Sunday, November 27, 2011

Historic House: Gracie Mansion

Today Gracie Mansion is the elegant of the Mayor of New York City, but it was not always that way.
Winter at Gracie Mansion

Built in 1799 as the gracious home of prosperous New York businessman Archibald Gracie, it was constructed 5 miles north of the City at a scenic bend in the East River.

Gracie was forced to sell his country house in 1823, and the property was purchased and sold several times until the City of New York took possession of the estate in 1896. The house was made a part of the newly-established 11 acre Carl Schurz Park.

The building was used as a concession stand and bathrooms for the park, and then became the place where the Museum of the City of New York was first housed. When the museum moved Gracie Mansion became an historic house museum  run by New York’s Parks Department.

During the tenure of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, and under his influence the City was convinced to make Gracie Mansion into the official residence of the mayor of New York. In 1942 Mayor Fiorello H. La Gurardia became the first New York mayor to live there.

In 1966 the house was expanded, and in 1981 the Gracie Mansion Conservancy was created. In 1981 and 1984 major restorations were made on the house.  Again in 2002 restoration was done, creating the “People’s House” which is more accessible to the public and to City agencies. The mansion is also sometimes used to host visiting dignitaries, such as First Lady Rosalynn Carter and even South African President Nelson Mandela.

Visitors are welcome to tour the mansion. There are general tours which last 45 minutes and charge a fee; Tea tours can be arranged for large groups of between 25 and 50 visitors for a fee of $25 per person; and school children are welcome to visit the historic site for free as part of an organized class trip.

For more information go to “A Visit to Gracie Mansion, The People’s House.”