Fraunces Tavern, New York City

Fraunces Tavern at the corner of Broad and Pearl Streets in New York City, between 1900 and 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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After its reconstruction, around 1907-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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In 2014:

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Claimed to be the oldest building in Manhattan, the building was constructed in 1719, and was used as a tavern in the second half of the 18th century and well into the 19th century.  However, the building suffered some serious fires in the mid 19th century, and was consequently reconstructed several times.  By the turn of the century, it looked nothing like its original appearance.  In fact, when it was finally “restored” in 1907, it was redesigned based on what was presumed to be colonial appearance; its actual 18th century configuration is unknown.  I don’t know how much of the original structure is left, but I would hazard a guess that it is an architectural equivalent to the ship of Theseus, with the question being, if a building has, over time, had every single part of it replaced, is it still the same building? And if not, at what point did it cease to be the same building? But, if it is the same building, what would happen if, theoretically, all of the original pieces were recovered and reconstructed, say, across the street. Which would be the “real” building? Inquiring minds want to know.

Buckman Tavern, Lexington, Mass

The Buckman Tavern in Lexington, Mass., between 1890 and 1901.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Between 1910 and 1920.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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In 2013:

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Built about 1690, Buckman’s Tavern was the gathering place for many of the militiamen on the morning of the Battle of Lexington, on April 19, 1775. Not much has changed in the appearance of the building since then, let alone since the above photos were taken. However, the air conditioning unit in one of the first floor windows is not an original period item.

Union Oyster House, Boston

Union Oyster House in Boston, sometime in the 19th century. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library:

Restaurants

The historic building around 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library:

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In 1930, courtesy of Boston Public Library:

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Sometime between 1934 and 1956. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The Union Oyster House in 2010:

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The above four photos show over 100 years of the history of the oldest restaurant in the United States, the Union Oyster House in Boston.  Although the restaurant opened in 1826, the building itself is far older, having been built around 1704.  The second floor was once used as the publishing office of the Massachusetts Spy in the 1770’s, and in 1796 the future King Louis Philippe of France lived in exile, also on the second floor.  Since becoming a restaurant, the Union Oyster House (originally Atwood & Bacon Oyster House, as seen in the 1898 photo) has served many notable patrons, including Daniel Webster, John F. Kennedy, and other members of the Kennedy family.