George Thomas Downing purchased an eating establishment in the basement at 5 Broad Street in Manhattan. He gradually expanded into other spaces on that block, and developed a refined oyster house with dishes to appeal to the powerful white men of business and finance in that area of the city. Over time, his business attracted notable foreign visitors, including Charles Dickens and Lord Morpeth. Downing was known to have sent some American oysters to Queen Victoria, in recognition of which she sent a gold chronometer watch to Thomas in the care of Commodore Joseph Comstock. The Downing family attended St. Philip's Episcopal Church, the first African-American Episcopal church in the city. Thomas became one of its wealthiest members; it was a center for men and families who were ambitious and hardworking.
George Thomas Downing, In 1842, Downing was responsible for providing food, including 50,000 oysters, for a well-known ball celebrating the arrival of British author, Charles Dickens.
Charles Dickens, In 1842, Downing was responsible for providing food, including 50,000 oysters, for a well-known ball celebrating the arrival of British author, Charles Dickens.