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Best Places To Familiarize With New York's Founders

New York City: we think of it today as one of the greatest cities in the world. But how did it become so successful? If it weren't for the enterprising ideas of a few bright men, New York would not be the bustling city that it now is. To learn more about the founding fathers of our great city, we've compiled a list of some historic sites around town that will enlighten you about the city's past.
Gracie Mansion
(file / credit: Mayor's Office)

Gracie Mansion
88 E End Ave
New York, NY 10028
(212) 570-4751

One of the most iconic and well-known historic houses in New York is Gracie Mansion, or "the People's House." The building was built in 1799 by the wealthy owner of a trading company, Archibald Gracie - only two decades after the "Declaration of Independence" was signed. The property remained in the hands of private owners until 1896 when the City of New York took over the house and incorporated it into the current Carl Schurz Park overlooking the water. The house served multiple functions in the first half of the 20th century, acting as a storage facility, an ice cream shop, a concession stand and finally as the first home of the Museum of the City of New York. It wasn't until 1946 that Gracie Mansion became the official home of New York City mayors, men who have certainly had a great impact on the city. Tours of the historic house are offered only on Wednesdays and reservations are required.

The Battery Conservancy
(credit: The Battery Conservancy/Facebook)

New Amsterdam Plein and Pavilion
Battery Park
Battery Place to South St
New York, NY 10004
(212) 344-3491

The founding father of New York City is often noted as the German-born Peter Minuit who purchased the island of Manhattan in 1626. Working for the Dutch West India Company, Minuit was granted governorship of the island, where he colonized the land and organized a government. This first settlement was known as the town of New Amsterdam, currently the southern tip of Manhattan. In recognition of Minuit's contributions to the creation of our great city, the Dutch government gifted the New Amsterdam Plein and Pavilion to the City of New York in 2009. The public pavilion is located at the entrance to the Staten Island Ferry in Battery Park. It was designed by Dutch architect Ben van Berkel and features undulating seats meant to represent a windmill, a concession stand run by Merchants Market and a vistor kiosk. The plaza is lit up at midnight as a final tribute to Minuit, whose name means "midnight."

Related: 5 Most Iconic Works Of Art In New York

Hamilton Grange
(credit: National Park Service)

Hamilton Grange
414 W 141st St
New York, NY 10031
(646) 548-2310

This spot, located uptown at St. Nicholas Park, is known as the last home of former president Alexander Hamilton. The only home he ever owned, Hamilton built it in 1802 but was only able to enjoy it for two years (Hamilton was mortally wounded in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr in 1804). Born in the West Indies, Hamilton grew up an orphan but quickly rose to fame after he traveled to the United States in 1772, joining forces with General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. An organizer of the Constitution and the federal bank, Hamilton is rightly named one of the founding fathers of our country. His house, named "The Grange," is representative of the great man that helped to shape our country. Originally built overlooking the Hudson River, the house was moved twice in its lifetime, the most recent move in 2008.  Renovations were completed just last year that restored its original facade and interior decorations. One of the oldest houses in New York, this is one of the most interesting and yet least-recognized cultural sites in the city. Tours are offered every Wednesday through Sunday.

Morris-Jumel Mansion

Morris-Jumel Mansion
65 Jumel Terrace
New York, NY 10032
(212) 923-8008

The oldest house in New York City is located past the Hamilton Grange at Jumel Terrace. The house dates to 1765, when British colonel Roger Morris built it as a country home. Just 10 years later, the mansion was used by General George Washington as his headquarters during a battle of the Revolutionary War. Washington entertained guests here in later years, including many of our country's founding fathers, from Alexander Hamilton to John Adams. By 1810, the mansion had transferred ownership again, this time to the wealthy French couple Stephen and Eliza Jumel. They transformed the house into a comfortable country home decorated with items of the French Empire style. After Stephen's death in 1832, Eliza married Vice President Aaron Burr at the mansion just one year later, although the marriage only lasted a few years. The property was finally purchased by the City of New York in 1903 and it has been a museum since 1904. The Morris Jumel Mansion is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Wednesday through Sunday.

Related: 5 Best Historical Sites In New York

Founder's Hall

Founder's Hall, Rockefeller University
1230 York Ave
New York, NY 10065
(212) 327-8000

Some of the founders of our city aren't from the 17th century. Instead, they laid their foundations within the last century. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was one of those men. Rockefeller University is one of the premier research facilities in the world, boasting scientists who have received Nobel Peace Prizes and found cures to many diseases that threatened the country. Founder's Hall is the first building of the university complex, built on what used to be the Schermerhorn Farm on York Avenue. The laboratory building was built in 1906 and is the first of Rockefeller Jr.'s philanthropic foundations. Rockefeller Jr. would go on to donate over $537 million dollars to worthy causes including universities, hospitals and museums.

Jennifer Eberhart is currently an art history/museum studies graduate student at The City College in New York. She is an avid art enthusiast, and visits as many museums and galleries as she can in her free time. Her work can be found at

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