Get to Know Gracie Mansion

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January 8, 2021
get to know Gracie Mansion

Often referred to as “the people’s house” Gracie Mansion is nestled within Carl Schurz Park on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Despite being in the middle of such an urban city, the area manages to be a tranquil respite from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. With views overlooking the East River, it’s no wonder NYC’s mayors have called it home.

Gracie Mansion History

The federal style mansion was built in 1799 by merchant Archibald Gracie. According to the Gracie Mansion Conservancy, the area the home sits was a full five miles outside of NYC at the time as the city didn’t extend that far north yet. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is one of the oldest surviving wood structures in Manhattan.

Gracie fell on hard times during the War of 1812 and had to sell the property to Joseph Foulke in 1823. The home changed hands again to Noah Wheaton in 1857. It’s hard to believe, but back then, the property was considered a country home for its wealthy owners, given its location outside of the city. 

Due to unpaid taxes, the city took over the property in 1896, incorporating it into what was then called East End Park. For the next few decades the home was used as concession stands and restrooms for the park before being restored. Prompted by security concerns over the United States’ entry into WWII, the home was designated as the official mayor’s residence with Mayor Fiorello La Guardia kicking off the tradition in 1942.

Interesting facts about Gracie Mansion

  • Was the first home of the Museum of the City of New York: From 1924 to 1936 Gracie Mansion was home to the Museum of the City of New York until it relocated to a building on Fifth Avenue.  
  • Michael Bloomberg was the first mayor since 1942 not to live in the mansion: Bloomberg felt the home should be open to the public and initiated several restoration projects of the premises. 
  • First Yule Log was filmed at the mansion: The annual holiday tradition got its start right here in NYC. In 1966 WPIX channel 11 debuted the iconic yule log to viewers in full color. Unfortunately, an antique rug was damaged from stray embers as the crew had removed the protective fireplace screen for the shot. As a result, the following year the Yule Log shoot was moved to a home in Palo Alto, California. 
  • The NY Post is said to have been founded on the mansion’s porch: In 1801 Archibald Gracie hosted a gathering which included Alexander Hamilton and the New York Federalists Party. They raised funds to launch the New York Evening Post, which eventually became the New York Post.

Visiting Gracie Mansion

While in person tours are currently paused due to COVID restrictions, the museum does offer virtual tours and rotating exhibits. Check out a docent guided tour via Zoom. The latest installation, CATALYST: Art & Social Justice, showcases works of activists from the 1960s to the present. 

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