LOCAL PROFILES: Jessica B. Phillips (Fraunces Tavern Museum) (11.20.17)
Some of New York's most historic sights can be found below Canal Street, including Clinton Castle and Hamilton's grave. But how much do you know about the Fraunces Tavern & its Museum?
The Fraunces Tavern Museum, named for Samuel Fraunces, who owned and operated the place as the Queen’s Head Tavern during the 18th century and who was later President Washington’s chief steward. We spoke to Executive Director, Jessica B. Phillips, to learn more about the museum and the many events they offer (for all ages) that makes it as relevant today as it was centuries ago.
Tell us about the Fraunces Tavern Museum...
As the oldest standing structure in NYC, Fraunces Tavern Museum has a long and rich history. Originally built around the turn of the 18th century, the building was purchased by Samuel Fraunces and opened as a tavern in 1762. The tavern continued to operate during the British occupation of NYC during the American Revolution. After the War when the nation's capital was in NYC 54 Pearl Street was leased to the fledgy government to use as office space for the Departments of the Treasury, War, and Foreign Affairs. In 1904 the tavern was bought by the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York who restored it in the 18th century fashion and reopened it as a public museum and restaurant in 1907.
What is unique about the museum?
Not only is Fraunces Tavern the only NYC museum dedicated to preserving the history of America's fight for independence, it was a favorite watering hole for founding fathers like Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and George Washington. The Sons of Liberty held meetings here and a cannon ball fired by a British war ship came through the tavern’s roof!
What should locals know about the museum?
Fraunces Tavern Museum is a fun and affordable weekend to-do for anyone living in the area. Visitors can see Martha Washington's shoe, personal effects of Revolutionary War spies, and visit the Long Room where George Washington bade farewell to his officer in 1783. With Fraunces Tavern Restaurant on the first floor, you can have a meal in the same building that George Washington once did and then come upstairs to walk the rooms that inspired America's founding.
How has the evolution of the neighborhood impacted the museum?
Since 1907 the neighborhood has been primarily non-residential. The Museum was bustling Monday through Friday but the streets were rather empty on the weekends. Since 2011 more and more buildings have been built or transitioned into resident housing and new cultural institutions like the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the 9/11 Memorial, and The Skyscraper Museum have increased tourist traffic and livened the neighborhood on the weekends, so we are now busy 7 days a week!
What are your favorite places in the neighborhood?
I love Battery Park, the Elevated Acre, Luke's Lobster and Fika.
What events do you have coming up (with dates/links) through the end of the year?
Don’t miss the next two presentations in our lecture series, The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn: An Untold Story of the American Revolution on November 20, and Dunmore’s War: Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era on December 7.On November 25th and 26th you can follow in George Washington’s footsteps on our Evacuation Walking Tour. Then on December 3 at our Washington’s Farewell event, we are hosting actor Ian Kahn from the his AMC show TURN, who will be in our historic Long Room as the General himself to reenact the farewell toast George Washington gave to his officers in 1783.