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Cultural Services of the French Embassy | © John Bartelstone
Cultural Services of the French Embassy | © John Bartelstone
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Here's What to See at Open House New York 2017 for Architecture Lovers

Picture of Amber C. Snider
Home & Design Editor
Updated: 10 October 2017
Open House New York (OHNY) is back again for its 15th year of celebrating architecture and urban design, opening the doors to more than 200 sites across the five boroughs.

Home and design editor Amber Snider selected 11 Open Access Sites from OHNY 2017 to present a carefully curated list of must-see locations for the two-day event, beginning October 14. Ranging from Neo-Renaissance architecture to spectacular modern renovations of 19th-century mansions, gilded ecclesiastical interiors, remodeled ports and rehabilitated warehouses, here are some of the best sites to see during OHNY this year.

Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House

Financial District, Manhattan

Designed by architect Cass Gilbert in 1907 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, the Alexander Hamilton Custom House is the current site of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and federal agencies. During the OHNY weekend, tours of the Tiffany-designed Collector’s Office and building will be given, including a discussion of the building’s origins, as well as a NARA Document Discovery session on Saturday from 12pm to 2pm.

*Note from OHNY: This site is part of the special series Spaces of Respite, highlighting sites across the five boroughs where you can find respite from the stress of contemporary urban life, pause, and gather your thoughts.

Open to the public Saturday, October 14, 10:00 am—4:30 pm and Sunday, October 15, 10:00 am—4:30 pm

Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House
Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House | © Kathryn Yu

Brooklyn Army Terminal

Sunset Park, Brooklyn

Designed by architect Cass Gilbert in 1918, with a phased renovation beginning in 1985, the Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT) served as a major military supply site for 50 years. During WWII, it functioned as the nation’s busiest port (as the New York Port of Embarkation). At the time of the building’s construction, it was the largest concrete structure in the world, and since 1981, after it was acquired by the City of New York, it has been transformed into a “modern, thriving industrial campus, now home to more than 100 tenants with 3,600 employees.” During the OHNY weekend, dozens of artist studios will also be open to the public and available to tour.

Open to the public Saturday, October 14, 12:00 pm—4:00 pm and Sunday, October 15, 12:00 pm—4:00 pm.

Brooklyn Army Terminal
Brooklyn Army Terminal | © Vantrogh/Wikimedia Commons

Church of St. Francis Xavier

Chelsea, Manhattan

Designed by Irish immigrant architect Patrick Keely in 1883 in the “classical Roman” architectural style (with liberal Ancient Grecian and Renaissance modifications), the Church of St. Francis Xavier is an elaborate wonderment. With hand-carved oak details, 70 pieces of stained glass with exquisite geometric shapes and patterns, and a four-storey high original 1882 Hook & Hastings Organ, this is one of NYC’s best-kept gems. One-hour tours highlighting the architectural features will take place at 9:30am and 11am.

Open to the public Saturday, October 14, 9:00 am—12:00 pm and Sunday, October 15, 1:00 pm—5:00 pm.

Church of St Francis Xavier
Church of St Francis Xavier | © Kah-Wai Lin

Cunard Building Lobby

Financial District, Manhattan

Completed in 1921, the Cunard Building Lobby was designed by architect Benjamin Wistar Morris and is an “Italian neo-Renaissance inspired masterpiece, with 65-foot high ceilings, soaring marble columns and magnificent inlaid floors.” Now home to Cipriani 25 Broadway, the limestone exterior leads to a skylit great hall with nautical-inspired murals.

Open to the public Saturday, October 14, 10:00 am—2:00 pm.

Cunard Building
Cunard Building | Image courtesy of OHNY

Edgar Allan Poe Cottage

North Bronx, Bronx

This little wooden cottage located in Poe Park in the Bronx was once home to Edgar Allen Poe. The tormented, brilliant poet and storyteller spent the last three years of his life here in the late 19th century, and penned some of his best work within. Currently owned by the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, this bucolic setting is where Poe wrote Annabel Lee, The Bells and The Cask of Amontillado. Perhaps this is the little “kingdom by the sea” he was referring to.

Open to the public Saturday, October 14, 10:00 am—4:00 pm and Sunday, October 15, 1:00 pm—5:00 pm.

