Hotel Builders in New York Might Have Just Uncovered the Colonial-Era Bull’s Head Tavern

Developers in New York City may have just uncovered a tavern visited by George Washington, and written about by Washington Irving


On the Bowery, in New York City, there’s a small construction site near a Chinese restaurant. The place is slated to become a hotel, but when the builders were working on it, they uncovered some weird beams. Turns out, this might be the famed Bull’s Head Tavern, a place visited by George Washington, and written about by Washington Irving. James Barron at the New York Times writes that Adam Woodward, a photographer and preservationists, got a look inside the site the other day and realized what they had found:

“At one point there was a distinct change in the building material, from cinder block to a brick-and-stone foundation wall,” he said. “I followed that wall and found myself at the front of the building, under the sidewalk at the Bowery, and looked up and saw what looked to me like 18th-century hand-hewn and hand-planed joists and beams with extremely wide floorboards right above them.”

He said, “I was thinking, I am standing in the cellar of the Bull’s Head.”

The Bowery Boys blog sums up a bit more history behind the tavern, from its early beginnings as a gathering place for farmers in the 18th century, to its eventual transformation into the Bowery Theatre, and then Atlantic Gardens. Over at The Lo-Down, they’ve got running updates on what might happen to the tavern now, and photographs of the inside.

Woodward, the man who discovered the joists, says that he hopes the city will halt construction on the hotel. “I can’t think of another lot in Manhattan that has a more important history,” he told the Times, “and the fact that it might be intact, a couple of feet under the building, is an incredible opportunity to get on archaeological record.” They’ll need to call in experts to confirm whether or not this is in fact the tavern. But even if it is, there’s no guarantee the hotel won’t still go up.

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