Fraunces Tavern: American History in the Oldest Restaurant in New York City

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New York City has always held an important place in American history. From the days of the American Revolution through today, it has been the site of many significant historic events. Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan is one such location. Not only did Fraunces Tavern host many gatherings during the Revolutionary War, but it has also been restored to hold a museum as well as a great bar & restaurant that you can eat & drink in today, just as George Washington did.

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How to visit Fraunces Tavern

Fraunces Tavern is located at 154 Pearl St, New York, NY 10004 in lower Manhattan near Wall Street. The closest subway stops are South Ferry (1) and Whitehall Street (R-W). It is also close to hop-on, hop-off buses.

Museum admission is $7, with typical discounts available for students & seniors. It is also part of the New York Pass & the New York City Sightseeing Pass.

Fraunces Tavern Museum

The upper floors of Fraunces Tavern in New York City are home to the Fraunces Tavern Museum (official website). These rooms detail the early history of New York City, which is also the history of the United States.

Fraunces Tavern was first opened in 1762 by Samuel Fraunces. In the ensuing decades, the tavern hosted important political & social events, including secret meetings of the Sons of Liberty, who supported the American Revolution. The founding of the New York Chamber of Commerce also occurred here.

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As the American Revolution was winding down, Fraunces Tavern was also the host of British-American Board of Inquiry meetings. These meetings allowed loyalist Blacks who had fought on the side of the British to remain free & be evacuated safely.

The most famous event in Fraunces Tavern history occurred on December 4th, 1783, when it hosted a celebration that featured George Washington’s farewell speech to his officers of the Continental Army following the British retreat on Evacuation Day. The Long Room has been restored to show what the tavern would have been like at that time.

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The museum also has a lock of George Washington’s hair. Sounds like it was one crazy celebration.

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Following the Revolutionary War, Fraunces Tavern continued to play a role in early American history, housing departments of the Confederation Congress when NYC served as the young nation’s capital.

While the museum has preserved & restored as much of the 18th-century building as it could, most parts of the buildings are not as old. The loss of the original building is mostly due to fires & subsequent rebuilding & expansion.

In 1900, Fraunces Tavern was slated for demolition but was thankfully spared. Reconstruction completed in 1907 turned the building into what it is today. This reconstruction has not been without controversy. It was at this time that the Fraunces Tavern Museum was established. The whole block was eventually preserved as part of the National Register of Historic Places. It largely consists of bars & low-slung brick buildings that stand out from the towering skyscrapers above.

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Most of the rest of the museum covers the Revolutionary War, especially in how it relates to the Sons of the Revolution, who now own & operate Fraunces Tavern.

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There are also details about the history of the building and its restoration, along with rotating exhibits.

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Fraunces Tavern Restaurant & Bar

The ground floor is home to the Fraunces Tavern Restaurant & Bar, which is the oldest restaurant in New York City (as well as the oldest bar in New York City). Not just one room, it actually has several spaces that provide different experiences for dining & drinking.

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A lot of historic bars & restaurants act as tourist traps with mediocre offerings. That’s not the case here. The Fraunces Tavern menu has kept up with the times, featuring modern takes on rustic American classics, as well as burgers, cheese & charcuterie, and lots of seafood.

The Fraunces Tavern drink menu is also great. It has a huge whiskey selection from around the world, as well as craft beer. In addition to a nice selection of local New York City craft beer (and from points beyond), there’s also Porterhouse beer from Dublin, as well as a house Samuel Fraunces Ale made by Staten Island’s Flagship.

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The tavern also has live entertainment. In addition to a new piano bar upstairs, Fraunces Tavern also hosts live performances of traditional Irish music and jazz.

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Fraunces Tavern is legitimately a great pub. It’s dark and full of wood. While the building is of course mostly a reconstruction, one can imagine how the tavern is similar to what it was like back in the 1700s, back when George Washington and other historical figures frequented it.

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Right across the street, you can look into a portal to the old New York – archeological ruins that can be viewed under glass.

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In an area where so many skyscrapers have been built, it’s nice to get a glimpse into the past. Fraunces Tavern not only has historical importance, but it also continues to be a pleasant place for a drink & a meal today.

For more New York City history, visit the Museum of the City of New York and the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space.

Here are some great New York City tours & activities & other things to see & do in New York City.

If you’re looking for a place to stay near Fraunces Tavern, check out these New York City hotels.

Last updated on February 26, 2022

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