Inside the studio of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, original location of the Whitney Museum

Many of New York City’s museums are located in grand buildings designed specifically to show off the grandeur of their collections and to make a statement regarding the cultural standing of New York City. However, when the City’s museums were nascent they had to make due with whatever space they could. Their early homes were, for the most part, smaller, mirroring the size of their original budgets and collections. Looking back at the former homes of eight New York City institutions enables visitors to fully appreciate their current state.

1. The Museum of the City of New York

Photo via Wikimedia Commons by Jim Henderson

The Museum of the City of New York, now located at 104th Street and Fifth Avenue, was founded in 1923 by Henry Collins Brown. Before moving into its current home on Fifth Avenue, the Museum was located in Gracie Mansion, and also hosted exhibits in the Arts Students League building on 57th Street. There were talks of the Museum relocating downtown, into the former Tweed Courthouse, but that idea was never realized.

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One thought on “A Look Back at the Humble Origins of 8 Major NYC Museums

  1. Great to learn about the beginnings of these cultural staples!

    I’d also love to give a shout out to the humble origins of the Brooklyn Museum. In 1823 the Brooklyn Apprentice’s Library was founded, which later became the Brooklyn Institute of Arts & Sciences. The BIAS was the parent institution of the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, all three of which became independent entities in the 1970s. Who knew??

    For an aerial view of the Museum building from 1898, check out:

    There are also many other images of the building available on our website:

    A series on Brooklyn institutions would be a great addition to this site!

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