Our History

Mayor Edward I. Koch, Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern and founding board members announce the creation of the Historic House Trust of New York City at Gracie Mansion on June 19, 1989.

Nearly thirty years ago, Mayor Edward I. Koch and Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern gathered at Gracie Mansion with preservationists, historians, architects, and others to announce the creation of the Historic House Trust of New York City. Mary Ellen Hern became the Trust’s first Executive Director and 18 prominent and committed citizens joined the Historic House Trust’s Board of Directors, seven of whom are still on the board or directors’ council today.

At that time, the 15 historic houses in the City’s collection suffered from decay, improper maintenance, or inappropriate restoration treatments. One by one, the Trust worked with the individual nonprofit organizations that operate the properties to address these structural needs. Over time we have expanded the services we provide to the houses, offering guidance on restoration, curatorial, and education projects. Today, the Historic House Trust’s collection has grown to 23 historic sites across the five boroughs, ranging from modest farmers’ cottages to grand mansions. The sites now thrive as cultural institutions that represent New York City’s colorful history and attract more than 860,000 visitors annually, some 260,000 of whom are New York City schoolchildren.

The 30th anniversary is both an opportunity to celebrate our past achievements and a reminder that there is still much to do to ensure that these houses will continue to enrich the city’s cultural life well into the future.


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