8. The Rotunda Housed the City’s First Art Museum

The Versailles panorama today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the early 19th century, a curious building, known as the Rotunda existed just north of City Hall. Artist John Vanderlyn received permission from the city to construct the circular edifice in order to display a large oil painting, Panoramic View of the Palace and Gardens of Versailles, which is currently displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although it was tiny in size, with an appearance like a “miniature Pantheon,” the Rotunda is regarded by some as the city’s first art museum.

Ironically, Vanderlyn did not complete his panorama in time for its opening, and another piece had to be displayed in its place. The building was later repurposed as a small courthouse, as well as a naturalization office and post office. In 1870, however, it was demolished as the city began constructing the Tweed Courthouse.