Museum Impressions: Fraunces Tavern Museum

Added April 11, 2019

            During my honeymoon, my fiancé and I visited a number of places in New York City. On the first day, we visited the Fraunces Tavern Museum which is both a museum and a still functioning tavern. The museum’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history of the American Revolutionary era through public education. To fulfill the mission, the Fraunces Tavern Museum uses public programs and the staff interprets and preserves the collections as well as landmark buildings. Ever since I heard about the museum while working at the Three Village Historical Society, I thought it would be a good idea if my husband and I to take advantage of the opportunity while we were in New York City. Overall, we both enjoyed the experience and there was so much to see we easily spent a few hours at each exhibit. Since there was so much to see, I decided to share only a few highlights from the visit.

When we walked into the museum, I immediately noticed that there is a room that was recreated to look like the time period. After deciding that we were going to eat at the tavern after our visit to the museum, we went upstairs where the museum is located and were greeted on the second floor. We watched a fifteen minute introduction video about the history of Fraunces Tavern and had a self-guided tour throughout the exhibits. We decided to go up to the next floor first before we saw the other exhibits on the second floor where we checked in.

One of the items in the collection that caught my eye was a letter from Nathan Hale written to his brother Enoch Hale on August 20, 1776. For those not familiar with him, Nathan Hale was a soldier in the Connecticut militia, and after the Battle of Long Island when the colonists lost control of New York City and Long Island to the British Hale volunteered to spy for George Washington before he was caught and hung for being a spy. The experience Hale had as a spy inspired Washington to create a better spy system to better protect spies while carrying out missions to find out about the British’s actions during the Revolutionary War; it became known as the Culper Spy Ring which was based in Setauket.

After visiting the first exhibit where I saw the Nathan Hale letter, we moved on to the next exhibit in the next room. The room was mainly dedicated to the history of the Sons of the American Revolution in New York City. I also noticed there was some displays dedicated to the descendant of Benjamin Tallmadge who was responsible for giving messages to Washington from and was in charge of the Culper Spy Ring. Then I saw in a display case Benjamin Tallmadge’s memoir and he was the only witness at Washington’s Fraunces Tavern farewell address to write down an account of the event inside.

I was surprised to also see a room filled with various flags called A Flash of Color: Early American Flags and Standards that traces the steps of the American flag to what it is today, and has military standards from Early American history. There was also one of the examples of how visitors can interact with the exhibits called a Colonial Costume Photo Booth where kids can dress up in costume and pose with a flag. It is a fun and unique idea, and of course I had to play around with it too.  I did not dress in the costume but I did take a picture holding a flag.

Before we left the Museum, I observed one of the rooms that was recreated to represent the Federalist period called the Clinton Room.  It was named for New York State’s first American governor, George Clinton, who hosted a dinner party for General Washington at Fraunces Tavern to celebrate the evacuation of British troops from New York on November 25, 1783.

Once we finished the tour, and got a few souvenirs, we went to the Porterhouse at Fraunces Tavern for a tavern-like experience for lunch.

There was so much to see, and I fully recommend visiting this museum when you have the opportunity. To learn more about the Fraunces Tavern Museum, visit their website in the resource section.

Resource:

http://www.frauncestavernmuseum.org/

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