Founders of Sons Saved Fraunces Tavern
The founder of the Sons of the Revolution, John Austin Stevens,
"rediscovered" Fraunces Tavern when planning the centenary
of the New York Chamber of Commerce, realizing that it was an important
part of New York history. Stevens wanted to rent out the entire
tavern on the 100th anniversary of Evacuation Day, but the saloonkeeper
would only rent the Long Room, choosing to operate the rest of the
building as a saloon during the festivities. Stevens rented the
Long Room again on Dec. 4, 1883, for the organizational meeting
of the society. The Sons then held meetings in the Tavern for a
number of years.
The second president of the Sons, Frederick S. Tallmadge, was interested
in giving the organization a permanent home and very much wanted
Fraunces Tavern for that purpose. Initially, he failed, giving up
negotiations when it became apparent that no clear title to Fraunces
Tavern could be purchased. Instead, he led efforts to buy a building
on 55th Street. Also, he made arrangements in his will for the Society
to receive a lot in Gramercy Park.
As Tallmadge lay dying, an opportunity opened to buy Fraunces Tavern.
He signed the deed on his deathbed, but was unable to rewrite his
will to remove restrictions he had placed on the Gramercy Park property,
requiring the Sons to use it as a museum. The Sons declined the
Gramercy Park lot, which reverted to his family, which then donated
it to the Sons without the restrictions. It was sold to help pay
for Fraunces Tavern. In appreciation for the gift from the Tallmadge
family, the Sons dedicated the building as a memorial to Tallamage.
After the Sons sold the 55th Street property around 1918, they were
able to burn the mortgage on Fraunces Tavern.
The building was in poor shape. Most of the science and art of
restoring and preserving historic buildings was yet unknown and
nothing remotely similar had been attempted in New York. The Sons
largely rebuilt the building, giving consideration to what it was
believed the original would have looked like. The foundations of
the building are original and several of the rooms, including the
Long Room and the Clinton Room, have been furnished with antiques
of the period.
After Hale Statue, Sons Turned To Plaques
The reconstruction of Fraunces Tavern
by the Sons of the Revolution won wide acclaim by architectural
Washington's Farewell to His Officers,
the Evacuation of New York, Fraunces Tavern, Corner Broad and
Pearl Sts. New York Dec 4th, 1783, Harry Ogden, Chromolithograph,