Union Oyster House

A National Historic Landmark

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41 Union Street
Boston, MA

America's Oldest Restaurant
On the Freedom Trail
One Block from Faneuil Hall

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The Union Oyster House is the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant in continuous service
in the U.S. — the doors have always been open to diners since 1826.

Puritans arrive at
Plymouth Rock

At the sign of the cornfields

Other English settlers arrive and set up colonies
Boston established as the captial of the Massachusetts Bay Company's colony by Puritan John Winthrop.


Union Street was laid out in
1636, two years after the Boston Common was established, but there are no municipal records documenting the Oyster House's date of construction. All that is known is that the building has stood on Union Street as a major local landmark for more than 250 years.
Boston population: 1,200
In 1742—before it became a seafood house, the building housed importer Hopestill Capen's fancy dress goods business, known colorfully as "At the Sign of the Cornfields." At this time, the Boston waterfront came up to the back door of the dry goods establishment, making it convenient for ships to deliver their cloth and goods from Europe.
Oysters were first served to the public in this country in 1763 when a primitive saloon was opened in New York City in a Broad Street cellar.
Boston Massacre

The first stirrings of the American Revolution reached the upper floor of the building in 1771, when printer Isaiah Thomas published his newspaper "The Massachusetts Spy," long known as the oldest newspaper in the United States.

Massachusetts Spy

Boston Tea Party
Battle of Bunker Hill

In 1775, Capen's silk and dry goods store became headquarters for Ebenezer Hancock, the first paymaster of the Continental Army. There is no reason to doubt that Washington himself was familiar with its surroundings. At the very spot where diners today enjoy their favorite New England specialties, Federal troops received their "war wages" in the official pay-station.

Paying the troops


During the revolution the Adams, Hancock, and Quincy wives, as well as their neighbors, often sat in their stalls of the Capen House sewing and mending clothes for the colonists.



In 1796, a future king of France lived on the second floor. Exiled from his country, he earned his living by teaching French to many of Boston's fashionable young ladies. (Later Louis Phillippe returned home to serve as King from 1830 to 1848.)

Louis Phillippe

Boston population: 25,000
In the 19th century, the American people were enveloped in an oyster craze. In every town there were oyster parlors, oyster cellars, oyster saloons, oyster bars, oyster houses, oyster stalls and oyster lunchrooms.

Cows prohibited from grazing
on Boston Common






America's first subway system established in Boston









1826 marked the end of Capen's Dry Goods Store and the beginning of Atwood and Bacon's establishment.

Atwood & Bacon

Atwood & Bacon Menu

The new owners installed the fabled semi-circular Oyster Bar — where the greats of Boston paused for refreshment

Raw Bar

It was at the Oyster Bar that Daniel Webster, a constant customer, daily drank his tall tumbler of brandy and water with each half-dozen oysters, seldom having less than six plates.

Daniel Webster

The toothpick was first used in the United States at the Union Oyster House. Enterprising Charles Forster of Maine first imported the picks from South America. To promote his new business he hired Harvard boys to dine at the Union Oyster House and ask for toothpicks.

Union Oyster House

The Kennedy Clan has patronized the Union Oyster House for years. J.F.K. loved to feast in privacy in the upstairs dining room. His favorite booth "The Kennedy Booth" has since been dedicated in his memory.

Kennedy Booth

Since 1826, the Union Oyster House has known only three owners. Carrying on proud traditions in dining and service since 1970 have been Mr. Joseph A. Milano, Jr., and Ms. Mary Ann Milano Picardi.

Raw Bar

Brick border
Union Bar
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