4. Secret Tunnels Beneath the Home
The land Gracie Mansion stands on, currently inside Carl Schurz Park, used to be called Hoorn’s Hook. It was owned by British Loyalist Jacob Walton who built his estate, Belview, on the property in 1770. At the time, the only way to get to the estate was by boat, as the city was five miles away in Lower Manhattan and no roads or public transportation reached so far north yet. Walton, who was a wealthy merchant, also built tunnels underneath the home which led to the East River. According to our tour guide at Gracie, it could have been used for smuggling goods, but it was probably used as a passage to the water for residents who were not used to New York’s frigid winters.
When the Revolutionary War broke out the Waltons escaped to Queens and the house was commandeered byGeorge Washington’s troops who turned into a colonial fortification. In the 1980s while conducting an archeological dig at Gracie Mansion an over 12-pound was found. The British cannonball is made of iron and now sits on the mantle of the historic yellow room.