Being mayor of New York City comes with a lot of responsibilities, challenges and a great deal of stress, and we’ve gotten to see far more of that in 2020 than in previous years.
However, this high-profile job does come with some pleasant perks too. One of the privileges of being mayor of the city that never sleeps is that you get to reside in a historic mansion in the very heart of Manhattan.
The Archibald Gracie Mansion, better known as Gracie Mansion, is the official residence of the Mayor of the City of New York, and it has held on to that title since 1942. It is located in Carl Schurz Park at East End Avenue and 88th Street in Yorkville, overlooking the Hell Gate channel in the East River.
The site has a long history; it originally housed merchant Jacob Walton’s Belview Mansion, and was commandeered by George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. The property was an excellent strategic outpost, given its location overlooking Hell Gate, where the East River, the Harlem River, and the Long Island Sound intersect.
Belview Mansion was unfortunately destroyed by the British during the war, but the location was too good to sit vacant for too long. In 1799, Archibald Gracie constructed Gracie Mansion on the same site, and used it as his country home up until 1823.
Fun fact: Gracie Mansion hosted a historic meeting of the New York Federalists, including Alexander Hamilton, held in 1801 with the goal of raising $10,000 to start a newspaper. That newspaper was called the New York Evening Post, which eventually became the New York Post we know today.
Gracie Mansion throughout the years
In 1896, Gracie Mansion was seized by the municipal government and integrated within the grounds of Carl Schurz Park. It housed the Museum of the City of New York from 1924 until 1936, and after that, it was shown as a historical house.
Then came 1942, when the U.S. was fighting in World War II. New York developer Robert Moses suggested to Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia to turn Gracie Mansion into a mayoral residence.
Moses thought that the waterfront location would be an advantage in case of a Nazi attack, offering a quick evacuation option for the NYC mayor. La Guardia agreed, and so he became the first in a long line of NYC mayors to reside at Gracie Mansion during his term.
Nobody is sure as to who the architect was at Gracie Mansion. The two-story Federal-style design is attributed to either Ezra Weeks or John McComb J.r, who designed the New York City Hall and Hamilton Grange. Other sources report Archibald Gracie came up with the design of Gracie Mansion himself.
Gracie Mansion is to be used solely for official city business, and only visiting public officials and family members of the mayor can reside at the property.
The long list of NYC mayors who called Gracie Mansion home over the years includes William O’Dwyer, Robert F. Wagner, John V. Lindsay, Edward Koch, Rudolph Giuliani, and current mayor Bill de Blasio.
Michael Bloomberg was the first Mayor of the City of New York to refuse to stay in the mansion for the duration of his term. Instead, he used it for meetings and official events, and invested in a major restoration effort to bring Gracie Mansion to modern standards.
Gracie Mansion underwent a number of changes throughout its long history. In 1966, a new west wing was completed, and that was when the fireplace from the Bayard home, where Alexander Hamilton died, was installed in the ballroom.
The library and the main two floors of the mansion have been impeccably preserved. The mantel and dentil molding in the library have been there since the construction of the house in 1799.
Numerous prestigious guests have attended events or visited Gracie Mansion over the decades, including Leonard Bernstein, who once played the historic piano in the yellow room, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, and even the Dalai Lama. The mansion is a New York City Landmark and is included in the National Register of Historic Places.
Gracie Mansion’s two main floors are open to the public, and the property also houses a small museum. So, if you’re visiting New York City, or maybe you’ve lived there your whole life but didn’t know about Gracie Mansion, be sure to plan a future visit.
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