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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*

Poe Cottage
The Poe Cottage at Fordham, N.Y., where he lived after his marriage in 1835. NYPL digital collections, ID 100444

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:

The Valentine-Varian House and the American Revolution:

The Norwood neighborhood:

Resources on Bronx history:

The house in Digital Collections

map of woodlawn, 1870
Map of the Woodlawn Cemetery, 1870. NYPL digital collections, ID: 5082653

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:

Maps of The Woodlawn Cemetery: 1938, 1978, and 1993

James G. Lock's Stereoscopic Views and Stereoscopic Views of the Bronx including Woodlawn Cemetery


The Wyckoff House Museum**

Wyckoff house
Brooklyn: Ralph Avenue - Canarsie Lane. NYPL digital collections, ID: 706443F

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)


Books on historic houses in New York City and on Flatlands, Long Island:


St. john the divine in construction
St. John the Divine, under construction.. (after 1924). NYPL digital collections, ID 715982F

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 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:

Central Park*

Central park map 1863
NYPL digital collections, ID ps_map_cd1_07

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:

Central Park in Digital Collections - New York City Scrapbooks

Post card, General U. S. Grant Monument and Tomb, New-York.NYPL digital collections, ID 836643

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 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. 

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.

The Library in 1995.NYPL digital collections ,ID 1252794

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.

The Branch, via, tells its own story, and offers a finding aid to its archival materials.

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.

adams house
Manhattan: 61st Street (East) - 1st Avenue. [Former Abigail Adams Smith House]NYPL digital collections, ID 714078F.

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.

Temple Emanu-El*

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 (Fifth Avenue), and others by that name, in NYPL Digital Collections

Related: Lower East Side Story: Beth Hamedrash Hagodol

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.

Hindu Temple NA
The Hindu Temple Society of North America (detail).
[Wikimedia Commons, User: Benniken]


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:

Staten Island

Alice Austen House*

austen house
Clear Comfort, the Austen House, with the photographer's grandfather...... photo by Alice Austen. NYPL digital collections, ID 105186

Clear Comfort, home of the American photographer.

Resources on Alice Austen (1866-1952):

Further Reading

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:


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

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