FRAUNCES’ REVIVED AGAIN

Tis with merry heart and dashing spirit that I proclaim that ye olde Fraunces Tavern is reopening in refurbished style. Closed last March due to poor business, the landmark tavern has (with intermittent lapses) been dishing out food and drink for two and a half centuries; it’s the oldest building in Manhattan.

This was the famous locale where, on December 4, 1783, after the British had evacuated New York, General George Washington bid farewell to the officers of the Continental Army. On January 24, 1975, it went from famous to infamous when the Puerto Rican nationalist group FALN exploded a bomb that killed 4 people and injured 50 others.

Originally known as the Queen’s Head Tavern when Samuel Fraunces opened it in 1762, the tavern became a favorite meeting place for fledgling revolutionists. After the American Revolution and with the creation of the United States of America, New York became the nation’s capital and the tavern was converted into a governmental administrative office. When the capital was moved to Philadelphia (and from there to the newly established city of Washington, DC) the Queen’s Head became a tavern again.

Beginning in 1832, a series of fires severely damaged much of the building; in fact, its combined damages became such that the building’s original design was lost in the course of numerous renovations. In 1900, the tavern was threatened with demolition but was saved from the wrecking ball by the Daughters of the American Revolution and other organizations. The DAR wanted the building to be designated as a park, but when the Sons of the Revolution acquired the property in 1904 they hired architect William Mersereau to supervise an extensive reconstruction of the tavern. Despite Mersereau’s confidence that his work (the building as we know it today) accurately restored the tavern to its original design, many experts have doubted his claim.

Nonetheless, Fraunces Tavern looks appropriately old and historic enough for normal, everyday purposes; in spite of the fact that the tavern is often more famous in history than for being frequented today.

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