9. Gracie Mansion Used to be Much Smaller

A parlor inside the 1960s addition

In 1964, when Robert Wagner was mayor, he initiated plans for an addition to Gracie Mansion. This new two-story wing, attached to the end of the main house was later named the Susan B. Wagner wing in memory of former Mayor Wagner’s wife who passed away from lung cancer during the addition’s construction. Mott B. Schmidt was hired as lead architect while Edward Coe Embury, F. Burral Hoffman, and John Barrington Bayley (Landmarks Commission’s architect) were hired to ensure the details reflected the historic architecture of the main house.The addition and the historic home were originally two separate buildings. When Ed Koch was Mayor the two buildings were connected by what is now called the hyphen or dash, a small enclosed hallway.

In the main historic part of the house, there are many architectural and design quirks unique to the time period. For one, the wooden doors are stained and painted to look like they are mahogany when in fact they are made of a cheaper wood. In the grand foyer, the entrance used by the first family, the wooden floors are painted to mimic a black and white marble floor. Though Archibald Gracie was wealthy, he couldn’t afford the marble, and bare wood floors were not in style but were to be covered with a rug or painted.

A quirk that resulted from extending the house is that in the dining room, the chandelier and gilded mirror, which in every other room perfectly align, do not match up. Before electricity, the mirrors helped disperse light throughout the room by reflecting it from the chandelier. When the dining room was lengthened, the location of the fireplace, where the mirror hangs, and the chandelier which hangs above the center of the table, shifted.