I work in downtown Manhattan, a few blocks from Fraunces Tavern. The area is old and historic as well as new and changing. New construction is visible from almost any vantage, families are moving in, and new schools have opened. I am occasionally struck by the realization that we own five very valuable buildings in this bustling, historic place.
But not just any five buildings. Our campus, as Chris Norfleet Real Estate Committee Chairman refers to it, is a living, breathing historic site, and a landmark not just because of a single event, but because of decades events relating to the American Revolution and culminating in our constitutional government. Even after New York ceased to be the national capital, organizations met there for significant events – and they still do today.
There are just two buildings in Manhattan predating the Revolution, Fraunces Tavern and St. Paul’s Chapel. The latter claims it is the oldest surviving place of public assembly in New York, having opened in 1765. The Tavern, which was very much a place of public assembly, opened in 1762. The Tavern is still very much a place of public assembly, teeming with people weekdays and weekends, with local workers and tourists mixing together. The same could be said for our Museum, which is open seven days a week, with the number of visitors growing geometrically.
After the Constitutional Convention ended in September 1787, Ben Franklin was said to be asked what sort of government there was to be. His answer was: “A republic, if you can keep it.” A similar thought applies to our own legacy, Fraunces Tavern, if we can keep it.
During much of the Revolutionary War, Washington’s strategy was to not lose, to have the Continental Army survive. At the Tavern, we have survived the Great Recession and the ravages of nature, including an historic storm that flooded two stories of our structures, and required replacement of the electrical wiring and equipment on both floors. So what will be the next crisis?
It is impossible to predict with any certainty, but we can with certainty predict that there will be a next crisis. And even if we can’t predict, we can prepare. Our goal is to build our endowment to $10 million by the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The time has come to restock and reload.
Thanks for your support.
Ambrose M. Richardson III
President, Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York