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Open House New York 2017: 15 must-see sites

These 15 sites are some of the best ones to check out during Open House New York 2017

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It's here! Open House New York released its list of the sites that will be open for its 2017 festival (happening October 14 and 15), and predictably, it's a doozy. Many of the greatest hits from recent years are back, including the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the New York Marble Cemetery, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. But there are also tons of sites that are new to the event this year, including the Liggett Hall gymnasium on Governor’s Island, open to the public for the first time ever, as well as the revamped NYPL Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Leslie-Lohman Museum.

So how do you decide what to see? Use our list below as a guide: We've picked 15 of the best OHNY sites to see this year, and since reservations-only tours are now closed, we’ve selected only sites that are Open Access—i.e., if you have an OHNY Passport, you’re in. Check out the full list of places to go on Open House New York's website.

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1. Liggett Hall

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Open to the public for the first time ever, the Liggett Hall Gymnasium at Governor’s Island was used by the Coast Guard until their departure from the island in 1996. Here’s a fun fact: the building is as long as the Chrysler Building is tall, meaning it’s mighty big. It was designed by McKim Mead and White in 1821.

The first new section of parkland opened in front of Liggett Hall in 2014.
The first new section of parkland opened in front of Liggett Hall in 2014.
Max Touhey

2. Cunard Building

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25 Broadway
New York, NY 10004
(212) 755-0900
Visit Website

Curbed readers deemed the Cunard Building’s interiors some of the most beautiful in New York City, and during OHNY weekend, you can check them out for yourself—the lobby will be open for tours on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The marble-covered building, which opened during the glory days of steamshop travel, was meant to resemble Roman baths.

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3. Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House

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1 Bowling Green
New York, NY 10004
(212) 668-2363
Visit Website

The beautiful Cass Gilbert-designed Customs House building at the southern tip of Manhattan, now home to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the US Bankruptcy Court, will be open to visitors this OHNY weekend. As an added perk, the building’s rarely opened Tiffany-designed Collector’s Office will also be open for viewing.

Alexander Hamilton US Customs House Kathryn Yu

4. The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation

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526 LaGuardia Pl
New York, NY 10012
(212) 529-4906
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This former art storage warehouse was converted by sculptor Chaim Gross and wife Renee into a live-wok space in 1963. The building’s ground floor, topped by a massive skylight, is a showplace for Gross’s sculptures while the top floor shows off how the family lived alongside their collection of world-class art.

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5. New York Marble Cemetery

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41 1/2 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003
(516) 922-7345
Visit Website

This tiny, normally off-limits cemetery will open its doors for OHNY as part of the event’s Spaces of Respite program, which highlights spaces that “provide some serenity and respite from the chaos of the city”—something we all need right now. It’s open all day on Saturday and Sunday. The similarly-named New York City Marble Cemetery will also be open for tours from noon to 5 p.m. both days.

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6. Jefferson Market Library

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425 6th Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-4334
Visit Website

OHNY has included tours of this beautiful West Village library in its itinerary for years, and it remains super-popular with participants—probably because you get to explore the inner workings of the Gothic landmark, including its iconic clocktower. It’ll be open on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.

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7. Westbeth Artists Housing

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55 Bethune St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 691-1500
Visit Website

This former Bell Labs Building in the West Village is now the country’s largest artist community, with 383 live-work spaces for artists and their families. The building’s history is enticing—it’s where the talking movie and binary computer were first demonstrated—and its architecture is equally so. The building was converted into housing with a design by Richard Meier way back in 1970. The building became a New York City landmark in 2011.

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8. Albertine

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972 5th Ave
New York, NY 10075
(212) 650-0070
Visit Website

The city’s only bookstore devoted to French titles is as striking as you’d expect, especially considering its location: it sits on the first and second floors of the French Embassy on Fifth Avenue, which itself is located in Stanford White’s stunning Payne Whitney House. The bookshop is a beautiful place to wile away an afternoon, not least because of its ceiling, a stunning hand-painted mural that was “modeled after the extraordinary ceiling of the music room at the Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany,” per the shop. This tour, nestled under the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, is one not to miss.

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9. The Rockefeller University

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1230 York Ave
New York, NY 10065
(212) 327-8000
Visit Website

This Upper East Side campus will be open to curious visitors during OHNY, with participants able to visit its public-facing spaces, the Collaborative Research Center, and the university’s new, modular addition, which is still under construction.

