On Union Street sits one of Boston’s oldest buildings. The Union Oyster House is a stunning reminder of how far back the history of Boston reaches. It’s an impressive brick facade and charming awning topped windows are like a snapshot of the past. The cobblestone sidewalks running along the front give it a true feel of yesteryear.
The coastal restaurant has fed countless notable figures throughout the many decades it’s been open. Before becoming an eatery, it served as everything from a dry goods store to a military hub to a publishing house. Over the years, The Union Oyster House has seen so much history and collected endless stories to tell.
Today, it’s still a bustling restaurant and a well-known favorite to Bostonians. Its history can be felt from within the walls. The authentic decor and old-world style will make you feel immersed in the past. Of course, all of that history has led to more than a few supernatural sightings.
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The History of One of the Country’s Oldest Restaurants
Located on the Freedom Trail, the Union Oyster House has a long and interesting history. The building dates back so far that there aren’t even official records of it being built. It’s believed that the building was originally built between 1704 and 1714.
By 1742, the building housed a dressed goods business owned by Hopestill Capen. The importer took advantage of the port side location to stock the shop with fine goods from overseas. The shop was called At The Sign of the Cornfields and it supplied Boston residents with the high-end apparel from Europe that was coveted at the time.
The second floor of the building played a pivotal role in the founding of American journalism. Printer Isaiah Thomas published the country’s very first newspaper from the second floor of the store in 1771. Called The Massachusetts Spy, it was a politically charged paper that helped fuel patriotism during The American Revolution.
Then in 1775, the building became a headquarters for the Federal Army. Ebenezer Hancock used the location to gather troops and give them their payments. It also became a war-time hangout for the wives of many notable leaders. The women would use the building to repair uniforms for the troops.
Another notable visitor and a temporary resident was Louis Phillipe. He moved into the second floor after being exiled from his home country of France in 1776. After, he would go a long way from making ends meet by teaching French to local Boston women. He eventually became the King of France in 1830.
Then in 1826, The Union Oyster House first opened its doors to diners, establishing it as one of the oldest restaurants in the nation. At the time it was called Atwood and Bacon. The restaurant served as a local oyster bar that would go on to draw in quite the crowd of celebrities.
Former Secretary of State Daniel Webster often frequented the eatery. It was said that he loved the oysters so much that he would often eat six plates or more, washing them down with brandy. He loved to perch at the oyster bar and quietly enjoy his meal. However, he wasn’t the only political powerhouse of the eatery.
The legendary Kennedy family was famous for visiting The Union Oyster House and requesting the second floor. They enjoyed the privacy and seclusion of the space. It’s also been said that the future president would pop in for his favorite lunch of lobster stew whenever he was in town.
Tragically, John F. Kennedy’s assassination ended his life in November of 1963. The young president’s life was cut tragically short. However, his short time in office left a significant mark on history.
John F. Kennedy’s favorite booth, table 18, bears a plaque to honor him to this day. Upstairs, “The Kennedy Booth” pays tribute to the former president. In fact, many believe that JFK has had trouble moving on from one of his favorite restaurants.
Over the years, The Union Oyster House saw many more notable guests come through the doors. Presidents Bill Clinton and Franklin Roosevelt shared love for the fresh-caught seafood. Celebrities such as Robin Williams and Steven Speilburg have enjoyed the restaurant’s coastal cuisine. Even athletes like Sammy Sosa and Larry Bird have been spotted catching a bite.
In 2003, The Union Oyster House was designated a National Landmark by The National Park Service. The plaque reads that the restaurant is, “a rare surviving brick example of Boston’s Georgian architecture.” It would go on to receive other notable historic and culinary accolades.
An Infamous Spirit
Today, The Union Oyster House is now known as one of the most haunted bars in Boston. Many eerie sightings and mysterious sounds have been observed by employees and patrons alike. Famously, the ghost of John F. Kennedy himself has been spotted many times at the eatery.
The presidential spirit has been seen in the dining rooms of the restaurant, overlooking oyster loving diners. Perhaps he is longing for a taste of some of his favorite seafood. Maybe he’s reminiscing about the many dinners gathered with his family at his favorite upstairs booth.
Many diners have also caught more than they bargained for during their bathroom break. JFK’s spirit has also been seen in the restrooms of The Union Oyster House. Visitors have looked up from washing their hands and shockingly caught a glimpse of the treasured president.
Visiting The Union Oyster House Today
A visit to America’s longest continuously running restaurant is a must-do when in Boston. This amazing eatery is full of history and some pretty great seafood. Will you choose to head upstairs to The Kennedy Booth and dine at the president’s favorite spot? You can also dine around the original u-shaped oyster bar that Daniel Webster loved so much.
Inside, the restaurant boasts a ton of character and charm. The low ceilings and narrow halls make for a cozy experience. The dark wood paneling and historical artwork give off an authentic, old-world vibe. Don’t forget to check out the original menu still hanging proudly on the wall.
The restaurant is open every day of the week for lunch and dinner. Will you decide to enjoy a plate or two of the infamous oysters that made the restaurant so famous? You can also choose to try the award-winning clam chowder. Either way, the experience is perfect for foodies and history buffs alike. Don’t forget to visit the online gift shop to purchase a souvenir of your visit!
A popular hang-out, the restaurant’s bar stays open to midnight. It’s a perfect opportunity to drink a glass of brandy where Daniel Webster did so many years ago. Plus, spirits are often more active at night, giving you a better chance for an eerie sighting.
The restaurant even has event spaces that can accommodate various sized groups. Webster’s Den can host large parties and even weddings for a memorable experience. The Freedom Trail room is the perfect cozy place for a smaller group to gather amongst the impressive memorabilia.
Haunted Boston Streets
Union Street is just one of the many historic and haunted streets of Boston. The colonial city is full of paranormal activity. A short walk from The Union Oyster House will take you by The Granary Burying Grounds, the site of many mysterious events. You can even stay the night at the nearby Omni Parker House Hotel for a chance for an encounter from a long-ago guest.
The harbor town of Boston is full of rich culture, architecture, and infamous tales. The brick buildings lining the streets can give you a glimpse into the past of one of America’s oldest cities. A visit to The Union Oyster House gives a chance to see what this iconic city is all about. Plus, you may get a peek at the spirit of one of America’s favorite past presidents.