Walter Livingston House

Walter Livingston House
95 Broadway, New York, NY

This New York City Hotel Engraving, Circa 1830, captures the left side of the Walter Livingston House, located at 95 Broadway. The image  reveals that the four-story dormered building had accented stonework on main structure’s sides, stone slabs separating the first and second floor with a view of the front door. Pictured to the right of the building is the City Hotel at 123 Broadway.  This Circa:1831 etching is from the Museum of the City of New York Collection 

Numerous and reputable U.S. History sources list Fraunces Tavern and not the Walter Livingston House as the site chosen by Congress to relocate its offices and assembly room on October 6th, 1788.   Sources citing Fraunces Tavern as the last Seat of Government under the Articles of Confederation include: 
  • Fortenbaugh, Robert, The nine capitals of the United States, Maple Press Co., 1948, page 78
  • - 8 Forgotten Capitals of the United States, July 16, 2015 By Christopher Klein (retrived August 2, 2017 - ).
  • Klos, Stanley L. - The U.S. Presidency & the Forgotten Capitols,, Publishing,  2008, page 211
  • US Senate - Chronological Table of the Capitals (retrieved August 2, 2017 from
  • Wikipedia - List of capitals in the United States, (retrieved August 2, 2017 from
This confusion over the Seat of Government's relocation stems from the Department of Foreign Affairs move from Fraunces Tavern to 95 Broadway on May 1st, 1788.

Background: In January 1787, US Foreign Secretary John Jay and War Secretary Henry Knox requested that their departments be moved into the Articles of Confederation's Seat of Government building when their Fraunces Tavern lease expired on April 30th, 1787.  Secretaries Jay and Knox were informed by Congress that no rooms could be spared for those departments. Accordingly, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the War Department negotiated a lease extension and remained at Fraunces Tavern for another year beginning on May 1, 1787. In January 1788, with the lease set to expire again on April 30th, Secretaries Jay and Knox sought other accommodations and found a suitable building on Broadway owned by Walter Livingston. On February 1, 1788, John Jay and Henry Knox wrote the following letter to the Commissioners of the Treasury, of which Walter Livingston was one:

We have hired for a year the new House of the honorable Walter Livingston Esquire in the Broad way, for the Office of Foreign Affairs and of War, at the rate of 250 pounds and the Taxes. As we shall not have occasion for all the Rooms, it may perhaps be convenient to you to place one or more of the Offices within your Department in the supernumerary ones.  -- (Selected Papers John Jay, 4: 644 ) 
The Departments of Foreign Affairs and War's offices, along with other government offices were relocated to Walter Livingston's house on May 1, 1788. This excerpt from the Massachusetts Gazette, dated May 16, 1788, records the tenants at 95 Broadway:

Massachusetts Gazette dated May 16, 1788: An arrangement of the several offices under Congress, which occupy that spacious and elegant building of the Honorable Walter Livingston, Esquire, in Broadway.  On the first floor is the War-Office.  Second Floor, the Office of Foreign Affairs.  Third floor, Burrel's Office, for settling the accounts of Commissary and Quartermaster Departments -- Walker's Office, for the accounts of Marine, Clothing and Hospital departments.  Fourth Floor, Treasurer's Office -- Farrel's office for adjusting the accounts of the State of New York and New Jersey.
Four months later, on September 30th of 1788, the United States in Congress Assembled (USCA) formed a committee  to determine where to move the Seat of Government during the renovations of the former New York City Hall building. The USCA, in an arrangement to keep the capitol in New York, negotiated an agreement with Mayor James Duane and NY City Council to completely renovate the building Congress was occupying to accommodate the new Constitution of 1787 government. Architect and engineer Pierre L'Enfant was charged, earlier that month, to remodel the Capitol, which would be known as Federal Hall.

