NYC tavern visited by Washington destroyed

6th January, 2014 by Rupert Millar

The recently discovered site of a tavern visited by George Washington after the defeat of the British in 1783 has been destroyed.

800px-Surrender_of_Lord_Cornwallis

Cornwallis surrenders to Washington at Yorktown in 1781 by John Trumball

The Bull’s Head tavern was founded in New York in 1750 and played host to General Washington soon after the British sued for peace in the American War of Independence.

According to The Daily Beast, the tavern was discovered back in October when developers Chu and Associates stumbled across the old site at 50-52 Bowery near the Manhattan Bridge when demolishing an existing building with the intention of constructing a new 20-storey hotel.

A New York preservationist, Adam Woodward, told The New York Times soon afterwards that as he explored the underground building: “I…saw…18th-century hand-hewn and hand-planed joists and beams with extremely wide floorboards right above them….I (was) standing in the cellar of the Bull’s Head.”

Bull's Head

Some of the beams from the Bull’s Head. Photograph by Adam Woodward

He also took a number of photographs of the discovery and then he and other historians and preservationists lobbied Alexander Chu and the City of New York to halt further building until a survey could be conducted.

Unfortunately the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) proved less interested with one official telling The Daily Beast, “the agency wasn’t going to pull out the stops to save the remnants of a cellar that couldn’t even be seen from the street.”

Time to secure approval for a survey expired in November and the site has since been destroyed. However, Chu did save some of the wood from the cellar and has announced plans for a small exhibit detailing the history of the place in the finished hotel.

The Bull’s Head was originally located beyond the city limits but was at the key river crossing for farmers from upstate New York taking their cattle to market – hence the name of the tavern.

When the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 after the British defeat at Yorktown in 1781, Washington passed by the inn and stayed for a while before heading into New York City to oversee the evacuation of British troops on 25 November.

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