The tavern is having its 300th birthday this year, and they’re celebrating with plenty of spirits… and a few spirits if you know what I mean…
The History: The island of Manhattan was originally inhabited by the Lenape people and the first contact with European explorers occurred in 1524. It wasn’t until 1719 when the De Lancey family built 54 Pearl Street that the Fraunces Tavern was born. It’s unclear if anyone in the De Lancey family actually lived in the structure, but it was used as a dance hall as well as a space for De Lancey, Robinson, & Co. which worked with imported goods such as rum, sugar, and textiles mostly from Europe and the Caribbean. Business was slow and in 1762, they sold the building to Samuel Fraunces who opened it as the Queen’s Head Tavern. From there, it played a pivotal role in the American Revolution. Acting as a meeting place for the New York City Sons of Liberty (they planned the famous Boston Tea Party while at the Tavern), and after Evacuation Day in 1783, George Washington, himself, dined at the Tavern. Today, Fraunces Tavern is nestled in the uber-modern Wall Street neighborhood of Manhattan acting as both a restaurant and watering hole as well as a museum.
The Haunting: With the claim of being the oldest standing structure in all of Manhattan, a few unnerving events should be expected. Throughout its 300 years of history, Fraunces Tavern survived two bombings exactly 200 years apart: a cannonball from the British warship HMS Asia that smashed through the roof in 1775 and the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional Puertorriquera terrorist attack that killed four people in 1975. Employees in both the tavern and the museum report hearing the sound of footsteps in an empty building, jingling keys, doors slamming, and whispers. Lights flicker off and on and paranormal groups have captured EVPs. According to stories, a man stabbed his wife outside the Tavern after learning of her unfaithfulness just before killing himself. As if that isn’t enough, in 1832, 1837, and 1852 the building suffered from several serious fires, killing two cats named George and Martha… though there are no reports of phantom cats wandering through George Washington’s old stomping grounds. To top it all off, the museum offers haunted history tours around Halloween.
Fraunces Tavern isn’t so much spooky as it is fascinating. While it is a popular watering hole among locals and tourists, they’ve managed to keep the history of the building alive with dim lighting, hardwood floors, and a museum attached to the establishment. As you sit back, sipping on your cocktail, you can’t forget the fact that the Sons of Liberty plotted here and George Washington bade farewell to his men in the Long Room which you can still visit today. The weight of bombings, murders, and suicides can be felt throughout the space, but good luck trying to hear phantom footsteps or ghostly keys jingling on their chain as this place is always busy.
Now in Fraunces Tavern’s defense, this was an impromptu Spook-Eats adventure. I was in NYC with my husband’s family, it had been a long day, and we still had an even longer way to go. Because of that, my time was cut short and I wasn’t able to try too much of what the place had to offer. Though they do have rustic sandwiches and flatbreads at both lunch and dinner to offer a more affordable option, the food was a bit on the pricey side (especially when I’m in New York to have a knish and a slice of pizza from a street vendor). Luckily, I did manage to sneak in right at the tail end of happy hour. Monday-Friday from 4:00-7:00pm, they offer $1 East Coast Oysters and $1 Italian Meatballs (with a minimum of six). Since my father-in-law is allergic to shellfish, we decided to go with the safe Italian meatball. It was good (especially after walking all day) but it didn’t blow me away like their cocktail menu. With 16 unique drinks to choose from, it was overwhelmingly glorious. I decided on the Tavern Punch called the Presidential Punch with Jim Beam, rum, dry curacao, bitters, lemon juice, and peach tea. BEWARE: this goes down a bit too easy and is delicious, so be sure to limit yourself, especially if you’re planning on walking through the rest of Manhattan. My limited experience here has already made me want to come back for a more in-depth look at the food, drink, and museum… so stay tuned for another visit in the years to come!
Type of Experience: Restaurant and Bar
Dining Style: Casual
Cuisine: Contemporary American
Price Range: $4-44
Phone Number: (212) 968-1776
Hours of Operation:
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