Portrait of George Washington via Wikimedia, Photo of Chester Alan Arthur via Wikimedia; Photo of Theodore Roosevelt via Wikimedia; Photo of Barack Obama via Wikimedia; Photo of Donald Trump via Wikimedia
New York City’s presidential history runs deep. Our nation’s very first president lived in the inaugural presidential mansion on Cherry Street during the city’s two-year reign as the country’s capital. As the 2020 presidential election finally wraps up, we’re taking a look at this original New York presidential residence, as well as those that followed, including Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Barack Obama, and most recently, Donald Trump.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. (1810 – 1890). The first presidential mansion no. 1 Cherry Street.
The history of presidents taking up residency in NYC can be traced to our very first leader. When George Washington first took office in 1789, the White House did not yet exist because Washington, D.C. wouldn’t become the nation’s capital until 1791. So he and his family moved into the Samuel Osgood House, a mansion at the northeast corner of Pearl and Cherry Streets. As the first presidential mansion, it housed the president and his family until 1790 during New York City’s two-year reign as the national capital. It was a large, square brick home; inside, it had the most lavish of furnishings.
Samuel Osgood was a politician and lawyer from Massachusetts who built the mansion in 1770 for himself and his wife. Congress rented the house for Washington for $845 a year and outfitted it with a private presidential office (the first incarnation of the Oval Office), as well as the equivalent of the West Wing. The house staff of 20, which included slaves that Washington brought with him from Mount Vernon, was managed by Samuel Fraunces, who previously owned the nearby Fraunces Tavern.
New York Bunkers Mansion House Hotel 1831 via Wikimedia
In February of 1790, George Washington moved his family to the Alexander Macomb House, the second presidential mansion located at 39-41 Broadway, just north of Bowling Green. It was much larger to accommodate more staff, had views of the Hudson River, and was in an area not as congested as the Osgood Mansion. Alexander Macomb was an Irish-born merchant and land speculator. He completed construction on the four-story house in 1788, leasing it to the French Minister Plenipotentiary, the Comte de Moustier until he returned to Paris at the beginning of 1790.
In August of 1790, a month after the national capital was moved to Philadelphia, Washington vacated the Macomb House, spending some time at Mount Vernon before making his way to the third presidential mansion in the Pennsylvania city. The Osgood House was demolished in 1856, and the Macomb House in 1940. Plaques were installed at both sites to commemorate their presidential history.
The Chester A. Arthur house circa today; Photo via Wikimedia
Chester Arthur, the nation’s 21st president, spent a good deal of his adult life living at 123 Lexington Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets, now known as the Chester A. Arthur House. In 1853, a young Arthur moved to NYC, passed the bar, and began working for a law firm. It was around this time that he bought the five-story townhouse on Lexington Avenue, close to his in-laws’ home on Gramercy Park. After serving in the Civil War, he was elected vice president under James Garfield in March of 1881. In July of that same year, an assassination attempt was made on President Garfield. It was at this time that Arthur went back to his Manhattan house, and in September, when Garfield passed away, President Arthur secretly took the oath of office in the middle of the night at this address. In 1884, Arthur was not reelected, so the following year he returned to his home at 123 Lexington Avenue, where he died in November 1886.
Chester A. Arthur taking the oath of office at 123 Lexington Avenue, via Wikimedia
In the nearly 130 years since Arthur’s death, his former home has undergone many alterations. Interestingly, William Randolph Hearst owned it for a bit around 1907. The facade was stripped to bare brick, the upper floors were divided into apartments, and the first two floors became a commercial space. In 1964, a commemorative bronze plaque was installed on the building, and the following year the building was designated a national historic landmark. The famous Kalustyan’s specialty food store has occupied the retail space since 1944.
Top: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. Theodore Roosevelt’s birthplace. Bottom: The home was designated as a National Historic Site; Courtesy of Eden, Janine, and Jim on Flickr
Theodore Roosevelt was the first POTUS born in NYC. He was raised in a townhouse at 28 East 20th Street that was built in 1848. The Roosevelt family bought it in 1854, and four years later the 26th president of the United States was born at this address. The three-story brownstone boasted a mansard roof, high stoop, and a Gothic Revival-style doorway and hooded window moldings. Since Teddy was a rather sickly child (though very bright), he created an exercise program that he did in the house’s outdoor gym. This is credited with beginning his lifelong passion for “the strenuous life.” The family lived here until 1872, at which time they moved to a home on West 57th Street.
In 1916, 28 East 20th Street was demolished, but just three years later when President Roosevelt died, the Women’s Roosevelt Memorial Association purchased the site. They hired well-known female architect Theodate Pope Riddle to reconstruct the home and design a museum at the adjacent lot. The house was rededicated in 1923, and in the years that followed it was outfitted with furnishings original to the house, gifted by the President’s widow Edith and his sisters. Both the exterior and interior were recreated to look as the home did in 1865. Today, the site is known as the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace and includes five-period rooms, two museum galleries, and a bookstore.
President Barack Obama started his college career at Occidental College in Los Angeles, but in 1981, during his junior year, he transferred to Columbia University. His first apartment in Morningside Heights was located at 142 West 109th Street. He shared the standard two-bedroom pad with his buddy Phil Boerner, and they each paid a measly $180 a month. In 2014, the apartment was on the market for $2,300 a month.
It was an uninviting block, treeless and barren, lined with soot-colored walk-ups that cast heavy shadows for most of the day. The apartment was small, with slanting floors and irregular heat and a buzzer downstairs that didn’t work, so that visitors had to call ahead from a payphone at the corner gas station, where a black Doberman the size of a wolf paced through the night in vigilant patrol, its jaws clamped around an empty beer bottle.
His final home in NYC was back on the west side at 662 West 114th Street, where he lived as a boarder in a fourth-floor walkup. Known as Revere Hall, the building had also once been home to Cecil B. DeMille. Obama lived there until he moved to Chicago in the summer of 1985.
Trump’s boyhood home; Image courtesy of Paramount Realty USA
A native New Yorker, Donald Trump was born and raised in Jamaica, Queens. For the first four years of his life, Trump lived at 85-15 Wareham Place in Jamacia Estates, in a modest home built by his father Fred Trump. Most recently listed for $2.9 million, the five-bedroom Tudor-style home has been on the market three times since 2016, with a short stint on the rental market.
As Forbes reported in 2016, Trump’s first apartment after college was a rent-controlled studio at 196 East 75th Street where he lived in 1971, followed by a penthouse apartment at a co-op building at 160 East 65th Street. Later in his real estate career, Trump owned a number of apartments at his own buildings, including at Trump Parc, Trump Park Avenue, and most famously, Trump Tower. Last year, the lifelong New Yorker changed his residence from Manhattan to Palm Beach, Florida.
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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story was originally published on February 15, 2016, and has since been updated.
Tags : 123 Lexington Avenue, 142 West 109th Street, 28 East 20th Street, 339 East 94th Street, 662 West 114th Street, Alexander Macomb House, barack obama, Chester A. Arthur, Chester A. Arthur House, george washington, presidents, Samuel Osgood House, Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace