A Brief History of Gracie Mansion
In 1799, a prosperous New York merchant named Archibald Gracie built a country house overlooking a bend in the East River, five miles north of the City. Financial hardship forced Gracie to sell his house to Joseph Foulke in 1823, and, in 1857, Noah Wheaton purchased the property. In 1896, the City of New York appropriated the estate due to non-payment of taxes, incorporating its 11 acres of grounds into East River Park, renamed in 1910 for the German-American statesman, Carl Schurz.
After decades 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 larger permanent building on Fifth Avenue on January 11, 1932, Gracie Mansion became a historic house museum run by the Parks Department. Parks Commissioner Robert Moses finally convinced city authorities to designate the house as the official residence of the Mayor and, in 1942, Fiorello H. La Guardia moved in as the First Mayor of New York City to reside at Gracie.
Its tradition as New York’s “Little White House” thus began, allowing it to serve as a place where history is made, not merely recorded. It housed the La Guardia Family until 1945, followed by Mayor William O’Dwyer and his first wife, Catherine, whose death there after only eight months led to the arrival of a second First Lady, Sloan Simpson (1946-1950); The Hon. and Mrs. Vincent R. Impellitteri (1950-1953); Robert F. and Susan Wagner Jr. (1954-1965); John and Mary Lindsay (1966-1973); Abraham and Mary Beame (1974-1977); single Mayor Edward I Koch (1978-1989); David and Joyce Dinkins (1990-1993); Rudy Giuliani and Donna Hanover (1994-2001); and then, following the three terms of Michael R. Bloomberg (2002-2014), who opted not to live there, the family of Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray (2014-present). From its residential start through the present day, just 12 children have called it home: Eric and Jean La Guardia; Robert III and Duncan Wagner; John Jr., Anne, Katharine, and Margaret Lindsay; Caroline and Andrew Giuliani; and now Chiara and Dante de Blasio.
At the request of Mayor Robert F. Wagner’s wife Gracie Mansion was enlarged in 1966 with the addition of the Susan E. Wagner Wing, which includes a ballroom and two reception rooms for special events.
With its founding in 1981 with the City of New York, the Gracie Mansion Conservancy was created and embarked on the first major restoration of the house between 1981 and 1984. With support from generous civic–minded donors, Gracie was reimagined into the Federalist style it enjoys today.
In 2002, when newly-elected Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to remain in his nearby townhouse, Gracie’s interior and exterior were again abundantly restored and updated with the second floor residency transformed into house museum. This incarnation reinforced the Mansion’s role as the “Peoples House,” which set a standard for increased municipal and public access.