Did you know there are 23 house museums across the five boroughs? All of which are supported by the Historic House Trust, a nonprofit that works in conjunction with the Department of Parks & Recreation to preserve these sites of cultural and architectural significance. From farmer’s cottages to gilded mansions, these public museums span 350 years of city history and offer fun additions such as art collections, historic holiday-themed events, and specialized tours. Ahead, 6sqft has put together a list of 10 house museums that represent some of NYC’s most storied history.
In honor of the residence’s 75th anniversary, the Gracie Mansion Conservancy has announced a new art installation titled “New York 1942,” a collection of World War II-era objects that tell the story of New York City during this time, as well as of the period when Gracie Mansion became the official mayoral residence under Fiorello La Guardia. The exhibit will display more than 50 artifacts, documents, and pieces of art, including a signed World Series Yankees baseball, the Jacob Lawrence painting “The Migrants Arrived in Great Numbers,” a photo from Weegee, ration tokens, and a first-edition print of “The Little Prince.”
Original footage of the Yule Log via WPIX-TV
If you grew up in a house without a fireplace, there’s a good chance the Yule Log played on the television during Christmas. This somewhat strange annual broadcast was, in fact, created for homeowners longing for the glow of a hearth, but also as a way to give station employees some time off. So in 1966, WPIX Channel 11 set up a camera at Gracie Mansion, then occupied by Mayor Lindsay, and filmed one of the home’s flickering fireplaces for 17 seconds using 16 millimeter film. It was spliced together into a three-hour loop with holiday carols playing in the background, and there the Yule Log was born on Christmas Eve at 9:30pm. This same footage ran for four years, but but when WPIX wanted to do a new shoot at the Mayor’s residence, it was an Oriental rug that halted the plans.
Gracie Mansion will reopen for public tours starting next month, and visitors will be welcomed with a new, diverse art collection. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife wanted the art and objects inside the 1799 home where her family now lives—one of the oldest surviving wooden structures in New York City—to be a broader and more accurate reflection of the city as it looked in the late 1700s and early 1800s.” She therefore brought in 49 new works that include “portraits of freed slaves, historic documents, imported goods and items traded to American Indians.” The new installation is called “Windows on the City Looking Out at Gracie’s New York” and will be unveiled at an open house on October 25th.
“Man of the People” Mayor De Blasio seems to be getting a little annoyed with his constituents’ nosy nature. The Post reports that De Blasio has just erected a “privacy fence” adding another four feet to the home’s existing barrier. The new fence was constructed inside an existing red brick wall and a wrought-iron fence that surrounds the famed property located close to Carl Schurz Park. The Parks Department hasn’t confirmed whether or not permits were acquired for this addition to the landmarked building, but Parks spokesman Phil Abramson claimed the new fence was “due to security concerns.”
“So much for being mayor of the people. That brick fence was good enough for Rudy Giuliani and his family, and for Ed Koch and all the mayors before him,” a law enforcement source told the Post. Obviously there’s a lot of negative sentiment swirling around the mayor’s choice to fence himself in, many wanting to know what he has to hide from us all. But we’ll cut De Blasio some slack, we all love our personal space and privacy too, don’t we?
Oh, how the times change. In the late 19th century, developer John C. Henderson began constructing an enclave of townhouses, designed by architectural firm Lamb & Rich, and intended for “persons of moderate means”. Today, one of those Yorkville homes is available for rent, asking $25,900 per month… or if you’d like to purchase it outright, $7.495 million.
If you’re looking for remnants of 146 East End Avenue’s low-income housing past, you’re in for a disappointment. The result of a “painstaking” two-year gut renovation, this desirable dwelling only speaks the language of luxury. However, if there’s any city that knows how to preserve its history while providing modern amenities, it’s New York. The final result is a beautifully updated home that pays homage to its honorable past.