FINANCIAL DISTRICT — There’s new reason for cheers at one of the city’s oldest and perhaps most historic saloons.
Fraunces Tavern, the more than 200-year-old home of a storied Revolutionary past, was awarded $587,550 in federal funds Tuesday, to help repair electrical damage caused by the torrents of murky Hurricane Sandy floodwater that overwhelmed the building nearly three years ago.
“We are just so thrilled by the news of the funding,” said Jessica Phillips, the executive director of the Fraunces Tavern Museum, which sits above the 54 Pearl St. restaurant and bar. “It’s wonderful, there are almost no words for how happy we are.”
The legendary tavern — the site where George Washington gave a teary goodbye to his dedicated troops after the British evacuated New York in 1783, and a meeting place for numerous historic luminaries — was, like much of Lower Manhattan, inundated with salty, corrosive water during the October 2012 hurricane.
While the tavern’s museum collection went untouched, thanks to its upper floor location, a host of flood damage was done to the building, originally constructed in 1717.
Phillips said they made about $250,00 in repairs after the storm, working tirelessly to reopen just 40 days after the storm hit. But there was still more than $600,00 worth of work left, she said — money needed to totally overhaul the old, and now deteriorating, electrical system.
“The wiring, which is very old, is just being corroded by the residue of that combination of brackish water, sewage and whatever other muck the storm washed up,” Phillips said. “The need for funding is so great for us — a corroding electrical system and an old building with wood-framing is a recipe for disaster.”
“Replacing the electrical system is not something we had hoped to do, it was something we had to do,” she added.
Phillips said the tavern had been working for the past two years with engineers to determine how it needed to move forward with the revamp, and how much it would cost.
The recently awarded funds were through a grant program intended for historic landmarks that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The money, announced through Governor Cuomo's office Tuesday, gave a total of $6.2 million to 16 historic sites across New York that were damaged.
Fraunces Tavern applied several months ago to the federal program, but in the interim, and with no guarantee it would get the money, a donation campaign was launched to help offset costs. The donation push, which started last month, had already raised about $30,000.
Phillips said the tavern was still pursuing some kind of reimbursement from its insurance company, though like many hit by the storm, it had not received any help from insurance.
If the tavern hadn’t received this federal funding, moving forward would be tough, she said. They’d be forced to use funds that would have drastically cut their museum programming, and stretched them thin in the future.
“This is really just the best news,” Phillips said. “I'd say it was the best news all year, but I found out I was pregnant this year, so it’s the second best news.”
For the complete listing of landmarks that received Sandy repair funding, head here.