Tucked among Manhattan buildings on East 61st Street between First and York Avenues, is a little known historical gem: Mount Vernon Hotel Museum, the eighth oldest building in New York City. Originally built in 1799, it has eight period rooms and a tranquil garden. The hotel was later turned into a museum.
Museum guides David and Patty knew so much about the building, it was as if they had lived there in a former life. As we walked from room to room, their stories were as beguiling as the décor.
Colonel William Smith and his wife Abigail Adams built it as a farmland carriage house, naming it Mount Vernon in honor of the Virginia mansion of his former boss, George Washington.
In 1826, investors bought the house from Smith because he could no longer afford it. They called it a Day Hotel to lure New Yorkers who lived below 14th street for a weekend vacation in a “serene, uptown country estate.” The guests paid .50 cents a night, an affordable rate for an annual $500.00 income.
We began in the downstairs hall. An elegant dining table displayed china and crystal, set for a dinner of turtle stew! Moving toward the kitchen (where the women of the house could be found) we saw a hearth, an oven, and a birdcage in hopes that a bird’s song would sweeten the chores.
The tavern room had its own bar, where men could talk, drink and spit in spittoons. In the upper hall, recitals and dances were held. The waltz was considered scandalous, since you actually touched your partner! The women’s parlor was for sewing, embroidering, and playing musical instruments, including a harp and an organ.
You feel as if you’ve been transported to elegant olden days, but that isn’t the only reason to visit. Mount Vernon offers wonderful activities such as Holiday Candlelight Tours, Sugar Plum Cooking Workshops, Murder Mystery Games, and Monthly Story Time for 2-6 year olds.
And besides, who wouldn’t want to visit a hotel where Alexander Hamilton wrote the advertisement announcing its opening?
To learn more, call 212-838- 6878 or visit www.mvhm.org