New York City has been at the center of United States history since well before the country itself was founded. So it makes sense that a tour of the mayor’s house—built in 1799 and one of only three dedicated mayors’ homes in the United States—will be compelling even for those who know nothing of Gotham’s history.
We can partially thank current Mayor Bill de Blasio, and his family, for that. When they took residence they decided to fill the house with artifacts and works of art that speak to the diversity of the city and country. So as you wander through you’ll see portraits of Colonial-era Jewish merchants, pre-Civil War abolitionists, and 19th-century home-factory workers, plus the combo tomahawk/peace pipe that was used for the last New York treaty with the Seneca people (if things hadn’t gone well, the sharp side might have been used!) and handbills distributed to stop discrimination against early Irish immigrants. This is alongside all the telling artifacts of the home itself, from panes of glass etched with the names of various mayors’ children, to the fireplace mantel beside which Alexander Hamilton took his last breath after his famous duel (it was added to Gracie Mansion after the home it was in was pulled down). All of this, and more, is explained by the enthusiastic, highly knowledgeable docents who lead the tours.
- Pauline Frommer