Tue-Thu, by appointment only; Sun-Mon and Fri-Sat, closed
4, 5, 6 at 86th St.
$7; $4 seniors, free for students and children
Gracie Mansion has had many lives—country estate, ice-cream parlor, first home of the Museum of the City of New York, and most famously, a residence for some of New York's mayors starting with LaGuardia. Today, it's The Peoples House, thanks to a glorious 2002 renovation (overseen by Hamptons-famous designer Jamie Drake). Chockablock with American-made furniture treasures and a staggering collection of chandeliers, whale-oil fixtures, and even an early gasolier (which used newfangled gas to illumine tiny, taper-like jets of flame), the Mansion's rooms embody a kind of sturdy American graciousness. Great sweeping views of Hellgate—named not for the treacherous waters below but for the Dutch word for beautiful view—from the grand upstairs bedrooms crown the building, while the spacious, first-floor reception rooms, painted in a rich palette of saturated, dense color, offer a dizzying tour of federal architectural style and 19th century décor. Early American furniture treasures include a rare-five seat settee (upstairs hallway), a bent-skirt demilune console (reception room, Wagner wing, completed in 1966), and a breakfast table also in the Wagner wing, said to be a favorite of the Dinkins grandchildren and lit by a gargoyle-festooned English Regency chandelier.Architectural Details
Faux finishes are a hallmark of early American design, including the gorgeous, completely fake marble marquetry on the wide-plank foyer floor and the veined marble wainscoting that lines many downstairs walls. Tall, double-paned windows in the striking teal library and patent yellow room (named for the copyrighted color on its walls) glide into the walls and utterly out of sight, to allow 19th century party-goers unfettered egress to the mansion’s wide, welcoming wraparound porch.
In the library, look for panes of glass scratched with the names Millie, Caroline, and Mom—Millie’s thought to be a Gracie granddaughter, the latter two are souvenirs from Caroline Giuliani and her mother, Donna Hanover, then Mrs. Rudy Giuliani.
Decorous, well-informed guides provide ample design background and tidbits of city lore, but visitors have little time to linger. The total 45 minutes to an hour tour averages out to about 5 minutes per room. Walk-ins are not accepted, so be sure to reserve group visits and tours weeks in advance; some include afternoon tea ($25/guest). School groups may also tour the mansion free on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but are required to book months ahead. Call 212-570-4773 to make reservations.