Gracie Mansion, also known as Archibald Gracie Mansion, is the New York City Mayor’s official residence. This mansion was created in 1799 and lies within the Yorkville Manhattan neighborhood. It stands exactly in Carl Schurz Park within East End Avenue. It has a rich history and is one of the oldest wooden structures in Manhattan. The Gracie Mansion is also a part of the Historic House Trust and also serves as a museum. It is open for the public to attend and guided tours also take place at the mansion.
History of Gracie Mansion
The Gracie Mansion was built by a well-to-do merchant Archibald Gracie in 1799. This was a country house that overlooked a serene, scenic turn of the East River. At the time, this location was five miles north of New York City. Today the Gracie Mansion is one of the oldest wooden structures that still survive in Manhattan. New York City’s Mayor also officially lives in Gracie Mansion.
In 1823, Gracie faced economic hardship and was forced to sell his mansion. The property changed several hands until, in 1896, the New York State took it and incorporated the estate as well as the eleven acres around as part of the surrounding park. Then in 1910, this park was named Carl Schurz.
Today, New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation owns the Gracie Mansion. The Gracie Mansion Conservancy operates this mansion.
As part of the park, the mansion was used as a concession stand for several years and to provide park visitors restrooms. Then the mansion was restored and became the first museum in New York City. Then it was decided to move the museum to its new location on Fifth Avenue. Robert Moses, the Parks Commissioner, then convinced the authorities to convert Gracie Mansion as the official residency of the Mayor of the city. In 1942, Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia and his family moved to Gracie Mansion.
In 1966, Gracie Mansion was enlarged, and the Susan E. Wagner wing was added to it. This wing was created to host gatherings and official events. In 1981, Mayor Edward I. Koch established the Gracie Mansion Conservancy as a public/private partnership to lead major restoration projects in the structure.
In 2002, the mansion’s interior and exterior were restored again. This was when the mansion was also transformed into the ‘Peoples House’. The public, as well as city agencies, were then granted increased accessibility to the structure.
Gracie Mansion is also used to host official dignitaries and officials visiting New York City. Former guests include the Dalai Lama, Nelsen Mandela, and Bill Clinton.
Today, the Gracie Mansion is one of the oldest surviving wooden structures within Manhattan and is also a part of the Historic House Trust.
The Gracie Mansion Conservancy is a private non-profit corporation that maintains, preserves, and enhances the Gracie Mansion. The Conservancy’s primary function is to raise funds to maintain and restore its historic structure. It is also supposed to acquire furnishings that can illustrate New York’s rich history. The Conservancy is also in charge of maintaining the surrounding garden and landscape. It is also in charge of providing tours around the mansion and related publications.
Mayor La Guardia once described the Gracie Mansion as the ‘little White House’ of New York, and the mansion lives up to that today.
The Historic House Trust
Mayor Edward I. Koch and the Parks Commissioner of New York City Henry J. Stern gathered at the Gracie Mansion in June 1989. They accompanied historians, architects, and preservationists and announced the creation of the Historic House Trust of NYC.
During this time, fifteen historic houses in NYC suffered from decay, ill-maintenance, and poor preservation. It was decided the Historic House Trust (HHT) would work with different non-profit organizations to address these structures’ needs. With time, HHT also expanded its services other than managing historic houses. It would also guide on matters such as collections management, improved accessibility, and educational programming.
Today the HHT manages 23 historical locations spread across five different boroughs of NYC. These structures range from small cottages to large mansions. All locations managed by HHT have transformed into thriving cultural locations that give insight into NYC’s rich history. These structures are also visited by thousands annually, including schoolchildren.
The sites the HHT manages are mostly located on city parkland and are publicly owned. These sites are open for all to visit and also function as museums. They often also host engaging culture-oriented programs.
It has been over 30 years since the HHT was founded. Today it still ensures that all the historical structures it oversees continue to enrich New York City’s rich and diverse culture.
Gracie Mansion Tours
General tours of Gracie Mansion are usually offered on Wednesdays during the mornings and afternoons. Tours are scheduled at 10 am, 11 am, 1 pm, and 2 pm. Each tour usually lasts forty-five minutes, and there is a fee charged to take the tour. The adult fee is $7, and for children, it is $4. Students and senior citizens can take the tours for free.
Tea Tours are also available at the Gracie Mansion. These tours are mainly available for groups. A gathering of 25 to 50 people can attend the tour on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tour charges include $25 per person. A homemade assortment of teacakes, scones, and tea sandwiches is also served to all attendees.
School Tours also take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays and are free.
It is vital to remember that reservation is a requirement for all tours. You need to contact the Gracie Mansion Conservancy on their phone or email to make reservations or for volunteering purposes.
The Gracie Mansion has served many different purposes in the past decades and has passed multiple owners. Today the mansion is owned by New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation and is overseen by the HHT. It’s a great idea to visit the Gracie Mansion if you are visiting NYC or simply want more insight into the city’s historical past. You can also reserve a spot to tour the mansion. Tea Tours are also available when, after exploring the mansion, you can enjoy an array of homemade snacks and tea.