Edgar Allan Poe Cottage
Edgar Allan Poe Cottage | © The Bronx County Historical Society

Federal Hall National Memorial

Financial District, Manhattan

Designed by architect-duo Town and Davis in 1842, the Federal Hall National Memorial serves “as a museum and memorial to America’s first President and the beginnings of the United States of America.” It is the site where George Washington took the “oath of office to become President, the Customs house from 1842-1862 and a U.S. sub treasury.” Early American music will be playing from 10am until 3:30pm.

Open to the public Saturday, October 14, 9:00 am—5:00 pm.

Federal Hall
Federal Hall | © Spinklink/ Wikimedia Commons

Skyscraper Museum

Battery Park City, Manhattan

Designed by the world-renowned architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 2004, the Skyscraper Museum is “devoted to the study of high-rise building, past, present, and future.” The museum “celebrates the city’s rich architectural heritage and examines the historical forces and individuals that have shaped its successive skylines…through exhibitions, programs and publications.” Located on the ground floor of a mixed-use building (that also houses the Ritz Carlton), the Skyscraper Museum holds regular book talks that engage with NYC’s urban landscape and the construction of the modern day skyscraper.

Open to the public Sunday, October 15, 12:00 pm—6:00 pm.

Skyscraper Museum
Skyscraper Museum | Image courtesy of Open House New York

Five Boroughs Brewing Co.

Sunset Park, Brooklyn

Designed and renovated by Kushner Studios in 2017, Five Boroughs Brewing Co. now produces all of its beer in this 15,000 sq ft of rehabilitated steel fabrication plant. The facility features “industrial artifacts from railroad tracks to gantry cranes, as well as pre-war hexagonal steel rebar.” OHNY weekend visitors can tour the facilities on both days and learn how the brewery was built, how beer is made, and get a sampling of the their latest batch.

Open to the public Saturday, October 14, 12:00 pm—4:00 pm and Sunday, October 15, 12:00 pm—4:00 pm. Twenty minute tours will be given at 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm on both days.

Five Boroughs Brewing Co.
Five Boroughs Brewing Co. | Image courtesy of OHNY, © Five Boroughs Brewing Co.

Cultural Services of the French Embassy /Albertine Books

Upper East Side, Manhattan

Designed in 1909 by architect Stanford White (of the world-famous McKim, Mead & White firm), the Payne Whitney Mansion is was of the few remaining urban mansions of the Gilded Age. Designed in the “style of a high Italian Renaissance palazzo,” the site became an official landmark in New York City in 1970, and is now home to the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Albertine bookstore. The lavish, stunning interiors were designed by modern architect Jacques Garcia. OHNY weekend visitors can tour the second and third floors of the building, which are generally closed to the public, and visit a temporary collection of contemporary French artworks installed by the Comite Profesionnel des Galeries d’Art.

Open to the public Saturday, October 14, 2:00 pm6:00 pm.

Cultural Services of the French Embassy
Cultural Services of the French Embassy | © John Bartelstone

Estonian House

Kips Bay, Manhattan

Designed by architect Thomas A. Gray in 1899, The Estonian Educational Society is “one of the oldest Estonian organizations in the U.S.A.” The Beaux-Arts building played an important role during the years of Estonian occupation, and OHNY weekend visitors can learn about the Estonian immigration history and the significance of the building in a series of guided tours at 12pm, 2pm, and 4pm.

Open to the public Saturday, October 14, 10:00 am6:00 pm and Sunday, October 15, 12:00 pm4:00 pm.

Estonian House
Estonian House | © Magnus Heinmets 5

Ligget Hall Gymnasium

Governors Island

Designed in 1921 by one of NYC’s best architectural firms, McKim, Mead, and White, Ligget Hall Gymnasium has never before been open to the public. Originally used by the Coast Guard until 1996, it’s the largest building on Governors Island and is just as long as the Chrysler Building is tall.

*New to this year: Open to the public Saturday, October 14, 10:00 am4:00 pm and Sunday, October 15, 10:00 am4:00 pm

Liggett Hall, Governors Island
Liggett Hall, Governors Island | © Jeff Liao for the Trust for Governors Island

For more design and architecture events around NYC, check out our guide to the best things to do during Archtober—a month-long design celebration in NYC.