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10 New York City Museums That Used to Be Homes

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10 New York City Museums That Used to Be Homes

These 10 New York City museums began life as personal cottages, tenements, houses, mansions and estates. In many cases they were bequeathed to public foundations upon the deaths of their owners or a downturn in family fortunes. Step across these thresholds for a peek into history, art and design.

From south to north:

Merchant’s House Museum
29 East Fourth Street, between Lafayette Street & Bowery

Built in 1832, the house was purchased in 1835 by Seabury Tredwell whose descendants occupied the space for almost 100 years. The last family member passed at the age of 93, leaving behind the only 19th century family home in the city complete with original furniture, possessions and art. It is the house that time forgot.


Edward Hopper House Art Center
3 Washington Square North

This was the home and studio of great American painter Edward Hopper from 1913 until his death in 1967. The Studio has been preserved and is located in one of three townhouse buildings which comprises New York University’s Silver School of Social Work. Call (212) 998-5900 to arrange a tour.


Lower East Side Tenement Museum
103 Orchard Street, New York

Ruth Abram, historian and social activist, wanted to build a museum that honored America’s immigrants. What looked like an interesting storefront ended up being much more than that: one of the oldest tenements in the neighborhood, locked away for more than 50 years, a remarkable time capsule in dire need of restoration. Six apartments have been restored and the museum offers tenement tours, neighborhood walking tours and free talks.


The Frick
1 East 70th Street

Conceived, planned, and erected by Thomas Hastings from 1912 to 1914, Henry Clay Frick’s Indiana limestone mansion is all about his massive art collection. The house was always intended to become a museum following the deaths of the founder and his wife. It would serve as a “public gallery to which the entire public shall forever have access.”

The mansion made pop culture history when Stan Lee, co-creator of the superhero team Avengers, modeled his Avenger’s mansion on the Frick; they even share the same real-life address.


Neue Galerie New York 
1048 Fifth Avenue (at 86th Street)

The William Starr Miller house, a striking Beaux-Arts, six-story townhouse in the Louis XIII-style, was designed by Carrere and Hastings and completed in 1914 along what is now the Upper East Side’s Museum Mile. After the Millers’ death, it was home to Grace Vanderbilt before being purchased by cosmetics scion Ronald S. Lauder and art dealer Serge Sabarsky and fully restored. The building is lovely, light and romantic.


Gracie Mansion
Carl Schurz Park, East End Avenue & 88th Street, Yorkville section of Manhattan

Gracie Mansion, official residence of the Mayor of New York City, is the one exception on this list: Mayor DeBlasio and his family live here full-time so it continues to be both a family home and museum.

Built in 1799 for merchant Archibald Gracie, it overlooks the East River five miles north of today’s city limits and is one of the oldest surviving wood structures in Manhattan. Highlights include the art installation Windows on the City: Looking Out at Gracie’s New York comprised of 49 works that aim to tell a broader, more inclusive story of the development of New York.


Morris-Jumel Mansion Museum
65 Jumel Terrace, New York

If you’re familiar with the uber-popular (and sold-out) musical Hamilton, you will want to visit these next two homes.

The Morris-Jumel Mansion was built in 1765 as a summer villa by Colonel Roger Morris and his wife who named it Mount Morris. It enjoyed extensive views of New Jersey, Connecticut and the whole of New York harbor. As Loyalists, the Morris’ fled as George Washington and his Patriot officers moved in, setting up headquarters in the fall of 1776 to plan the Battle of Harlem Heights.

Fast forward to 20 years after the Revolutionary War: Frenchman Stephen Jumel purchased the house, married and died shortly afterwards. His widow, Eliza, married Aaron Burr who ran for President as well as Governor of New York, losing on both occasions. Burr blamed his defeats on political rival Alexander Hamilton and challenged him to a dual. The rest, as they say, is history.


Hamilton Grange National Memorial 
St. Nicholas Park, the Bronx

Alexander Hamilton, founding father of the United States, had this house commissioned and lived there for just two years before he was killed in the duel with Aaron Burr.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church acquired the house in 1889 (it was slated for demolition) and moved it offsite. In 1960, the Grange was designated a National Historic Landmark and moved – again – to a more site-appropriate location in St. Nicholas Park where it underwent a restoration.


The Wave Hill House 
East 249th Street and Independence Avenue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York.

The original Wave Hill House was built in Greek Revival style in 1843-44 by William Lewis Morris, a New York City attorney. Renowned publisher William Henry Appleton and his family arrived in 1852, followed by Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. who leased it as a summer residence for two years. Later, Mark Twain came as did maestro Arturo Toscanini and a slew of British diplomats from the U.N. In 1960, the Wave Hill estate, including the adjacent Glyndor House, was gifted to the City of New York.

Set within extensive gardens with an unbroken view of the river and the Palisades, Wave Hill offers a quiet oasis in the city with programs in horticulture, environmental education, woodland management and the visual and performing arts.


Edgar Allan Poe Cottage
2640 Grand Concourse at East Kingsbridge Road, Poe Park, Fordham, the Bronx

Edgar Allan Poe spent the last years of his life at Poe Cottage. He moved north with his wife and mother-in-law from their home in Greenwich Village seeking a respite from his wife’s illness. As with other homes and estates in the area, the small wooden farmhouse provided fresh air, green space and a grand view.

After Poe’s death in 1849, the cottage attracted a series of renters as well as legions of Poe fans. It was purchased by the City of New York in 1913 and turned into a museum.

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