An Authentic American Treasure…
The ‘76 House is New York’s oldest tavern; a three hundred year old structure lovingly restored to pristine condition by the Norden Family. Listed as a National Landmark, the restaurant offers even more than historical significance. Today, patrons enjoy fabulous food prepared by our acclaimed chef in a comfortable and hospitable atmosphere. Four glowing fireplaces, live music, our famous Sunday brunch and eagerly anticipated monthly wine dinners have elevated the ’76 House to one of the area’s top dining destinations. We look forward to welcoming you soon!
The Old ’76 House is not simply one of America’s oldest taverns. Built in 1668, The Old ’76 House had a profound effect on the outcome of The Revolutionary War. Through its long use as a meeting place for patriots, The Old ’76 House established itself as safe ground for Americans when the air was rife with revolution and the tavern itself served as the “prison” of the Revolution’s most notorious spy, Major John Andre. That is why The Old ’76 House is often referred to as “Andre’s Prison”, not a real prison, in fact never having been a place of incarceration for anyone before or since. On the contrary, The Old ’76 House has been a haven for many a weary traveler for more than two hundred years. This great tavern has accommodated on various occasions, every General of the west wing of the Continental Army including Commander-in-Chief General George Washington who, with his chief provisioner Samuel Fraunces, dined in the comfortable atmosphere of The Old ’76 House.
The story of Major Andre and Benedict Arnold is one strewn with deception, fateful remorse, and mortal consequences. It is also a story which could have changed the outcome of the Revolution. Andre, a charming, handsome, young man, was adjutant general to General Sir Henry Clinton, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in North America. Arnold was a brilliant and respected general as well as a great friend of General Washington.
General Benedict Arnold, having been severely reprimanded by Congress and, in fact, court martialed, had become embittered and ready to betray his country. Truly a brilliant general, he realized the strategic importance of West Point and, drawing on his longterm friendship with Washington, sought to secure the command of the fortress. Washington, who regretted the treatment and reprimand of Arnold, granted his request and thus Benedict Arnold was placed in a position to betray his country.
Arnold began to correspond secretly with General Clinton about his plan to let West Point fall into British hands. As a result, Clinton sent Major Andre up the Hudson in the British Sloop-of- War, Vulture, on September 20, 1780 to meet with Benedict Arnold. Andre was rowed ashore at the long cove just south of Haverstraw, where the two men conferred until sunrise. Their plans for the handing over of West Point still not complete, they rode on horseback to the home of Joshua Hett Smith, which stood on what is now known as Treason Hill. There it was agreed that Arnold should have one of the links removed from the great iron chain which stretched across the Hudson from West Point to King’s Ferry to prevent the passage of British ships up the river. Arnold planned to replace the iron link with rope, on the pretext that the chain needed mending.
Plans were completed and Andre hid his papers, showing the fortifications of West Point and the placement of soldiers, between his “stockings and feet”. Toward evening he asked to be rowed back to the Vulture, but Smith said it was too dangerous and persuaded Andre to cross the Hudson at Stony Point and proceed to the British lines by land. Near Tarrytown he was stopped by three American soldiers who discovered the incriminating papers and took him to the nearest commanding officer. From there he was taken to Tappan, where Washington had placed his headquarters, and imprisoned in The Old ’76 House – then called Mabie’s Inn.
After a trial in the Dutch Church in Tappan, a court of inquiry reported that Andre ought “to be considered a spy from the enemy and that, agreeable to the law and usage of nations, it is their opinion he ought to suffer death.” He was marched up the hill to a gallows at noon on October 2, 1780. As he stood beneath the gibbet he said: “All I request gentlemen is that while I acknowledge the propriety of my sentence, you will bear me witness that I die like a brave man.” In 1820 Andre’s remains were brought to rest in Westminster Abbey, London where he is regarded as a hero. Benedict Arnold died in London in 1801, shunned by friend and foe alike.
The Restoration of a Great American Tavern
Life in the towns of early America centered around the Tavern. Revolutions were plotted, local news was exchanged, commerce was discussed, townspeople were celebrated, married, and grieved all in the proximity of the local Tavern. For this reason taverns played an important role throughout our history, standing as constants through which our history moves. It is with this respect for the great American institution of hospitality that the 76 House was reconstructed.
The 76 House represented a challenge to Historically preserve. The original stone foundation had not settled uniformly and most of the original floor and ceiling joints suffered structurally and had been sured up with modern and inconsistent materials. The configuration of the floorplan, where the original rooms had existed and how they related to each other, was manipulated into many smaller areas and even a false ‘Andre’s prison room’ had been added as a tourist attraction. Therefore, the preservation team was faced with first locating original documents and accounts which detailed the original building’s layout and secondly to implement their findings in a structurally sound fashion.