10. General Grant National Memorial

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W 122nd St & Riverside Dr
New York, NY 10027
(212) 666-1640
Visit Website

You know the joke about Grant’s Tomb, but get the backstory on the memorial in Riverside Park—which was designed by architect John Duncan, and remains the largest mausoleum in the country—during tours on Sunday. Three different walks, led by National Parks Service rangers, will go in and around the Grant memorial.

11. Bronx Community College

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2155 University Ave
Bronx, NY 10453
(718) 289-5100
Visit Website

If Brutalist architecture is of interest, one would be hard-pressed to skip this tour of Marcel Breuer’s contributions to the Bronx Community College, including Meister Hall, Colston Hall, Begrisch Hall, and Carl Polowczyk Hall. The buildings dating to the late 1950s and early 1960s would go on to become a cornerstone of Breuer’s aesthetic, and Begrisch Hall would even become a city landmark.

Marcel Breuer Bronx Community College Vicente Muñoz

12. Queens Library at Kew Gardens Hills

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72-33 Vleigh Pl
Queens, NY 11367
(718) 261-6654
Visit Website

The revamped Kew Gardens Hills library is fresh off a renovation by WORKac that brought the building an additional 3,000 square feet as well as a green roof, conference rooms, and new open spaces for patron. The new design is meant to resemble an open book, and we’re happy to note that the finished product looks just like that.

Via Field Condition

13. Clifton Residence

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158 Clifton Pl
Brooklyn, NY 11238

There’s a lot going on with the townhouse at 158 Clifton Place, which was renovated by Paul Castrucci Architects: it’s a timber-framed home, which was recently renovated to Passive House standards, and uses a plethora of recycled materials—namely reclaimed wood from New York state. The architects will lead tours on Saturday between 2 and 6 p.m. if you want to learn how an older home gets revamped for the future.

14. Sims Municipal Recycling - Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility

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472 2nd Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11232
(347) 429-8097
Visit Website

Annabelle Selldorf designed the SIMS Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility, which boasted a budget of $89 million and is LEED certified, in part because 98 percent of the complex is made out of recycled steel. Inside, there's an education center, classrooms, offices, a theater, and a large outdoor terrace with views to Lower Manhattan. New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman described it as "understated, well proportioned and well planned—elegant, actually, and not just for a garbage site."

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15. The Flagship Brewing Company

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40 Minthorne St
Staten Island, NY 10301
(718) 448-5284
Visit Website

Surely there’s some intersection between beer and civic nerds, right? If you’re one of the people for whom those two topics are like catnip, then you’ll want to join a tour of Staten Island’s Flagship Brewing Company, which opened in 2014 and has a huge tasting room (and tasty beers). There’ll be tours on Saturday at 2:30 and 4 p.m.

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1. Liggett Hall

Brooklyn, NY 11231
The first new section of parkland opened in front of Liggett Hall in 2014.
The first new section of parkland opened in front of Liggett Hall in 2014.
Max Touhey

Open to the public for the first time ever, the Liggett Hall Gymnasium at Governor’s Island was used by the Coast Guard until their departure from the island in 1996. Here’s a fun fact: the building is as long as the Chrysler Building is tall, meaning it’s mighty big. It was designed by McKim Mead and White in 1821.

2. Cunard Building

25 Broadway, New York, NY 10004

Curbed readers deemed the Cunard Building’s interiors some of the most beautiful in New York City, and during OHNY weekend, you can check them out for yourself—the lobby will be open for tours on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The marble-covered building, which opened during the glory days of steamshop travel, was meant to resemble Roman baths.

25 Broadway
New York, NY 10004

3. Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House

1 Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004
Alexander Hamilton US Customs House Kathryn Yu

The beautiful Cass Gilbert-designed Customs House building at the southern tip of Manhattan, now home to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the US Bankruptcy Court, will be open to visitors this OHNY weekend. As an added perk, the building’s rarely opened Tiffany-designed Collector’s Office will also be open for viewing.

1 Bowling Green
New York, NY 10004

4. The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation

526 LaGuardia Pl, New York, NY 10012

This former art storage warehouse was converted by sculptor Chaim Gross and wife Renee into a live-wok space in 1963. The building’s ground floor, topped by a massive skylight, is a showplace for Gross’s sculptures while the top floor shows off how the family lived alongside their collection of world-class art.

526 LaGuardia Pl
New York, NY 10012

5. New York Marble Cemetery

41 1/2 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

This tiny, normally off-limits cemetery will open its doors for OHNY as part of the event’s Spaces of Respite program, which highlights spaces that “provide some serenity and respite from the chaos of the city”—something we all need right now. It’s open all day on Saturday and Sunday. The similarly-named New York City Marble Cemetery will also be open for tours from noon to 5 p.m. both days.

