2. The Old City Tavern, Still Open For Business
The office tower at 85 Broad Street might seem ordinary and uninteresting—the former home of Goldman Sachs, natch—but it happens to shield an important piece of New York City’s history in its shadow.
On its northeast corner on Pearl Street, you’ll find cream-colored bricks in the sidewalk that demark the location of New York’s first City Hall building. It was also, no surprise, a tavern.
In 1641, Director-General William Kieft had a costly stone structure built at what is today Coenties Slip and Pearl Street and called it City Tavern. Why “Tavern”? Back then, taverns served more purposes than simply dispensing booze. They served as inns, meeting halls, social networking places, and sometimes even offices. It makes sense then that when the city was incorporated in 1653, City Tavern morphed into what would be New Amsterdam’s very first city hall (Stadt Huys, or city house).
A 1902 illustration depicting how the New York slave market might have looked along the waterfront in 1730. Image via NYPL
When the British took over control of the colony in 1664, the building kept its place of importance. Underscoring its position was the building to its south, erected in 1670 as a tavern and owned by the governor of New York, Colonel Francis Lovelace.
Lovelace’s Tavern was conceived as a second-tier administration building and seemed to offer the same services as the larger building. (It’s sometimes referred to as the “King’s House.”) In fact, the tavern connected right into the municipal chambers, making it effectively an annex of City Hall. Lovelace’s Tavern was a popular place, its halls crowded until the wee hours with revelers, drinking wine and smoking their pipes.
Lovelace’s Tavern burned down in 1706 and the land was reallotted for development in the growing mercantile district. But you can still see remnants underfoot, here in the shadow of 85 Broad Street. (85 Broad Street)
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