17 Open House New York Sites You Can Research at NYPL
What's Open House New York? It's an invitation to explore the city. Founded in 2001, Open House New York aims "to engage New Yorkers in the city’s architecture, public space, and the future of urban life" by providing audiences with "unparalleled access" to buildings, sites, and "Open Dialogue" tours with architects. Every October, the five boroughs open up for the annual weekend—this year on October 14 and 15, with over 200 buildings and projects. Can't make it? In honor of the festival's fifteenth anniversary, I selected seventeen long-time participants you can explore more through NYPL resources.
Sites with an asterisk (*) are ten-year participants in Open House New York; sites denoted by two asterisks (**) have participated in Open House New York for all fifteen years of the program.
Edgar Allan Poe Cottage*
From here, you can almost hear "The Bells". Poe wrote that poem, and two other works, while living in this small house near Fordham University. Now open as a house museum in Poe Park, you might also enjoy:
From the NYPL catalog:
Images of Poe cottage in NYPL Digital Collections
And Poe Cottage in maps of the Bronx, including this fire insurance map from 1914, showing the house—and very few neighbors—one year after the building was moved to purpose-built Poe Park.
Museum of Bronx History at the Valentine-Varian House*
3266 Bainbridge Avenue was moved from its original location, but the home of Isaac Valentine and the sixty-third mayor of New York City, Isaac Varian, is also a great example of Colonial fieldstone architecture.
Family History and Genealogy Resources on the former residents:
- Valentine family.
- Varian family.
- The Book of the Varian Family: with some speculation as to their origin, etc. / by Sam. Briggs.
The Valentine-Varian House and the American Revolution:
The Norwood neighborhood:
Resources on Bronx history:
- Landmarks of The Bronx / Gary Hermalyn and Robert Kornfeld.
- Local history classroom resource guide : suggested lessons, activities and resources for all grades.
- Bronx (New York, N.Y.) -- History.
- Bronx (New York, N.Y.) -- History -- Pictorial works.
The house in Digital Collections
The Woodlawn Cemetery**
The National Historic Landmark opened in 1863, and is the final resting place of Herman Melville, Miles Davis, and Huguette Clark, among others.
Search by subject: Woodlawn Cemetery (New York, N.Y.)
Books on Woodlawn Cemetery:
- The Leonard manual of the cemeteries of New York and vicinity : primary source edition / Leonard, John Henry
- Story of the Woodlawn Cemetery / by Edward Streeter
- Gardens of stone : the cemeteries of New York from colonial times to the present / Alexandra Kathryn Mosca.
The Wyckoff House Museum**
Built for Pieter Claesen when the area was still known as Nieuw Amersfoort (later "Flatlands"), this small house is the oldest surviving example of colonial Dutch architecture in New York City, and one of the first built by Europeans on Long Island.
Wyckoff family genealogy (including periodicals, family directories, research notes, and clippings)
- Atlas of the Brooklyn borough of the city of New York : originally Kings Co.; complete in three volumes ... based upon official maps and plans ... / by and under the supervision of Hugo Ullitz, C.E.
- Historic house museum locations : [New York, N.Y.]
Books on historic houses in New York City and on Flatlands, Long Island:
- Historic houses in New York City parks / [editor Andrea E. Reynolds ; historian Jonathan Kuhn]
- The children's guide to historic houses in New York City parks / written by Sara Beth Hobel ; edited by Alexander R. Brash ; photography by Madeleine Doering Isom ; illustrated by Richard McCullah.
- Historic Brooklyn : a series of illustrated booklets covering the histories of Brooklyn's six original villages / prepared by the Brooklyn Eagle.
- Historic and beautiful Brooklyn.
- A notebook of births, marriages, deaths and other local events in Flatlands, New York, 1802-1884
- Brooklyn's Flatlands : beyond the field
- Brooklyn's East Flatbush : Rugby and Pigtown communities, including the areas of Flatlands Neck, Vanderveer Park, Wingate, Remsen Village, Farragut, and Hyde Park
- The Brooklyn nobody knows : an urban walking guide
- An historical sketch of the city of Brooklyn, and the surrounding neighborhood : including the village of Williamsburgh, and the towns of Bushwick, Flatbush, Flatlands, New Utrecht, and Gravesend : to which is added an interesting account of the battle of Long Island (also from home with a valid library card)
- General plan for the establishment of a municipal government in the county of Kings and consolidating the city of Brooklyn and the towns of New Lots, Flatbush, Flatlands, New Utrecht and Gravesend, under the same : prepared in pursuance of Chapter 861, Laws of 1873
- Tercentenary anniversary, 1654-1954. / Protestant Dutch Reformed Church of Flatlands (New York, N.Y.)
