I wrote about Fraunces Tavern, once before here. Located at 54 Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan, it is New York's oldest surviving building, and has witnesses three centuries of American history.
George Washington and other American leaders gathered at this tavern to celebrate the evacuation of the British from New York on November 25, 1783. Washington visited again on December 4th for a farewell banquet with his officers. After Washington became president, the tavern's owner, Samuel Fraunces, served as his chief steward in New York.
Today Fraunces Tavern houses a museum as well as a restaurant.
I revisited it recently to explore the exhibits in the museum on it's upper floors. I am a great admirer of George Washington, and if I am asked which historical figures I'd most like to meet I know he would be very high on my list.
The only known eyewitness account of Washington's farewell to his officers is Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge memoir, which is part of the museum collection.
From the original Tallmadge manuscript:
"The time now drew near when General Washington intended to leave this part of the country for his beloved retreat at Mt. Vernon. On Tuesday the 4th of December it was made known to the officers then in New York that General Washington intended to commence his journey on that day. At 12 o'clock the officers repaired to Fraunces Tavern in Pearl Street where General Washington had appointed to meet them and to take his final leave of them. We had been assembled but a few moments when his excellency entered the room. His emotions were too strong to be concealed which seemed to be reciprocated by every officer present. After partaking of a slight refreshment in almost breathless silence the Gen. filled his glass with wine and turning to the officers said, 'With a heart full of love and gratitude I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.' After the officers had taken a glass of wine the Gen. said, 'I cannot come to each of you, but shall feel obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand.'
Gen. Knox being nearest to him turned to the Commander In Chief Who suffused in tears was incapable of utterance but grasped his hand when they embraced each other in silence. In the same affectionate manner every officer in the room marched up, kissed and parted with his general in chief. Such a scene of sorrow and weeping I had never before witnessed and fondly hope I may never be called to witness again."
The officers escorted Washington from the tavern to the Whitehall wharf, where he boarded a barge that took him to New Jersey. Washington continued to Annapolis, where the Continental Congress was meeting, and resigned his commission
Reading that account in Tallmadge's journal brought tears to my eyes, for both the emotional eloquence of George Washington, and for the love and respect shown for the man who was to become our nation's first president.
Unfortunately, I was not able to take any more photographs in the museum, as I was told it was not allowed. The exhibits were comprised of artifacts, paintings, drawings and documents related to the colonial, revolutionary, and early federal periods of American history, a George Washington Portrait Gallery, paintings of other Revolutionary war heroes such as Molly Pitcher, and John Ward Dunsmore paintings which illustrate important events of the Revolutionary War, including Valley Forge, the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Surrender at Yorktown.
One interesting fact I was surprised to learn at the museum was that on 9/11, during the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City, the original bible that George Washington used to swear the oath of President of the United States had been on loan for an exhibit in the Faunces Tavern Museum, just a few blocks from the horrific event. Two days later, while the city was still in great turmoil Brother Tom Savini, Director of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library and Museum was taken under special police escort to Faunces Tavern Museum where he was able to recover the Washington Bible for safe keeping.
The ground level of Fraunces Tavern is still an active and attractive restaurant. It is comprised of a few attractive rooms with colonial period decorations.
My husband and I went for lunch, and you can see by the photos below it was of excellent gourmet quality, and dining here is a wonderful treat if you visit New York City. Be sure to offer a toast to George Washington!
I hope you enjoyed this visit to Fraunces Tavern and a little look back into American history!