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Located on the upper east side of New York City, it is a museum an also the official residence of the Mayor of the City of New York.

Archibald Gracie built "a country house" overlooking Hell Gate, site of a notorious rapids and also Randall's Island in the East River. The date was 1799; at that time the house was five miles north of New York City proper (which is now called "Lower Manhattan"). By 1823, Gracie's mercantile business was a financial shambles, so he sold the residence to one Joseph Foulke in 1823. Noah Wheaton acquired the home in 1857.

The house is a classic example of the Federal style of architecture, featuring two floors, a center hall and pillared porches all around the first floor. Once all-white, a yellow with white trim color scheme has been embraced for historical reasons. A massive brick wall is built around most of the site's area. The mansion is among the oldest wood-framed structures in the City of New York.

In 1896, the City of New York took the property and eleven acres of land to form Carl Schurz Park, named after politician and activist of German descent Carl Schurz, famous for the quote "my country, right or wrong..."

The mansion languished for nearly twenty years, being used as restrooms and a concession stand for the park. It became the first home of the Museum of the City of New York in 1924, until the Museum outgrew it and moved into another building. The home remained a museum operated by the City's Parks Department.

In the early 1940s, Famed Parks Department Commissioner Robert Moses convinced the City Council to allow him to renovate the building for use as the Mayor's residence. Mayor (and Moses' pal) Fiorello La Guardia moved in in 1942.

A wing featuring reception rooms and a grand ballroom was added to the house in 1966 and named after Susan E. Wagner, wife of one of New York's Mayors.

A private, non-profit corporation was established in 1981, and between 1981 and 1984 The Gracie Mansion Conservancy undertook the first major renovation of the Mayor's residence.

A second renovation was performed in 2002, and more access was afforded the public and City agencies. The purpose of this renovation was, says the Conservancy, to make it a "people's house." Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is one of the few of New York's leaders not to have occupied the house, is rumored to be the "anonymous donor" who paid for the comprehensive second renovation.

Another mansion, "Belview," owned by Jacob Walton, was built in 1774 on the site but was blasted to bits by British Cannons during the civil war in 1776. The British found Horn's Hook (now the site of Carl Schurz Park) an attractive point from which they could control the upper part of the East River. Recently drawings of the "Belview" mansion were donated to the Gracie Mansion Conservancy. Up until a descendant of Jacob Walton found the drawings, historians had no idea what the previous structure(s) had looked like, much less any idea how opulent the home was.

Of the Neo-Classical style of the 18th century, Belview was a huge box of a house with not much detail outside. The New York Times article and subsequent slide-show of the drawings of Belview prompted one reader to write a haiku celebrating the destruction of such "bland architecture" by the British.

The Conservancy raises funds to continue to restore the building and acquire period furniture and decoration. They also conduct tours on a by-appointment basis. Some tours are offered which offer an afternoon tea; needless to say, reservations must be made months in advance. Reservations for tours may be made by dialing 3-1-1 on the telephone and asking for Gracie Mansion, or from outside New York at 212-NEW-YORK.

Carl Schurz Park is open to the public from dawn to dusk every day. It's an oasis of loveliness within the concrete canyons of New York City. The park and the mansion are located on East End Avenue at the eastern end of East 88th Street.
 

SOURCES:

  • Official Website of Gracie Mansion: http://www.nyc.gov/html/om/html/gracie.html (Accessed 12/3/07)
  • "Gracie Mansion" New York Magazine (uncredited) http://nymag.com/listings/attraction/gracie_mansion/ (Accessed 12/3/07)
  • "Drawing Reveals What Stood on Site of Gracie Mansion" by David W. Dunlap, The New York Times, October 22, 2007 http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/22/drawing-reveals-what-stood-on-site-of-gracie-mansion/index.html?hp (Accessed 12/3/07)

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