- The towns that became Brooklyn [Bushwick, Flatbush, Flatlands, Brooklyn, New Utrecht, Gravesend]
- Cemetery inscriptions from Flatlands, Brooklyn, New York
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine**
The legendarily unfinished structure is the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese in New York, and was designed by George Lewis Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge.
From the catalog:
- Cathedral church of Saint John the Divine. Pub. by the Cathedral League.
- The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine : "a house of prayer for all nations" / George Wickersham.
- The charter, constitution and statutes of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in the City and Diocese of New York.
- Clippings: St. John the Divine.
- Competitive designs for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City / new introduction by James Parks Morton.
- Consecration of the choir and memorial chapels Saint Saviour and Saint Columba of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in the city and diocese of New York by the Right Reverend David Hummell Greer ... : Wednesday, April 19, 1911.
- A guide to the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in the City of New York. 17th ed.
- How to build the cathedral, being information and suggestions concerning the erection of St. John the Divine, Morningside Park and 110th Street, New York.
- Mass meeting in Madison Square Garden, Sunday, January 18th, 1925, opening the campaign for the completion of the building fund ...
- Strangers & pilgrims : a centennial history of the Laymen's Club of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine / by Francis J. Sypher, Jr.
Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Digital Collections
New York Marble Cemetery**
The landmark cemetery tucked away behind a 2nd Avenue entrance gate is New York City's oldest non-sectarian burial ground (established 1830), not to be confused with a burial place of a similar name on East 2nd Street (established 1831).
Books and subject searches in the catalog:
- Cemeteries New York City
- East Village
- Full name index to New York Marble Cemetery interments, 1830-1937 : by Anne Wright Brown / indexed by Arthur C.M. Kelly.
- The New York Marble Cemetery restoration report : April 2005.
New York's backyard, established 1857, is open from dusk 'til dawn, but also for a special walking tour on Saturday, October 14!
Didn't reserve a spot on time? No worries, the Library's got you covered, if you want to know more about this influential park. Start with subject search: Central Park (New York, N.Y.) -- History.
And these people and views of the location:
- Olmsted, Frederick Law, 1822-1903.
- Calvert Vaux in the catalog and his papers
- Andrew Haswell Green Papers
- Central Park (New York, N.Y.) -- Maps.
- Seneca Village: a teacher's guide to using primary sources in the classroom
- Birds of Central Park / by Geoffrey Carleton.
- Central Park (New York, N.Y.) -- Guidebooks.
- Central Park (New York, N.Y.) -- Aerial views.
- Central Park Conservancy (New York, N.Y.)
Central Park in Digital Collections - New York City Scrapbooks
General Grant National Memorial*
President Ulysses S. Grant was not born in New York, but he is the answer to the age-old question, "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb"? (Also: his wife, Julia, is an acceptable response.) Learn more about the largest mausoleum in North America, and the influential people who helped fund it, like Richard T. Greener, with these resources:
- General Grant National Memorial (New York, N.Y.)
- Richard T. Greener : his life and work / Ruth Ann Stewart, David M. Kahn ; an exhibit and tribute sponsored by the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation [at] the General Grant National Memorial ... June 4, 1980-October 31, 1980
- Monuments & Statues - Grant's Tomb : clippings.
- [New York City views, including Madison Square, Grant's Tomb, East River, and elevated trains.]
- Who's buried in Grant's Tomb? : a tour of presidential gravesites. / Brian Lamb, et al.
- Municipal Ulysses S. Grant Monument Committee letters, 1897.
- Richard T. Greener papers, 1870-1918.
- Everything Grant's Tomb in Digital Collections
General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York*
The second oldest library in New York City boasts archives dating to 1785, and the John M. Mossman Lock Collection of locks, keys, and locksmithing accoutrements.
- General society of mechanics & tradesmen of the city of New York : a history / Polly Guérin.
- General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen in New York City
- Subject: General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York.
- Mechanics' institutes
- Trade Associations -- New York, NY
Grand Central Terminal*
The Beaux-Arts terminal built in 1913 is the third railroad building on its particular site, a U. S. National Historic Landmark, and played a vital role in a 1978 Supreme Court ruling regarding compensation for regulatory takings (er, landmarks laws). Read more about it, the architects, and the family whose railroad business facilitated the building, through these suggested titles. Just please don't call it Grand Central Station.
- Inception and creation of the Grand Central Terminal. [printed for Allen H. Stem and Alfred Fellheimer, successors to Reed and Stem, architects.]
- 1973-1998 : 25 years of preserving New York / [Joyce Mendelsohn].