41 1/2 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003

6. Jefferson Market Library

425 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

OHNY has included tours of this beautiful West Village library in its itinerary for years, and it remains super-popular with participants—probably because you get to explore the inner workings of the Gothic landmark, including its iconic clocktower. It’ll be open on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.

425 6th Ave
New York, NY 10011

7. Westbeth Artists Housing

55 Bethune St, New York, NY 10014

This former Bell Labs Building in the West Village is now the country’s largest artist community, with 383 live-work spaces for artists and their families. The building’s history is enticing—it’s where the talking movie and binary computer were first demonstrated—and its architecture is equally so. The building was converted into housing with a design by Richard Meier way back in 1970. The building became a New York City landmark in 2011.

55 Bethune St
New York, NY 10014

8. Albertine

972 5th Ave, New York, NY 10075

The city’s only bookstore devoted to French titles is as striking as you’d expect, especially considering its location: it sits on the first and second floors of the French Embassy on Fifth Avenue, which itself is located in Stanford White’s stunning Payne Whitney House. The bookshop is a beautiful place to wile away an afternoon, not least because of its ceiling, a stunning hand-painted mural that was “modeled after the extraordinary ceiling of the music room at the Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany,” per the shop. This tour, nestled under the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, is one not to miss.

972 5th Ave
New York, NY 10075

9. The Rockefeller University

1230 York Ave, New York, NY 10065

This Upper East Side campus will be open to curious visitors during OHNY, with participants able to visit its public-facing spaces, the Collaborative Research Center, and the university’s new, modular addition, which is still under construction.

1230 York Ave
New York, NY 10065

10. General Grant National Memorial

W 122nd St & Riverside Dr, New York, NY 10027

You know the joke about Grant’s Tomb, but get the backstory on the memorial in Riverside Park—which was designed by architect John Duncan, and remains the largest mausoleum in the country—during tours on Sunday. Three different walks, led by National Parks Service rangers, will go in and around the Grant memorial.

W 122nd St & Riverside Dr
New York, NY 10027

11. Bronx Community College

2155 University Ave, Bronx, NY 10453
Marcel Breuer Bronx Community College Vicente Muñoz

If Brutalist architecture is of interest, one would be hard-pressed to skip this tour of Marcel Breuer’s contributions to the Bronx Community College, including Meister Hall, Colston Hall, Begrisch Hall, and Carl Polowczyk Hall. The buildings dating to the late 1950s and early 1960s would go on to become a cornerstone of Breuer’s aesthetic, and Begrisch Hall would even become a city landmark.

2155 University Ave
Bronx, NY 10453

12. Queens Library at Kew Gardens Hills

72-33 Vleigh Pl, Queens, NY 11367
Via Field Condition

The revamped Kew Gardens Hills library is fresh off a renovation by WORKac that brought the building an additional 3,000 square feet as well as a green roof, conference rooms, and new open spaces for patron. The new design is meant to resemble an open book, and we’re happy to note that the finished product looks just like that.

72-33 Vleigh Pl
Queens, NY 11367

13. Clifton Residence

158 Clifton Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11238

There’s a lot going on with the townhouse at 158 Clifton Place, which was renovated by Paul Castrucci Architects: it’s a timber-framed home, which was recently renovated to Passive House standards, and uses a plethora of recycled materials—namely reclaimed wood from New York state. The architects will lead tours on Saturday between 2 and 6 p.m. if you want to learn how an older home gets revamped for the future.

158 Clifton Pl
Brooklyn, NY 11238

14. Sims Municipal Recycling - Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility

472 2nd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11232

Annabelle Selldorf designed the SIMS Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility, which boasted a budget of $89 million and is LEED certified, in part because 98 percent of the complex is made out of recycled steel. Inside, there's an education center, classrooms, offices, a theater, and a large outdoor terrace with views to Lower Manhattan. New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman described it as "understated, well proportioned and well planned—elegant, actually, and not just for a garbage site."

472 2nd Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11232

15. The Flagship Brewing Company

40 Minthorne St, Staten Island, NY 10301

Surely there’s some intersection between beer and civic nerds, right? If you’re one of the people for whom those two topics are like catnip, then you’ll want to join a tour of Staten Island’s Flagship Brewing Company, which opened in 2014 and has a huge tasting room (and tasty beers). There’ll be tours on Saturday at 2:30 and 4 p.m.

40 Minthorne St
Staten Island, NY 10301