Old Taverns of New York

Old Taverns of New York

W. Harrison Bayles
W. Harrison Bayles

Author: Bayles, W. Harrison (William Harrison), 1841-
Hotels — New York (State) — New York
Bars (Drinking establishments) — New York (State) — New York
Taverns (Inns) — New York (State) — New York
Old Taverns of New York


Indian Trade—First Settlement—Purchase of Manhattan Island—Popular Taverns in New Amsterdam—Sunday Closing Under Stuyvesant—Dutch Festivities
The English Conquest—Horse Races—Regulations for Innkeepers—First Merchants’ Exchange—Famous Taverns of the Period—Early Buccaneers and Their Relations with Government Officials—Efforts of the Earl of Bellomont to Restrain Piracy
An Exciting Election in 1701—Popularity of the Coffee House—Aftermath of the Leisler Troubles—Political Agitation under Lord Cornbury—Trials of Nicholas Bayard and Roger Baker—Conferences at the Coffee House—Festivals under the English Rule—Official Meetings in Taverns and Coffee Houses
The Black Horse Tavern, Scene of Many Political Conferences in the Early Eighteenth Century—Rip Van Dam and Governor Cosby—Lewis Morris’ Campaign—Zenger’s Victory for Liberty of the Press—Old New York Inns—Privateering—The Negro Plot
The Slave Market, Later the Meal Market—The Merchants’ Coffee House, Famous for More than Half a Century—Clubs of Colonial New York—The Merchants’ Exchange—Charter of King’s College, Now Columbia University—French and Indian War—The Assembly Balls—The Press Gang—Some Old Inns—Surrender of Fort Washington
Doctor Johnson on the Comforts of an Inn—Landlords of the Olden Time—Some Curious Tavern Signs—Intemperance in the Eighteenth Century—Sports and Amusements
The Crown and Thistle, Meeting Place of St. Andrew’s Society and Later Called the King’s Head—The King’s Arms, Formerly the Exchange Coffee House and the Gentlemen’s Coffee House—Broadway of the Eighteenth Century—The Stamp Act and the Non-Importation Agreement—The Liberty Pole—Recreation Gardens
The Queen’s Head Tavern, Where Was Organized the New York Chamber of Commerce—Pre-Revolutionary Excitement—Battle of Golden Hill—Hampden Hall, Meeting Place of the Sons of Liberty and Attacked by the British—List of Members of the Social Club, 1775—Other Clubs and Societies of the Period—The Moot, a Lawyers’ Club and Its Charter Members—The Tax on Tea, Committee of Correspondence and Outbreak of the Revolution
The Continental Congress—Marinus Willett’s Seizure of Arms—Flight of the Tories—Happenings at the Coffee House—The Province Arms, Resort of British Officers—Other Taverns—The Theatre Royal—Sports—The Refugee Club—Social Affairs Under the British Occupation
The Treaty of Peace—Celebration Dinners at Sam Fraunces’ House and Other Taverns—Evacuation of New York—Washington’s Farewell to His Officers, at Fraunces’ Tavern, 1783—First New York Bank—Re-organization of Chamber of Commerce—Social, Philanthropic, and Learned Societies of the Day—The Cincinnati—The New Constitution—Washington’s Inauguration—Sam Fraunces, Steward of the President
The Tammany Society—Tontine Coffee House Founded by Prominent New York Merchants—New York Stock Exchange in the Tontine—Marriner’s Tavern, Later Called the Roger Morris House and the Jumel Mansion—The Tammany Wigwam—Brillât-Savarin in New York
Club Life After the Revolution—The City Hotel and the Assembly Balls—Musical Societies—Second Hudson Centennial, 1809—St. Andrew’s Society Dinners and Other Feasts—Tea Gardens—The Embargo of 1807—Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen—New England Society—Political Associations—Tammany Hall—The Battery—The Ugly Club
The War of 1812—Dinner to Naval Victors at the City Hotel—Dinners to Captain Lawrence, General Harrison, Commodores Bainbridge and Perry—News of Peace—The Shakespeare Tavern, a Musical and Literary Centre—Cradle of the Seventh Regiment—A New York Inn Comparable to London’s “Mermaid Tavern” and “Turk’s Head”—Visits of Monroe and Jackson—The Erie Canal—First New York Savings Bank—The Price-Wilson Duel
Prejudice Against Dancing—Balls—Debates and Lectures—The City Hotel—Niblo’s Garden—Road Houses—Trotting Matches—Upper Third Avenue—Suburban Drives and Taverns—Lafayette’s Visit—Clubs—End of City Hotel—Era of Hotels




