New York City is a city known for constantly rebuilding itself, and despite the constant flurry of new construction each year, old, historic buildings remain incorporated into the city’s built fabric thanks to community-led preservation efforts and city landmarking laws. Lying amidst the towering skyscrapers and increasing number of chain stores, Manhattan hides several centuries-old gems: buildings dating back to the 1700s, many of them playing an important role in the American Revolution – from colonial taverns to actual farmhouses.
Below we explore the oldest buildings in Manhattan, listed from oldest to most recent:
1. Fraunces Tavern, 54 Pearl Street (1719)
Holding both the title of “Manhattan’s oldest building” and “New York’s oldest restaurant,” Fraunces Tavern played a crucial role in the American Revolution and even housed several federal offices afterwards. Located at the corner of Pearl and Broad Street, the legendary tavern now functions as both a museum (on the second and third floors) and an expansive restaurant (taking up the first floor).
Built by Stephen DeLancey in 1719 and bought by Samuel Fraunces in 1762, the building now known as Fraunces Tavern was a hotspot for revolutionary activity, serving as the meeting point for many secret societies, like The Sons of Liberty. A Royal Navy cannon ball crashed through tavern’s roof in August of 1775, and in 1783, the then-general George Washington chose to bid farewell to his officers inside its historic halls. The building was bought by The Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York in 1904 and in 1906 underwent a massive and controversial reconstruction which unsteadied its claim as Manhattan’s oldest building. The goal was to restore the building to its colonial appearance, but as there was little to no information (and no pictures) on the original architecture, the reconstruction was extremely speculative, and resulted in an almost entirely new construction.