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New exhibit captures Gracie Mansion's first years as NYC mayor’s home

More than 50 artifacts tell the story of a pivotal year

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In celebration of its 75th anniversary as the mayoral residence, Gracie Mansion is launching a new exhibit centered around a pivotal moment in the city’s history: the year 1942, when Fiorello LaGuardia became the first mayor to move into the residence.

The exhibit, “New York 1942,” offers a glimpse at a city in transition through artwork, documents, and objects. Taken together, the artifacts on display—photographs, sculptures, recordings, and films—capture the cultural landscape of the era: mass production was booming, the war was raging, women were working, and abstract art was emerging.

Neighborhoods were being “remade and revitalized,” in part through major public housing projects. And the city’s demographics were changing, too, as refugees fled Europe and African-American and Puerto Rican families made their way to the borough in search of opportunity. “In exploring the artwork and objects of ‘New York 1942,’ we are exploring the origins of the modern metropolis we live in today,” a press release explains.

Gracie Mansion circa 1942, when it was first used as a mayoral residence.
Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York’s Digital Collection

“In the midst of war and upheaval, we find the beginnings of major social and cultural shifts that would shape the future of our city and the world,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray in a statement. Highlights will include photographs from Gordon Parks, Helen Levitt, and John Albok; WWII artifacts; wartime radio recordings from WNYC; and an original performance of Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia.”

The exhibit kicks off with a public open house this Sunday (space is limited; reserve yours here). Regular public tours begin Tuesday, March 7th, and will continue weekly.