“Beer Was the Dutchman’s Drink” 5
The City Tavern from the Justin Dancker’s View, 1650 15
The White Horse Tavern 18
The Damen House 19
Water Gate, Foot of Wall Street 24
“They Had Discovered the Toothsome Terrapin” 31
“The Man of the Knight of St. George” 38
The Earl of Bellomont 56
“As Genuine Pirates as Ever Sailed the Sea” 57
Captain Tew 59
The Bayard Punch Bowl 74
Viscount Cornbury 78
Old Tankard 80
The Black Horse Tavern 90
Rip Van Dam 93
Governor Cosby 94
Lewis Morris 95
Fac-Simile News Item from the New York Weekly Journal, November 5, 1733 99
Andrew Hamilton 102
The Ball at the Black Horse 107
“Which Were All Drank in Bumpers” 109
“The Violin and Flute, by ‘Private Hands’” 111
House at 122 William Street 117
The Royal Exchange 136
Sir Danvers Osborne, Governor of New York 139
“The Drumbeat Was Constantly Heard in the Streets” 145
Sir Charles Hardy, Governor of New York 147
Colonel Peter Schuyler 150
The Press Gang 153
The Bull’s Head Tavern 157
The Roger Morris House 160
The Blue Bell Tavern 161
The Old Time Landlord 169
“Hard Drinking Prevailed” 171
Good Old Madeira 173
A Racing Trophy 180
Bull Baiting, From an Old Advertisement 184
The Bowling Green, From Lyne’s Map 186
William Alexander, Earl of Stirling 192
House Built by Cornelis Steenwyck 197
The De Lancey House 201
Liberty Boys 214
At Ranelagh 220
Corner of Broadway and Murray Street, 1816 235
Captain A. McDougall 241
Merchants’ Coffee House and Coffee House Slip 254
Marinus Willett Stopping the Transfer of Arms 274
Baroness De Riedesel 298
In the Coffee House 318
“Gambling With Cards Was Pretty General” 339
Simmons’ Tavern 342
Fac-Simile Receipt of Sam Fraunces, as Washington’s Steward 343
The Bowery Theatre 348
Tontine Coffee House 356
Old Sleigh 365
The City Hotel 373
Martling’s Tavern 376
Belvedere Club House 382
Fac-Simile Bill of the City Hotel, 1807 384
Anthelme Brillât-Savarin 387
White Conduit House 398
Robert R. Livingston 404
Washington Hall 409
Tammany Hall 411
Fraunces’ Tavern About 1830 412
The Great Naval Dinner at the City Hotel, December 29, 1812 416
Commodore Stephen Decatur 418
Commodore Isaac Hull 420
Captain James Lawrence 421
The Shakespeare Tavern 429
“As Choice Spirits as Ever Supped at the Turk’s Head” 431
De Witt Clinton 438
Contoit’s Garden 454
Niblo’s Garden 457
Reynolds’ Beer House 459
Cato’s House 461
The Old Hazzard House 462
Burnham’s Mansion House 464
Fitz-Greene Halleck 470
J. Fenimore Cooper 472
Bunker’s Mansion House 477




Much has been written about the old taverns of New York in a disconnected way, but heretofore there has been no connected story linking them with the current events of the early history of the city. This story I have attempted to tell from the Dutch settlement down to the early part of the last century, when the growth of the city and extensive travel entirely changed their character. In doing this I have found myself at issue with many writers on the subject. In every such case the conclusions set down in this book rest I believe upon unquestionable documentary evidence, in part referred to in the text.

Before any newspapers appeared the tavern was a very important institution in the community. It was the medium of all news both political and social, the one place where people of all kinds met to exchange views on every subject of interest to the general public. In this way it exercised an influence second only to the church.

The connection of the taverns with the history of the city was very close. There was hardly an event of importance but had its inception in the taverns, where all questions of interest to the public were discussed as in no other place. They were frequented by all classes and the influence of each one of them on the community depended entirely on the character of those who patronized it. The merchants, the politicians and the men of letters each had their places of rendezvous.