On October 1st, USCA Massachusetts Delegate George Thatcher wrote his wife, Sarah:
I told you there was an addition going to be made to the Building Congress now sets in. Twenty or thirty people are daily to work upon this; and the house we now set in must, immediately be unroofed---; And Congress must of course adjourn to some other house for the present. There is none where they can be very well accommodated, And I should not wonder if an adjournment without day should take place. If this should be the case you may look for me some time in this month.    
The USCA Journals report on October 2, 1788:
The committee consisting of Mr [Thomas Tudor] Tucker, Mr [John] Parker, and Mr [Abraham] Clark to whom was referred a letter3 from the Mayor of the city of New York to the Delegates having reported, That it appears from the letter referred to them, that the repairs and alterations intended to be made in the buildings in which Congress at present Assemble, will render it highly inconvenient for them to continue business therein, that it will therefore be necessary to provide some other place for their accommodation, the committee having made enquiry find no place more proper for this purpose than the two Apartments now appropriated for the Office of foreign Affairs. They therefore recommend that the said Apartments be immediately prepared for the reception of Congress and the papers of the Secretary. Resolved, that Congress agree to the said report. .
On that same date, Delegate Thatcher wrote Nathan Dane, that:  
The new Building is going on with spirit. Congress has this day adjourned till Monday, & then to meet in the rooms where Mr. Jay kept his office. This had become necessary, as the Old Hall and Court Room are to be new modled; And the workman made such a continual noise that it was impossible to hear one another speek. I should not wonder if by middle of next week Congress were to adjourn without day. Many are uneasy and are for going home.   
On Monday, October 6th, 1788, the USCA vacated the colonial city hall and six States assembled in the Department of Foreign Affairs former offices at 95 Broadway.  The USCA Journals report: 
Six States assembled namely Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, and from New Hampshire Mr [Nicholas] Gilman from Rhode Island Mr [Peleg] Arnold, from New York Mr [Leonard] Gansevoort, from Delaware Mr [Dyre] Kearny, and from Maryland Mr [Benjamin] Contee."  
Failing to form the required seven states quorum, Congress adjourned. 

On October 8th,  the USCA formed a quorum and on motion by Virginia Delegate Henry Lee that was seconded by John Armstrong, Congress resolved:

That considering the peculiar circumstances attending the case of Muscoe Livingston, late a Lieutenant in the navy of the United States, in the settlement of his accounts, Resolved, that the Commissioner for the marine department adjust the said account, any resolution of Congress to the contrary notwithstanding.[63] 

The rest of the October 8th, session was spent reviewing Governor Arthur St. Clair’s letter and five enclosures from the Northwest Territory. 

On the 9th they assembled as before and passed a resolution  permitting the Board of treasury to satisfy a lottery claim providing that the beneficiaries “do give security that no further Claim on account of said Prize Ticket shall be made upon the United States by the Heirs, Executors or Administrators of the said deceased, Gail, or either of them.”[64]

On October 10, 1788,  Massachusetts, Connecticut New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina assembled along with only one delegate under representation from New Hampshire, from Rhode Island Delaware and Maryland.   Only Georgia, as in the first Continental Congress, failed to send delegates.   The USCA in their last official act suspended the work of the commissioners that were appointed to settle the States' Continental accounts.   The  last Congressional motion under the Articles of Confederation was made by Abraham Clark and seconded by Hugh Williamson,

That the Secretary at War be and he hereby is directed to forbear issuing warrants for bounties of land to such of the officers of the late army who have neglected to account for monies by them received as pay masters of Regiments, or for recruiting or other public service, until such officers respectively shall have settled their accounts with the commissioner of army accounts, or others legally authorized to settle the same, and have paid the balances that may be found due from them, into the treasury of the United States, anything in the land ordinance passed the 9th . day of July 1788 to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Delegates tabled the measure and “the question was lost,” and with the failure of this motion the Eighth USCA adjourned never to convene again. 