- Grand Central Terminal : city within the city / Deborah Nevins, et al.
- Grand Central Terminal : Warren and Wetmore / Kenneth Powell.
- Grand Central : gateway to a million lives / John Belle and Maxinne R. Leighton.
- The architecture of Warren & Wetmore / Peter Pennoyer and Anne Walker ; foreword by Robert A.M. Stern ; new photographs by Jonathan Wallen.
- Vanderbilt family
- Grand Central Terminal (New York, N.Y.)
- Grand Central Terminal (New York, N.Y.) -- Aerial views.
- Grand Central Terminal (New York, N.Y.) -- Buildings, structures, etc.
- Grand Central Terminal (New York, N.Y.) -- History.
- Grand Central district map and guide.
- Scrapbook digital collections Grand Central
Jefferson Market Library*
Hey, that's a New York Public Library branch! The Venetian Gothic building was built as a court house in 1875, designed by Central Park luminary Calvert Vaux and Frederick Clarke Withers, and converted into a library in the 1960s.
- Architect records, ca. 1900-1980.
- [NYPL branch brochures] / New York Public Library.
- Libraries - NYPL Branches : clippings.
And Jefferson Market, past and present, including clippings and cartoons, in digital collections.
Little Red Lighthouse*
The Jeffrey's Hook lighthouse dates to 1880 and lights the way along the Hudson River shoreline; it was immortalized in a children's book, published 1942.
- The little red lighthouse and the great gray bridge, by Hildegarde H. Swift and Lynd Ward.
- The lighthouse handbook. Hudson River & New York Harbor / by Jeremy D'Entremont.
- Lighthouses New York Harbor (N.Y. and N.J);
- Lighthouses -- New York Harbor (N.Y. and N.J.) -- History.
- George Washington Bridge
- Digital Collections
Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden*
Built by William Stevens Smith for his wife, Abigail Adams Smith, the building was eventually converted into a "day hotel" before it opened as a museum featuring period rooms and exhibits. It is operated by The Colonial Dames of America.
- One hundred years in New York : the story of the first century of the National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York / P. Gordon B. Stillman.
- Abstract of title of Kip's Bay Farm in the City of New York, with all known maps relating thereto ... Also, the early history of the Kip Family and the genealogy as refers to the title. By John J. Post.
- The story of the Abigail Adams Smith Mansion and the Mount Vernon estate.
- The Abigail Adams Smith house.
- Smith, Abigail Adams, 1765-1813.
- In Digital Collections
Romanesque Revival house of worship on Fifth Avenue and 65th Street, part of the Upper East Side Historic District.
Library materials on Temple Emanu-El and its history in New York City
Subject searches in the catalog:
- Temple Emanu-El (New York, N.Y.)
- Synagogues in the United States
- Synagogues -- United States -- History.
- Synagogue architecture -- United States.
Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site**
The boyhood home of the twenty-sixth President, at 28 East 20th Street.
From the catalog:
And did you know you can access New York City vital records on FamilySearch—including this indexed record of birth—and view Roosevelt and his family on the 1880 Census, when they resided at 6 West 57th Street in Manhattan.
The Hindu Temple Society of North America**
One of the first traditional Hindu temples in the United States; home to annual festival honoring Ganesha.
From the catalog:
- Ganesh, the God of India / Sunil Vaidyanathan.
- Spiritual places in and around New York City
- The spiritual traveler : New York City : the guide to sacred spaces and peaceful places
- The Hindu temple : an introduction to its meaning and forms / George Michell.
- Clippings on the Ganesha Chaturthi (Festival)
- Subject: Hindu temples
- Hindu temples - design and construction. (in Sanskrit)
Alice Austen House*
Clear Comfort, home of the American photographer.
Resources on Alice Austen (1866-1952):
- A "larky life" in a cottage on the Staten Island Shore, by Teresa L. Waite, 1991. (clipping)
- Alice's world : the life and photography of an American original, Alice Austen, 1866-1952 / by Ann Novotny
- Alice Austen House : a national historic landmark : museum & garden guide
- Gateway to America : the Alice Austen house and esplanade.
- Fine day : an exhibition featuring photographs by Alice Austen, Frank Eugene, Gertrude Käsebier and others : May 12-November 13, 1988 / Daile Kaplan, guest photo curator.
- Austen's photographs on digital collections
Got a favorite site from Open House New York, past or present? Tell us in the comments. Want to know more about researching a specific property in New York City? Check out the Milstein Division's guide to researching your NYC Home, and join us for our next class on building history!
This list was written in conjunction with another post by the author on Archtober's 2017 Building of the Day sites, many of which are also OHNY locations. Readers may also enjoy: