Fraunces Tavern and The Buermeyers


   Worldwide, there is probably no other structure as famous that can be directly linked to the Buermeyer lineage.

   Fraunces Tavern has witnessed three centuries of New York's history and is the oldest surviving building in Manhattan. A building that was struck by a British canon ball during the American Revolution: a terrorist's bomb in the early 1980's and situated just three blocks from the World Trade Center disaster.

   Built in 1719 by merchant Stephan Delancey, the home was purchased and converted into a popular tavern by Samuel Fraunces in 1762. It is here where Washington gave his farewell speech to the officers of the Continental Army in 1783. And when New York was America's first capital, the tavern housed the departments of War, Treasury and Foreign Affairs.

   Owned by Malvina Keteltas in the early 1800's, Ernst Buermeyer and his family leased part of the property in 1845 and ran a hotel, The Broad Street House, until 1860. This was during a period when New York was growing rapidly and the city was stagnating under the weight of mass immigration. This was not the same New York City we recognize today. Ernst Buermeyer and his family lived in a city described in a 1852 New York Times article: "There are gutters reeking with filthy garbage, dead rats, cats and dogs, of every side and age, making it a very Cemetary of a street. Half-starved children in doorways occupied by mud and vagabond porkers, their little faces and hands covered with loathsome sores; whites and blacks with their red and pimpled faces burning in the sun; some reeling and staggering in the streets."

   Is it any wonder Ernst and Louisa's last three children died in infancy?

   The building was purchased in 1904 and architect William Mersereau was hired to return the building to its colonial past. Only the structure's foundation survived the last 300 years.

   Fraunces Tavern Museum is open to the public. There are a number of references to Ernst Buermeyer in the museum providing us with an opportunity to walk in the same footsteps as our ancestors.