Luckily the ’76 House has a long history of important meetings, many of which presented the preservationists with detailed accounts of the interior spaces, what they were used for and how they were changed. What they uncovered was that the ’76 House was built in three discernable phases: The first included the two front rooms and a small second level. The second phase, completed several years before Andre’s famous stay, included what is now the bar area and the small dining area which is where Andre’ actually stayed. The third building phase occured fairly recently, within the last seventy years, and included what is now the modern entrance, kitchen and associated dining areas.
The original floorplan, that which now largely exists on the main floor of the Tavern, was agreed upon and Architect J. Alberto Robaina set about fleshing out the additional spaces to accent the old in the most agreeable light. Construction began with the foundation, under which two foot wide footings were hand dug and concrete filled. In all, over 30 tons of foundation clay were removed by hand and repoured with concrete. After a sound foundation was established, the crew searched for authentic interior lumbers. Ceiling joists were located in Ontario, Canada in a barn structure which predates the original tavern. Non-dimensional red pine flooring was found in an Amish schoolhouse outside of Lancaster, PA. Recreated Delph tile was handpainted in Holland and set in place in the old Tap Room. The original horse-hair plaster was retouched in the four original rooms. All modern additions such as electrical and air conditioning ducts were craftly concealed under custom molded wainscotting and finishing materials were selected and applied from the colonial palettes of several leading preservation-oriented
In all, over two years of painstaking preservation work, research and modern construction went into forming what is now the ’76 House – restored to its former glory and, once again, a great American meeting place and restaurant.
The Tavern's Role in American History
Daniel Webster called America’s colonial taverns “The headquarters of the Revolution.” Patrons of this tavern knew it as “The listening post of the Revolution”; they knew that Washington made his headquarters at that building of like vintage just across the creek. Actually, this tavern’s colonial patrons called it simply Mabie’s, for its tavernkeeper.
Our history shows all colonial taverns could as well have been called midwives of the Revolution, such was their critical role at America’s birth.
Sam Adams plotted that timely Tea Party at Boston’s Green Dragon Tavern. Thomas Jefferson drafted elements of the Declaration of Independence at a tavern, the Indian Queen in Philadelphia. George Washington bade an emotional farewell to his officer corps at Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan. Patrick Henry and Virginia’s restless patriots pledged their lives to liberty or death at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, the first building of that colonial town’s restoration.
Across the colonies, taverns were where town folk and country folk kept in touch, one with another, where they got the news and the gossip. Taverns – public houses – served public needs. They were the mail drops before the days of post offices. At a critical time in American history they served as a web of national unity connecting Committees of Correspondence in the 13 colonies. Tavern to tavern, from Providence to Savannah, the Committees stirred the fires of independence.
New York’s Committee met in this venerable building. At its meeting on July 4, 1774 – two years to the day before the Declaration of Independence and in prophetically similar language – the committee passed the Orangetown Resolutions. Orangetown, the municipality for the hamlet of Tappan, was then the County seat. It was where the County Supervisors met and where the Committee of Correspondence met. The Resolutions gave respectful notice to King George III that enough was enough. Patriots throughout the colony replied amen.
Casparus Mabie owned the tavern and shared its operation with his brother Yoast. The Mabies were among Tappan’s founding families. Precisely when this building was built is unknown; records show that Casparus expanded it to tavern-size when he bought it in 1754. It is of similar architecture as the house of another founder just across the creek, the DeWint House, on which the date 1700 is impressed in the facade. Both are national landmarks. Original sections of this house are unchanged and it remains today, as then, a welcoming haven for wayfarers.
The most celebrated episode in ’76 House history was when the sturdy tavern served as the place of John André’s confinement. Andre was the British spy who plotted with the arch traitor Benedict Arnold for the surrender of West Point, the linchpin of America’s control of the Hudson River. Militiamen caught André red handed and brought him as a prisoner to Tappan.
Washington used the DeWint house as his headquarters, Mabie’s Tavern as André’s prison and the nearby Dutch church as a courtroom to give André a fair trial. Guilty. Two days later, at high noon on Oct. 2, 1780, a crowd of about 1,500 soldiers and onlookers witnessed the hanging of John André on the hilltop behind the tavern. A monument marks the spot.
Meet The Staff
An Oral History of The '76 House
The '76 House110 Main Street
Tappan, NY 10978
HoursSunday: Brunch 11:00am - 3:00pm, Dinner: 4:00pm - 9:00pm
Monday - Thursday: Lunch 11:30am - 3:00pm, Dinner 5:00pm - 9:00pm
Friday: Lunch 11:30am - 3:00pm, Dinner 5:00pm - 9:30pm
Saturday: Lunch 11:30am - 3:00pm, Dinner 5:00pm - 10:00pm