Ukrainian Institute/Fletcher House/Sinclair Mansion

One of New York City’s most impressive turn-of-the-century structures—located on 5th Avenue at 79th Street—houses the Ukrainian Institute. The mansion was built in 1899 for Isaac D. Fletcher—businessman, art collector and museum benefactor. It was designed in the elaborate Châteauesque style by C.P.H. Gilbert, who was known for many notable palatial residences for the wealthy. Châteauesque, inspired by the 16th…

Grove Court—the Setting of O.Henry‘s Story

Grove Court was the setting of O. Henry‘s “The Last Leaf,” which tells the story of a sick woman who—looking from her sick bed at a vine through her window—convinces herself that she’ll die when the last leaf falls. But thanks to the power of art, she never sees the last leaf fall. A frustrated,…

The Keys to Gramercy Park

The dignified tranquility of Manhattan’s only private park is ensured by the heavy locks on the park’s gates. The park has been functioning as a private front yard for the Gramercy home owners since being gated in the 1830s and locked in 1844. Ever since Mr. Ruggles, a visionary developer, deeded the land, Gramercy Park…

Gramercy Park—from Swamp to Private Park

This charming little park can only be enjoyed from the outside . . . unless you happen to have a key. The general public is welcome to stroll around or stare into the park through the fence but is not allowed in. Gramercy Park has a rare distinction of being the only private park in…

Northern Dispensary—an Empty Building at the Heart of the West Village

Reflecting Greenwich Village’s highly irregular street patterns, one side of the triangular Northern Dispensary faces two streets (Christopher and Grove), while the other two sides form the corner of Waverly Place and . . . Waverly Place! And this is not even the strangest thing about the building. The peculiar structure stands empty in one…

Hangman’s Elm—the Oldest Living Tree in Manhattan

The sprawling English elm, which has been standing at the northwest corner of Washington Square Park for the last 300 years, is the oldest living tree in Manhattan. It was planted in 1679, a mere 15 years after the English took over the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam and renamed it New York. The tree’s…

12 Gay Street: Where the Ghosts still come to Party

This quiet house on Gay Street, built in 1827, was once a bustling speakeasy and the home of a mayor’s mistress. Thanks to its name, this charming little street happens to be one of the city’s most photographed.  Alas, it was called “Gay Street” long before the word “gay” developed its present meaning. The street…

House of Death

This serene-looking brownstone, built in the 1850s, witnessed 22 deaths. Their spirits never left . . . This dignified yet unremarkable house that stands on one of the Greenwich Village’s loveliest blocks, has earned a reputation as one of the most haunted places in the city. Built in the 1850s as a single family house,…

75½ Bedford Street: A Tiny House with a Huge History

This tiny, 9 1/2-foot-wide house used to be a carriage entranceway for the neighboring house, but in 1873 was turned into a small home—the narrowest in the city! From then on, it was owned by various tradespeople, functioning at different times as a cobbler’s shop and even as a candy factory. But its life as a…

St. Paul’s—a Chapel Older than the United States

Built in 1766, St. Paul’s is New York City’s oldest public building in continuous use as well as Manhattan’s oldest surviving church building. After Manhattan fell to the British in 1776, a raging fire set the city ablaze. Nobody knows for certain whether the fire was an accident or an act of arson by retreating…

New York City Hall

The first city hall in Manhattan was built the mid-17th century by the Dutch. It was located in the City Tavern on Pearl Street and served beer. The city’s second city hall, built at the beginning of 18th century by the British, stood on Wall Street. After the British were gone and New York City…

Cartier Building—A Pearl of Fifth Avenue

It’s not so much the shimmering beauty of natural pearls that made them more valuable than diamonds during the Gilded Age, but rather the danger inherent in the task of finding the perfect pearl. The divers plunged deep into the waters in search of the gems—alas, most of the mollusks were empty or the pearls…