Government House, New York

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Government House
The Government House, New York 1650665.jpg
The Government House, New York (1797)
General information
Status Demolished
Location

South of Bowling Green

Site of former Fort George
Town or city New York, New York
Coordinates 40°42′16″N 74°0′50″W / 40.70444°N 74.01389°W / 40.70444; -74.01389Coordinates: 40°42′16″N 74°0′50″W / 40.70444°N 74.01389°W / 40.70444; -74.01389
Construction started May 21, 1790 (1790-05-21)
Demolished 1815 (1815)

The Government House in New York, built in 1790 by the state, was intended to be the executive mansion for President George Washington, but he never occupied it. Before it was completed, the federal government moved temporarily to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; then permanently to Washington, D.C. It then became the state governor’s residence and was used by George Clinton and John Jay. Later it was leased to John Avery and was known as the Elysian Boarding House. After the passage of the Customs Administration Act in 1799, it was converted into the custom house. Parts of the building were later leased to the American Academy of Arts, who then offered space to the New–York Historical Society in 1809. In 1813, the property was sold to the city. In 1815, the land was sold to the public and the building demolished.

Background[edit]

After Evacuation Day, November 25, 1783, the site of Fort George was viewed as the "social center of New York", prime real estate for grand residences.[1]

From March 4, 1789, to December 5, 1790, the federal capital of the United States was in New York, at Federal Hall. President Washington first occupied the Samuel Osgood House – April 23, 1789 to February 23, 1790 – then the Alexander Macomb House – February 23 to August 30, 1790 – both private houses. On July 13, 1789, the New York State legislature passed a resolution that the site of Fort George should be used to build a "proper House ... for the residence and accommodation of the President of the United States."[2]

History[edit]

Executive mansion[edit]

On March 16, 1790, the New York state legislature authorized the demolition of Fort George and the building of a government house for the "temporary use and accommodation of the President of the United States of America, during such time as the Congress of the United States shall hold their sessions in the city of New York."[3] On March 24, proposals for the building were requested. The architect, John McComb, Jr., submitted plans, but apparently they were not used, since they do not match the house as built. James Robinson was probably the architect.[4]

During the coming months, the fort defensive walls and enclosed buildings were taken down. Some stones were even reused to build the new government house.[5] The cornerstone of this new building was laid on May 21, 1790.[6]

However, before the building was completed, Congress passed the Residence Act of July 16, 1790, which named Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the temporary national capital for a 10-year period while the permanent national capital was under construction at what is now Washington, D.C. Thus, President Washington never resided in this public building, intended to be his executive mansion.[6]

The Government House was described in 1791 by Rev. Garret Abeel as an "elegant two-story brick building of an oblong square form ... In front is an elegant pediment, supported by four large pillars ... all the rooms in the house command a most extensive and delightful prospect, some into the East River, some quite to the Narrows; others up the North River."[7]

Governors' House[edit]

Government House, New York, 1795

While the building would not be used by the President, it would serve as the state governors' house. In 1791, Governor George Clinton moved into the building.[8]

Governor John Jay lived in the residence from 1795 to 1797.[9] He was the last governor to live here, since Albany became the state capital in 1797.[10]

Elysian Boarding House[edit]

In May 1798, the state leased the building to John Avery.[11] He then opened it as the Elysian Boarding and Lodging House.[12] The Elysian has also been called a tavern.[13]

Custom House[edit]

The Custom House, New York, 1799–1815

Alexander Hamilton inspired the Customs Administration Act, passed by congress on March 2, 1799, “An act to regulate the collection of duties on imports and tonnage.”

On May 1, 1799, the building was converted for use as the Custom House in New York.[14] Two weeks later, John Avery left the building.[15]

New–York Historical Society[edit]

On April 11, 1808, the upper room of the building was reserved for the American Academy of Arts.[16] The academy was previously known as the New York Academy of Fine Arts.[17] In 1809, the academy invited the New–York Historical Society to use one room on the second floor for its collection.[18]

Sold to New York City[edit]

On May 26, 1812, the state legislature authorized the sale of the building and grounds to the city "for the erection of private buildings or other individual purposes."[19] The purchase was completed on August 2, 1813.[20]

Demolition[edit]

On May 1, 1815, the city started the process to sell the property to the public. Seven lots facing Bowling Green were sold at auction on May 25.[21] By June 1, the demolition of the building and clearing of the adjacent lots was underway.[22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]