From its days as the last capitol of the United States under the Articles of Confederation and the first capitol under the Constitution, New York City has long been intertwined with the United States Presidency. Presented below are a collection of the City’s presidential haunts, which have seen the birth, life, and death of many of our commanders in chief. [Also check out Part II of this series from Grant to Obama]
Morris Jumel Mansion
Between September 14 and October 20, 1776, the Morris Jumel Mansion served as Washington’s headquarters. The mansion was constructed in 1765 by Roger Morris, a British loyalist who returned to England during the War, and in 1810 was bought by Stephen and Eliza Jumel (Eliza would go on to marry Aaron Burr who briefly lived at the house). The house is currently open to the public and is run by the Historic House Trust of New York City.
On December 4, 1783, Washington delivered his farewell address to the troops at Fraunces Tavern. A restored or recreated (depending on whom you believe) version the Tavern, which is now a museum, possesses a lock of George Washington’s hair and one of his teeth.
On April 30, 1789, Washington stood on the balcony of (the first) Federal Hall to be sworn into office as the first president of the United States of America. While that building was demolished almost two centuries ago, the stone on which Washington stood, a piece of the balcony, and his inaugural bible can be seen at the current Federal Hall (located on the same site as the prior one), his desk is in the New York City Hall, and another piece of the balcony can be found in the lobby exhibit of The New York Historical Society.
On his inaugural day, Washington, along with members of Congress, worshipped at St. Paul’s Chapel. Washington had previously worshiped there in 1776 prior to retreating from the City and continued to do so during his tenure as President in New York. Washington’s marked off and commemorated with an eighteenth-century oil painting of the Great Seal of the United States.
From April 23, 1789 to February 23, 1790, George Washington lived in the Samuel Osgood House, located at 1 Cherry Street, making it our nation’s first presidential mansion. While the house was demolished in 1856, a plaque currently located on the Brooklyn Bridge memorializes the country’s first “White House.” (due to construction on the Brooklyn Bridge, the plaque is currently inaccessible)
The Alexander Macomb House became the country’s second presidential mansion, from February 23 to August 30, 1790. A plaque currently marks the House’s location at 39 Broadway.
On September 11, 1776, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Edward Rutledge met with Lord Howe, the Commander in Chief of the British forces in America, in an attempt to end the Revolutionary War. While their conference was unsuccessful, it lent its name to the house in which it was held. Conference House, which is located on the southern tip of Staten Island, is open to the public and run by the Historic House Trust of New York City.
As the first Vice-President of the United States, Adams lived in a mansion located on Richmond Hill. The house had been previously used by Washington as his headquarters and Aaron Burr later lived there. In 1817, the land was subdivided by John Jacob Astor and sold for residential development. It was located near Lispenard’s Meadows at the corner of what was then Varick and Van Dam streets.
As the first Secretary of State, Jefferson resided, for the majority of his time, in the nation’s capital at 57 Maiden Lane. Jefferson leased his residence from two grocers, Robert and Peter Bruce, for 106 pounds a year. In 1929 a plaque was installed on the site of his former house (to learn more about Jefferson’s other stops in New York, check out Monticello’s website).
In 1830, Monroe moved to New York to live with his son-in-law, Samuel Gouverneur, after the death of his wife. When Monroe died in 1831, a funeral service was held for him at St. Paul’s Chapel and he was buried in the New York City Marble Cemetery, in a vault owned by Gouverneur.
In 1858, Virginia requested that Monroe’s body be repatriated. With the agreement of the Gouverneur family, Monroe’s body was disinterred on July 2, 1858 and moved to the Church of the Annunciation on 14th Street, before being moved by ship to Virginia. Monroe was was reburied in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery.
On June 26, 1844, Tyler became the first president to wed while in office. He married his second wife Julia Gardiner on Fifth Avenue, in the Church of the Ascension.
Source: White House History
Polk became the first sitting president to have photograph taken by Mathew Brady in his New York City Studio.
In February 1860, Lincoln, who had not yet announced his presidential candidacy, was invited to speak at Plymouth Church, in Brooklyn Heights. At the last moment, the Young Men’s Republican Union moved the speech to the Great Hall of Cooper Union, possibly due to a fear that not enough people would come out to Brooklyn to hear Lincoln speak. Many view the speech as the moment at which Lincoln secured the Republican nomination. Despite the change in venue, Lincoln still visited the church the day before his speech and the pew in which he sat is marked by a silver plaque. Returning to the City three weeks later, Lincoln again worshiped at the church, making it (according to the church) the only one in the City which Lincoln attended.
Before giving his rousing speech, Lincoln stopped by Brady’s New York City studio where he was photographed by Brady for the first time
Lincoln again passed through New York City in 1861, on his way to Washington DC from Springfield, via train. Lincoln’s final trip through the City was the reverse trip of his pre-inaugural 1861 trip. On April 24, 1865, Lincoln’s funeral procession arrived in New York City. He lay in state in City Hall overnight where over 120,000 people came to view Lincoln’s open casket. One of the people who who came to see Lincoln’s body was Jeremiah Gurney, Jr, a New York daguerreotype photographer. Gurney managed to take a photograph of Lincoln laying in state, unfortunately it was almost immediately confiscated by Edwin Stanton. The photograph had been thought lost to history until 1952 when a copy was discovered in at the Illinois State Historical Library.
The plaque can be found on the Morgan General Mail Facility (Source: Forgotten NY)
On the 25th, the casket proceeded up Broadway to 14th Street where a young Teddy Roosevelt watched from his window, across to Fifth Avenue and then up to 34th Street where the Hudson River Railroad transported him along to his next destination.