Combining five early-18th-century structures, this unique museum/restaurant/bar pays homage to the nation-shaping events of 1783, the momentous year in which the British officially relinquished control of New York following the end of the Revolutionary War, and General George Washington gave a farewell speech to the officers of the Continental Army in the 2nd-floor dining room before returning to his home at Mt Vernon.
The site was originally built in the early 1720s as a tony residence for merchant Stephen De Lancey’s family; barkeeper Samuel Fraunces purchased it in 1762 and turned it into a tavern called the Queen's Head. After the war, when New York was the nation’s first capital, the space was used by the Departments of War, Treasury and Foreign Affairs. The tavern was closed and fell into disuse in the 19th century, then was damaged during several massive fires that destroyed most colonial buildings and Dutch-built structures in the area. In 1904, a historical society named the Sons of the Revolution bought the building and returned it to an approximation of its colonial-era look – an act believed to be the first major attempt at historical preservation in the USA.
Besides occasional new exhibits, the museum offers historical lectures, Revolutionary War paintings and artifacts, seasonal walking tours and some surprising Washington relics, including a lock of his hair and a fragment from his original coffin. Occasional free tours are offered with admission Thursdays through Sundays.