Fire breaks out at Union Oyster House

Smoke at Union Oyster House

Union Oyster smoke. Photo by Steph Giunta.

Around 8:30 p.m. at the nation's oldest restaurant, on Union Street. WBZ reports Boston firefighters quickly extinguished the fire.



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Of the oldest listed at the

Of the oldest listed at the end, The Griswold is an inn, not really a restaurant so I think it's a stretch to include it. Otherwise, you would have to throw hotels into the mix. That leaves Fraunce's & The White Horse. I think what clinches it for the Union is that it has continuously operated at that site as a restaurant & only a restaurant. Both Fraunce's & White Horse were converted to boarding houses for significant stretches of their history.

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Never mind the restaurant.

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The building itself has been at that site for at least 250 years making it one of the last oldest buildings in the city.

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As others have pointed out,

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As others have pointed out, the key phrase is 'continuously operating restaurant' in the U.S. Other buildings may be older and may have restaurants in the past and operating now, but most of those buildings served other functions for long periods of time as well.

Just for some perspective, the Union Oyster House was open when Beethoven was still alive. Abe Lincoln was 17 years old when it opened!

However, I've always has problem with the nearby Bell in Hand calling itself 'America's Oldest Tavern' - I definitely think its misleading tourists on the Freedom Trail. I'd like to know more about their reasoning about that, as the info on their website seems rather dubious:

There was a Bell in Hand going back to colonial times, but as far as I can see, it was not always operating continuously, nor was it always found at the current building on Union Street. I don't remember it being there until recently. I would think the Warren Tavern would be in a better place to make the claim for being the oldest tavern in Suffolk County, but that's all. (Not sure if WT has been continuously operating as a Tavern since colonial times).

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I Ate Lunch There Once With My Parents— It Was Fifty Years Ago!

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My father loved to drive places on a vacation, and in August of 1967 we spent a couple of weeks exploring interesting things around Boston. It was probably on a day when we were doing the Freedom Trail, and so the Union Oyster House just happened to be convenient at the time.

My father had been there before, and even back then; billed as "the oldest restaurant", he considered it a tourist trap. Nonetheless, we were doing "History" things, and he and my mom enjoyed raw oysters, so...

I forget what I ordered, other than it included chowder, but none of us were very impressed with the meal. I do remember some of the wonderful seafood, at many other restaurants we went to on New England trips, but this definitely wasn't one of them.

My favorite Boston restaurant back then was Durgin Park. The food there was okay, but mostly I liked it because the whole place was so freaky. It was so out-of-place in such a squalid neighborhood, that alone was funny! My dad always found on-street parking as I'm sure the location scared off many tourists and other people, especially at night.

What impressed me the most about the Union Oyster House that afternoon, was the view! We were seated at the bar, or somewhere facing the windows, looking directly across towards the City Hall under construction.

The picture below is from June, 1967, just a few weeks before we were there. I remember the building looking just like that, and watching those cranes lifting pre-cast sections into place while we were eating lunch. To an eleven-year-old, it was very impressive! I've never been back since, so whenever anyone mentions the Union Oyster House, this is what always comes to mind:

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My parents took me there in 1970 when I graduated from high school. I also havent been back since.

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Dinner Theater

While I occasionally take out-of-area visitors there, I best remember some dumb-waiter drama. The joint was full when staff put a huge live lobster in the tiny elevator up to the second floor for cooking and serving. The lobster seemed to figure out what was up and crawled out. It hit the floor and was quickly crawling toward diners. People squealed and scattered like it was a horror movie. In a minute or so, a waitress who was not impressed cut short the escape and took it to the kitchen for cooking.

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To all you naysayers that thought all they did was microwave the food, now what?

But seriously, tourists must be the only reason this place still exists. Every local I have ever met has a "I went there once when I was little/new to the city, and I never went back since" story.

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Well, this local goes there

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Well, this local goes there quite a lot - not only to remind myself how lucky we are to have such charming remnants of history in our midst, but it's the only place in town where I can get a decent Lobster Newburg.

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Weirdest thing to me is source of fire

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The news reports I heard (WBZ AM) said that the fire started 'in front of the restaurant' as if someone made a bonfire on the freedom trail out front and it got out of hand.

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