Gracie Mansion Gets Makeover

| 02 Jun 2015 | 01:39

The mayor’s mansion is getting a makeover, to the tune of nearly $4 million.

According to permits filed with the city’s Department of Buildings, Gracie Mansion will get a new roof, and its decorative railings, skylights and chimneys will be rebuilt this summer.

The project, in the works since 2010, will be paid through mayoral funding. Two-thirds of the projected $3.78 million cost of the renovations was budgeted by the Bloomberg administration, with the remaining amount by the de Blasio administration, according to Jonathan Mellon, a senior architectural conservator with the Historic House Trust, a not-for-profit that works with the city Parks & Recreation Department to preserve and promote 22 historic house museums in the city. The trust is project’s de facto general contractor.

“We’re running a tight shop on this and should be able to keep costs down,” he said.

Before the renovations can begin, asbestos material found in the roof membrane and elsewhere will be removed. According to the Parks & Recreation Department, which owns the mansion, the asbestos is among the more benign types. That work will begin later this month and last about four weeks.

Roof work begin after the remediation. The renovation will also include the installation of copper-lined gutters; reconstruction of the mansion’s four brick chimneys; restoration of decorative wood railings; and replacement of skylights and roof hatches, according to the Parks Department. The project is scheduled for completion in early November 2015. The mayor and his family are expected to stay at Gracie for the duration of the project.

In approving the renovations, staff at the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission said that the work would “mitigate potentially unstable conditions.” It noted that the new asphalt shingle roofing would return the mansion “closer to its original appearance.”

The mansion’s roof was last replaced about 30 years ago, Mellon said.

The renovations will be done by Nicholson & Galloway, which has restored roofs and done other renovation work on dozens of city landmarks, including the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the main branch of the New York Public Library.

Although the Gracie Mansion Conservancy runs the house and the grounds, large capital projects are undertaken by the city, which owns the mansion.

The mansion, built in 1799 by merchant Archibald Gracie. Although owned by the city, it’s operated by the Gracie Mansion Conservancy, which was established by Mayor Ed Koch in 1981.

The city bought the house and the parcel on which it sat in 1891 as it was assembling what would become Carl Schurz Park. For 40 years, it would function variously as an ice cream parlor, tool shed and even public “comfort station,” according to a 1975 history of the mansion compiled by the state Division for Historic Preservation.

Following a restoration, it housed the Museum of the City of New York for about five years until 1932. On recommendation from Robert Moses, it became the mayor’s official residence in 1943. Fiorello LaGuardia was the first chief executive to live there.