Historical houses in New York City

Stop your yawning. They're the perfect places to picnic, hear all about scandalous love affairs, and snap pics of politicians' toilets. You might even see dead people!

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  • Queens County Farm Museum

  • Queens County Farm Museum

  • Morris-Jumel Mansion

  • Morris-Jumel Mansion

  • Gracie Mansion

  • Gracie Mansion

  • Gracie Mansion

  • Merchant's House Museum

  • Merchant's House Museum

  • Merchant's House Museum

  • Bartow-Pell Mansion

Queens County Farm Museum


Who were these old people?

The farm was first cultivated in 1697, and the Adriance family built the cottage in 1772. Over the years, many private citizens, as well as a psychiatric hospital (1926--1975), made homes here.

Highlights
Leave with fresh produce, eggs, pork and even Queens-made wine—there’s a small farm stand on the premises. There’s also a cool self-fanning chair inside the 1772 farmhouse, and a corn maze in the fall.

Scandalous!
Those pigs you see? They get fattened at the farm, slaughtered off-site, then sold at the museum’s satellite farm stands, or at eateries like Diner.

Cheese factor
Despite the cool locavore premise, this is basically just a petting zoo and school-trip spot, so be prepared to hang with rug rats. And the “tour” is self-guided via an anemic brochure.

Who were these old people?
The Morrises were loyalists who fled during the revolution. Jumel was a French merchant whose wife, Eliza, was rich and eccentric.

Highlights
You can see where George Washington really slept, but more interesting are the gold wings above the foyer doors—Eliza Jumel claimed Napoleon gave them to her. She later wed Aaron Burr in the front parlor.

Scandalous!
Eliza was a bit of a player. During her single years, she supposedly preferred married men. Her second marriage was a short stint to a postduel Burr. The day the divorce was finalized, he died.

Cheese factor
Paul Robeson used to live across the street, and he was a fan of the mansion. Who are you to argue? Plus, you can roam the house on your own—without any obligation to chatty docents.

Who were these old people?
Archibald Gracie built it in 1799, and Fiorello La Guardia made it the official mayoral house in 1942. Since then, every mayor has lived here—except Bloomberg.

Highlights
See where Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and other dignitaries took care of business in the guest room and toilette.

Scandalous!
Apropos for a political abode, things aren’t what they seem. The foyer floor appears to be marble, but it’s actually wood painted to fool you. The doors are faux’d up to look like mahogany, but are just oak.

Cheese factor
The tour emphasizes decor—possibly a disappointment for locals. The fake bamboo bed is cool, sure, but we’d love more juicy bits of politics and gossip about the residents.

Who were these old people?
The Tredwell family, headed by patriarch Seabury (a hardware importer with an office on Pearl Street), moved here in 1835 because Noho was the suburbs back then.

Highlights
This is the city’s only historical house with all of the family’s original furniture. Plus, it’s rumored to have ghosts; a paranormal organization has been monitoring it since 2006. Results have been inconclusive.

Scandalous!
Daughter Gertrude fell for a Catholic doctor, but her Episcopal pops kept them apart. In 1933, at age 93, she died alone in the upstairs bed. Some say Henry James’s Washington Square was about her.

Cheese factor
A detailed self-guided tour helps you avoid tourists, though some of the events (like a 19th-century-style funeral in October) are self-consciously goofy.

Who were these old people?
Thomas Pell bought 9,000 acres from the Siwanoy Indians in 1654—a Manhattanesque deal. His kin, the Bartows, built the present mansion in 1836.

Highlights
The beautiful and serene formal garden and lawn are the biggest draws here. Bring a picnic and spend the afternoon. Dogs on leashes, yes. Frisbees and balls, no.

Scandalous!
Mayor La Guardia moved his office here in 1936. Ask to see the palatial bathroom he added—now used for storage.

Cheese factor
Spending an afternoon in the garden feels like a quick country getaway; you won’t run into many people, but the ones you will see are likely to be tourists.

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