Article V of the Articles of Confederation called for a new congress each year on the first Monday of each November: 
V. For the most convenient management of the general interests of the United States, delegates shall be annually appointed in such manner as the legislatures of each State shall direct, to meet in Congress on the first Monday in November, in every year, with a power reserved to each State to recall its delegates, or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send others in their stead for the remainder of the year." 
On October 31, 1788, Virginia elected their delegates Cyrus Griffin, John Brown, John Dawson, James Madison, and Mann Page to the Ninth USCA, which was scheduled to assemble on November 3rd.  President Cyrus Griffin wrote the Virginia Governor Edmund Randolph:
Be so obliging to inform the House of Delegates that I shall continue in New York to execute the important Trust with which the general Assembly is pleased to honor me. I receive this further Mark of their Confidence with gratitude and pleasure & will endeavor to answer the expectations of my Country.[65]  
On November 3rd, the Ninth USCA was unable to form a quorum  and elect a new USCA President.  Cyrus Griffin, therefore, continued in the office having never resigned the office. Griffin's one year term limitation, under the Articles of Confederation, expired on January 21, 1789 ending his USCA Presidency.   

At 95 Broadway, which also provided an office for USCA Secretary Charles Thompson, the USCA continued to try and form a quorum.  On January 27th, 1789, Tench Coxe wrote this letter to James Madison:

"I have been here about a Fortnight during which time we have not made a Congress. So. Carolina, Virga, Pennsa, N. Jersey, & Massachussets are represented. There is one Member from each of the States of Rhode Island, N. Carolina & Georgia, but none from New Hampshire, Connecticut, N. York, Delaware or Maryland. I very much wish we may make a house in a week or ten days, as I think the Appearance in Europe, & perhaps even here, of the old Congress being in full operation and tranquilly yielding the seats to the new would have a good effect. The misrepresentations in Europe have been extremely gross, and must have an unfavorable effect upon Emigration in the poorer ranks of life. Col. Wadsworth has been mentiond as President. I respect him much, but I wish to give appearance to the old System by a Character of rather more celebrity. Mr. Adams would meet my Judgment better than any member of the present house. The principal Objection is his Absence, which I fear will deprive him of his chance." 
From January 28, 1789 until 1789 March 2 Secretary Charles Thomson records occasional attendance of 17 additional delegates in trying to form quorums. A 9th Congressional quorum never formed and the USCA Presidency ended Cyrus Griffin. On the evening of March 3, 1789, the demise of the Articles of Confederation government was marked by the firing of thirteen guns at sunset, honoring each of the 13 States from the Federal Fort opposite Bowling Green. 

A Watercolor of the New York City Hotel 123 Broadway, Trinity Church 89 Broadway, and Grace Church 79 Broadway, which captures the former four story Walter Livingston House located at 95 Broadway.  This building, not Fraunces Tavern, was the last Seat of Government for the Articles of Confederation United States in Congress Assembled. - Hill, J. W. (John William) (1812-1879) , Watercolor, Broadway and Trinity Church, Circa: 1830, I. N. Phelps Stokes Collection of American Historical Prints. 

At daybreak on March 4th, 1789, the current United States constitutional government was ushered in by the firing of eleven canons, in honor of the eleven States that had ratified the Constitution of 1787. The States of Rhode Island and North Carolina were now severed from the American Union and the Articles of Confederation government was dissolved.   The Livingston House, with the Articles of Confederation Congress dissolved, continued to lease office space to various federal and city offices.    

In December 1789, Walter Livingston, who was no longer serving on the Treasury Board, purchased an advertisement in The Daily Advertiser placing his 95 Broadway House up for Sale.   It was a timely sale because on July 16th, 1790, Congress passed, and President Washington signed into law, "An Act for Establishing the Temporary and Permanent Seat of the Government of the United States," permanently moving the nation's capital out of New York City.

Walter Livingston, with the Capitol moving to Philadelphia in 1790, purchased an advertisement in The Daily Advertiser on 12-18-89 placing his 95 Broadway House up for Sale.


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