of patriots dressed as American Indians infiltrated a British cargo ship carrying the dreaded British tea. They forced the captain to apologize for the cargo, and promptly dumped the tea into New York Harbor. And thus our love for coffee was begun.
We lunched in the dining room before perusing the museum upstairs. Our lunch experience was so-so; read my review of lunch at Fraunces Tavern at my other blog, WowChowCooking. Admission to the museum upstairs is free if you purchase a meal in the dining room. That was a pleasant surprise.
The upstairs is filled with paraphernalia. We watched a brief movie about the history of Fraunces Tavern and then wandered the rooms at our own leisure.
This is a photo of the Clinton Dining Room, so named because Governor George Clinton dined here.
I love the Federal style architecture and decor.
This is the bowl that held the turtle soup reincorporating the New York Chamber of Commerce at the Clinton dinner. Turtle meat seemed to be a delicacy for such occasions (according to menus of the past that served it regularly for important functions). I have never had it. I doubt anyone would eat anything lugged from the Hudson anymore.
We saw many amazing pieces of odd paraphernalia, including a portion of Washington’s wooden coffin, some of Washington’s hair and his dentures! Rome may have dozens of nails that pierced Christ’s limbs but we have Washington’s hair!
Assorted relics of pre-modern warfare littered the display cases. Some treasures were discovered by little boys digging in their back yards.
Fraunces Tavern Museum also keeps the precious original diary of Colonel Benjamin Talmadge. We have read some of his memoirs and find his accounts of the Revolutionary War fascinating!
The tavern museum also had some very interesting paperwork regarding the history of the building. After the Revolution, the Treasury, War and Foreign Affairs departments were based here while New York City served as our first capital of the country. Everything was later moved to Philadelphia when the capital was there, and now to Washington, DC.
By 1900, the tavern was poised for demolition, to make way for “progress.” The Sons of the American Revolution wanted to buy the building, but the tavern owner refused all offers. The Daughters of the American Revolution begged the owner to sell, but all offers were refused again. I found it very odd that the owner was so determined to see the building destroyed, despite the monetary offers and knowing about the incredible history of the site.
The City intervened and created the Hewitt Act, enabling the Sons of the American Revolution to purchase the property and restore it for posterity. The building opened on December 4, 1907, the 124th anniversary of Washington’s farewell speech.
Did you know that there was a terrorist act at the Fraunces Tavern? (See www.nycop.com/Mar_00/Terrorism_in_NY/body_terrorism_in_ny.html). On January 24, 1975, at 1:35pm, a bomb exploded at the entrance door to the tavern’s Angler’s and Tarpon Club. The bomb exploded in the middle of lunch hour, killing four people and injuring 53. A Puerto Rican nationalist group, F.A.L.N. (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional) cliamed responsibility for the bombing. The FALN said that the bombing was retaliation for “the CIA-ordered bomb that murdered Angel Luis Chavonnier and Eddie Ramos, two innocent young workers who supoorted [sic] Puerto Rican independence” and the “maiming of ten innocent persons…in a Mayaguez, Puerto Rico dining place on Saturday the eleventh of January, 1975.” No one was ever arrested or convicted for the crime.
For more information about the tavern, visit www.frauncestavernmuseum.org.