Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden
421 East 61st Street
New York, NY 10065
Fee: $8.00 Donation
I had come across the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum when I was walking East 61st Street and went to take the tour of the building ($8.00). It is a one hour (or more as I there for almost two hours but I was by myself) tour of both floors. The upstairs is the sleeping rooms, the ladies parlors where female guests would enjoy tea, games, music and reading. The main landing was for dancing and for gatherings.
The main floor was the Men’s parlors where there is a bar and two rooms for male activities such as cards, gambling and reading. The main entrance was used as the dining room for dinner (our lunch), which was the biggest meal of the day served around 2:00pm.
The tour guide went over what would have been served, menu’s and meal times. Dinner would have been served at 2:00pm, tea time would have been around 4:00pm-6:00pm and Supper around 8:00pm. The tour of the kitchen show preparation of foods, recipe books and all kitchen equipment including the stoves and baking materials.
If you like the history of “Old New York” and like old homes, hotels and buildings, this is a very interesting tour that deals with the City’s growing middle-class and the new ‘leisure time’ that was coming with the changes in the work week. There are many pieces of period furniture all over the building that show the growth of affluence of the time.
Don’t miss the formal walled in garden in the back. It is a place of relaxation from the rest of the city. There are stone walk ways and landscaped gardens as well as an herb garden. The building is owned and maintained by the Colonial Dames of America.
There will also be more tours around the holidays and the house will be decorated for Christmas.
What is the Museum:
Constructed in 1799 as a carriage house and converted into a ‘day hotel’ in 1826, the Museum transports visitors back to Mount Vernon Hotel, a 19th Century country resort for New Yorkers escaping the crowded city below 14th Street.
Recognizing the building as one of the few remaining 18th century sites and the only surviving day hotel in New York City Historic Landmark in 1967, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and accredited by the American Association of Museums in 1983.
History of the House:
The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden presents the period of the Mount Vernon Hotel which operated from 1826 until 1833.
Constructed in 1799 as a carriage house for a 23 acre estate and converted into the Mount Vernon in 1826, this stone building sits on land originally owned by Colonel William Stephens Smith and his wife, Abigail Adams Smith, the daughter of John Adams.
This fashionable country resort was popular among New Yorkers who wished to escape the hustle among the bustle of the city, which at that time extended only as far north 14th Street. The Hotel advertised “free from the noise and dust of the public roads and fitted up and intended for only the most gent respectable” clientele. In those days, one could take the stagecoach or steamboat up to 61st Street spend the day at the hotel sipping lemonade in the ladies parlor or playing cards in the gentlemen’s.
In 1833, the house became the home for three generations of a New York City family. In 1905, as the area became more industrialized, the building was purchased by Standard Gas Light Company (today’s Con-Edison). The Colonial Dames of America, a woman’s patriotic society purchased the building in 1924 and did an extensive restoration to the structure, the Colonial Dames opened the site to the public in 1939. The building endures as a rare reminder of an important era in New York City’s history.
What the organization does:
*Welcome 5000 school children annually in grades-pre-K through high school for field trips.
*Summer History Weeks for children ages 6-12
*A Summer High School Internship for 15 students to support college readiness skills and career exploration.
*Two summer Hearst Fellowships for undergraduates or graduate students.
*40+public programs each year, including:
-monthly free Storytime
-monthly Lunchtimes lectures
-holiday programs, garden concerts, hands on craft and cooking workshops.
*Temporary exhibitions on facets of life in early 19th century NYC, some promoting local contemporary artists.
*Special programs for individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
*Outreach programs to schools, senior centers and homeless shelters.
*Themed group tours focused on 19th century food, decorative arts or literature.
*Three options for team building events.
*Two free admission days: Smithsonian Museum Day and Open House New York.
Programs are made possible in part by the support of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and Council Member Ben Kallos, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Rosenthal Foundation and the Michael Tuch Foundation.
(Mount Vernon Hotel Pamphlet)
The Colonial Dames of America:
With these words, spoken in April 1890, Maria Denning “May” Van Rensselaer imitated what was to become the oldest colonial lineage society for women in the United States. The Colonial Dames of America. Its mission is to preserve historic sites and objects, award scholarships, educate the public about American history, inspire patriotism and promote fellowship among its members.
(The Colonial Dames of America information).