For nearly eighty years Gracie Mansion has been known as the official residence of New York City’s Mayor, but this yellow wooden house on the Upper East Side of Manhattan has a storied history that begins way before the first Mayor moved in. Before a house was even built on the property inside what is now Carl Schulz Park, the land along the East River served as an important site for the Revolutionary War. The house was built in 1799 as a country home for the prosperous New York merchant Archibald Gracie. After the Gracies, ownership and the purpose of the home changed many times throughout the decades until finally in 1942 Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, moved into “The People’s House.” Untapped Cities Insiders recently got to tour the historic home on a private guided tour and learn some of the secrets hidden within. Find out what we discovered here with the top ten secrets of Gracie Mansion:
1. Gracie Mansion Became the Mayoral Residence for “National Security” Reasons
In 1942, famous Parks Commissioner Robert Moses vehemently pushed city authorities to make this historic house the official residence of the Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, but LaGuardia had no interest in living there. Moses was eventually able to convince him to move for “national security” reasons.
The United States had recently entered World War II at the time, and Moses thought it would be much safer and easier to evacuate the mayor from Gracie in case of a Nazi attack, given its location by the water and out of the center of the city. This is not so outlandish, given that that Nazis did attempt to infiltrate Grand Central Terminal and its mythical control room. Many buildings in Manhattan went dark including the original Penn Station which blacked out all of its windows. Convinced, La Guardia moved in as the First Mayor of New York City resident of Gracie Mansion. He was so enamored with the house that he nicknamed it the “Little White House.”