54 Pearl St at Broad St
Find yourself in colonial New York, dine and drink where America’s Founding Fathers did. If you like whiskey, you are certainly in the right place!
How many places in the world offer dinner and beverages at the exact location where the Founding Fathers once dined and conducted official business of the country? Fraunces Tavern is one such place.
Shortly following the American Revolution, when New York served as the capital of the young republic, the American government ran its business from the Federal Hall, located a few blocks away. Since the Federal Hall wasn’t large enough to accommodate all the new government offices, the Departments of Foreign Affairs, War, and Treasury, the latter headed by Alexander Hamilton, were located in the Tavern itself!
In the 18th century, Fraunces Tavern was the favorite with the Sons of Liberty, who planned the American Revolution over Fraunces’ hearty meals. In 1783, at the Revolutionary War’s end, George Washington famously declared himself a private citizen planning to retire to his family estate in Virginia. He gave a farewell dinner for his officers in the Long Room of Fraunces Tavern. Apparently, private life didn’t work out for General Washington as he returned to New York to become the first President of the United States.
Whether you are visiting New York or live here, you probably recognize the names of Delancey and Cortland. Before they became street names, the Delanceys and the Cortlands were real flesh-and-blood people prominent in the life of the city.
In 1719, Van Cortlandt, the first native-born mayor of New York City, built the original house that would later become Fraunces Tavern. He gave the house to his daughter and her husband, Etienne Delancey, who moved from France to New York and became one of the most prosperous merchants in the city.
Delancey’s sons, who inherited the house, sold it to Samuel Fraunces in 1762. Mr. Fraunces turned the place into a dining establishment that he named the Queen’s Head Tavern, since the head of Queen Charlotte, the wife of Britain’s then-monarch King George III, was depicted on the tavern’s sign.
The Queen’s Head Tavern became a fashionable center of 18th century New York life. The tavern served fixed-price meals cooked up by Mr. Fraunces himself. As the revolutionary mood grew in fervor, Fraunces parted with the queen’s name and renamed it after himself.
By the 1900s, the place was dilapidated and faced demolition. In 1907 the Sons of the Revolution bought the building and restored it to look as similar as possible to the original.
Fraunces Tavern operates simultaneously as a museum and as a restaurant. It gets quite busy on weekdays during dinner, lunch and happy hour. If you want to enjoy it, avoid visiting during most traffic-heavy hours of the day.
One of many rooms in Fraunces Tavern is the cozy “Dingle Whiskey bar,” which, being a part of the “American Whiskey Trail,” serves over 200 whiskeys.