Located at the very southern tip of Manhattan, between The Battery and Wall Street, Fraunces Tavern is one of New York City’s oldest remaining buildings. This historic structure was the site of numerous important events before, during, and after the American Revolutionary War, and George Washington was a frequent visitor here. Today, Fraunces Tavern has been thoroughly renovated, and it’s now home to a museum, restaurant, and multiple bars.
Fraunces Tavern History
Fraunces Tavern has a long, rich history that involves some of colonial New York’s leading figures. The land on which Fraunces Tavern stands today once belonged to Stephanus Van Cortlandt, one of New York City’s first mayors. Van Cortlandt transferred the property to his daughter, Anne, and her husband, prominent Manhattan merchant Stephen Delancey, in 1700. In 1719 they constructed the building we know today as Fraunces Tavern, intending for it to be a private residence, but they spent little time there and the dwelling exchanged hands several times before being purchased by Samuel Fraunces in 1762.
Samuel Fraunces transformed the location into Queen’s Head Tavern, and it soon became a hotbed of local political activity, the place where groups like the New York City Sons of Liberty held their meetings. The tavern was damaged during the Revolutionary War, but remained a lively destination, famously hosting George Washington’s farewell dinner in December 1783, when the last remaining British soldiers had departed America.
During the nineteenth century, the building served primarily as a boarding house, and was damaged extensively by multiple fires. By the time the twentieth century rolled around, the structure was in bad shape, and it took the New York City government intervening to prevent it from being razed to the ground. The building was restored in 1907, and in the middle of the century four additional buildings surrounding the tavern were purchased to create a “museum complex.” Fraunces Tavern was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
What’s at the Fraunces Tavern
The Fraunces Tavern Museum is home to an approximately 8,000-object collection of historic artifacts, furnishings, documents, and artworks. Typically, the museum will have about 400 of these items on display throughout the site’s nine galleries. Paintings, letters, tables, teacups, all with fascinating backstories—you’ll encounter a little bit of everything here.
The Fraunces Tavern dining room has an extensive menu. The drinks list is large, and covers craft beer, cider, cocktails, whiskey, wine, and various other spirits. The charcuterie-and-cheese plate is popular, and the dinner menu has appetizers, salads, steak, pasta, fish and chips, and a selection of oysters. Lunch is served Monday through Friday, from opening until 3:30pm.
There are also three bars at Fraunces Tavern: Independence Bar, Hideout Bar, and the Piano Bar Upstairs. Each one of these bars has its own character, so if you’re in the mood to try one or more of them, be sure to check out their drinks list online before visiting.
Both the tavern and the museum have stores where you can snag a souvenir or pick up the perfect gift for your favorite history lover. The Fraunces Tavern Museum gift shop carries an assortment of books, ornaments, pewter figurines, and other museum-themed collectibles. The tavern sells a variety of Fraunces Tavern-branded shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, coasters, and more.
Tips for Visiting the Fraunces Tavern
- The Fraunces Tavern Museum is included on several money saving tourist passes including the New York Pass and NY Sightseeing Pass.
- If you have your heart set on dining at Fraunces Tavern, be sure and guarantee your spot by making a reservation in advance. Reservations can be secured by visiting the tavern’s official website.
- In addition to its permanent collection, Fraunces Tavern Museum often hosts temporary exhibits. By their nature, these exhibits are subject to change, but recent shows have covered such subjects as regimental flags of the Continental Army, maps of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and espionage during the Revolutionary War, just to name a few.
- The restaurant serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, from opening until 3:30pm.
- Keep in mind, this is a popular destination with a rich history in New York City. Dining here will make for a memorable meal, but it won’t come cheap.
- If you’re interested in the Piano Bar Upstairs, be advised that there is a $30-per-person minimum.