In 1799, a prosperous merchant named Archibald Gracie built a country house overlooking a sleepy, scenic bend on the East River, five miles north of what was then New York City. Now, his home is one of the oldest surviving wood structures in Manhattan and the official residence of New York City’s Mayor.
Financial hardship caused by the War of 1812 forced Gracie to sell his house in 1823. The property changed hands several times until, in 1896, the City of New York appropriated the estate, incorporating its eleven acres into the surrounding park that was renamed for Carl Schurz in 1910.
After years of use as a concession stand and as restrooms for the park, Gracie Mansion was restored and became the first home of the Museum of the City of New York. When the museum moved to its new building on Fifth Avenue, “power-brokering” Parks Commissioner Robert Moses convinced City authorities to designate the house as the official residence of the Mayor. In 1942, Fiorello H. La Guardia and his family moved into Gracie Mansion.
Gracie Mansion was enlarged in 1966 with the addition of the Susan E. Wagner Wing, dedicated to official events and public gatherings. Mayor Edward I. Koch established the Gracie Mansion Conservancy in 1981 as a public/private partnership to undertake a major restoration of the house. In 2002, the interior and exterior of the “People’s House” were again restored, with increased accessibility to the public and City agencies. Today, Gracie Mansion reclaims its place as what Mayor La Guardia described as New York’s “little White House.”
The Gracie Mansion Conservancy continues to operate as a charitable organization dedicated to enhancing and enlivening its namesake. Its mission is to preserve and honor Gracie Mansion’s Federal Period origins while also making sure it remains as forward-looking and welcoming as the city it serves. An increasing share of this work focuses on exploring the many different people and cultures whose contributions to Gracie Mansion and New York at large have gone unrecognized for far too long. The current exhibition, The Permanent Collection, highlights the contributions of these New Yorkers by showcasing the decorative items that characterize this this living landmark possible. Take an in person tour of the mansion by clicking here.
Gracie Mansion is owned by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, operated by the Gracie Mansion Conservancy, and is a member of the Historic House Trust.
If you would like to donate to Gracie Mansion, please click here.