Coordinates: 42°21′32.3″N 71°3′21.09″W / 42.358972°N 71.0558583°W / 42.358972; -71.0558583
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Sign of the Bunch-of-Grapes tavern during 17th-18th c.
General information
LocationState Street
Town or cityProvince of Massachusetts Bay
CountryUnited States
Construction started1733

The Bunch-of-Grapes was a tavern located on King Street (State Street) in Boston in the Province of Massachusetts Bay in the 17th and 18th centuries. It served multiple functions in the life of the town, as one could buy drinks and meet friends, business associates, political co-conspirators. The facade of the Bunch-of-Grapes building featured an iconic sign: "Three gilded clusters of grapes dangled temptingly over the door before the eye of the passer-by."[1]

Brief history[edit]

Notable events occurred on tavern premises. "On Monday, July 30, 1733, the first grand lodge of Masons in America was organized here by Henry Price, a Boston tailor, who had received authority from Lord Montague, Grand Master of England, for the purpose."[2] In 1769, the tavern offered tickets for "Love in a Village", the first professional opera performance in Boston.[3] Artist Christian Remick (b.1726) displayed his paintings in the tavern in 1769.[4]

A darker chapter in the tavern's history involved slavery. For potential buyers, a "search for slave labor in Boston began and ended along the bustling King Street corridor that connected the warehouses of Long Wharf to the commercial center of town. Three of Boston's busiest public houses -- the Royal Exchange, the Crown Coffee-House, and the Bunch of Grapes tavern- lined that half-mile stretch. All offered fine drink and lively conversation, and at times all served as clearinghouses for slaves."[5][6]

In the revolutionary era, "the Bunch of Grapes became the resort of the High Whigs, who made it a sort of political headquarters, in which patriotism only passed current, and it was known as the Whig tavern." Paul Revere[7] and others gathered here. However, during the British occupation of Boston, British troops met at the tavern. In January 1776, James Henry Craig, company commander of the 47th (Lancashire) Regiment of Foot, arranged a meeting at the tavern: "The ancient and most benevolent of the Friendly Brothers of St. Patrick. The Principal Knot of the 47th Regiment is to meet at the Bunch of Grapes on Thursday the 29th inst. at eleven o'clock in the forenoon."[8] After the Siege of Boston ended in March 1776, "General Washington was handsomely entertained" at the Bunch-of-Grapes, as were Lafayette and General John Stark.[5] [disputed ]

In March, 1786, Rufus Putnam, Benjamin Tupper, Samuel Holden Parsons, and Manasseh Cutler met at the tavern and formed the Ohio Company of Associates, which led to a contract being drawn up that sold about five percent of the State of Ohio to this group of Revolutionary War Veterans. This land was in the Southeastern part of Ohio. Provisions of the contract included setting aside two townships in the center of the purchase for a university. Thus, Ohio University (first chartered as American Western University) became the first land grant institution of higher education in the United States, preceding the more famous Morrill Act land grant institutions by nearly three-quarters of a century.[9]

Owners of the tavern included William Davis (prior to 1658), William Ingram (1658); John Holbrook (1680), Thomas Waite (1731), and Elisha Doane (1773).[10] Keepers of the tavern included: Francis Holmes (1690–1712); Mrs. Francis Holmes (1712-ca.1731); William Coffin (1731–1733); Edward Lutwich (1734); Joshua Barker (1749); Mr. Weatherhead (1750-ca.1757); Joseph Ingersol (1764–1772); John Marston (ca.1776-1778); William Foster (1782); James Vila (1789); and Dudley Colman (1790).[10]

The Bunch-of-Grapes building was demolished in 1798,[11] and a commemorative plaque exists on the State Street site today.[12]


  1. ^ Samuel Adams Drake and Walter Kendall Watkins. Old Boston taverns and tavern clubs. Boston, W.A. Butterfield, 1917.
  2. ^ Mass Moments Archived November 26, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Announcement. Boston Chronicle, Sept. 25, 1769; quoted in: David McKay. Opera in Colonial Boston. American Music, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Summer, 1985), pp. 134.
  4. ^ Massachusetts Historical Society. "Thomas Jefferson papers".
  5. ^ a b Robert E. Desrochers, Jr.. Slave-for-Sale Advertisements and Slavery in Massachusetts, 1704-1781. The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 59, No. 3, Slaveries in the Atlantic World (Jul., 2002), p.627.
  6. ^ Conroy, David (June 19, 1995). In Public Houses: Drink & the Revolution of Authority in Colonial Massachusetts. University of North Carolina Press. p. 125. ISBN 9780807845219. Francis Holmes, proprietor of the Bunch of Grapes on King Street in the early eighteenth century, directed that his slave Prince not be sold, but either freed after his wife's death or placed with one of his children. But other tavernkeepers, simply indifferent to their slaves' fate or in financial straits, sold slaves without hesitation
  7. ^ David Hackett Fischer. Paul Revere's ride. Oxford University Press US, 1994; p.302.
  8. ^ Notice in: Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, Jan. 22, 1776. Quoted in: Richard Frothingham. Siege of Boston. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. 14 (1876), pp. 229-316.
  9. ^ Hoover, Thomas (1954). The History of Ohio University. Athens: The Ohio University Press. pp. 1–20. 54-7172.
  10. ^ a b Annie Haven Thwing. The crooked & narrow streets of the town of Boston 1630-1822. Marshall Jones Company, 1920; p.137.
  11. ^ Thwing, 1920; p.137
  12. ^ Historic Taverns of Boston, 2006.


  • Randall, Emilius Oviatt (1850-1919): The Bunch of Grapes Tavern, Ohio Archæological and Historical Society Publications: Volume 20 [1911], p. 136.

Further reading[edit]

  • OHIO! OHIO! OHIO! OHIO! Praise for the State from Some of Her Modest Sons. New York Times, February 9, 1896.
  • Edwin Lasseter Bynner (1889). "Old Bunch of Grapes Tavern, Boston". Atlantic Monthly.

External links[edit]

42°21′32.3″N 71°3′21.09″W / 42.358972°N 71.0558583°W / 42.358972; -71.0558583