Following the history of the city chronologically I have endeavored to link with it the influence of the taverns on current events, and at the same time show up the interesting features of tavern life by details of happenings at these places. I have made no attempt to increase interest by any means except the plain, unvarnished truth, which I have considered sufficiently attractive. Tales of the old taverns are enhanced in interest by a glamour of antiquity surrounding the subject by which few can fail to be charmed.

Nothing exists at the present day in any way resembling an old tavern of the first class in colonial times. It was the place for political discussion, for social clubs and for meetings of all kinds. Every one went to the tavern and from no other source could a person gain so much knowledge of public affairs.

W. Harrison Bayles






Dutch Taverns

Trading with the Indians

On the return of Hendrick Hudson from his voyage of discovery in 1609, his reports were so favorable, especially, as to the abundance of valuable furs which were to be had at very little cost, that several merchants of Amsterdam, without delay, fitted out trading vessels and sent them to trade with the Indians in the territory he had visited. The returns were satisfactory, and they formed themselves into a company under the name of the United Netherland Company and established a trading post on the southern part of Manhattan Island. The exclusive privilege of trade, which had been granted them by Holland, expired in the year 1618, and they endeavored to have the grant renewed or extended, but succeeded only in obtaining a special license, expiring yearly, which they held for two or three years longer.

In the meantime a more extensive association had been formed by some merchants and capitalists of Holland, who in the year 1621 received a charter under the title of the West India Company, which gave to them the exclusive privilege of trade on the whole Atlantic coast, so far as the jurisdiction of Holland extended. Powers of government were conferred upon the company and the right to make treaties with the Indians.

In 1623, they sent out a vessel which carried thirty families to begin the colony. The vessel landed her passengers and freight near the present site of Albany and a settlement was there established. The return cargo of skins and other freight was valued at about twelve thousand dollars.

First Settlement

It having been determined to fix the headquarters of the company in New Netherland on Manhattan Island, two ships cleared from Holland in 1625 with a large number of settlers for this place. With these was sent out Peter Minuit, as Director-General, to superintend the interests of the company. On board the vessels were carried more than a hundred head of cattle, besides other domestic animals, such as would be needed by the people in a permanent settlement. This was the first real settlement on Manhattan Island. The few huts and storehouses, surrounded by a stockade for protection against the Indians, although it appears they were very friendly, which had been located here for many years, was not a settlement; it was only a trading post; no attempt had been made to cultivate the land.

Unlike the New England settlers and the Swedes upon the Delaware the Dutch did not make use of the log house, so well adapted by economy, ease of construction and comfort, as a temporary home. It is said that Dutch traders built huts very much like those of the Indian tribes of the neighborhood.

The Indian house or hut was made by placing in the ground two parallel rows of upright saplings adjoining each other and bringing their tops together, lapping them over each other in a curve. On this were fastened boughs and reeds, as a protection against wind and rain, the inside being lined with bark nicely joined together. If such skill were used in joining the bark on the inside as is displayed by some of the North American Indians in building their canoes, it must have presented a very neat and smooth appearance. There was no floor, the fire, in winter, being built upon the ground, the smoke escaping through an opening in the roof. The width of the house was invariably twenty feet, the length being regulated by the number of families occupying it.

If the Dutch traders used such huts they undoubtedly modified them somewhat as to fireplace and chimney and probably made many other improvements to suit their needs.

Manhattan Island Purchased

Peter Minuit, the Director-General, to obtain title to the island, purchased it from the Indian proprietors, and the settlers commenced their town by staking out a fort, under the direction of Kryn Frederick, an engineer sent out for that purpose, and set about the erection of their temporary homes, which were little better than those of their predecessors, the traders. The next year, 1626, the machinery for a saw mill arrived from Holland and a mill worked by wind power was erected on what is now Governor’s Island, which was then covered with a fine growth of forest trees, which after being cut up, could be easily floated to the little town. The settlers were thus supplied with lumber which enabled them to erect buildings more conformable to their needs. They built, as a rule, houses of only one story in height, with two rooms on the ground floor and a garret above. The roof was reed or straw thatch, and this material continued to be so used for about thirty years after the first settlement of New Amsterdam. The fireplace was built of stone to the height of about six feet, having an oven of the same material by the side of it, extending beyond the rear of the house. The chimney above the stone work was made of boards plastered inside with mortar. The average value of these houses was about one hundred and fifty dollars.

The Dutchman did not come to America for the sake of religious or political freedom or to escape persecution. He was lured by the profits of trade and the prospect of finding a better and more extensive home for himself and for his children. In the little villa

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