Fraunces Tavern and Museum, located at 54 Pearl Street, is a piece of history that managed to survive the modernization of New York City and at one time barely escaped becoming a parking lot. Built in 1719, it was originally a residential home for the wealthy merchant, Stephan Delancey and his family. In 1762, after the Delancys bailed for a nicer part of town, the home was purchased by tavern-keeper Samuel Fraunces, who turned it into one of the most popular taverns of its day.
According to the museum docent, the tavern also played a significant role in pre-Revolutionary activities but it is best known as the site where Washington gave his farewell address to the officers of the Continental Army in 1783 after the retreat of the British Army. The tavern was popular with both patriots and loyalists -because everyone likes good ale- but it first gained its notoriety in August 1775 when a group of American rebels set about dismantling British cannons at the Battery (now Battery Park). The building has survived fires and renovations with probably more than a little reconstruction but for history buffs it is fun to image George Washington giving his famous farewell speech to officers from the Continental Army in the Long Room.
Of course back then ladies were not allowed to drink in such taverns. Thankfully times have changed and today ladies (with their families) can enjoy some refreshing ale and some hearty food. When you first enter the tavern you may expect to find an old dark musty watering hole but the dining area is actually light and airy with a rustic turn of the century décor. The adjoining Dingle Whiskey Bar is warm and cozy, perfect for a relaxing afternoon libation, while the Porterhouse Bar has a traditional pub atmosphere and hosts live music on the weekends.
The tavern is open for brunch on the weekends and lunch and dinner throughout the week. It is a great place to rest and rejuvenate after a trip on the Circle Line to see Lady Liberty and Ellis Island or a morning stroll through the cobble stone streets near Wall Street and the NY Stock Exchange. I recommend a pint of Erdinger, a German wheat ale, (they have a great beer selection) and the special, Fraunces chicken pot pie.
After a good meal you can head upstairs to the museum where you can learn about the history of the tavern and see period interiors. The museum also houses many early American artifacts along with paintings depicting the story of America’s independence.