NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A new art installation at Gracie Mansion is showing how New York City looked in 1799, the year the iconic home was built.
Kalia Brooks curated the show, called “Windows on the City.” It’s about the melting pot in 1799, when wealthy merchant Archibald Gracie built his house at East 88th Street and East End Avenue, then five miles outside the city limits.
It has been the official home of the city’s mayors since 1942.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and first lady Chirlane McCray made sure the exhibition reflected all the diversity of the city in 1799.
“The goal of the show was to be a looking-out on New York City — the many people, the many cultures, the politics that were going on around the time that Gracie Mansion was built,” Brooks told WCBS 880’s Jane Tillman Irving.
“It’s telling a fuller, richer story of New York,” added Paul Gunther of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy.
Brooks and Gunther gave a tandem tour starting with a painting of the Wall Street coffeehouse that evolved into the New York Stock Exchange.
“The first president of that exchange, as designated by Alexander Hamilton, was Archibald Gracie,” Gunther noted.
Also in the painting is the spot where just a few decades before a lesser-known part of the city’s history took place.
“It was in fact called the Meal Market. What it really was is the second-biggest slave market in America after Charleston,” Gunther said. “So it was right at the foot of Wall Street.”
The centerpiece of the exhibition, Brooks said, is the “Gradual Emancipation Act from 1799, the same year that Gracie Mansion was built, (which) essentially said that any children born of a slave past 1799 would be gradually emancipated.”
“And that was in effect until 1827, when full abolition came in,” Gunther added.
Some New Yorkers were chosen by lottery to see the show Sunday. Free public tours of Gracie Mansion resume Nov. 10.