going-into-the-party-by-the-front-doorHave you been to New York’s Gracie Mansion? (You can go. See below.)

Mayor Bill DeBlasio had a holiday party to show off his official home to New Yorkers. The mayor wasn’t there, but he sent some docents who did a fine job of explaining the history of the building, the Federal style interior design, and the paintings of the time lent by local museums. And since this is a liberal-left mayor, the brochure provided a take on the politics.

gracie-mansion-conservancy-executive-director-paul-guntherThrough the front door, we were greeted by Paul Gunther, executive director of the Grace Mansion Conservancy. He said that we were in the building constructed in 1799 by Archibald Gracie, a merchant. His town house was in Pearl Street, Gunther explained. That is in the Wall Street area. This was his country house, “his Hamptons.” On East 88th Street and the East River.

In 1896, the city got the building through new owners because of nonpayment of taxes. (Well, rich people still evade taxes, don’t they!) It became the residence of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1942.

A bit later inside, Mr. Gunther talked to us about the Susan Wagner Ballroom which was added in 1966, along with two reception rooms. She was the wife of Mayor Robert Wagner. Later, art, furniture and decorative objects were bought or lent by cultural institutions.

the-mrs-gracie-room-and-her-portraitWe stopped at the public rooms to hear docents tell of their histories.

In this painting by John Trumbull, done ca 1816-19, we see Elizabeth Stoughton Wolcott, the daughter of the governor of Connecticut (always the 1%, no?) who married William Gracie, son of Archibald who built Gracie Mansion.

painting-of-tontine-coffee-house-wall-st-1797-by-francis-guyAnother talk pointed out the painting of the Tontine Coffee House, 1797, by Francis Guy. On the left was a stock trading place, where people also made business and political deals. Nearby was another kind of deal, a slave market which lasted until even the traders found it degrading.


sagoyewatha-red-jacket-by-robert-walter-weir-1828Sagoyewatha (Red Jacket) was a leader of the Seneca nation who negotiated with the duplicitous Americans on behalf of his people. The 1828 painting by Robert Walter Weir shows a peace tomahawk exchanged in the 1797 Treaty of Big Tree, in which the Iroquois nation, which took the British side in the Revolutionary War  — the losers — gave up their lands.

Sagoyewatha gave a speech to the U.S. Senate in  which he declared, ”You have become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blanket.” Yes, the Americans indeed destroyed the Native Americans.2016-12-21-16-40-58

barge-on-east-river-and-lit-tree-under-back-porchAnd more elegant style furniture. We were told that designs on the bookcase were Greek. The period was big on Roman and Hellenic.

Then for fresh air, we went out the back door and stopped on the porch to look at a long red barge going along the East River. Then down stairs past a lit tree, and to the party tent.

the-party-tent-and-the-ballroomThere was pop music and apple cider and ginger cookies. We looked up at the lit ballroom as we left.

If you go

There are free tours of Gracie Mansion every Tuesday at 10am, 11am, 2pm and 3pm. Reserve online at the Gracie Mansion Conservancy/.

press-check-inEach reservation is limited to two persons. You get a confirmation on the screen when you sign up and you can print it to take with you. For information phone 212-676-3060.

Gracie Mansion is wheelchair accessible. No photography permitted. Check online to see what you cannot take with you, ie no backpacks. There are no storage facilities.

Photos by Lucy Komisar

Visit Lucy’s website http://thekomisarscoop.com/